STEPHENS, Frank

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Frank Stephens
Frank Stephens.
Photo taken by Carroll Scott, July 1927

STEPHENS, Frank (1849-1937), New York-born pioneer field naturalist and self-taught biologist who was active in the southwestern United States. His family moved to Michigan when he was thirteen, and his schooling finished shortly thereafter because his help was needed with farm work during and after the Civil War. The family moved to Illinois where Stevens took up taxidermy. At the age of 24 he married and moved to Kansas, and soon thereafter continued his move west in a mule-drawn wagon. During a winter spent in Colorado Springs, Colorado ornithologist Charles Aiken taught Stevens how to make better bird skins. Stevens and his wife moved about between New Mexico, Arizona and California, and Stevens sold skins to Aiken, Donald R. Dickey, C. Hart Merriam, and the University of California and others. He joined the American Ornithologists’ Union as an associate in 1883, and became a member in 1901. In 1891 he was a collector for the Death Valley Expedition and later sold specimens to the U. S. Biological Survey.

Stephens collected a set of Bald Eagle eggs on Santa Catalina Island on March 16, 1893 [MCZ 4255]. He joined the Cooper Ornithological Club in 1894. In 1897 Stephens and his wife moved to San Diego, where Stephens remains the rest of his life. His wife died in January 1898, and in August 1898 Stephens remarried.

In 1907 Stephens and his second wife, Kate Brown, went to Alaska; in 1910 he joined Joseph Grinnell on a Colorado River Expedition. Stephens was a moving force behind the formation of a museum in San Diego, and in 1910 he donated his collections to the San Diego Society of Natural History, becoming a Patron and Fellow. In 1916 Stephens became one of the first three directors of the San Diego Zoo. In his 70s he went to Baja California three times with Lawrence M. Huey. In 1934 at age 85 he retired from the museum with the title of Curator Emeritus.

During his long and prolific career, Stephens collected at least 45 type specimens, 14 birds and 26 mammals and five insects, and authored more than two dozen articles in Condor, including an autobiographical sketch. In 1934 at age 85 Stevens retired from the San Diego museum with the title of Curator Emeritus. Stephens died at age 88. He had no children.

The Fox Sparrow, Passerella iliaca stephensi is named in his honor.

Stephens collected on two Channel Islands:

  • Santa Catalina Island (1885, 1886, 1893, 1895)
  • San Miguel Island (1927)


Palmer, T. S. Nomenclature of California Birds in Condor 30(5):267-268 September-October 1928:

STEPHENS, Frank “Born near Portage Falls, Livingston County, New York, April 2, 1849. One of the most active collectors and field naturalists that have worked in the southwest. Since the early eighties Stephens has collected extensively in the desert regions of southern California and Arizona. In 1891 he was a member of the Death Valley Expedition of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In recent years he has devoted his energies toward building up the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego. His autobiography and portrait appeasred in 1918 in the Condor, XX, pp. 164-166), and his work has received recognition from the Cooper Ornithological Club which, in 1913, elected him one of its Honorary Members. His name is borne by three southwestern birds: Srephens' Whippoorwill (Antrostomus v. macromystax), Stephens' Fox Sparrow (Passerella i. stephensi), and Stephens' Vireo (Vireo h. stephensi).”


» Stephens, F. California Mammals West Coast Publishing Company, San Diego. 1906;

» Stephens, F. [Autobiography] in Condor 20:164-166

https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/condor/v020n05/p0164-p0166.pdf

» Huey, L. M. Frank Stephens, Pioneer in Condor 40(3):101-110 May-June, 1938

https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/condor/v040n03/p0101-p0110.pdf



Island Collections~
ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN DEPARTMENT
San Miguel Island F. Stephens UMMZ October 1, 1927 UMMZ-73508 Eremophila alpestris insularis Birds



