back to Society Information
A Short History of the ESW
Reprinted from Proceedings Vol. 78, No. 3, July 1976 pp. 225-239 PDF reprint
Ashley B. Gurney
Resident Cooperating Scientist
Systematic Entomology Laboratory
IIBIII, Agr. Res. Serv., USDA
In 1976, in celebration of the American Bicentennial and in recognition
of the convening of the XVth International Congress of Entomology
in Washington, D.C., it is appropriate to review the history
of the Entomology Society of Washington. Although a "local"
organization in the sense that all of its meetings are held in the
Washington metropolitan area and most of its officers live nearby,
its influence during the 92 years of its existence has been not only
nationwide but has reached many countries abroad. Meetings have
been held regularly, beginning in 1884, and the Proceedings of the
Entomological Society of Washington, appearing first in March, 1886,
has continued to carry original contributions dealing with all phases
of entomology, but especially taxonomy. Among the dozens of entomological
societies that have existed for varying periods (Sabrosky,
1956), only three in the Americas, which have continued uninterrupted
publication of their periodicals, are older than our Society. These
will be mentioned later in discussion of some influences relating to
the establishment of such societies in America.
Partly due to its location here in our nation's capital, many productive
and well-known entomologists have been leaders in the Society.
In our profession of entomology, small at first but now in rapid growth,
these men and women have achieved recognition of some permanence.
Sabrosky (1964) has given some of the early history of entomological
work in the U.S. government; taxonomic work was not established as
a separate entity until 1925.
Early in 1884, three young to middle-aged entomologists employed
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (hereinafter referred to as
USDA) felt a desire to meet with other entomologists in the Washington-Baltimore area to discuss entomological subjects in an informal
fashion away from official surroundings.
The three, Charles Valentine Riley, Eugene Amandus Schwarz, and
Leland Ossian Howard, invited local entomologists to a preliminary
meeting in Dr. Riley's home on February 29, 1884, at which time the
Entomological Society of Washington was organized. Brief biographical
sketches of the three original organizers follow:
Riley (1843-1895), four years President of the Society, was born in
Chelsea, London, England, and came to America at the age of 17.
As a youth he already displayed much personal charm, intense
ambition, willingness to work to the point of exhaustion, and natural
talent as an illustrator. He became much interested in farm life and
agricultural practices, and some personal associations, especially that
with Benjamin D. Walsh of Illinois, who was also of English birth
and education, fostered his enthusiasm for studying insects. Riley
had an unusual blend of talents, ambition, and artistic flair. Although
he was a controversial figure, he gave a great impetus to entomology.
He was distinguished first as an entomologist in Missouri in 1868-1876, was Chief of the U.S. Entomological Commission in 1877, and
from 1878, except for short gaps, was the ranking USDA entomologist.
In an honorary curatorial position, he founded the Division of Insects
(now Department of Entomology) at the Smithsonian Institution in
Schwarz (1844-1928) was twice President, and in 1916 the position
of Honorary President (for life) was created for him. He was born
in Germany and acquired an entomological background and classical
education there. As a learned entomologist specializing in beetles,
he came to Harvard University in 1872 and was associated for a short
time with the famous scholars Hermann August Hagen and Louis
Agassiz. From 1878 until the end of his life he was associated with
the USDA and was located at the Smithsonian Institution much of
that time. His European experience, classical background, and professional
contacts had a rich scholarly influence on the growth of
entomology in the USDA and the U.S. National Museum. He was
not so much a writer of important monographs as a broad student
of insect biology and constant guiding figure in the research and
professional development of numerous associates. Two colleagues
who came under his influence when very young and who acquired
many of his skills were Herbert S. Barber (1882-1950) and Raymond
C. Shannon (1894-1945). Barber did not receive collegiate training
but was an extremely keen and innovative coleopterist who remained
in taxonomic work in Washington throughout his life. Probing the
strange life history of Micromalthus beetles and the distinctive flashing
and other behavior of lampyrid beetles (fireflies) were among his
leading research accomplishments. Shannon acquired university training
and spent most of his career abroad, chiefly in South America as
a medical entomologist, but remained regularly in touch with Dr.
