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Florence Bascom papers


Held at: Bryn Mawr College [Contact Us]Bryn Mawr College Library, 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr 19010

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Bryn Mawr College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Florence Bascom (1862-1945) was a noted American geologist, specializing in petrography. She attended the University of Wisconsin, receiving her BA degree in 1882 and her MA degree in 1884, and was the first woman to be granted a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1893. From 1895 to 1928, Bascom taught at Bryn Mawr College, where she established the Geology Department. In 1896, she became the first woman appointed to the United States Geological Survey.

Bascom was born in 1862 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where her father, John Bascom, was a professor at Williams College. The family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, when John Bascom became the president of the University of Wisconsin. Florence Bascom studied geology at the University of Wisconsin, earning her BA in 1882 and her MA in 1884. She taught briefly at Rockford College in Illinois, before heading to Baltimore to study geology at Johns Hopkins University. In 1893, Bascom became the first women to earn a PhD from that university. Following her studies at Johns Hopkins, from 1893 to 1895, she taught at Ohio State University.

In 1895, Bascom began her tenure as geology professor at Bryn Mawr College. Her initial courses proved so popular that, under Bascom's direction, the Geology Department and geology major were almost immediately instituted. Both the major and the department were demoted to elective status briefly, when the president of Bryn Mawr, M. Carey Thomas, deemed them unnecessary. As a result Bascom resigned, returning only after the department and major were reinstated. Bascom became a full professor in 1906 and continued to teach and conduct research at Bryn Mawr until 1928.

Bascom was the first woman to be appointed to the United States Geological Survey in 1896. Coming on at first as an assistant, she was later promoted to Geologist and assigned the part of the Piedmont Plateau that fell in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Her research culminated in the United States Geological Survey Folios, Philadelphia (1909), Trenton (1909), Elkton-Wilmington (1920); and in Bulletins for Quakerstown-Doyletown (1931) and Honeybrook-Pheonixville (1938).

Florence Bascom was the first woman fellow of the Geological Society of America. In 1924 she became councilor and in 1930 Vice President of that organization. From 1896 to 1905, she was the editor of The American Geologist. She was also a member of the National Academy of the National Research Council and the Geophysical Union and other scientific societies.

Having returned to Williamstown, Massachusetts to live with her sister, Florence Bascom died on June 18, 1945. She never married and had no children.


Ogilvie, Ida H. "Florence Bascom: 1862-1945." Science vol. 102 (1945): 320-321.

"Florence Bascom, Geologist, was 82." New York Times. June 20, 1945.

The Florence Bascom papers house the personal papers of Florence Bascom, renowned geologist and former Bryn Mawr professor. The collection, which dates from 1862-1938, offers evidence of Bascom's career as a regarded geologist and petrographer, particularly her tenure with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The papers allude to many of Bascom's geological interests and projects, but do not seem to offer comprehensive documentation of any.

The collection is divided into five series: "Correspondence, 1897-1937," "Research, 1892-1930" "Travel journal, 1883-1885," "United States Geological Survey, 1898-1938" and "Dorothy Wyckhoff papers, 1934-1936." Researchers should be aware that there is much overlap between the series.

