Synchronize with the table of contents  INTRODUCTION



The collection came from two sources; in 1964, Miss Katherine Seymour donated the papers of her father, Edmund Seymour, an original member and later president of the Society. Dr. Fairfield Osborn, an original member of the Society's Board of Managers, donated the remaining records. The provenance of collection CONS51, National Committee of One Hundred, is unknown. CONS51 was merged into this collection in July 2014.


The collection is open for research.


American Bison Society Records are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


[Identification of item], American Bison Society Records, CONS4, Conservation Collection, The Denver Public Library.


Number of Boxes: 13 (13 linear feet)

Oversize: 2 OVFF, 1 OVFolio, 1 OVBox

Photographs: 1 Photobox, 1 OVPhotobox




Elizabeth Happy

September 1998


Claudia Jensen, Dennis Hagen

June 2004

Revised, October 2009; July 2014


Ellen Zazzarino, Abby Hoverstock


The American Bison Society was founded on December 8th, 1905. Dr. William Temple Hornaday served as its first president and Theodore Roosevelt agreed to be an honorary president. The founding mission of the Society was the permanent preservation and increase of the American Bison and the protection of North American Big Game.

In 1905, only two herds (a total of twenty-nine bison) were protected by the federal government. One herd was in the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., and the second in Yellowstone National Park. The Society lobbied for protective legislation. In 1907, land was allocated for bison within the National Wichita Forest Reserve in Oklahoma. The next year, Congress created the National Bison Range in Montana. The Society solicited funds and donated forty bison to begin the herd.

The Society solicited funds and donated forty bison to begin the herd. They also contributed bison to three other reservations: Fort Niobrara, Nebraska; Wind Cave National Game Preserve, South Dakota; and the Pisgah National Game Preserve, North Carolina. Many of the bison were acquired from ranchers, such as Colonel Charles Goodnight, Charlie Conrad, Austin Corbin, Charles J. "Buffalo" Jones and Scotty Philip who raised herds commercially.

In its work to establish new bison herds, the American Bison Society created detailed census records on all bison, whether on public land or on private ranches. Using questionnaires sent out nationally and internationally to ranchers, zoo directors, and national park directors, the Society published a series of census reports from 1908-1934 of bison in the United States and overseas. Included in the census reports is a count of the wisent, the European bison, living in Europe and Russia. William P. Wharton worked on the census while he served as secretary for the Society, however, Martin S. Garretson, who became secretary in 1918, undertook most of the work. In 1927, Garretson published The American Bison. This work was revised and a second edition published in 1934.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, the Society expanded its work by bringing attention to endangered game animals and waterfowl. In the 1920's, the automatic shotgun and the automobile gave hunters the ability to shoot large numbers of game while no bag limits existed, causing drastic reductions in the number of game species, especially migratory waterfowl. The American Bison Society, working through its membership, sent letters and stories to the press and worked with federal legislators and officials until legislation was passed which protected migratory birds. The Society was also a catalyst in the protection of pronghorn antelope and elk (wapiti). In the early 1950s, the American Bison Society formally disbanded.


The records of the American Bison Society contain a large proportion of correspondence. The earliest dates from 1882 and continues until 1949. The collection includes the Society's annual reports from 1905 to 1930, and the documentation and census reports for bison worldwide from 1908 to 1934. In addition, the collection contains reference publications used by the Society.

Subjects covered are bison in the United States and Canada, the wisent (European bison) in Europe and Asia, endangered game and waterfowl and the conditions of National Parks. A copy of The American Bisons, Living and Extinct by J.A. Allen is also included. (Note: DPL has a second, rebound copy of this book with maps and plates removed prior to binding and stored with the map collection). Newspaper clippings on game and waterfowl management, the bison in America and the wood bison in Canada are also included.

Correspondence is primarily from William T. Hornaday and Edmund Seymour, both presidents individually for the Society, and from Martin S. Garretson while he served as secretary. Topics include; experiments by Charles Goodnight and C.J. "Buffalo" Jones to cross-breed bison and cattle (cattalo); expansion and standards for national parks; protection of the brown bear and the grizzly in Alaska; census data from individual ranchers; studies of the wisent; the commissioning of a bison monument marking the Santa Fe and the Oregon Trails; the plight of antelope and elk, and efforts to pass protective legislation for migratory waterfowl.

