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Joseph Duncan Putnam


Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/15/2021 at 11:17:58

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895

JOSEPH DUNCAN PUTNAM , entomologist and corresponding secretary of the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences, was born at Jacksonville, Illinois, on the eighteenth of October, 1855, and was the son of Charles E. Putnam and Mary Louisa ( Duncan) Putnam. His father was a lawyer of the highest standing in Davenport, and his mother is a daughter of the late Governor Joseph Duncan of Illinois. Both families are descended from Revolutionary stock of great distinction, and have always occupied the foremost social positions.

Charles E. Putnam was the son of a farmer in affluent circumstances; his mother's maiden name was Eunice, née Morgan. He received an excellent private school and academic education, and afterward read law in the office of Hon. Augustus Bockes, Judge of the Supreme Court in New York, and subsequently in the office of Beach & Bockes, in Saratoga, New York . Hon. W. A. Beach has since become famous as the principal lawyer in the Tilton - Beecher case. He was admitted to the bar on the twentieth of May, 1847, being then twenty- two years of age ; practiced law for several years in Saratoga, subsequently in New York City, and, during the summer of 1850, in Georgia. In the autumn of 1853 he removed to the West, and the following spring formed a copartnership with the late Judge G. C. R. Mitchell, at Davenport, which continued until the election of the latter to the bench of the Fourteenth Judicial District in the fall of 1857. He subsequently formed a partnership with Joseph B. Leake, now General Leake, of Chicago, which continued until the latter entered the military service. In 1860 he formed a partnership with the Hon. John N. Rogers.

Through life Mr. C. E. Putnam was devoted to literary pursuits. In his youth he was for a number of years secretary of the Saratoga Literary Society, composed of the elite of both sexes of the village. He was always a diligent student, and possessed not only a good law library, but one of the finest private collections of miscellaneous books in the West. He was president of the Davenport Savings Bank, and for a time president of the First National Bank. He was also president of the Davenport Plow Company, of the Davenport Gas Light Company, director of many other enterprises, and up to the time of his death a leader in enterprises calculated to promote the growth and importance of Davenport.

On the ninth of December, 1854, he was united in marriage to Miss Mary Louisa Duncan. The Duncan family is of Scotch origin, the American ancestor having settled in Virginia early in the eighteenth century. On the maternal side, Mrs. Putnam is the great-grand daughter of the Rev. James Caldwell, the well-known Revolutionary patriot, of New Jersey, who was shot by a British sentinel, at Elizabeth, on the twenty-fourth of November, 1781, whose memoirs form a part of the annals of his country, and to whose memory and that of his wife, Hannah, who had been previously murdered by the British on the twenty-fifth of January, 1780, a monument was erected at Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1846.

Mrs. Putnam is a graduate of the Jacksonville Female College, of which her father was the principal founder. She is a lady of rare mental gifts and of the highest literary attainments, and naturally takes the highest social position. Her home is the center of refinement and elegance, and is the synonym of all that is generous, affectionate and hospitable. She has also taken a very active interest in various patriotic and charitable causes, among which may be named the Washington Monument Association, Ladies' Educational Society, Mount Vernon Association, Soldiers' Aid Society, Presbyterian Church , Academy of Natural Sciences, etc.

Joseph D. Putnam , the first - fruits of this marriage, received his rudimentary education at his home. Between the ages of ten and seventeen he attended the public schools of Davenport, and became proficient in the ordinary English and mathematical studies, to which was subsequently added a slight acquaintance with the Greek, Latin , German and French languages. He also derived much aid in his studies from the large and well selected library of his father. He early developed a taste for drawing. He always displayed great talent for systematizing and arranging, and rarely left anything unfinished .

At the age of eleven or twelve years he began collecting fossils, minerals, coins, postage stamps, autographs, plants, shells, insects, etc. , but gradually narrowed down the scope of his efforts in this direction to the item of insects alone, and ultimately confined his attention to but a few families of these. During the years 1868 to 1870 he was in the habit of taking long walks with Mr. W. H. Pratt in quest of shells and insects, thereby greatly augmenting his collection. In 1871 he made a visit to Saratoga County, New York, on a like mission, and 1872 accompanied Dr. C. C. Parry to Colorado, where, during three months spent high up in the mountains, near Empire City, large collections were made. The season was spent in a log cabin, where they did their own cooking, etc., and made numerous excursions to the surrounding Alpine summits and to Middle Park, always on foot. Here they were visited by the two most eminent American botanists, Dr. John Torrey and Dr. Asa Gray. The winter following was spent in hard study. In 1873, again in company with Dr. Parry, he was attached to Captain Jones' expedition to the Yellowstone as meteorologist, and carried a barometer for over one thousand miles on muleback, through some of the roughest districts of Northwestern Wyoming and the National Park, ascending lofty and dangerous peaks to measure them, making many hair-breadth escapes and meeting with thrilling adventures. In his report of the expedition Captain Jones makes frequent and honorable mention of young Putnam , and the important and valuable service which he rendered to the cause of science. He was absent five months on this occasion, and, in addition to his duties above described, collected a large number of insects.

After returning home he resumed his studies with the intention of entering Harvard College the next year, but taking a severe cold, which settled on his lungs, his health became so impaired that he was forced to give up all idea of a college course. The following year was spent in Colorado for the benefit of his health, and the summer of 1875 was spent in company with Dr. Parry among the Mormons, near Mount Nebo, Utah . In October they removed to San Francisco, whence he was brought home in November, in a very critical state of health. He remained under the parental roof thereafter, except during a visit to Cambridge, Philadelphia and other eastern cities, in 1876, where he formed the personal acquaintance of many eminent entomologists and other naturalists.

During Mr. Putnam's various expeditions he collected over twenty five thousand specimens of insects, many of which were catalogued and classified , besides a large collection of fossils. He also discovered many new species of grasshoppers and other insects, some of which have been named after himself. All the fossils and natural history specimens collected were presented by him to the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences, of which, on the second of June, 1869, he became a member, and of which he was long a moving spirit. On the twenty . eighth of April, 1871, he was elected recording secretary, a position which he retained until January, 1875, when ill health caused him to resign . He was appointed a member of the publication committee on the twenty -sixth of November, 1875, and chairman of the same on the twenty-sixth of January, 1877, and elected corresponding secretary on the twenty - third of November, 1876. In the spring of 1876 he commenced the publication of the Proceedings of the academy. He also kept up a regular correspondence with all the principal academies of the same denomination in Europe and America, in all over four hundred , much of the foreign correspondence being conducted in German and French.

His success as a student and original investigator was in great measure due to that painstaking industry that only gives over when work is accomplished or physical powers exhausted, and when his brilliant career was cut short by death , the scientific world suffered a serious loss.


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