The "Correspondence, 1897-1937" series houses incoming and outgoing letters, dating from 1897 to 1937. Almost if not all of the letters pertain to Bascom's professional activities, particularly her work for the United States Geological Survey, and more generally her work as a petrographer. There are two groups of correspondence presented here. The first set is a small sample of files arranged alphabetically by a geological subject. The second set of correspondence is considerably less orderly. Files of general correspondence, with occasional reference made to a particular person or subject, are arranged chronologically by the earliest date represented in each file. Please note that files overlap significantly in terms of date and subject matter, and interested researchers should peruse the entire set. In the second series, "Research, 1892-1930," researchers will find small and random samples of records evidencing Bascom's personal research, as well as her contributions to other larger projects. For example, researchers will find a notebook entitled "South Mountain, Blue Ridge Summit," which was the subject of Bascom's dissertation at Johns Hopkins University. There are files containing field notes and analysis of collected geological samples, as well as files pertaining to Bascom's work for the Delaware Bridge Commission in 1921 and Ward's Natural Science Establishment circa 1895. The series is broken down into four subseries: "General work files," "Notebooks," "Manuscripts and other notes," and "Specimen Analysis." Researchers are advised to review the folder titles for further information. The third series, "Travel journal, 1883-1885," houses one journal maintained by Bascom during her journey from Madison, Wisconsin to the Dakota Territory around 1883-1885. The journal contains a bibliography; her impressions and experiences with the Native Americans; and general observation and commentary. No mention is made of geological formations. The most robust part of the collection comprises the fourth series, "United States Geological Survey, 1898-1938." A majority of the papers found here pertain specifically to Bascom's field work conducted under the auspices of the USGS. There are field notebooks, which record measurements and general observations made during her various expeditions; petrographic data; photographs of sites visited; and topographical maps - all of which pertain to more-or-less the same geographic regions. A number of the files containing pertrographic data and photographs allude to their inclusion in some unidentified publication. The last series, "Dorothy Wyckoff papers, 1934-1936" dates from 1934 to 1936 is predominantly laboratory analytical notes regarding the USGS survey of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Correspondence is between Wyckoff and Howard Meyerhoff.

Florence Bascom was a pioneer for women in the geological field, as the second American woman to earn her PhD in geology and the first hired by the United States Geological Survey. As a professor at Bryn Mawr College, she was responsible for developing the geology major. This collection would be of use to any researcher interested in Bascom's career as a geologist, particularly in her years working for the USGS.

Transferred from the Geology Department and Science Library, 1995.

The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources.

This collection is minimally processed to the folder level.

Bryn Mawr College
Finding Aid Author
Courtney Smerz, Melissa Torquato
Finding Aid Date
2011 February 5
The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources.
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.

Collection Inventory

Scientific correspondence, 1896-1931.
Box 11 Folder 1
Hydrology, including Hayes, USGS, Walcott, Fuller, 1903-1906.
Box 1 Folder 1
Hydrology for Trenton Folio, 1897-1904.
Box 1 Folder 2
Hydrology, including correspondence, W.G. Collins, 1909-1922.
Box 1 Folder 3
Economic Geology, West Conshohocken, Ehret quarries, 1904-1919.
Box 1 Folder 4
Economic Geology, Oldham Granite, Warner Limestone Notes for folio on economic geology, 1908-1921.
Box 1 Folder 5
Iron, graphite, lead, zinc, chrome. French Creek, 1911-1936.
Box 1 Folder 6
Maryland Geological Survey. Edward B. Matthews, Shattuck re Cecil Co., Maps, Baltimore Co., 1900-1913.
Box 1 Folder 7
General correspondence, 1897-1932.
Box 1 Folder 8
General correspondence, 1901-1932.
Box 1 Folder 9
General correspondence, 1902-1933.
Box 1 Folder 10
General correspondence, 1902-1936.
Box 1 Folder 11
General correspondence, 1903-1935.
Box 1 Folder 12
General correspondence, 1905-1933.
Box 1 Folder 13
General correspondence (with Edgar Wherry), 1900-1936.
Box 1 Folder 14
General correspondence (regarding nomenclature), 1912-1936.
Box 1 Folder 15
General correspondence (regarding quadrangles), 1913-1936.
Box 2 Folder 1
General correspondence, 1916-1936.
Box 2 Folder 2
General correspondence, 1917-1936.
Box 2 Folder 3
General correspondence, 1918-1926.
Box 2 Folder 4
General correspondence, 1919-1920.
Box 2 Folder 5
General correspondence, 1920-1934.
Box 2 Folder 6
General correspondence, 1921-1937.
Box 2 Folder 7
General correspondence (regarding petrology), 1926.
Box 2 Folder 8
General correspondence (including paper on petrology), 1927.
Box 2 Folder 9
General correspondence, 1929-1936.
Box 2 Folder 10