Schwarz. He became renowned for studies of Anopheles gambiae in
Brazil, mosquito-borne jungle yellow fever, and the ecology of various
other biting flies that transmit disease. During late 1927 he participated
in a notable collecting expedition to the southern part of
South America which supplied much material for the series "Diptera
of Patagonia and South Chile" published by the British Museum (Nat.
Hist.) and contributed greatly to the knowledge of the then poorly
known insect fauna of that region. Both Barber and Shannon were
active members of the Society, especially in their earlier years.
Howard (1857-1950) was three times President, and Honorary President
from 1929 to 1950. He was born in Illinois and studied entomology
under John H. Comstock at Cornell University, in fact, he was Comstock's
first student on a laboratory problem, though other students
attended his lectures on entomology earlier. An early associate of
Riley in Washington, he was Chief Entomologist of the USDA from
1894 until 1927. A very small group of entomologists was employed
by Agriculture when, at the age of 26, he helped found the Society.
When he retired as Chief of the Bureau of Entomology there were
hundreds of employees and dozens of laboratories in which Agriculture
entomologists served. Throughout his career he tried to meet
and know personally each entomologist. He was a great historian
of entomology and became a highly successful leader in medical
entomology and in economic entomology generally. At first he was a
taxonomist of parasitic Hymenoptera, and that experience probably
contributed strongly to the impetus he gave to the organization and
growth of biological control of insect pests.
Entomological societies which preceded ours and which have continued
to publish regularly are: 1) The American Entomological Society,
1867, successor to the Entomological Society of Philadelphia, founded
in 1859, and whose Proceedings were prior to the Transactions of the
American Entomological Society; 2) The Entomological Society of
Canada, organized in 1863, and publishing the Canadian Entomologist
since 1868, was interrupted from 1871 until 1951, during which period
its activities were taken on by the Entomological Society of Ontario;
and 3) The Cambridge Entomological Club, founded in 1874, which
began the publication of Psyche in the same year. The Brooklyn
Entomological Society, 1872, began its Buletin in 1878, but publication
was interrupted from 1886 until 1912, and then suspended again
Incentives to start entomological societies probably arose from
several factors. One or more men already experienced abroad, usually
in England or Germany, were located where each of the abovementioned
societies started. The native urge to collect and classify
the fauna was given new enthusiasm by association with those familiar
with insect study in countries where it already had a place in the
culture of the people. Each group of new enthusiasts felt the need
to accumulate identified specimens, reference literature, and bibliographies
of old and current literature. In most groups there was a
physician, clergyman, or teacher at a nearby college to contribute
to the group's resources. The practical aspects of learning about insects
were a factor in some groups, at least in Washington and Ontario.
The Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Philadelphia show
a departure from its usual taxonomic papers in Walsh's reports on
injurious insects. In 1864 he published extensive lists of insect species
he regarded as common to the faunas of the Old World and North
America, taking issue with the "New England School of Naturalists,"
who argued that the species of the two regions are nearly all distinct.
Early publications show that the Philadelphia and Ontario groups
were composed chiefly of men of English origin or ancestry. The
Brooklyn group was nearly all of German background, as were also
many of those in Washington. Hagen was an outstanding entomologist
of German origin at Cambridge, where Schwarz also participated
before coming to Washington. Although a majority of the early members
of the Entomological Society of Washington were of Anglo-Saxon
ancestry, a considerable number besides Schwarz were of German
birth, including several who were of considerable influence and did
much to shape the Society. George Marx, A. J. Schafhirt, Otto Heidemann,
Theodore Pergande, and Frederick Knab may be mentioned.
Albert Koebele was another; he joined the Brooklyn Society before
coming to Washington and joining the group here. He distinguished
himself later in the introduction of imported parasites and predators
Pergande (1840-1916) was a member of the Society's Executive
Committee in 1886-1889, and made a much larger contribution to
entomology as a whole than his position as preparator and general
assistant would suggest. His limited formal research concerned aphids,
but his rearing and preparing of specimens were his main achievements,
earning him the appellation of "a positive genius in his work
on the life history of insects." (Howard, 1930:96).
