The Collector, the Guide and the Bone Digger
A Remembrance of Charles M. Barber
by James P. Barber
PLEASE NOTE: A new second edition of this book can be found at Amazon.
Born in 1876, Charles Melvin Barber hitch-hiked across the southwestern United States in 1890. Recuperating from tuberculosis, he attended New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (the present day New Mexico State University) beginning in 1897. He associated with contemporaries including T.D.A. Cockerell, C. Hart Merriam (one of the original founders of the National Geographic Society), C.H.T. Townsend and Edmund Heller, among others. He traveled throughout the southwest, Mexico and Central America collecting plant and animal specimens for many major U.S. Museums.
He worked for the U.S. Biological Survey in its early years and for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago 1903-1908. After leaving the Field Museum, Charley continued as a freelance museum collector for the remainder of his life providing a majority of his finds to the Field Museum. His love of turtle fossils from the time when dinosaurs ruled the earth led to his discovery of at least two new species as a “bone digger.”
In a search for an old family photo album, a photographic journal of one of Charley’s expeditions was uncovered. The album that inspired this book is presented in full as Part 1 of the book. The photos, however, led me to a deep desire to learn more about his life.
Thus, following the photographic journal is a biography of his adventurous life beyond his work as a guide. You will look into his world of collecting museum specimens and his ultimate passion for prehistoric turtles. You will see how he lived, his relationships with his contemporaries, his love for life and his dedication to friendship. Much of his story is told in his own words from his letters. The second edition of the book (Amazon) includes some stories that Charley wrote as he tried to preserve the life that he and his contemporaries led in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s.
I believe strongly in the strength of family. Our individual personal history is the root of our world history. We need to understand from where we have come in order to know who we are ... we must remember.
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