Arthur Kahn Papers, 1920-2009


The Madison Audubon Society was founded as the Madison Bird Club in 1935, in Madison, Wisconsin, and changed its name in May 1949. In 1939 the Madison Bird Club also formed the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology (WSO) as a statewide organization uniting professional and amateur ornithologists. The formation of the WSO is discussed in their publication, The Passenger Pigeon. The 1939 officers of the Madison Bird Club (President H.R. Barger, Secretary-Treasurer Earl Mitchell, Directors Mrs. Arthur Koehler and Mrs. R.A. Walker, and Reporter Miss Ruth Koehler) served as the interim officers of the WSO until they could draft a Constitution and elect their own officers. The records of the WSO are held by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The first President of the Madison Audubon Society was Mr. Thomas Stavrum. Mrs. H.M. Williams was Treasurer, Mr. Harry Mitchell was Secretary, and Dr. Harry Steenbock served as the Committee for Incorporation Chairman. Several important names in the Society come up in the list of people holding the office of President, such as Reverend Howard Orians, who served as President in 1962/1963, and 1968/1970. Taking over from him was Dr. Lowell Noland, famed University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, who served from 1970 until his death in 1972. Peggy Loomis served from 1974 to 1976. Mrs. R.A. (Mary) Walker was the longest-serving President, with a term from 1952 to 1957.

The 1950 Madison Audubon Society Constitution set out a Board of Directors made up of the following officers; President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer. It also established eight committees: Executive, Auditing, Nominating, Membership, Program, Educational, Conservation, Field Trip, Social, and Publicity. The Executive Committee was made up of all officers of the Society and the chairman of each of the other committees. The Auditing and Nominating committees were made up of members chosen by the Executive committee. The other committee members were appointed by the President. All officers and committees served for one year.

The 1971 revised Constitution changed the title Secretary to Recording Secretary. There were also changes to the committees. The Social Committee was renamed Hospitality. The Conservation Committee was eliminated, and the Newsletter, Wildlife Film, Goose Pond, Scholarship, and History Committees were officially added to the organization.

1986 saw further changes to the Constitution. The Hospitality, Wildlife Film, Goose Pond, Scholarship, and History Committees were removed, and the Conservation Committee was restored. The Board of Directors also was amended to include the Goose Pond Naturalist, President of the Goose Pond Sanctuary, Inc. Board, and the immediate past President of the Society.

In 1980 the Goose Pond Sanctuary was incorporated as a separate entity with a mission of collecting scientific data, providing refuge and natural habitat, cultivating native plant life, and educating the Madison Audubon Society and general public about plant and animal behavior through observation areas. Their constitution names the following officers and committees: President, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, Auditing Committee, and Resident Naturalist. The Board of Directors is made up of the elected officers of the Madison Audubon Society and one appointed 'Member at large.' The Chairman of the Board of Directors is the President of the corporation. The officers are elected by the Board of Directors. In addition, the Auditing Committee is appointed by the President.

The collection covers a time period of 1937-1989, with the bulk of materials dating 1948-1979. The Society was established to pursue “educational, scientific, investigative, literary, historical, philanthropic and charitable pursuits as may be part of the stated purposes of the National Audubon Society, of which this Society shall function.” (Constitution of Madison Audubon Society, 1950). Their current mission is to “educate our members and the public about the natural world and the threats that natural systems are facing, to engage in advocacy to preserve and protect these systems, and to develop and maintain sanctuaries to save and restore habitat.” The Society, as of 2006, owns and manages over 2,700 acres of preserve.


1935 Madison Bird Club formed; N.R. Barger, President, Mrs. R.A. (Mary) Walker, Director
1939 Wisconsin Society for Ornithology formed, with same officers
1943-1948 Madison Bird Club inactive
1949 Madison Bird Club became Madison Audubon Society, a branch of the National Audubon Society
1950 Constitution approved
1951 Began posting meeting notices in Wisconsin State Journal; first mention of Horicon Marsh goose hunt
1953 Walter Engelke wins Audubon Camp scholarship. University of Wisconsin-Madison announces plans to fill in Lake Mendota behind Memorial Union for parking lot; Madison Audubon Society protests, and plan is eventually defeated in 1954
1954 Echo Park Dam and impact on Dinosaur National Monument become focus of political activity. Wisconsin Audubon Camp (now Hunt Hill Nature Center) established. Walter Engelke is first Director
1955 Madison Audubon Society declines giving money to University of Wisconsin-Madison for additional Arboretum acreage; money used for Wisconsin Audubon Camp scholarships instead
1957 Migratory bird treaty challenge by North Dakota. Campaign to declare Dinosaur National Monument a National Park. Muir Park (Marquette County, Wisconsin) dedication. Creation of Cherokee Marsh Refuge supported. Society begins to collect information on DDT, which is being used to treat Dutch Elm disease by City of Madison
1959 Extremely cold winter sees Society issuing instructions for supplementary bird feeding. University of Wisconsin-Madison considers developing Bascom Woods; project is abandoned amid protests from conservation groups
1960 Society issues statement on pesticides, and DDT in particular
1962 Roger Tory Peterson speaks at film series, autographs January National Audubon Society magazine article
1964 Angus McVicar bequeaths color slide collection to Society. Society makes financial contribution to Nature Conservancy's Baraboo Hills project
1965 Wisconsin Society for Ornithology holds Silver anniversary, hosted by Madison Audubon Society; speakers include Roger Tory Peterson, Owen Gromme, and Murl Duesing
1967 Society begins discussing purchasing Goose Pond property
1969 Kastenmeier introduces bill to establish Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
1970 Dr. Harry Steenbock bequeaths $100,000 to Society
1971 New Constitution. Past President and long time Christmas Bird Count leader Mrs. R.A. (Mary) Walker dies February 3
1972 President Dr. Lowell Noland dies January 3. Open position is filled by Vice President Jaeschke. Issue of succession is resolved by adding second Vice President post
1973 Dedication of Noland Hall on University of Wisconsin-Madison campus
1974 Garrison, North Dakota diversion project gains attention. Past President and long time member Reverend Howard L. Orians dies August 30
1976 Policy statement on Garrison, North Dakota, diversion project issued
1977 Policy statement on Plain, Wisconsin wastewater plant issued. National Audubon Society mishandles Steenbock bequest moneys, and sets back purchase of Goose Pond property (correspondence goes back to 1971)
1978 Society hosts Wisconsin Society for Ornithology convention. Hires Executive Secretary and rents office on the Square
1979 Mary B. Willis land donation; original will dated 1969
1980 Goose Pond Sanctuary incorporated