Somewhat later, two Danes, both educated in the natural scienccs
in their native country, were prominent members. August Busck
(President, 1913) did pioneering research on the systematics of
Micro-Lepidoptera, and Adam G. Boving (President, 1924) did basic
work on larval Coleoptera. Howard (1931, 1934), Wade (1936),
and Nelson (1960) wrote on the founders and officers of the Society
at length, showing clearly that European training and methods on the
part of influential members were of major importance not only in
their individual careers but in the leadership given to the Society.
Ten persons attended the organizing meeting of the Society at
Riley's home, and six others came to a second meeting on March 12
(Howard, 1895: 162; 1934:52). From this group of 16 "real founders,"
membership in the Society increased to 26 by the time the first constitution
was signed on April 3, 1884. Only 25 signatures are in the
original record book, but a 26th man, A. J. Schafhirt, attended the
first meeting and was active for some years later. By 1902 the number
had grown to 114, and at the beginning of 1976 there were 498
members on the rolls. In recent years the number has remained
Many well-known entomologists were located for a time in the
Washington area and took important parts in the Society's activities
during its early years, but their careers later took them elsewhere,
so that at least as far as the meetings were concerned they then had
little or no participation. Lawrence Bruner came to Washington
briefly on his wedding trip, during which time he helped to found
the Society. His highly successful career was nearly all spent in
Nebraska, but he cooperated closely with the Washington entomologists
for many years. Otto Lugger, also a founder, and one who
lived in or near Washington for some years, later was best known as
State Entomologist of Minnesota.
John B. Smith was active in the Society during the nearly 5 years
(1885-1889) that he served as Assistant Curator at the U.S. National
Museum; during the remainder of his somewhat short but brilliant
career he was at Rutgers University, in New Jersey. C. H. T. Townsend
was often in Washington during the first half of his career,
serving in various capacities for Agriculture, though periods of other
employment intervened, and he was an officer of the Society as early
as 1889. After World War I he was employed chiefly in South
America while he was writing his Manual of Myiology. Nathan Banks
was employed by the USDA for some time (1890-1892, 1896-1916),
and was twice President of the Society (1905, 1906). As a taxonomist
he wrote many basic synopses of several groups of insects and
arachnids. Late in 1916 he moved to Massachusetts and contributed
greatly to the internationally famous collection at Harvard University.
W. D. Hunter came from Nebraska and spent much of his rather
short career in Texas and other southern states where he led in the
control of pests of cotton and other field crops, as well as contributing
to medical entomology. He spent much time in Washington and
served as first Editor of the Proceedings (1913-1914) and as President
in 1914. A. C. Baker had a long career in the study of insects attack
ing fruit, the latter part of it in Mexico for the USDA. He was Editor
from 1918 through 1923 and President in 1931.
The Society's regular meetings have changed much since the early
years when lively discussion and conviviality were probably the "real
life" of the group. Even in recent years, for members who do not
publish or have only marginal taxonomic interests, meetings are the
main function of the Society. During the first 25 years, meetings were
held mostly in the homes of members. Pre-announced subjects were
introduced by short talks, followed by lively comment and a social
hour with refreshments (usually beer). Manuscripts for publication
were sometimes "presented by title only" and until mid-1918 program
items were called "Communications." A large and interesting collection
of program cards is preserved in three large spring-binder notebooks.
There are no cards for the first 245 meetings (1884-1910), and there
are other gaps, notably meetings 318451 ( 1919-1933 ) . The first
meeting designated by a number was the 137th, on October 20, 1898.
The first meeting of 1976, in January, was the 829th.
