STUART, Norton

From Islapedia
Norton Stuart at Scorpion Ranch, Santa Cruz Island, 1927

STUART, Norton (1880-1935), New York-born artist, Assistant Curator and then Curator at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 1924-1929.

According to the Museum's Annual Reports, Norton Stuart is listed as follows:

  • 1923-1934 no mention
  • 1924-1925 Assistant Curator
  • 1925 Curator
  • 1926 Curator
  • 1927 Curator
  • 1928 Curator with asterisk * “on indefinite leave after Dec. 1st”
  • 1929 Curator with asterisk * “on indefinite leave”
  • 1930 no mention; David Banks Rogers is listed as Curator

In 1925 he ran a “sea group” at the museum.

  • July 1926 “Mr. Stuart spent a week in July [1926] cruising with Mr. M. E. Rodehaver among the Channel Islands, particularly on Santa Cruz. Mr. Stuart visited a number of kitchen middens along the east side of Santa Cruz.”
  • August, 1926 “while cruising about San Miguel, Mr. Stuart noted a female elephant seal in one of the rookeries of the Steller sea lion.”
  • September 1926, he delivered a lecture entitled “The Mystery of the Channel Islands”
  • October 1926 he delivered a lecture entitled “Islands of the Santa Barbara Channel”
  • November 1926 he delivered a lecture entitled “The Channel Islands”
  • February 1927 he delivered a lecture entitled “The Channel Islands”
  • Also in 1927, Norton Stuart and friends Webb Willits and Mort Rodehaver made a trip to Santa Cruz Island together. It was reported Stuart had “enthusiasm for his subject, and intimate knowledge.”
  • Stuart contributed seven plates to Common Birds of Santa Barbara (1928) by Edward S. Spaulding.
  • In September 1928 Stuart was questioned in regard to the shooting death of his former museum secretary, Miss Elizabeth Jordan. Her body was found at the Southwest Museum in Pasadena shortly after he had met with her on Saturday, September 8. She had left her position at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History about three months prior to her death to make an eastern trip, and then went to her home at San Diego upon her return. Stuart was placed on indefinite leave at the Museum at the end of December 1928, never to return to the position.

In December 1928, not long after being cleared in the death of his former secretary, Elizabeth Jordan, Norton Stuart left the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. He became co-leader of two expeditions for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, both financed by young heir, Philip Matthiessen Chancellor (b. 1907):

Komodo lizard with Field Museum Curator
December 28, 1930
  • 1929-1930 Chancellor-Stuart Expedition to the South Pacific, which obtained rare zoological specimens, including two of the giant lizard of Komodo, Dutch East Indies, and two of the reticulated python of Borneo, largest reptile known to science;

  • 1930 Chancellor-Stuart Expedition to Aitutaki, Cook Islands

Egmont Rett of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, accompanied Norton Stuart and Philip M. Chancellor on this expedition.

The 1930 census shows Norton Stuart living in Philip M. Chancellor’s household in a rented house on East Mission Street in Santa Barbara, along with a cook and two married Japanese servants.

Norton Stuart died in Santa Barbara on January 1, 1935 at age 54, and was cremated.

Island Collections~
Santa Cruz Island Norton Stuart SBMNH unknown SBMNH OS-185 Canis familiaris Mammals

NOTE: This specimen appears to be archaeological according to Paul Collins, SBMNH.

In the News~

May 12, 1925 [SBMP]: “The skeleton of a giant prehistoric animal believed to be a mastodon has been unearthed at the top of Green Mountain on San Miguel Island, according to Captain Bob Ord who yesterday brought three pieces of petrified home to Santa Barbara which he asserts are only a small portion of the 12-foot tusks. The fossil was discovered partly imbedded in the earth at the high-head and tusks partly exposed, according to Captain Ord. Although the bones have not yet been examined by scientists, Norton Stuart of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History expressed the opinion that the remains of the prehistoric toothed whale might possibly be mistaken for a mastodon, but he did not minimize the importance of the discovery... Captain Ord stated the skeleton was discovered a mile and a half from the present shoreline and that he found the tusks, jaw bone and teeth intact, while apparently it will be possible to unearth the remainder of the fossil without seriously crumbling the bones. He returned to Santa Barbara from the island Sunday with three pieces of the tusk, each about ten inches long and from three to four inches in diameter. These sections he secured are from the tip of the tusks, he asserts. The fossils will be on exhibition at the office of The Morning Press for several days, and will be examined today by D. B. Rogers who has carried on excavations of prehistoric animals for the Smithsonian Institution.”

March 31, 1926 [Oxnard Daily Courier]: “A wildflower exhibit from Santa Cruz Island brought to the mainland Sunday by Norton Stuart, curator of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, has been installed in the museum. The exhibit includes twenty specimens of wildflowers, shrubs and ferns, most of which came from the hills near Orizaba Harbor… Mr. Stuart was at Santa Cruz gathering material for a sea group to be installed soon at the museum, which will be similar in idea to the bird groups which are a feature of the institution.”

January 29, 1928 [OT]: “...the most important area being concentrated upon by the scientist explorers is along the coast line near Carpinteria. The first discovery in this section which drew attention to the profuseness of this ancient California life was made in February, 1927, by road builders constructing a highway on the Lucien Higgins ranch. A steam shovel scooped into a deposit of asphalt containing a large amount of bone. Norton Stuart, curator of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, was at once notified. Recognizing the bones of a prehistoric horse, an extinct fish-eating bird, and the cones of the Monterey pine, in the breccia, he realized their importance and communicated with Chester Stock of the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena, and with Dr. Chaney of the Carnegie Institution...”

