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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Arthur H. Howell

Arthur Holmes Howell was born in Lake Grove, New York on May 2, 1872 to Elbert Richard and Ann Howell. He grew up in Lake Grove and left for New York City after graduating High School. In January 1889, Howell obtained an office position with a small broker on South Street, earning 3 dollars a week. He later got a job as a stock clerk for Jenning’s Lace Works, earning 6 dollars per week, and stayed with them until 1894. His interest in Natural History, especially birds, took up most of his free time.

After collecting his first set of eggs (Great Crested Flycatcher) in June 1885, he became very interested in collecting. In the spring of 1888, he tried to develop skills in mounting birds, which he never became proficient in. In December 1888, Howell made his first study skin and took up collecting these specimens. Around this time, Howell began attending Linnaean Society of New York where he met local naturalists. By May 2, 1892, he was elected secretary of the society, a position he held for two years. Howell joined the AOU in 1889 and that year, he attended the annual meeting which happened to be held in New York City. While there met and became friends with Harry C. Oberholser. Oberholser and Vernon Bailey worked together at the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammology and when Bailey needed a field assistant years later, in 1895, Oberholser suggested Howell. Howell was offered a temporary position and spent four months camping with Vernon Bailey in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. After returning Howell was given a second six-month appointment and when that ended, was made a permanent employee of the then Division of Biological Survey. His full-time position began with preparing scientific study skins and curating the collection of mammals.

Howell became a highly respected and notable biologist of his time, becoming a fellow of the American Ornithologists Union in 1930. He published over 80 papers and books, most notable being Birds of Arkansas (1911), Birds of Alabama (1924), and Florida bird life (1932). Howell continued working for the same agency, later named the Division of Wildlife Research, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1896-1940 eventually as a Senior Biologist. While working at his desk he was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage and died a day later at Emergency Hospital in Washington on July 10th.

To learn more about Arthur H. Howell please visit: The Auk, 80: 290-294. July, 1963

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