Attendance averaged 11 per meeting for the first 99 meetings, and
the men were of early middle age. For a while, even after increased
attendance made it impractical to meet in homes, one member would
"entertain" at each meeting, that is, arrange for the refreshments and
perhaps choose the subject for discussion. The term "entertain" was
discontinued at the beginning of 1918. Howard (1895) summarized
the first 99 meetings, giving locations, subjects discussed, and he told
which members participated most. He later recalled (Howard, 1909:
14) how strongly the convivial character of the meetings was akin
to German university life, perhaps due to the generous representation
of members of German origin or to the fact that in those years many
American students took advanced training in German universities. On
this subject it is interesting to read an informal poem read by Howard
at the 100th meeting on June 7, 1894 and quoted by him later
There was some difference of opinion in early years concerning the
propriety of Agriculture employees talking about their official duties
at Society meetings. Riley was opposed to it (Howard, 1909; Walton
and Bishopp, 1937). Through the years, however, many meeting programs
have dealt with the scientific aspects of insect study or control
projects, though questions of policy and administrative decisions have
been avoided. Another question which arose concerned contributions
from members who studied Crustacea or other "non-insects," an
indication of the breadth and vitality of early meetings attracting
professional men of other disciplines. In 1894, when a member wished
to publish a paper on crabs, arguing that they were as closely related
to insects as are arachnids, it was decided that the field of endeavor
afforded by insects was so large that it would be unwise to expand
manuscript acceptance to include Crustacea ( Howard, 1909). For
many years manuscripts intended for publication were "read at a
meeting and then turned over to the Publications Committee. The
practice was discontinued, perhaps because of a situation that arose
in 1915, when a member was scheduled to "read a taxonomic paper,
but when called upon for it he declined to do so, explaining that
following the reading of another paper of his at an earlier meeting
a fellow member had published on the same subject with "remarkable
celerity." This controversy about the time schedule for the publishing
of a manuscript was apparently finally settled amicably, according
to correspondence in the Society's files.
A few particularly notable meetings have been held. One was for
a lecture on insect coloration given at a special meeting on February
28, 1894 by Prof. E. B. Poulton, of Oxford, England, with 27 in
attendance, the largest number to that date. Dr. August Krogh, of
Denmark, lectured on respiration of insects at a meeting on November
8, 1922. On January 7, 1915, when W. D. Hunter gave his address
as Retiring President on "Some Observations on Medical Entomology"
at a regular meeting, the 48 members and 21 visitors comprised the
largest attendance again for a regular meeting. At the March 1,
1934 meeting, held at the Cosmos Club, when Howard and Rohwer
each spoke, 151 people attended. At the meeting honoring the memory
of Herbert Barber, held on October 5, 1950, 141 persons registered,
although the room was too small for all to remain.
When the number of Society members was small and the working
entomologists in Washington (mostly employed by Agriculture) were
a closely-knit group, the death of a colleague often was recognized
by a special meeting or a special program at a regular meeting. Such
were two joint meetings of the Society and "the force of the Bureau"
held in June and July, 1911 in honor of the recently deceased members
D. W. Coquillett and F. C. Pratt, respectively. Coquillett was a
largely self-educated entomologist, a distinguished dipterist and applied
entomologist, and Pratt was a highly skilled preparator and aid
in rearing procedures and a wide variety of general duties, so highly
regarded both for his work and as a person that he became a vital
member of the Society and the Bureau. Such meetings were often held
shortly after the demise of the member, and several associates would
make spontaneous remarks in tribute to him.
Reports of the early meetings gave much detail. Entomologists elsewhere
found them of interest, probably because there were fewer
journals then, but also because many discussions centered about field
experiences and general biological notes. For one thing, members
prepared for and expected to discuss particular subjects, so that considered,
worthwhile comments were made. Techniques were described
too; for instance, at the April 5, 1894 meeting Schwarz showed specimens
of "small insects mounted on cardboard triangles in such a
manner as to leave the sternum free for examination and study," a
method that has become the commonly used one of "pointing" specimens
with triangles and adhesive. Another interesting item in the
old reports is one by Howard (1909:16): "While I was writing these
words this morning the door of my office opened, and in came old
Professor Cyrus Thomas, 84 years of age, but mentally as active as
ever. He came in to suggest the idea that certain non-migratory
locusts, after a succession of dry seasons, grow longer wings and
become migratory." Thomas was suggesting then what proved to be
a tremendous independent discovery more than 10 years later by
Boris P. (later Sir Boris) Uvarov, the "phase theory" about changed
behavior and morphology of gregarious vs. solitary phases of some
"Abridged minutes" of the meetings were published in Insect Life,
a periodical published by the USDA and edited by Riley and Howard,
during its short but productive life from 1888 until it was discontinued
in favor of 2 series of Bulletins in July 1895. This also considerably
enlarged public awareness of the Society's activities. Later minutes
have been in less detail because of higher printing costs and fewer
original observations reported at meetings. In 1918-1931, reports of
Society meetings were published in the Journal of the Washington
Academy of Sciences, as documented in detail by Wade ( 1931), then
later and still published in the Proceedings.
