ORR, Phil Cummings

From WikiName
Jump to: navigation, search
Phil Orr with season's crop of whiskers
Santa Rosa Island, 1952
Orr's Camp, Santa Rosa Island
Remains of Phil Orr's camp, west of Skull Gulch,
Santa Rosa Island
Photo by Marla Daily

ORR, Phil Cummings (1903-1991)[SS#568-42-3887], Montana-born Curator of Paleontology and Anthropology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History hired on October 1, 1938 when D. B. Rogers retired. Orr's plans for field work on the Channel Islands temporarily were suspended by World War II. His first Channel Islands field work took place on San Nicolas Island in 1945. He was able to make a preliminary survey of San Nicolas Island by plane and jeep for three days in February of 1945, returning by plane the following week with Mr. Rett. Field equipment arrived by Navy boat, and their field season lasted until April with a total of three trips. “Whether fossil pigmy elephants, like those on Santa Rosa and San Miguel, will turn up on San Nicolas, is just one of the paleontological questions Mr. Orr wants to pursue further. ” [SBMNH Leaflet May 1945]. Orr returned to San Nicolas Island with Egmont Rett in September 1945 on a fourth field trip.

Beginning in the field season of 1947, and continuing for 21 years, Orr conducted archaeological, paleontological and geological field work on Santa Rosa Island. This extensive field work had its beginning before the war when Orr, piloted by Miss Bessie Owen, made a preliminary aerial survey of Santa Rosa Island “for the purpose of determining the extent of the fossil elephant beds.” After the war, the September 1947 Museum Leaflet reported Phil Orr's work on Santa Rosa Island was “being carried on under a grant from the Vail & Vickers Company made possible through the personal interest of Mr. Ed Vail.” Air transportation was provided by David Gray and George Hammond in their private planes. By the end of his first season, Orr had provided the Museum with many fossil elephant bones, encased and transported in plaster and burlap, from which a composite skeleton was eventually assembled.

Phil C. Orr = Mildred (1905- )

  • they had no children


Over the years, Orr's assistants included:


Report from Santa Rosa Island by Phil C. Orr

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
  • lst Santa Rosa Island Expedition 1947
  • 2nd Santa Rosa Island Expedition 1948-1949
  • 3rd Santa Rosa Island Expedition 1949-1950
  • 4th Santa Rosa Island Expedition
  • 5th Santa Rosa Island Expedition 1951
  • Report from Santa Rosa Island 1959 (13th year)


In 1959 on Santa Rosa Island Orr discovered what was to become one of the most significant archaeological finds of the century — three ancient human bones found buried 30 feet deep in the side wall of Arlington Canyon. Orr recognized the importance of his find and convened a committee of renowned archaeologists to verify the stratigraphic context of the bones. Charcoal from the same stratum that contained the bones was dated to 10,000 years before present, making the skeletal remains the oldest found in North American until that time. Orr called his discovery "Arlington Springs Man." Recent research has demonstrated that the bones appear to be older than Orr expected, dating to approximately 13,000 years ago, thus representing the oldest human yet discovered in North America.

Phil Orr left the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in 1969 after more than 30 years. He died at age 88 on June 1, 1991 in San Diego, California.


Orr collected on:

  • San Clemente Island (1945)
  • San Nicolas Island (1945)
  • Santa Rosa Island (1925, 1945, 1948)


» Orr, Phil C. Customs of the Canalino Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Occasional Paper No. 5, 1943


» Orr, Phil C. Return to San Nicolas in Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Museum Leaflet XX(7): 75-79, October 1945 (4th trip)

[add May leaflet on SNI]



» Orr, Phil C. Third Santa Rosa Island Expedition in Museum Talk. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History 24:4 (109-113)


» Orr, Phil C. Cave of the Killer Whales in Museum Talk. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History 26:1 (1-2), 1951


» Orr, Phil C. Ancient Population Centers of Santa Rosa Island, a 1947-1950 survey of 142 ancient village sites in American Antiquity, 16:3 (221-226) 1951


» Orr, Phil C. Review of Santa Barbara Channel Archaeology in Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, VIII(2):211-225, 1952


» Orr, Phil C. Radiocarbon Dates from Santa Rosa Island I. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Bulletin No. 2 (1-10), Dept. of Anthropology, 1956


» Orr, Phil C. Radiocarbon Dates from Santa Rosa Island II. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Bulletin No. 3 (1-10), Dept. of Anthropology, 1960


» Orr, Phil C. On New Radiocarbon Dates from the California Channel Islands. [unpublished] Observations. No. 8, May 1962. Typed manuscript, 7 pages


» Orr, Phil C. Arlington Springs Man in Science 135:3499 (219), 1962


» Orr, Phil C. The Arlington Springs Site, Santa Rosa Island, California in American Antiquity 27:3 (417-419), 1962


» Orr, Phil C. Observations on a Canalino Rebural on Santa Rosa Island, Calif. Observations No. 7, Western Speleological Institute, 1962