Container Summary

11 boxes

Bibliography of Cecil County, Maryland, undated.
Box 11 Folder 10
Chemical analysis of specimens, 1895, 1912, undated.
Box 3 Folder 1
Chemical analysis of specimens, undated.
Box 3 Folder 2
Chemistry notes, 1912.
Box 3 Folder 3
Delaware Bridge Commission ([blueprints with information regarding river sediment]), 1921.
Box 3 Folder 4
Draft of unidentified book, undated.
Box 3 Folder 5
Draft of "Guidebook for Appalachian Excursion...", 1922-1930.
Box 3 Folder 6
Monthly reports to the United States Geological Survey, 1895-1917.
Box 3 Folder 7
Variation diagrams and related notes, undated.
Box 3 Folder 8
Ward's Natural Science Establishment (re the creation of relief maps), 1894-1925.
Box 3 Folder 9
Miscellaneous notes, undated.
Box 3 Folder 10
Biology, undated.
Box 4 Folder 1
"South Mountain, Blue Ridge Summit" (the subject of Bascom's dissertation at Johns Hopkins University), 1892-1911.
Box 4 Folder 2
"Specimens 1-263", 1895-1896.
Box 4 Folder 3
"Wilmington Quadrangle, XV", 1909-1918.
Box 4 Folder 4
The Igneous Complex of the PA-MD...Provinces, undated.
Box 4 Folder 5
Igneous Rock Analyses, undated.
Box 4 Folder 6
The Metabasalts (typescript & holograph), undated.
Box 4 Folder 7
Pre-Cambrian Igneous Rocks...(typescript draft, copy), undated.
Box 4 Folder 8
Descriptive notes: T.D. Rand Collection, 1896-1897.
Box 4 Folder 9
Descriptive Notes & Chemical Analysis of Specimens, undated.
Box 4 Folder 10
Specimen Analysis, undated.
Box 4 Folder 11 Box 5 Folder 1-4

