The New York Entomological Society
(NYES), founded in 1892, is one of the oldest, continually active entomological societies in the U.S. The Brooklyn Entomological Society, which predates the NYES by 20 years, merged with it in 1968.
History of the NYES
|Zethus slossonae, named after Annie Trumbull Slosson
(photo by Bob Peterson, Flickr)
On June 29th, 1892, five men gathered in the home of entomologist Charles Palm (not to be confused with the other Charles Palm
, also a New York entomologist) for the first meeting of the NYES. Their first order of business was to elect three members, including Annie Trumbull Slosson (Leng, 130). Years later, she described her first meeting:
I shall never forget the sensation produced by my unexpected entrance into that scientific meeting. Through the smoke of pipes and over mugs of some beverage which foamed in the gas-light in a sudsy sort of way, I saw startled, embarrassed faces … The host himself, good Mr. Palm, seemed somewhat embarrassed. After seating me in the most comfortable chair unoccupied, he hastened away to order coffee for me as more appropriate and fitting drink for a feminine throat (Klots, 139).
Despite taking up entomology in middle age (she was previously a fiction writer) and having no formal education in it, Slosson would become one of the Society’s most accomplished members. She amassed a large specimen collection, now housed at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and has a genus and over 100 species (slossonae) named after her. She also authored numerous articles in the journals of the NYES and other entomological organizations and was instrumental in moving NYES meetings to the AMNH (Seltmann).
Though NYES membership hovered around ten individuals in the first decade of its existence, the Society began publishing the Journal of the New York Entomological Society in 1893. Slosson was its chief contributor, and the sale of her collected specimens at auction funded the journal and ensured regular publication. Another member who contributed to the journal’s early success was Louis H. Joutel, who, in addition to serving as the Society’s treasurer and secretary, was an accomplished illustrator; his drawings appear throughout early volumes of the journal (Leng, 130).
Within a few years, the Society had begun to broaden its reach. In 1895 it joined the Scientific Alliance of New York, which included distinguished organizations like the New York Academy of Sciences
and the Torrey Botanical Society
, and strengthened its relationship with the AMNH, where it enjoyed access to the library and collections in the position of “a non-paying tenant with a generous landlord” (Klots, 146).
By all accounts, Society meetings were an occasion for the sharing of exciting specimen finds as well as good food and drink. Above all, they were informal. Elsie Klots wrote that “During the nineteen thirties and early forties speakers were so often startled by the steady click of knitting needles and the ominous waving of an ear trumpet that it became customary to explain to them, before the meeting, that the occupants of the front row were the faithful wives of some of our elder members and that they were an accepted and beloved part of our meetings” (Klots, 143-144).
In 1942, the NYES celebrated its 50th anniversary, with nearly half of its 26 former presidents in attendance. In 1949, the Society put on a public exhibit of insect photography in Roosevelt Hall, at the AMNH. It proved so popular that a second exhibit the following year was moved to the museum’s foyer. It featured photographs, paintings, drawings, publications by Society members, equipment, and insect origami. In 1964, the NYES convened for a third special meeting to honor four individuals who had been members for over 50 years. Dr. E.R.P. Janvrin, who joined in 1902, held the distinction of longest membership (Klots, 140).
From the beginning, the NYES maintained a close relationship with the Brooklyn Entomological Society, its elder neighbor. Members of each society were invited to the other’s meetings and field trips, and in 1903 the NYES began devoting two pages of its journal to publish the proceedings of the Brooklyn Society (Klots, 145). The incorporation of the Brooklyn Entomological Society into the NYES, celebrated on October 29, 1968 (the 75th anniversary of the NYES) was thus a natural union for two organizations whose activities had converged for a long time.
|Drawing for a NY Eats Bugs dinner hosted
by the NYES and others in 2015 (unknown artist)
The NYES celebrated its centennial on May 20th, 1992, with a banquet at the Explorers Club in New York City. The major draw of the evening was its theme: insects as food. Guests enjoyed a variety of appetizers and desserts with insects as ingredients, as well as a talk by keynote speaker Dr. Gene DeFoliart of the University of Wisconsin, an expert on the subject (Society History). The NYES has since participated in similar “bug banquets
” at the Explorers Club.
Today, the NYES continues to meet at the AMNH on the third Tuesday of every month, September through May (excluding December). Professional and amateur entomologists alike hear talks by invited speakers on topics of entomological and biological significance. The Society also continues to publish its journal, which in 2009 was renamed Entomologica Americana
(also the title of the Brooklyn Entomological Society’s journal
, which ceased publication in 1975.
We are grateful to the NYES for sharing its rich legacy of entomological scholarship with BHL and with researchers around the world!
Note: this post has been edited to remove the incorrect statement that the NYES is the third or fourth oldest entomological society in the U.S.
Klots, Elsie B. “The History of the New York Entomological Society.” Journal of the New York Entomological Society 76, no. 3 (1968): 138-155.
Seltmann, Katja. “Collector Spotlight: Annie Trumbull Slosson.” Tri-Trophic Thematic Collection Network. Last modified September 12, 2013. http://tcn.amnh.org/updates/collectorspotlightannietrumbullslosson.
“Society History.” The New York Entomological Society, Inc. Accessed September 14, 2016. http://www.nyentsoc.org/history.
odontomachus, thank you for the correction. I've edited the post to be more accurate. I also forgot about the Entomological Society of America (1889). The Entomological Society of Pennsylvania is indeed the oldest, but it was inactive from 1845-1923. By my count, that makes the NYES the 4th or 5th oldest, continually active society, but it's easier and—and safer—to say "one of the oldest"! Thanks again.
The Entomological Society of Pennsylvania was founded 1842 and the Cambridge Entomological Club was founded in 1874. That makes NYES either the 3rd or 5th oldest, not either the 2nd or 3rd oldest.