After it became impractical to hold meetings in members' homes,
a variety of locations were used. For many years the Saengerbund
Hall, 314 C Street N.W., provided a friendly gathering place. So
congenial was the atmosphere and so cooperative was the "Bund
that at the 301st meeting, February 8, 1917, a "nearly life-size portrait"
of Schwarz, a guiding spirit of the Society, was presented to the
Saengerbund and accepted by its president as a mark of close ties.
Meetings at the Saengerbund were discontinued soon after Prohibition
(Rohwer, 1934). After meeting at several places, including the
Cosmos Club, meetings at the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian
Institution became regular; the meeting of November 4, 1920
was probably the first.
With increased attendance, often well over 50 persons, including
many women, there has been somewhat less audience participation.
Recent meetings have usually had a single speaker, sometimes two,
and occasionally there has been a panel presentation. Subjects have
varied widely, including original research, travel reports, reviews of
national and international meetings, summaries of current projects,
and historical reviews. An effort has been made to stimulate spontaneous notes on any aspect of entomology, and at some meetings
there is a lively volunteer session. There has unfortunately never
been much participation by amateur entomologists, as already noted
by Howard (1924). For many years refreshments were omitted,
mainly because of building management's requests, but for several
years now they have been resumed. With a larger number of women
active in entomology, they have contributed more; in 1966 and 1969,
Louise M. Russell and Helen Sollers-Riedel, respectively, were
A total of 77 volumes of the Proceedings has appeared. Material
from more than one year was included in a single volume in some
early years. The Proceedings was published quarterly at first; it was
monthly except for July, August, and September during 1919-1948;
it became bimonthly in 1949; and since 1960 it has again been
Indexing of the Proceedings has been various, from lacking to detailed.
Exchange subscriptions for other journals was discontinued
about 1911. Most editors have not published editorials; Carl Heinrich
and A. C. Baker often did, and there has occasionally been an
editorial by someone else, such as L. 0. Howard or W. L. McAtee.
Prior to 1913, the Proceedings were edited by a Publications Committee;
since that time, there has been a succession of 12 Editors.
William R. Walton served longest, 1927 through 1942. At present the
Editor is Chairman of the Publications Committee, consisting of 3
appointed members, one of whom is replaced each year.
At the meeting of December 5, 1912, H. G. Dyar (1866-1929) was
referred to as "editor," but apparently only in the sense of being on
the committee responsible for editorial duties. He was an unusual,
very talented and productive entomologist, working chiefly on the
taxonomy of Diptera and Lepidoptera. He was a man of considerable
private means, and after completing his term on the Publications
Committee he organized his own journal, Insecutor Inscitiae Mewtruus,
published during 1913 to 1927. Until the end of 1912 he had
been active in the Society and was twice President (1901, 1902).
At that same meeting of December 5, 1912, J. C. Crawford was
elected Editor, as noted by Rohwer (1934), but he resigned on
February 6, 1913 and W. D. Hunter was elected in his place and
served through 1914. Crawford served during 1915 through 1917.
Later Editors are: A. C. Baker, 1918-1923; Carl Heinrich, 1924-1926;
William R. Walton, 1927-1942; Alan Stone, 1943-May, 1947; Karl V.
