Fred Drewes Collection
Papers, circa. 1819-1973.
0.25 cubic ft.
Correspondence, manuscript material, land deeds, slides, and ephemera relating to
Mr. Fred Drewes and naturalist Robert Cushman Murphy, who at separate times were owners
of the same residence in Mount Sinai, NY.
Scope and Content Note
Biography of Robert Cushman Murphy
The Fred Drewes Collection was donated to Stony Brook University Libraries by Mr.
Drewes of Mount Sinai, NY in 2006. The collection was processed by Kristen J. Nyitray,
Head, Special Collections and University Archives in 2008. The finding aid was updated
in May 2010.
Scope and Content Note
The collection consists of approximately 0.25 cubic feet of material. The land deeds
relate to a residence in Mount Sinai, NY that was purchased in 1969 by Fred Drewes.
There is also manuscript material authored by Robert Cushman Murphy, correspondence,
newspaper clippings, and related ephemera. The documents have been re-housed in acid-free
folders and boxes.
Biography of Robert Cushman Murphy
Robert Cushman Murphy (29 Apr. 1887-20 Mar. 1973), ornithologist, was born in Brooklyn,
New York, the son of Thomas D. Murphy, a secondary-school official, and Augusta Cushman.
In his early years the family moved to a rural part of Long Island, New York, where
the boy, encouraged by his parents, took an interest in the local wildlife. He enjoyed
going out with a local fisherman for bluefish, and he identified local birds. In 1906
he met Frank Chapman, curator of birds at the American Museum of Natural History,
who hired him for a short time to proofread the galleys of his own book on warblers.
Murphy attended Brown University, where he received a Ph.B. in 1911. Earlier he had
become acquainted with Frederic Augustus Lucas, then curator of the museums of the
Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. Lucas appointed Murphy curator of birds and
mammals at the institute in 1911 and arranged for him to sail, in 1912, as naturalist
on a New Bedford whaling ship, Daisy, to the subantarctic. Murphy married Grace Emeline
Barstow shortly before that one-year trip; the couple had three children.
The whaling trip gave Murphy an opportunity to observe and collect oceanic birds.
During its stop of almost four months for elephant seals on South Georgia Island,
he obtained specimens of penguins, other birds, marine mammals, and plants, which
were all to be deposited in the American Museum of Natural History.
On his return Murphy continued at the Brooklyn Institute, where he became head of
the Department of Natural History in 1917. That year he also received an M.A. in zoology
from Columbia University. In 1919-1920 he visited Peru for several months to observe
the guano-producing birds of the offshore islands.
In 1921 Murphy became associate curator at the American Museum of Natural History,
advanced to curator of oceanic birds in 1926, in 1942 became chairman of the Department
of Birds, and in 1949 was named Lamont Curator of Birds. His first book was Bird Islands
of Peru (1925). He organized an expedition to collect oceanic and coastal birds under
the leadership of Rollo H. Beck. Murphy's next scientific book was on these large
collections, The Oceanic Birds of South America (2 vols., 1936), which his biographer
Dean Amadon calls "noteworthy for its remarkably readable style." The scholarly treatise
included the effects of climate, currents, and land masses on the distribution of
oceanic birds, as well as general natural history and a detailed account of each bird
species and its habits, illustrated with photographs, color plates, and maps. The
book was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for excellence in natural history writing
and the Brewster Medal of the American Ornithologists Union.
In 1932 Murphy, assisted by his wife, cataloged and shipped to the United States the
very large collection of birds (280,000 specimens) accumulated by Lionel Walter Rothschild
in England; it had been sold to the American Museum of Natural History in 1931. Many
details about the collection were known only by Rothschild, so compiling the 740-page
catalog and the packing took the couple four months. Murphy was general manager of
the Whitney South Sea Expedition that operated for about a decade from 1935 on the
schooner France, although he was never able to join it himself. He was under pressure
at the museum to study the new collections quickly, and he was much aided in this
by biologist Ernst Mayr, a scientist destined for great eminence.