Hornaday also worked on behalf of the Permanent Wild Life Protection Fund to pass legislation imposing limits on the hunting of migratory birds and waterfowl. Extensive correspondence with Edmund Seymour directed to that purpose, forms part of the collection. Also included are plaques and sculptures related to the establishment of a bison monument along the western trails and members of the Bison Society, including Theodore Roosevelt, William Cody and W.T. Hornaday.


Martin S. Garretson Papers



The correspondence of the American Bison society is organized in three sub-series: General correspondence concerns a variety of issues connected with location, habitat, condition, and the commercial potential of bison on both public lands and private ranches. Included are letters from Edmund Seymour to George N. Southwick and N.H. Baynes. They are primarily concerned with the support of legislation establishing the bison reserve in Montana. General correspondence between Edmund Seymour and William Hornaday concerning the Bison Society, the Permanent Wild Life Protections Fund and personal issues form Series 5.

Correspondence by subject is the second sub-series and includes elk, wisent and game birds. The third sub-series includes correspondence about bison in specific locations and is arranged by state or country. Correspondents include George Bird Grinnell, Ira Gabrielson, T. Gilbert Pearson, Robert Sterling Yard, Fairfield Osborn, Rosalie Edge (Mrs. C. N.), and J. N. Darling, among others.


Series two includes a complete set of published annual reports by the Society from 1905-1930. Although not complete, the minutes of the Board of Managers' meetings, some handwritten in bound volumes, date from 1905 to 1933. Published census reports of worldwide bison populations as well as unpublished summaries and census remarks are also included. Martin S. Garretson published his study of bison under the title The American Bison. The collection contains copies of both the 1927 and 1934 edition. Garretson includes a summary of the work of the American Bison Society from 1905 to 1926 in this work.


This series consists of reprints, newsletters from wildlife institutions and federal agencies, studies and speeches, publications and maps of bison and antelope distribution. Topics covered concern conservation policies, National Parks and specific wildlife.

SERIES 4 CLIPPINGS 1910s-1940s BOX 10 :

An extensive collection of clippings about the bison and the wood bison in Canada form the majority of the series. Newspaper clippings also cover conservation policies, releases by Dr. Hornaday on the conditions of wildlife management, and the controversy over the Game-Refuge legislation, its defeat, and the passage of the Norbeck legislation in 1929.

SERIES 5 WILLIAM T. HORNADAY 1908-1949 BOX 10-11 :

This series consists of correspondence related to the Permanent Wild Life Protection Fund. The Fund was established to assist Dr. Hornaday in continuing his work to protect wildlife. The extensive correspondence between Edmund Seymour and Hornaday has been separated and organized by date. It is related primarily to the passage of legislation for the protection of migratory waterfowl. Some of the letters are personal in nature. The remaining correspondence concerns Dr. Hornaday's retirement and arrangements for the transfer of assets after Dr. Hornaday's death from the Permanent Wild Life Protection Fund to the New York Zoological Society.


The National Committee of One Hundred (also called the National Committee of One Hundred to Oppose Wasteful Killing and the National Committee of One Hundred to Retard the Extermination of American Game Birds) campaigned to end wasteful killing of American game birds. The Committee was founded and chaired by Edmund Seymour, who also served as president and treasure of the American Bison Society. Though a financier by trade, Seymour had a special interest in conservation, particularly the preservation of game birds, and he lobbied tirelessly for their protection. The series contains material generated and compiled by Seymour, including correspondence, newspaper clippings, reference publications, testimonies, and transcripts of hearings.


The series is comprised of maps with locations marked as potential wildlife reserves or historical bison ranges and a copy of The American Bisons, Living and Extinct by J.A. Allen.


The animal photographs are primarily black and white images of bison or bison related activities. Other animals represented are deer, elk, the Kaibab Squirrel and reindeer. Also included is a photograph of the Buffalo Dance at the Cochiti Pueblo. Portraits of Charles Goodnight, M.S. Garretson, Michel Pablo and a series of four lithographs on the extinction of the Bison from the American plains by Garretson complete the series.



  • Garretson, Martin S. -- Correspondence
  • Seymour, Edmund -- Correspondence
  • Hornaday, William Temple, 1854-1937 -- Correspondence
  • Goodnight, Charles, 1836-1929
  • American Bison Society -- Archives
  • American bison -- Societies, etc.
  • Birds -- Conservation