» Orr, Phil C. Geochronology of Santa Rosa Island, California in Proceedings of the Symposium on the Biology of the California Islands, Ralph Philbrick, editor, 1967 pp. 317-326


» Orr, Phil C. Prehistory of Santa Rosa Island Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 1968


» Breunig, Robert Pint-sized proboscideans in Santa Barbara Magazine (112) Summer 1995




Island Collections~
ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN
San Clemente Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 3, 1945 SBBG-77607 Atriplex lentiformis subsp. breweri Plants
San Clemente Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 10, 1945 SBBG-77608 Atriplex lentiformis subsp. breweri Plants
San Clemente Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 10, 1945 SBBG-77639 Atriplex semibaccata Plants
San Clemente Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 10, 1945 SBBG-78443 Erodium moschatum Plants
San Clemente Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 10, 1945 SBBG-80111 Bromus hordeaceus Plants


ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 8, 1945 SBBG-77674 Abronia umbellata Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 8, 1945 SBBG-77675 Abronia umbellata Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 8, 1945 SBBG-79867 Achillea millefolium Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 9, 1945 SBBG-78728 Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 9, 1945 SBBG-78732 Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 9, 1945 SBBG-79036 Amsinckia spectabilis Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 12, 1945 SBBG-78495 Astragalus traskiae Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 13, 1945 SBBG-77989 Cakile edentula Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 13, 1945 SBBG-78730 Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 13, 1945 SBBG-79783 Ambrosia chamissonis Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 13, 1945 SBBG-79784 Ambrosia chamissonis Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 16, 1945 SBBG-78824 Apium graveolens Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 16, 1945 SBBG-77139 Avena fatua Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 16, 1945 SBBG-80117 Distichlis spicata Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBMNH March 18, 1945 SBBG-78008 Suaeda taxifolia Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 26, 1945 SBBG-77084 Lamarckia aurea Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 26, 1945 SBBG-77213 Eleocharis macrostachya Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 26, 1945 SBBG-79596 Baccharis pilularis subsp. consanguinea Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 26, 1945 SBBG-79757 Lasthenia gracilis Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 27, 1945 SBBG-77635 Atriplex leucophylla Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 27, 1945 SBBG-78727 Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 28, 1945 SBBG-78455 Erodium cicutarium Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 28, 1945 SBBG-78787 Daucus pusillus Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG March 28, 1945 SBBG-79755 Lasthenia gracilis Plants
San Nicolas Island P. C. Orr SBMNH SBMNH-OS-2319 Urocyon littoralis Mammals
San Nicolas Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2986 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
San Nicolas Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2987 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) (Site 7) Mammals
San Nicolas Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2989 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
San Nicolas Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2990 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
San Nicolas Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2993 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
San Nicolas Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2996 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 1, 1945 SBBG-78879 Calystegia macrostegia subsp. amplissima Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 2, 1945 SBBG-78360 Acmispon argophyllus var. argenteus Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 2, 1945 SBBG-79868 Achillea millefolium Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 11, 1945 SBBG-77637 Atriplex semibaccata Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG April 11, 1945 SBBG-78726 Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia Plants
~ trip ~
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG September 22, 1945 SBBG-79701 Deinandra clementina Plants
San Nicolas Island E. Z. Rett and P. C. Orr SBBG September 22, 1945 SBBG-79904 Artemisia californica Plants


ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN
Santa Rosa Island Island Vaqueros SBMNH August 1929 SBMNH-OS-3 Urocyon littoralis Mammals
Santa Rosa Island Island Vaqueros SBMNH August 1929 SBMNH-OS-4 Urocyon littoralis Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2984 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2985 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2988 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2991 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2992 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2994 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH March 30, 1945 SBMNH-OS-2995 Urocyon littoralis (Site 7) Mammals
~ trip ~
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH 1948 SBMNH-OS-838 Urocyon littoralis Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH 1948 SBMNH-OS-850 Urocyon littoralis Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH 1948 SBMNH-OS-860 Urocyon littoralis Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH 1948 SBMNH-OS-861 Urocyon littoralis Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH 1948 SBMNH-OS-862 Urocyon littoralis Mammals
Santa Rosa Island P. C. Orr SBMNH December 1948 SBMNH-OS-990 Urocyon littoralis Mammals




In the News~

[January 1950]: “Phil C. Orr of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History reports that Mr. Ralph Colcord has completed the classification and cross-filing of the Channel Islands collections, which was begun several years ago. Each shell and bone artifact has been classified according to Gifford's classificatory system. Mr. Colcord is starting now on the Mainland collections, which will be treated in the same way. Miss Margaret C. Irwin attended the International Congress of Americanists held in New York City. Richard S. Finley and Phil C. Orr are preparing for the Third Santa Rosa Island Expedition. They plan to excavate at Skull Gulch in a site where 27 well preserved house pits are present...” Notes and News, American Antiquity 15:3 (January 1950) pp 264-272.