Santa Catalina Island

3/23,26,28,30/1893 ROM birds


ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN DEPARTMENT
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 24, 1885 USNM-188079 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
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Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 19, 1886 USNM-188083 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens ? NMNH August 19, 1886 USNM-101313 Heteroscelus incanus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 19, 1886 USNM-110762 Heteroscelus incanus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH August 19, 1886 SDNHM-1158 Thyromanes bewickii catalinae Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH August 20, 1886 SDNHM-1158 Pipilo maculatus clementae Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH August 20, 1886 SDNHM-1159 Pipilo maculatus clementae Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 20, 1886 USNM-188084 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH August 21, 1886 SDNHM-188078 Vireo huttoni unitti Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 21, 1886 USNM-188078 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 21, 1886 USNM-188087 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 24, 1886 USNM-188079 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH August 24, 1886 SDNHM-192 Tringa incanus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 25, 1886 USNM-188085 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH August 24, 1886 SDNHM-192 Tringa incanus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM August 26, 1886 SDNHM-254 Callipepla californica catalinensis Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH August 26, 1886 SDNHM-1353 Oreothylpis celata sordida Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 27, 1886 USNM-188086 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 28, 1886 USNM-188080 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH August 28, 1886 USNM-188082 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDNHM August 28, 1886 SDNHM-119 Urocyon littoralis Mammals
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens NMNH 1886 USNM-188081 Urocyon littoralis catalinae Mammals
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Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens ? ISM March 16, 1893 ISM-604385 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens DMNS March 16, 1893 DMNS-27302 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 16, 1893 MCZ-354255 Haliaeetus leucocephalus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 16, 1893 SDNHM-31 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 16, 1893 SDNHM-53 Larus heermanni Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 18, 1893 MCZ-186011 Larus heermanni Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 18, 1893 MCZ-188482 Arenaria melanocephala Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 18, 1893 SDNHM-1160 Pipilo maculatus clementae Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 21, 1893 MCZ-186279 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 21, 1893 MCZ-186280 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 21, 1893 SDNHM-9 Phalacrocorax peniicillatus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 21, 1893 SDNHM-32 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 22, 1893 SDNHM-984 Zonotrichia atricapilla Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 22, 1893 SDNHM-989 Zonotrichia atricapilla Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 22, 1893 SDNHM-1557 Thyromanes bewickii catalinae Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens DMNS March 23, 1893 DMNS-27303 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 23, 1893 MCZ-186279 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens ROM March 23, 1893 ROM-39910 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens ROM March 23, 1893 ROM-39911 Ptychoramphus aleuticus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 23, 1893 SDNHM-985 Zonotrichia leucophyrs gambeli Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 23, 1893 SDNHM-1354 Oreothylpis celata sordida Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 23, 1893 SDNHM-1382 Setophaga coronata auduboni Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 23, 1893 SDNHM-1695 Catharus guttatus nanus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 25, 1893 MCZ-186813 Selasphorus sasin sedentarius Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 25, 1893 MCZ-187936 Corvus corax Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens MMMH March 24, 1893 MMNH-3609 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 24, 1893 SDNHM-1543 Salpinctes obsoletus obsoletus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 25, 1893 SDNHM-255 Callipepla californica catalinensis Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 25, 1893 SDNHM-402 Athene cunicularia hypugaea Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 25, 1893 SDNHM-1315 Vireo huttoni unitti Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens AMNH March 26, 1893 AMNH-436973 Larus occidentalis Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 26, 1893 MCZ-186037 Larus occidentalis Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 26, 1893 MCZ-188649 Heteroscelus incanus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens ROM March 26, 1893 ROM-39915 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens ROM March 26, 1893 ROM-39917 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 26, 1893 SDNHM-27 Cerorhinca monocerata Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 26, 1893 SDNHM-42 Larus occidentalis wymani Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 26, 1893 SDNHM-45 Larus californicus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 26, 1893 SDNHM-256 Callipepla californica catalinensis Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 26, 1893 SDNHM-350 Pandion haliaetus carolinensis Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens WFVZ March 26, 1893 WFVZ-97059 Pandion haliaetus Eggs
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens WFVZ March 26, 1893 WFVZ-97060 Pandion haliaetus Eggs
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 27, 1893 SDNHM-257 Callipepla californica catalinensis Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 27, 1893 SDNHM-469 Selasphorus sasin sedentarius Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 27, 1893 SDNHM-469 Sayornis nigricans nigricans Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 27, 1893 SDNHM-990 Piranga flava hepatica Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens ROM March 28, 1893 ROM-39916 Ptychoramphus aleuticus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens MCZ March 30, 1893 MCZ-186823 Selasphorous sasin sasin Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 30, 1893 SDNHM-468 Selasphorus sasin sedentarius Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens SDNHM March 30, 1893 SDNHM-864 Carpodacus mexicanus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens ROM April 1, 1893 ROM-39912 Ptychoramphus aleuticus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island Frank Stephens ROM April 1, 1893 ROM-39913 Ptychoramphus aleuticus aleuticus Birds
Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH April 1, 1893 SDNHM-33 Ptychoramphus aleuticus Birds
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Santa Catalina Island F. Stephens SDMNH March 18, 1895 SDNHM-223 Arenaria melanocephala Birds