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Special Collections: Guide to the George P. Merrill Papers

Arranged and described by Brenda Howitson Steeves
December 2010

Collection title: George P. Merrill Papers
Provenance: Gift of Dorothy Gulick, South Casco, Maine, in 1968
Collection number: MS 345
Dates of collection: 1837-1931 (inclusive); 1891-1920 (bulk)
Size of collection: 2 boxes + 6 scrapbooks
Conservation note: Collection has been re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes
Preferred citation: George P. Merrill Papers, Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine
Restrictions on access and use: Kept at Fogler Library's offsite storage facility. One week's notice required for retrieval.


George Perkins Merrill, the son of Lucius and Anne Elizabeth Jones Merrill, was born in Auburn, Maine, May 31, 1854. He received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Maine in 1879, a master’s degree in 1883 and a Ph.D. in 1889. He also received an honorary degree of Sc.D. in 1917 from George Washington University.

In 1881, Merrill started work at the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution, holding various positions there and serving as head curator of the Department of Geology from 1897 to 1929. He was the author of many papers and books, most notably The First One Hundred Years of American Geology, and contributed to many annual reports of the United States National Museum. He was among the first to make a systematic study of stone for building purposes, using the science of petrology as a basis and publishing books and papers on the subject. He also applied petrology to the study of meteorites, publishing many papers on this subject as well.

Merrill held the chair of geology and mineralogy at Columbian (now George Washington) University from 1893-1916. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1922 and was also a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Geological Society of America, the Geological Society of Washington, and the Maryland Academy of Sciences among others.

George Merrill was married in 1883 to Sarah Farrington of Portland, Maine. She died in 1894 and in 1900 Merrill married Katherine L. Yancy of Virginia. George Merrill died August 15, 1929.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of personal papers of George P. Merrill as well as portraits and illustrations of geologists and other scientists collected by him in the course of his work.

The collection is arranged with items belonging to George P. Merrill listed first. These include a notebook entitled “Personal memoranda, 1891-1908,” compiled by Merrill and including newspaper clippings about his activities, copies of articles he wrote and programs for events he attended. This is followed by a letter to Merrill from Robert E. Peary, 1904; a few articles written by Merrill and a memorial written by Charles Schuchert after Merrill’s death. Several scrapbooks compiled by Merrill also make up part of his papers; of particular interest is one he compiled after attending the International Congress of Geology held in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1897. In addition to conference programs and publications, the scrapbook contains many photographs taken during Merrill’s travels around Russia.

The remainder of the collection contains items collected by Merrill and used in his writings. The major portion is made up of portraits of scientists, literary figures and politicians; most are illustrations taken from various books or journals but there are also a few separate engravings and photographs. The images are arranged alphabetically by name of individual depicted. Also included in the collection are a few photographs attributed to William Henry Jackson, probably from an expedition in 1872 to the Tetons and one in 1873 to the Mount of the Holy Cross; a collection of letters, 1843-1886, to Charles Upham Shepard, a mineralogist and authority on meteorites; and various letters to or from other geologists and scientists including William Henry Fitton, Charles Lyell, Andrew Crombie Ramsay and Ferdinand V. Hayden.

Box List

Box 1


1-2 George P. Merrill personal memoranda, 1891-1908

2a Letter to Merrill from Robert E. Peary, Nov. 26, 1904

3 The development of the glacial hypothesis in America by George P. Merrill [reprinted from Popular Science Monthly, April 1906]

4 Microscopic examination and determination of the building stones of Maine by G.P. Merrill [Appendix to Ann. Rep. 1882]

5 Notes on the character of the rock formations in the vicinity of Auburn, Maine by G.P. Merrill, 1885

6 Memorial of George Perkins Merrill by Charles Schuchert. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, Vol. 42, pp. 95-122, 1931 + illustration of Schuchert

7 Facsimiles of a few of the important historical documents in the collection of the late Col. Thos. Donaldson: supplement to Catalogue No. 832. Catalogue compiled and sale conducted by Stan V. Henkels

8 William Henry Jackson photographs, 1873(?) [7 photographs and 1 stereopticon slide]

9 Letters to Charles Upham Shepard, 1843-1886, undated

10 Photocopies of Shepard letters

11 Letter, Oct. 23, 1837, from William Henry Fitton to Mr. Sowerby, Camden Town [James de Carle Sowerby?]

12 Letter, July 27, 1853, from Charles Lyell to Dear Hall [James Hall?]

13 Letter, Oct. 28, 1864 from Andrew Crombie Ramsay to Prof. Hale(?)

14 Letters to Ferdinand V. Hayden: 1876 from J. Barrande; 1878 from Henry Clifton Sorby

15 List: Portraits of Belgians

16 Photographs: Groups of scientists, 1897, 1920, undated

17 Portraits of early students of meteorites

18 Page proofs of illustrations: U.S. Museum report, 1897

19 Page proofs for plates in U.S. Museum report, 1904

20 Page proofs for illustrations from unidentified publication

21-31 Illustrations, photographs, etc. of geologists, scientists, etc., A-L

Box 2

1-7 Illustrations, photographs, etc. of geologists, scientists, etc., M-Y

8 Miscellaneous illustrations and photographs [most unidentified]

Oversized material:

Scrapbooks 1 and 2: Newspaper clippings, 1896-1929: obituaries of scientists, professors, etc.; articles about science

Scrapbook 3: Includes theater programs from New York and Washington, D.C., railway timetables, specimens from Mt. Mica. Card on verso of front cover reads: Mrs. George P. Merrill. Items are mostly from 1900-1901

Scrapbook 4: Contains one theater program pasted on cover. Also loose newspaper clippings, many from 1930s

Scrapbook 5: Items from International Congress of Geology, 1897, St. Petersburg, Russia + photographs of conference delegates, Russian people and countryside, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Siberia, etc. Also contains postcards from German cities including Munich and Heilbronn

Oversized item 6: Photographs, illustrations of scientists, etc. [most unidentified]


Finding Aids for selected manuscript collections in the Special Collections Department at Fogler Library are accessible online in URSUS, in a browsable Guide to Manuscript Collections. Please contact Special Collections at or (207) 581-1686 for further information.

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