Krombein, June 1947-1951; Barnard D. Burks, 1952-1954; Richard
H. Foote, 1955-1962; Jon L. Herring, 1963-1967; Paul M. Marsh,
1968-1972; Lloyd V. Knutson, 1973-. Baker and Hunter have already
been mentioned. Crawford (1880-1950) was a specialist in Hymenoptera
and late in his career also studied thrips. Heinrich (1880-1955)
specialized on Lepidoptera and was an accomplished writer on many
subjects, including poetry and newspaper editorials. Walton (1873-
1952) was a skilled illustrator, an experienced dipterist, and a good
general entomologist; he was twice President (1920, 1921) and Editor
for a longer time than anyone else. Stone (1904-) was President in
1951 and served Agriculture as a Diptera specialist for 40 years. He
is best known for his studies on bloodsucking flies, Anastrepha and
other fruitflies, other Diptera, and catalogues. Krombein (191%)
served as President in 1970, is well-known as a wasp specialist, and
took a leading part in the preparation of Hymenoptera catalogues.
Burks (1909-) was President in 1974, is an outstanding specialist on
Chalcidoidea (Hymenoptera), and did major work on mayflies. Foote
(1918-), President in 1968, is currently Chief of the Systematic Entomology
Laboratory, USDA, and for many years has been an active
taxonomist on Diptera, especially mosquitoes and Tephritidae. Herring
(1922-) is active with Hemiptera, especially aquatic families,
in the Systematic Entomology Laboratory. Marsh (1936) serves as
taxonomist on parasitic Hymenoptera, primarily Braconidae, for the
Systematic Entomology Laboratory. Knutson (1934-) is a specialist
on Diptera, especially the snail-killing flies of the family Sciomyzidae,
and is currently Chairman of the Insect Identification and Beneficial
Insect Introduction Institute, USDA.
In 1939 the publication of Memoirs, each representing a separate comprehensive study of major importance, was begun, and 6 Memoirs
have been issued at irregular times, as the availability of appropriate manuscripts and the necessary funds permit. The Memoir series is
supported by a special publication fund maintained by donations, the sale of Memoirs and certain back stock of the Proceedings, and
formerly by a portion of members' annual dues. The fund was established, effective January 1, 1915, on a motion by H. S. Barber at the
April 1, 1915 meeting. At the June 7, 1894 meeting, L. 0. Howard already had suggested such a fund. In 1913, a member then living
in Baltimore, J. M. Lawford, died and bequeathed to the Society in his will a collection of specimens and a library. The specimens were
donated to the U.S. National Museum and the books sold, the proceeds being added to the publication fund (Rohwer, 1934). Since
that time, the chief donations to the Fund have been by Alan Stone, $4,070; Frederick Knab, $1,400; E. A. Schwarz, $1,000; Charles T.
Greene, $500; Lewis P. Ditman, $100. These donations have been the means of publishing some important works of lasting value.
Categories of membership have varied through the years. Active and associate members were distinguished early, those in the local
area being classed as Active Members, those living elsewhere as Associate Members. The latter were for a while called Corresponding
Members. During the 1890's Rudolph Leuckart, of Germany (1823-1898), who had been one of Schwarz' professors, was elected Honorary
Member, but he died soon afterward. At that time, this class membership was restricted to foreign entomologists who had made outstanding
contributions to entomology, but later a local coleopterist, Henry Ulke (1821-1910), was elected. In 1915 Jean H. Fabre, of France, and
David Sharp, of England were elected. Fabre died in 1915, Sharp in 1922, and resolutions of esteem and remembrance were adopted
for both (Proceedings, 1S:l; 24:207). For a long while there were no further Honorary Members, but in the late 1950's this class was
reactivated for "recognition of long and meritorious effort to advance entomological science." Honorary Members shall not be more than
3, or 4 if one is also Honorary President. The following entomologists, all long-time members in the Washington area, are the current Honorary
Members, together with their date of election to that status: C. F. W. Muesebeck, 1955 (Honorary President); E. N. Cory, 1965;
F. W. Poos, 1965; R. A. St. George, 1975.
Life Membership, which gives full membership privileges without further payment of dues in return for a substantial single fee, is now
held by 7 persons. Emeritus Members, now 12 in number, are those of 15 or more years standing, who elect to forego receiving the Proceedings,
who are retired from regular employment, and are approved for this status by the Executive Committee.