October 24, 1950 [SBNP]: “At 6 o’clock this morning members of the Fourth Santa Rosa Island Expedition boarded the Seal at Santa Barbara Harbor for a trip of several months. Dick Finley and Ralph Colcord, members of the expedition who left today, will be joined by Curator Phil Orr of the Museum of Natural History in early November...”


January 23, 1951 [SBNP]: “Rugged and windblown are no longer merely adjectives to this reporter [Henry J. Seldis] as far as Santa Rosa Island is concerned. On visiting the campsite of the Fourth Archaeological Expedition of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History yesterday, two days before its conclusion, we experienced 50-mile-an-hour winds, four hours of driving in an open jeep from the landing strip to the campsite and back... and discovery which allows men like Phil Orr, Dick Finley and Ralph Colcord of the museum staff to spend months on the island working under the most difficult conditions... Hold on boys, you’re in for a heck of a ride. If you don’t fall out, you might be blown out of this darned jeep, Orr said...”


December 24, 1951 [LAT]: “New discoveries found on Santa Rosa Island. Home today from the fifth expedition to Santa Rosa Island under sponsorship of the Museum of Natural History, curator Phil Orr and his assistant, Richard Finley, believe new discoveries show that time of human habitation of the island has been set back 10,000 years…”


December 26, 1957 [OPC]: “Ancient Bones Dates Back to 29,650 Years. Scientists working on Santa Rosa Island have found what man be the earliest trace of man in North America. Digging in remains of prehistoric elephants, the scientists have found charred bones, presumably burned in cooking fires set by prehistoric man. Measurements of the rate of radiation from radio active carbon in the bones dates them back 29,650 years ago. The United Press today quoted the National Geographic Society sources as saying the diggings may yield even earlier signs of human life, perhaps 37,000 years old. Such dating would rival the age estimated for traces of ancient man found in Texas last year. Santa Barbaran in charge. Santa Rosa Island is the northernmost of three islands stretching north from Anacapa Island, just off the Ventura County coast. The work there is under the direction of Phil Orr of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. The National Geographic Society is co-sponsor. Scientists have been working quietly on the island for the past ten years.The latest expedition has been on the instant of five weeks. Mr. Orr told the Press Courier today the expedition will return to the mainland within a week. Then will come the lengthy process of sifting evidence and providing its meaning. The oldest skeleton ever found on the North American Continent, according to a quick check this morning, is the Tepextan Man, discovered in Mexico in 1947. This dates back more than 10,000 years. Grass sandals found in Danger Cave, near Wendover, Utah about 1950, placed man in the Great Basin at least 9,500 years ago. Folsom Man, discovered near Folsom, New Mexico, in 1925 dates back 10,000 years, but other artifacts in that area are somewhat older. Islands worked for years. A recent find at Zuma Beach south of the Ventura County line, place man in that vicinity 5,000 years ago. Finds on the Channel Islands have for years have attracted archaeologists as among the most interesting on the west coast. Carl St. John Bremner and David Banks Rogers published works in the 1930s on their early expeditions to Santa Cruz and San Miguel Islands.Ralph Hoffmann, director of the Santa Barbara Museum, lost his life in a fall on San Miguel during research in the 1930s. Santa Rosa Island is privately owned by the Vail-Vickers Co. of Santa Barbara. A ranch is operated on the island and the Air Force has a radar site there. Migration of early man from Asia are generally believed to have occurred 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, when the sea was lower and a dry land bridge existed from Asian to the Aleutian Islands. The discoveries on Santa Rosa Island and in Texas may change much of the present knowledge of early man and his migrations.”


August 6, 1968 [letter to Carey Stanton, Santa Cruz Island]: “Dear Carey, When you were last in, you told me you had some dope on an old timer on Santa Cruz you would send me. There is a scant account of Capt. Martin Kimberly in Philips [sic] History of Santa Barbara County, 1927, pp. 101, 107-112.

Brown, 1947 China Trade Days in Calif. p. 62-66, quotes Dixey Thompson who was on SRI [Santa Rosa Island] in Nov. 1853 as saying Captain “Kimball” came by on his first hunt. I think it likely that they are the same man, but the date is off a few months, according to Phillips who gives 1854.

I have a quarter or eighth breed that claims his grandmother was a Santa Cruz Island squaw, maried [sic] to Captain Libbey, who was shipwrecked there. He is a very sick man --in and out of the VA hospital so I have hesitated to pester him with the proof that he claimed his sister had. This may be a lot of crap, but I'm convinced ther [sic] is some truth in his yarn.

My book on Prehistory of Santa Rosa [Island] should be finished printing next week, but binding might take another month. When it is ready you will receive a copy with my compliments -- in the meantime, I'm putting together a sequel, out of the by-products, the History of Santa Rosa Island. With the unused research of that, and add a bit of original research, and conference with you, maybe — — I'll live long enuf to put out something on S. Cruz — — but lets not count the chickens. Sincerely, Phil C. Orr

Regards to Henry [Duffied, ranch manager].



Orr’s Camp, Santa Rosa Island is the place name for the location of Orr's Camp of more than two decades.