Dakota Notebook, 1883-1885.
Box 5 Folder 5

Notebooks II & III (Jenkinstown, PA), 1898-1900.
Box 5 Folder 6
Notebooks IV (Philadelphia) & V (Cecil County), 1900-1904.
Box 5 Folder 7
Notebooks VI & VII (Cecil County), 1900-1913.
Box 5 Folder 8
Notebooks VIII (West Chester) & IX (Trenton), 1902-1904.
Box 6 Folder 1
Notebooks X (Coatesville) & XI (Phoenixville), 1905-1908.
Box 6 Folder 2
Notebook XII (Phoenixville), 1908.
Box 6 Folder 3
Notebooks XIII and XIV (Honeybrook), 1908-1909.
Box 6 Folder 4
Notebooks XIX (Doylestown) & XX (Quakertown), 1915-1920.
Box 6 Folder 5
Notebook XXI (Quakertown-Doylestown), 1924.
Box 6 Folder 6
Notebooks XXII (West Chester) & XXIII (Coatesville), 1916-1917.
Box 6 Folder 7
Notebooks XXIV (Honeybrook-Phoenixville), 1923-1936.
Box 7 Folder 1
Gravel Study, 1930-1931.
Box 7 Folder 2
Honeybrook-Phoenixville Petrographic Study, 1937-1938.
Box 7 Folder 3
Reading-Boyertown, undated.
Box 7 Folder 4
Reading-Boyertown, undated.
Box 7 Folder 5
Coatesville-West Chester, undated.
Box 7 Folder 6
Neponset Valley (includes correspondence), 1898, 1902, 1912, undated.
Box 7 Folder 7
Neponset Valley, 1912-1916, undated.
Box 7 Folder 8
Quakertown-Doylestown, undated.
Box 7 Folder 9
Van Count Island, undated.
Box 7 Folder 10
Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, undated.
Box 11 Folder 2
Maryland and Pennsylvania, undated.
Box 11 Folder 3
Illustrations, undated.
Box 7 Folder 11
Illustrations (includes glass plate negatives), 1923, undated.
Box 11 Folder 4-5
Lantern Slides (PA) & Correspondence, 1923.
Box 7 Folder 12
Delaware Water Gap, 1891, 1899, undated.
Box 8 Folder 1
Honeybrook Quadrangle, by E.H. Watson, undated.
Box 8 Folder 2
Maine and Pennsylvania, undated.
Box 8 Folder 3-4
Pennsylvania, 1898, 1905, undated.
Box 8 Folder 5-10
[Pennsylvania] negatives, undated.
Box 8 Folder 11-12
Pennsylvania Peneplains, undated.
Box 8 Folder 13-14
Philadelphia and Yellowstone, undated.
Box 8 Folder 15
Unknown sites (glass plates), undated.
Box 8 Folder 16-19
Unknown sites and Pheonixville, undated.
Box 8 Folder 20
Karenfels negatives, undated.
Box 8 Folder 21
Mapped Area Descriptions: Quarries, undated.
Box 8 Folder 22
Elevations and Cross-Sections: Delaware and Pennsylvania, undated.
Box 9 Folder 1-2
Topographic map: Asbury Park, 1901.
Box 9 Folder 3
Topographic map: Bayside, New Jersey and Delaware, 1902.
Box 9 Folder 4
Topographic map: Bordentown, Pennsylvania, 1898.
Box 9 Folder 5
Topographic map: Burlington, New Jersey, 1898.
Box 9 Folder 6
Topographic map: Cassville, New Jersey, 1900.
Box 9 Folder 7
Topographic map: Chester, Pennsylvania, undated.
Box 9 Folder 8
Chester, Pennsylvania, undated.
Box 11 Folder 6
Topographic map: Chester County, Pennsylvania-Delaware, 1880, 1901.
Box 9 Folder 9
Topographic map: Coatesville Quadrangle (2 copies), 1909 May, undated.
Box 9 Folder 10-11
Topographic map: Doylestown Quadrangle, Pennsylvania-New Jersey, 1897, 1908.
Box 9 Folder 12
Topographic map: Eastern Massachusetts, 1877, undated.
Box 9 Folder 13
Topographic map: Germantown, Pennsylvania Quadrangle, undated.
Box 11 Folder 7
Topographic map: Glasboro, 1898.
Box 9 Folder 14
Topographic map: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, undated.
Box 9 Folder 15
Topographic map: Honeybrook, Pennsylvania, undated.
Box 10 Folder 1
Topographic map: Lancaster and Lebanon, Pennsylvania (soil), 1900-1901.
Box 10 Folder 2
Topographic map: Lower Cecil County, undated.
Box 11 Folder 8
Topographic map: Maryland from Mason Dixon to Chesapeake Bay, undated.
Box 10 Folder 3
Topographic map: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and Trenton, New Jersey (soil), 1894, 1902.
Box 10 Folder 4
Topographic map: Mt. Holly, Pennsylvania, 1898.
Box 10 Folder 5
Topographic map: New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1901.
Box 10 Folder 6
Topographic map: New Jersey and Delaware, 1898.
Box 10 Folder 7
Topographic map: New Jersey-Delaware Wilmington Quadrangle and New Jersey-Pennsylvania Bordentown Quadrangle, 1898, 1906.
Box 10 Folder 8
Topographic map: New York-New Jersey, 1901.
Box 10 Folder 9
Topographic map: Pemberton, New Jersey, undated.
Box 11 Folder 9
Topographic map: Pennsylvania-New Jersey West Chester Quadrangle, 1898, 1904.
Box 10 Folder 10
Topographic map: Philadelphia and surrounding vicinity, 1894.
Box 10 Folder 11
Topographic map: Philadelphia Belt, undated.
Box 10 Folder 12
Topographic map: Princeton, New Jersey, 1899.
Box 10 Folder 13-14
Topographic map: South Mountain County, undated.
Box 10 Folder 15

Correspondence and Specimen Analysis A1-150, 1934.
Box 10 Folder 16
Correspondence, 1935-1936.
Box 10 Folder 17
Correspondence, 1936.
Box 10 Folder 18

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