ListenLarger documents may require additional load time.
Henry Wetherbee Henshaw
Dictionary of American Biography. 1936.
Born: 1850 in Massachusetts, United States
Died: 1930
Full Text: 

Henshaw, Henry Wetherbee (Mar. 3, 1850 - Aug. 1, 1930), naturalist, ornithologist, and ethnologist, was born at Cambridge, Mass., the youngest of the seven children of William and Sarah Holden (Wetherbee) Henshaw. He was educated in the Cambridge public schools and planned to go to Harvard, but in 1869, shortly before he was to take the entrance examination, his health gave way, and, although it was restored by a winter in Louisiana, his plans for a college course were abandoned. His subsequent training as a naturalist comprised chiefly outdoor study. As a boy he had been interested in the varied wildlife of the woods and marshes about his home but he soon developed a preference for birds, and the enthusiastic study of ornithology, largely in the field, occupied much of his time for many years. In 1872 he was attached as a naturalist to the Wheeler Survey, which was engaged in general explorations west of the one-hundredth meridian. Annual field trips in this connection to various parts of the West, and the preparation of reports in Washington, kept him busy until the Survey was terminated in 1879. He made notable collections of birds, and his interest extended also to several other branches of natural history--mammals, fishes, reptiles, insects, and even plants. In 1885 his collection of birds and eggs was acquired by the British Museum.

After the conclusion of the Wheeler Survey, since no opening in ornithological work was then available, he joined the staff of the Bureau of Ethnology. Because of administrative duties his ornithological studies were largely discontinued for some years. He was editor of the American Anthropologist from 1889 to 1893. In the latter year, owing to ill health, he was compelled to ask for an indefinite leave of absence. He went in December 1894 to the Hawaiian Islands, where he remained about ten years, studying the birds and natural history in general and devoting much time to outdoor photography with notable success. Finding himself once more in condition for serious work, he returned in 1904 to the United States, and in 1905 was appointed administrative assistant in the Bureau of Biological Survey of the Department of Agriculture, becoming assistant chief in December of the same year. As his administrative duties were heavy, he again found little time for collecting and observing bird life in the field. While in Hawaii he had taken up the use of the microscope in the examination of land shells, and after returning to Washington derived much pleasure in noting under a high-power lens the surpassing beauty and infinite variety of form presented by diatoms. In 1910 he became chief of the Biological Survey. The work of the Bureau developed rapidly along diversified lines, with direct bearing upon wild-life administration, and with the increasing responsibilities of his position his health again began to suffer and he resigned on Dec. 1, 1916. He never entirely recovered his full powers, and thereafter did comparatively little active work. He died at Washington, unmarried.

Henshaw was the author of a Report on the Ornithology of Nevada, Utah, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona (1875); Birds of the Hawaiian Islands (1902); "Birds of Town and Country" (National Geographic Magazine, May 1914); "American Game Birds" (Ibid., August 1915); "Friends of our Forests, the Warblers" (Ibid., April 1917); and also of a number of important papers contributed to scientific journals, on ornithology and ethnology. In the latter field, he contributed many articles to the "Handbook of American Indians" (Bulletin 30, Bureau of American Ethnology, 2 vols., 1907, 1910). He was a fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union, and was vice-president of that organization from 1891 to 1894 and from 1911 to 1918. The most notable contribution of his later years was his autobiography, which was published in several numbers of the Condor, an ornithological journal, during 1919 and 1920.


[The chief sources are Henshaw's autobiography, in the Condor, May 1919-June 1920, and personal acquaintance. A full bibliography of Henshaw's writings, now in the possession of the Bureau of Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agric., Washington, D. C., was published together with a memoir, in the Auk. See also Who's Who in America, 1916-17; New England Hist. and Geneal. Reg., Oct. 1862; Evening Star (Washington), Aug. 2, 1930; N. Y. Times, Aug. 3, 1930.]

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
"Henry Wetherbee Henshaw." Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. Biography In Context, Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.

Gale Document Number: GALE|BT2310011441