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.
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.
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
fossil plants with many fine pictures, among which we found some that
looked much like my specimens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nov. 21, 1938