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Passenger Pidgeon Correspondence,

Identifier: Ms-2011-082

Scope and Content

The collection consists of Ralph Brown's 1945 compilation of correspondence on passenger pidgeons.

Brown was a VPI librarian working under the request of a professor A. L. Dean. of the V. P. I. Agricultural extension division. The latter had made inquiries to ornithologists regarding "the possibility that the extermination of the passenger pidgeon was caused by disease."

All the six ornithologists contacted disagreed with Dean's hypothesis. "Market hunting," not illness, they affirmed, brought about the end to the passenger pigeon.

More specifically, Dr. S. C. Bishop of the University of Rochester wrote that "so far as [he] is concerned, there [was] no particular mystery about the end of the Passenger Pigeon. It was slaughtered by the millions." John T. Zimmer and A. C. Bent who represent the American Museum of Natural History and Smithsonian Institution, respectively, also agreed. Nonetheless, Bent offers some hope to the initial theory by noting that "there may have been some disease or weakening from in-breeding, which brought about the end." Similarly the Smithsonian's Dr. A. Wetmore and Virginia's J. J. Murray provide Dean with some additional readings on ornithological history.

Brown sent the compilation, upon completion, to Dr. W. A. Murrell of the University of Florida.


  • 1945


Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Passenger Pigeon Correspondence must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Biographical Note

Ralph M. Brown (1848-1958) was a Virginia Tech head librarian, amateur historian, and naturalist.


0.1 Cubic Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



The collection consists of Ralph Brown's 1945 compilation of correspondence on passenger pidgeons.


The collection is arranged by material type.

Acquisition Information

The collection was transferred to Special Collection at Virginia Tech in July 2011.

Related Materials

Ralph M. Brown also compiled the V. P. I. Historical Index, 1872-1941. The finding aid can be found online. Items within this collection include histories on Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, and the New River Valley and observation notes on weather and ornithology.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Passenger Pidgeon Correspondence was completed in September 2011.

Passenger Pidgeon Correspondence, 1945
Andrea Ledesma, Student Assistant, and Kira A. Dietz, Archivist
© 2011 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. All rights reserved.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US