The family of philanthropist Harry Payne Whitney donated funds for a new wing of the
museum for the growing collections of birds. Murphy was extensively involved with
the supervision and construction of the Whitney Memorial Hall of Oceanic Birds. He
often helped create other exhibits for the museum and as a popular lecturer there
contributed to a rising interest in conservation. In addition he traveled extensively:
to Baja California, Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador three times, the western Mediterranean,
the archipelago of Las Perlas off Panama, New Zealand, and the subantarctic region
three times, and the Caribbean area several times. He obtained many new specimens
and considerable scientific information on habits and habitats of birds. According
to Mayr, "With iron self-discipline, no matter how strenuous the day, he recorded
his daily experiences in considerable detail in a diary, an extraordinarily valuable
record considering the drastic changes all of these places have experienced since
After retiring from the American Museum of Natural History in 1955, Murphy maintained
an office there for some years in an emeritus capacity. In 1960 he was representative
of the National Science Foundation and biologist on the icebreaker Glacier in the
Antarctic, and in 1970 he revisited South Georgia Island, which he had last seen in
Through the years he published nearly 600 articles in scientific journals and in popular
magazines, including Natural History, National Geographic, and Scientific Monthly.
In 1947 he published an account of his 1912 whaling voyage as Logbook for Grace, derived
from his original diary and letters to his wife. Well written, it primarily represents
Murphy's acceptance of the already declining whaling industry and his own enthusiasm
for gathering information on subantarctic birds and mammals. In A Dead Whale or a
Stove Boat (1967) he presented photographs of whaling that he had taken and developed
during the 1912 trip.
Murphy was an early conservationist who concentrated his continuing efforts on Long
Island, New York, where he and his family lived for many years. He was the first president
of the Long Island chapter of the Nature Conservancy, which obtained natural habitat
locally for preservation, and he was an adviser on the Fire Island National Seashore.
His book on the region, Fish Shape Paumanok: Nature and Man on Long Island, was published
in 1964. Having become well aware of the decline in whale populations through the
years, he also participated in efforts to save them.
Murphy received the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal of the National Academy of Sciences
in 1943 and other scientific honors. He died on Long Island in 1973.
Source: American National Biography.
Fred Drewes: materials relating to the history of his residence in Mount Sinai, NY
Deed/Indenture: Thomas and Phebe Bayles to Arminda Bayles dated 11/11/1819
Abstract of title: Catharine Davis; notary statement of ownership dated 5/28/1896
Deed: Catharine Davis to T.D. Murphy dated 6/4/1896
Correspondence: Stan Wisniewski to Fred Drewes dated 12/3/1971
Correspondence: from "Marjorie" (includes photographs) 12/7/? and 6/17/?
Robert Cushman Murphy
Correspondence: Charles W. Barraud to Robert Cushman Murphy dated 1/30/1969
Correspondence: Robert Cushman Murphy to Fred Drewes dated 4/13/1972
Correspondence: Robert Cushman Murphy to Fred Drewes (no date)
Correspondence: Robert Cushman Murphy to "Mr. Supervisor" 1/28/1969
Correspondence: Robert Cushman Murphy to Robert Smolker dated 6/9/1966
Manuscript: "Suggestions Relating to Mount Sinai Harbor" by Robert Cushman Murphy
Obituaries: Robert Cushman Murphy
Story of Mt. Sinai Harbor by Robert Cushman Murphy, May 1966
Related ephemeral material
Sanctuary: Bulletin of the Long Island Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Summer 1973
Slides and accompanying audio recordings
Side 1: Natural & Human History Part II
Side 2: Int. Geology Beach Salt Marsh
Side 1: Salt Marsh
Side 2: Fresh Water Marsh Pond Forest
Int. Geology Beach Salt Marsh
Tapes #4 and #5
Recent history, 1950s - 1970s
CDs: two CDs produced by Special Collections derived from the audiocassettes.