University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Ecology and Natural Resources Collection

Page View

Barger, N. R. (ed.) / The passenger pigeon
Volume VI, Number 3 (July 1944)

Schorger, A. W.
Philo Romayne Hoy,   pp. 55-59 PDF (2.0 MB)


Page 55


WISCONSIN'S GREATEST
PIONEER ZOOLOGIST
By A. W. SCHORGER
The subject of this sketch, Philo Romayne Hoy, was born at Mansfield, Ohio,
November 3, 1816. His parents were of revolutionary stock and he is reputed
to have
been the second white boy born in the community. In his youth, on account
of the
color of his hair, he was called Red-headed Woodpecker by his brothers. This
name
was in keeping with his subsequent great interest in birds. He graduated
from Ohio
Medical College, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1840 and came to Racine to practise
his profes-
sion in 1846. It is of note that he began his ornithological observations
at Racine the
year of his arrival.
The scientific interests of I)r. Hoy covered an exceptionally broad field.
By 1876
his collections contained 318 species of birds, eggs of 150 species, 35 mammals,
50 rep-
tiles, 1300 beetles, 2000 moths, etc."4 His published papers cover birds,
mammals, fish,
reptiles, amphibians, molluscs, insects, and Indian antiquities. He was the
first person
to investigate the deep-water fauna of Lake Michigan.
There is nothing more stimulating than friendship with men of kindred interests.
At Racine he had Rev. A. C. Barry. Hoy records that on1 May 5, 1852, he and
Barry
collected 47 warblers representing 16 species. The beginning of his friendship
with
Increase A. Lapham is told as follows: "My first acquaintance with Dr.
Lapham was
in 1846, when one morning there landed from the steamer Sultana a small man
with
a huge collecting box hanging at his side."
"He came from Milwaukee and intended returning on foot along the lake-shore
in order to collect plants and shells, no easy journey, encumbered as he
soos would
be, with a well filled specimen box. He spoke lightly of the undertaking,
saying he had
performed similar feats before. . . . In after years we were often together,
studying
the mounds, quarries, forest trees, etc., near Racine, and my first impression
of his
energy, perseverance, enthusiasm, accutacy and extent of information were
all deep-
ened by our subsequent meetings."r,
Botany and conchology then engaged the attention of Laphami. His statement
that the various other branches of the natut al history of Wisconsin, ornithology,
mammalogy, ichthyology, herpetology, and entomology were "sealed hooks"
led to
Hoy's resolution to devote all of his spare time to their study.1' A widle
country
practise was a great aid to his avocation. As would be expected, he was accuse(l
occasionally of wasting his time.
In July,* 1853, there came to Racine Spencer F. Baird of the Smithsonian
Institol-
tion.'7 With him was J. 1P. Kirtland of Cleveland who took the first specimen
of the
Kirtland's warbler. T he first week was spent collecting near Racine. A garter
snake,
new to science, was named by Baird Eutaenia radex after Racine. Baird shot
a Wilson's
phalarope on July 15. 'This species nested "sparingly" at Racine
at that time. [he
party, including the above gentlemen and Rev. Mr. Barry, spent sixteen days
driving
through the counties of Racine, Walworth, Rock, Dane, Jefferson, Waukesha,
and
Milwaukee. At Madison Lucius Fairchild stopped his mill at the outlet of
Lake
Mendota so that they could collect fish in the stream.
One evening while I was watching the late Professor E. T. Owen mount some
butterflies, the conversation drifted to Dr. Hoy. He stated that when Hoy
was shown
a beautiful or rare butterfly, his interest was slight if it did not come
from  Wiscon-
sin and reached the vanishing point if it was foreign. On the other hand
it is recorded
that when Philo Romayne Driver, a lad of seventeen, was making a trip to
Scotland,
he was asked to collect nests and eggs for him.'8 This request was fulfilled.
The fact
remains however that Hoy was interested mainly in the fatuna about Racine.
Baird
considered his collection of birds the largest local one ever made. It was
for this reason
that he was visited by I)r. Christian L. Brehm of Germany, and by Henry Seebohm
and R. F. Nichols of England.
The promising Robert Kennicott, at the age of nineteen, was 'sent to Racine
in
March, 1854, to continue his studies under Dr. Hoy. Kennicott did the first
zoological
work of importance in the state of Illinois. The high esteem in which Hoy
was held
*Hoy states that Baird and Kirtland came to Racine on June 24. Baird's correspond-
ence in the files of the Smithsonian Institution shows that he could not
have arrived
until the second week in July.
SCHORGER, PHILO ROMAYNE HOY


Go up to Top of Page