|This autobiographical study by
George Langford [Sr. - GL,III] is a partial record of his vast
collecting experience. Most of the information is taken from his
notes and daily records of his field trips to the coal strip mines in
Grundy and Will counties in Illinois.
The second volume might be thought of as the swan-song to the end of a rich collecting period. In January 1962 Mr. Langford retired as Curator of Fossil Plants at the Chicago Natural History Museum [a.k.a. Field Museum of Natural History - GL,III]. Not since Leo Lesquereux brought out his "Pennsylvania Flora" in 1870 has there been such a complete study of the Pennsylvanian coal flora in America.
Simultaneously with Mr. Langford's retirement, the once rich fossiliferous strip mine area is reaching the end of its productivity. The once barren hills of shale around the abandoned strip mines have yielded to nature's demands for new plant growth. Restricted recreational areas have been fenced off and planted with trees. A school, teaching the use of heavy earth moving machinery, has caused to be leveled off one of the most productive collecting areas. Each year there have been hundreds of new collectors gathering nodules so that the supply is being exhausted.
The contents of Volume I, "The Wilmington Coal Flora from a Pennsylvanian Deposit in Will County, Illinois," published in 1958, and this present Volume II [this was written as the Foreword to "The Wilmington Coal Fauna and Additions to the Wilmington Coal Flora from a Pennsylvanian Deposit in Will County, Illinois," published by ESCONI Associates in 1962 - GL,III] become more pertinent to the student when he gains an intimate picture of this remarkable man and his travels through the years of fossil collecting.
At the age when most men would be contemplating retirement, Mr. Langford started to amass a tremendous fossil collection so that those following him would have a richer understanding of the Pennsylvanian times and its associated fauna and flora. As a trained engineer he analytically approached the problems, systematizing each phase of collection and study.
One is filled with admiration and wonder at the productivity in such a short space of time. This admiration turns into love and respect when one becomes aware that the thousands of specimens were collected by a man who had previously lost one arm. In order to crack these nodules, it was necessary to hold them with his feet. Not once while in the field collecting with Mr. Langford did I ever hear him complain of his handicap. Facetiously he would remark, "occasionally [when] the collector misses his aim and hits his thumb, a painful injury results. When I miss my aim, my shoes protect my feet. I have split many thousands of nodules and have never hit my thumb."
"We have collected and split open probably 250,000 nodules, from which we have selected about 25,000 as worth taking home."
[type-written pages, signed] Eugene S. Richardson, Jr.