The office of Honorary President for Life, was created for E. A. Schwarz in 1916 in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the
Society. Following the death of Schwarz in 1928, L. 0. Howard, then the sole surviving founder (except for Lawrence Bruner, who
was retired in California) was chosen. He was succeeded in 1951 by C. L. Marlatt (1863-1954), who was twice President (1896, 1897)
and best known as Chief of the Bureau of Entomology, USDA, from 1927 through 1934 and for his studies on the periodical cicada and the
history of the spread of the San Josd scale. Following Marlatt was Robert E. Snodgrass (1875-1962), President in 1939, who was the
foremost American insect morphologist of his time and the author of 4 outstanding books and 80 scientific papers, most of which remain
classics in their field. His skill as an illustrator contributed much to the usefulness of his work. The Honorary Presidency was next
awarded to Thomas E. Snyder (1885-1970), President in 1949, a leading figure in the systematic and applied phases of termite study
and a lifelong student of other pests of wood products. The current Honorary President is Carl F. W. Muesebeck (1894-), President in
1940, who has continued taxonomic research on parasitic Hymenoptera since his retirement over 20 years ago. As head of the Taxonomic
Investigations Unit, USDA, for about 20 years, now reorganized as the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, he established for the Laboratory
an enviable tradition of service and research and at the same time led the compilation of the Synoptic Catalog of the Hymenoptera
of America North of Mexico, published in 1951.
During the Society's 92 years, 75 people have served as President. Until the 1920's, reelection for a second year was normal, though
there were exceptions due to job transfers, health, etc. A nearly complete departure from 2-year terms began in 1922, when Arthur B.
Gahan, the well-known specialist on parasitic Hymenoptera, then in his first year as President and a sincere admirer of his chief, felt
it appropriate that Dr. Howard should again head the Society to which he had given so much. Hence, Dr. Howard served a third
term. Since that time, only J. E. Graf, 1929 and 1930, has served for two years.
Because the early Presidents were relatively young and some of them lived remarkably long, while the single-term tradition has resulted
in a larger number of them, it is interesting to note that a few living members of advanced age have known personally all
except ten or fewer of the Presidents. Even the writer of these lines, who came to Washington in 1936, has known all but 13 of the
75 Presidents! There has been a marked trend toward increased age in the presidency. During the first two decades, 18841903, the
average age was under 44; during the past four decades, it has been 54, and the average age of the last ten Presidents is 58. The youngest
President was L. 0. Howard, 28 when his first term began, the oldest Otto Heidemann, 69 at the end of his second term. The youngest
President chosen recently is Arthur K. Burditt, Jr. (1928-), who was 44 when elected in December, 1972 after serving a year as President-
Elect and previously as an energetic Treasurer. Unfortunately, because of a transfer to Florida, he found it necessary to resign immediately
after taking office.
A chronological list of the Presidents was published in 1970 (Proceedings, 72:512). Bibliographies of those who served up to 1935
were given by Wade (1936), who himself served in 1934 and was an enthusiastic and patient bibliographer and compiler.
Other officers have provided able and dedicated service to the Society, and the value of their service is no less than that of the
Presidency, but they remain largely unsung. The office of Treasurer is laborious and time-consuming, but very important. We have been
fortunate in having some very capable Treasurers. Sievert A. Rohwer (1888-1951) held the combined office of Corresponding Secretary-Treasurer
during 1911-34, and the breadth of his work for the Society
is suggested by the fact that 4 officers now share the responsibilities that he bore single-handedly. In 1928 he also served as President. As
a USDA entomologist for more than 40 years, he was a specialist on wasps and later had extensive managerial duties as an Assistant Chief
of the Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine. Donald J. Caffrey (1886-1960) was Corresponding Secretary during 1937 through 1940,
and did an unusually fine job in arranging and revitalizing the sale of the stored volumes of the Proceedings and the general conduct
of the office. He was an Agriculture entomologist for 43 years, dealing with many crop pests, especially the European corn borer, and
planning and leading an extensive research program. We hope that someone will continue the biographic work so ably started by Wade,
referred to in the preceding paragraph.
