Bulletin of the Wagner Free Institute of Science
Held at: Wagner Free Institute of Science [Contact Us]1700 W. Montgomery Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19121
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Wagner Free Institute of Science. 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
Incorporated by William Wagner (1796-1885) in 1855, the Wagner Free Institute of Science is a natural history museum and educational institution in Philadelphia that is dedicated to providing free public education in the sciences.
William Wagner, "a noted Philadelphia merchant, philanthropist, gentleman scientist, and lifelong collector of natural history specimens," ("The First 150 Years," p. 1) was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the Academy, which later became the University of Pennsylvania, in 1808. He started his career in an apprenticeship in the counting house of Stephen Girard, a Philadelphia financier. As time passed, Wagner’s duties progressed until he was "assigned the position of supercargo and sent overseas to look after Girard’s shipping interests," (NRHP Registration, Section 8, page 2). He continued working for Girard for seven years, learning from him about both business and philanthropy. Wagner then formed two businesses: a mercantile partnership with Captain Snowden creating his business Snowden & Wagner which existed from 1819 to 1825; and the Lennoxville Steam Saw Mill which existed from 1925 to 1828. By 1840, Wagner "retired from his commercial pursuits," (NRHP Registration, Section 8, page 2).
Until this time, Wagner’s travels provided him with opportunities to collect specimens and in 1841 and 1842, he travelled to Europe with his wife. During this trip, Wagner continued to collect specimens and visited scientific institutes of the continent. Upon his return to Philadelphia, the size of his specimen collection necessitated the building of a wing which he called "The Cabinet" at his home, Elm Grove. In 1847, "believing strongly that education in the sciences should be available to everyone, Wagner began offering free lectures on science at his home," ("The First 150 Years," page 1) using his extensive collection of natural history specimens. By 1855, his home no longer accommodated the number of people interested in his lectures, and he moved the lectures to the Municipal Hall at 13th and Spring Garden Streets and formally established the Wagner Free Institute of Science on May 21, 1855. The existing building which houses the Wagner Free Institute of Science was opened in 1865 and includes an exhibit gallery, classrooms, a library and a lecture hall.
The Bulletin was published from 1926 until 1958. Volumes 1 to 4 are bi-monthly and Volumes 5 to 33 are quarterly. The first issue begins, "With this issue, the Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia begins the publication of a Bulletin announcing the results of scientific investigations under its auspices and reports of educational work." Included in the collection is a note, attached to Volume 33 which describes the discontinuation of the publication. It states, "We regret to advise that the publication of the Bulletin of the Wagner Free Institute of Science will be discontinued as of December 31, 1958. The last number to be published will be Volume 33, Number 4, November 1958."
“The First 150 Years: A Brief History,” author unknown, circa 2008.
National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1989.
This collection contains content from 33 volumes of the Bulletin of the Wagner Free Institute of Science dating from 1926 to 1959. Types of materials contained in volumes often include announcements, courses, closing exercises, faculty and trustee lists, faculty changes, historical notes, memorials, news, students receiving certificates, publication lists, scientific articles, and lectures. This collection is arranged by volume and issue number.
Volumes 1 to 7 contain some or all of the following sections: Announcements, Courses, Closing Exercises, Faculty and Trustee Lists, Faculty Changes, Historical Note, Facilities for Instruction, In Memoriam, Institute News and Notes, List of students receiving certificates, Museum Notes, Museum Talks, Necrology, Personal Note, Publication Lists, Research Laboratory Notes, Scientific Articles, Westbrook Lectures. These sections contain news of the happenings at the Institute, new museum specimens and exhibits, and studies in progress.
Beginning with Volume 6, the annual announcement contains brief résumés of the faculty. Each announcement is illustrated with photographs of the building, museum, and auditorium. Beginning with Volume 7, Numbers 1, 2, and 4 typically contain one scientific article per issue. Institute news is never included again. Number 2 is usually a synopsis of the Westbrook lecture series of that year. Number 3 is the annual announcement (a.k.a. course catalog.) Benjamin Franklin Howell wrote most of the articles, and they largely describe specimens at Princeton University. Most articles are illustrated by photographs, maps, graphs, or charts. The annual announcements are little changed through the years. Beginning with Volume 24, photographs of class field trips are included.
There are archival copies of all of issues except Volume 18, Number 3 and Volume 22, Number 3. These are in the complete bound volumes available in the library.
1926- 1928, Volume 1-Volume 3, Number 1:
Henry Leffmann; Associates in Editorship: Samuel Tobias Wagner and Carl Boyer;
1928-1931, Volume 3-Volume 6, Number 2:
Henry Leffmann and Samuel Tobias Wagner: Volume 3, Number 2-Volume 4
William Otis Sawtelle, Henry Leffmann, and Samuel Tobias Wagner Ex-officio: Volume 5
William Otis Sawtelle and Samuel Tobias Wagner Ex-officio: Volume 6, Numbers 1-2;
1931, Volume 6, Number 3:
William Otis Sawtelle;
1931-1957, Volume 6, Number 4-Volume 32:
Sydney L. Wright;
1958, Volume 33:
Robert Chambers, Jr.: Volume 33, Numbers 1-2
John Wagner, Jr.: Volume 33, Numbers 3-4
The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos.
- Wagner Free Institute of Science
- Finding Aid Date
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project. Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Wagner Free Institute of Science with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.