McKenna Process Company
Plant formerly located in Joliet, Illinois - ca. 1920.

Autobiographical Data
Fifty Years Ago - or "How I got into fossil collecting"
by George Langford, Sr.
 
In 1888 I began looking for fossils in the shales and limestones of St. Paul, Minnesota.  I found small sea-shells and various other once-living things in what are now known geologically as Ordovician deposits.  I took them to my grandfather who told me they were fossils.  Soon I received a pamphlet from a curio dealer who, among other things, offered for sale fossil plants from Mazon Creek, Illinois.  They were in split nodules and could be had for 25 cents per specimen.  I secured sufficient money for two specimens, and they arrived in due time.  I took them at once to my grandfather.  He had not been particulary interested in the fossils I had been finding in St. Paul, but these plants were quite another matter.
My grandfather was Col. Daniel Alexander Robertson, my mother's father.  He had been a lawyer, newspaper man, and U.S. Marshall in Ohio.  He moved to St. Paul and became mayor.  When I knew him, he was an ardent student of botany and had some part in the teaching of this at the University of Minnesota.  He corresponded with other botanists and knew at least two of the most famous, whom I will mention later.
In 1888 my two fossil plant specimens were, to me, wonderful things.  Now in 1938 I see that they were poor common things, too common to bother with.  But in 1888 they made a profound impression on me, and no doubt assisted me even at this late day to remember what followed.
My grandfather had a large library.  He knew French, and many of his books were printed in that language.  Many of his books were scientific ones.  He quickly produced several of these books.  They were about fossil plants with many fine pictures, among which we found some that looked much like my specimens.
My grandfather told me that a Frenchman named Brongniart had written the books.  My grandfather had visited Brongniart on one of his trips to France.  He also knew another botanist in Ohio and had had some correspondence with him on botany.  The man's name was Lesquereux.  I remember no more.  But now, 50 years later, it interests me to know that my grandfather knew and had some dealings with two famous scientists, Brongniart and Lesquereux, probably the two scientists best known in the subject I am writing about, namely: fossil plants of the Coal Measures; and whose names appear on many of the specimens I have been collecting.  They described and gave names to many previously unknown species of fossil coal plants.  Our collection contains many species named by these two men.
Adolphe Theodore Brongniart, son of a geologist, was a botanist.  He first wrote about fossil plants in 1822 when he was 21 years old.  Before he died, he wrote more about them than anyone else.
Leo Lesquereux was a Swiss botanist.  He came to America trained in European teaching and became the leading scientist in the investigations of fossil coal plants in the United States.
My grandfather was a botanist of no mean caliber, although botany was not his profession.  In the latter half of his life, he had made it his pleasure and recreation.
I have long known of Brongniart and Lesquereux and what their names sood for, but not until my present venture in paleobotany did I recall to memory the time in 1888 when as a boy 12 years old I took my two fossil plant specimens to my grandfather and inspired his interest to the point where he showed me Brongniart's plant pictures and told me of his acquaintances with Brongniart and Lesquereux.
George Langford, Sr.
     Nov. 21, 1938