On the cover of the Proceedings issued in March, 1894 there first appeared the outline of an insect as the Society Seal, which remained
in use there except for the years 1921-1936. A new engraver's cut was made in 1937 and again in 1964. Jon L. Herring made the drawing
for the last cut and explained its significance (Herring, 1964). The insect is a winged male of Rheurrutobates rileyi Bergroth (Hemiptera,
Gerridae), a water strider about 7 mm long, including outstretched legs. The middle legs are longest, and the male has
peculiarly specialized antennae. The species is widely distributed on quiet freshwater in the eastern United States. Two brief notes were
published by Riley and Howard (1891, 1893). The design was originally adopted at the Society meeting of November 2, 1893
(Proceedings 3:83): "President Riley in the chair, and 12 members present. Mr. Heidemann presented designs for a seal for the Society.
One of the designs was adopted, and Mr. Heidemann was urged to engrave it upon wood. Upon motion a vote of thanks was extended to
Mr. Heidemann for his voluntary services in this matter." Otto Heidemann (1842-1916), President in 1909-1910, learned wood engraving
as a student in Leipzig, Germany, and continued as an illustrator and engraver of insects after coming to this country. He was past 50 when
hired as an entomologist by Agriculture in Washington, but he became a highly respected and productive specialist on Hemiptera.
This account has brought together many of the more interesting facts in the history of the Entomological Society of Washington, but
there is not space to recount, even briefly, many more interesting aspects of the people who have been connected with the Society.
Howard (1930) and Mallis (1971) have told more about many of them.
The Society is fortunate to have been located where there are enough entomologists to form a strong nucleus, but the majority of
its members and subscribers live outside the Washington area, and readers of the Proceedings are widespread in the United States and
foreign countries. Current circulation, to both members and subscribers, is about 750 copies. Although without a formally organized
office facility and salaried staff, the Society has continued to serve entomology usefully within the scope of its traditional functions. One
of its most active members, Curtis W. Sabrosky (President, 1972), has the distinction of being President of the XVth International Congress
of Entomology, which meets in Washington during August 19-27, 1976.
What of the future? We cannot predict what economic and populational changes will bring. The Society has had numerous fine younger
officers in recent years, but we clearly need more younger members to participate in the production of stimulating and innovative programs.
We must become familiar with new and more economical methods of information dissemination and have good, sound managers
to continue to publish and be responsive to the needs of our readers. Our current President, George C. Steyskal, a long-time student of the
Diptera, is an imaginative and dedicated leader, and with his help we hope that 1976 will begin a new strong period of service to
entomology by the Society.
- Herring, J. L. (Editor) 1964. The official seal of the Entomological Society of Washington. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 66: l.
- Howard, L. 0. 1895. A review of the work of the Entomological Society of Washington during the first ten years of its existence. Idem. 3: 161-167.
- -- 1909. The Entomological Society of Washington. Idem. 11: 8-18.
- -- 1924. On entomological societies. Idem. 26: 25-27.
- -- 1930. A history of applied entomology. Smithsonian Misc. Collns. 84: 1-564.
- -- 1931. [Report on historical talk given at meeting]. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 33: 206-211.
- -- 1934. More about the beginnings of the Society. Idem. 36: 51-55.
- Mallis, A. 1971. American entomologists. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, N.J. 549 p.
- Nelson, R. H. 1960. The Jubilee Year. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 62: 271-277.
- Riley, C. V. and L. 0. Howard. (Editors). 1891. An interesting aquatic bug. Insect Life. 4: 198-200. Article unsigned; authorship of such explained in vol. 5: .
- -- 1893. An interesting aquatic bug (Rheumatobates rileyi Bergroth). Idem. 5: 189-194.
- Rohwer, S. A. 1934. Remarks on changes in the Entomological Society of Washington during the last quarter of a century. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 36: 55-59.
- Sabrosky, C. W. 1956. Entomological societies. Bull. Entomol. Soc. Amer. 2: 1-22.
- -- 1964. Taxonomic entomology in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Idem. 10: 211-220.
Photo credit: Arthur V. Evans