September 10, 1928 [Arizona Daily Star]: “Companion gives up when he hears of death; police doubt murder theory. Los Angeles, Sept. 9. —Possibility of murder in the death of the young woman whose body was found late yesterday beneath a balcony of the Southwest Museum, was doubted by police today following identification of the body as that of Miss Elizabeth Jordan, of San Diego, and the finding of the "mystery man" who accompanied her before her death. Identification of the body was made through information obtained by Santa Barbara police from Norton Stuart, attendant at the museum of natural history in that city. Stuart was revealed as the male companion seen with Miss Jordan at the Southwest Museum a short time before her body, with a bullet hole through the head, was discovered. Stuart told Santa Barbara police that he met Miss Jordan who once worked for him in the Santa Barbara museum, in Los Angeles yesterday by appointment. He declared that he left the museum in a hurry as he had to catch the 5 o'clock train for Santa Barbara. Los Angeles police communicated with the young woman's parents who reside at the Carnegie Hotel, 950 Ninth Street, San Diego, and learned from the father that the pistol found by the body belonged to him. In order to further check Stuart's story of his meeting with Miss Jordan in the museum here, two detectives left for Santa Barbara today. Police based their belief that Miss Jordan shot herself on the position of the body when found, powder burns around the wound and the finding of the pistol with an exploded shell near the body.”

September 10, 1928 [Arizona Daily Star]: “Stuart surrenders to authorities. Santa Barbara, Cal., Sept. 9 — Norton Stuart, held by Los Angeles police for questioning following the discovery of the body of Miss Elizabeth Jordan of San Diego, under a balcony of the Southwest Museum there yesterday, voluntarily gave himself up to police here today. Stuart notified authorities he was the companion reported seen with Miss Jordan shortly before her body was found. He told police he learned of her death after reading of it in local papers today. He said he met Miss Jordan at the Santa Barbara museum of natural history some time ago when she came there as an assistant secretary. He is curator at the institution.”

September 11, 1928 [San Bernardino County Sun]: “Parents Identify Girl Found Dead in L.A. Museum. Santa Barbara Man Being Held For Quiz Concerning Death of Young Woman. Los Angeles, Sept. 10.—The girl found dead in the Southwest Museum Saturday with a bullet through her head has been identified as Miss Elizabeth Jordan, 950 Ninth Street, San Diego. The identification was made by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Jordan, and Norton Stuart, curator of the Museum of Natural History at Santa Barbara, who was seen with her shortly before her body was found. He was returned here from Santa Barbara for questioning. He admitted meeting Miss Jordan here Saturday at her request and declared they had visited the museum but denied any knowledge of her death. Miss Jordan, formerly employed in the Santa Barbara museum as Stuart's secretary, had several times threatened death, he said. He denied any quarrel with her.”

December 11, 1928 [Reading Ties]: “Heir studies how to spend $1,000 Day. Earned $18 a Week as Police Reporter Just One Year Ago. Chicago, Dec. 10—An $18 a week police reporter a year ago, Philip Chancellor lounged in Chicago's most exclusive hotel today, wondering how he was going to spend his income of $1,000 a day. Young Chancellor inherited $6,000,000 from his grandfather, F. W. Matthiessen of La Salle, Ill., with complete control of the estate, but he signed over guardianship to his father, P. C. Chancellor a of Santa Barbara, Cal. Philip came into the estate when he became 21 years old. His father and mother are here to help him celebrate. Plans World Tour. Philip plans to tour the world with Norton Stuart, curator of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. The first country they will visit is New Zealand. After the five year tour, Philip doesn't know what he will do, but it is certain he won't be married. He hasn't any matrimonial plans, he said. Matthiessen, who died in 1918, was a partner in the Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Co., in La Salle, Ill. Before becoming a police reporter here Chancellor was a bank clerk in Los Angeles.”

January 30, 1929 [OT]: “Youth Who Was Reporter Months Ago, Seeks Largest Reptile. San Francisco, Jan. 30.—A month ago he was a struggling cub reporter working for $18 a week on a Chicago paper. Today he is a multi-millionaire looking for “bigger and better snakes.” He, in this case, is Philip Chancellor, 21, who last month inherited the $6,000,000 estate of his grandfather, F. N. Matthiessen, zinc magnate of La Salle, Ill. Chancellor is in San Francisco today with Norton Stuart of the Field Museum, Chicago, with whom he will leave on a snake hunting expedition on February 20. The snake hunt, under the auspices of the Field Museum, will take the young millionaire into the South Seas, Australia and the Dutch Indies. Chancellor hopes to find a “reticulated python,” the largest reptile known to science, and he is also in serious search for the fabled sea serpent. He will outfit here and will include among his equipment a deep sea diving bell for photographic work. In 1927, Chancellor eloped from Lake Tahoe to Carson City, Nev., with Helen Carroll Baines, then 16 years old, daughter of Mrs. Clark Thompson of Santa Barbara. The marriage was annulled a month later.”

November 4, 1929 [The Tribune]: “Find Two 26-Foot Pythons in Borneo. Phillip A. [sic] Chancellor of Chicago, a reporter who forsook the newspaper business to become a naturalist on inheriting a fortune, has found two fine specimens of the reticulated python, according to reports received by Stephen C. Sims, director of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. Chancellor, with Norton Stuart, a naturalist of Santa Barbara, Cal., is leading an expedition for the Field Museum in Borneo. The largest of the two snakes measures twenty-six feet, Mr. Chancellor writes. According to inhabitants of Borneo, it is the largest that has been taken in the last eight years, he states. The expedition has secured also a clutch of eighty-one python eggs and material representative of the python's natural habitat, for use in construction of an environmental setting for the specimens when they area received at the museum. The expedition is continuing operations in islands of the Pacific, and late in December will proceed to Australia. Many other strange animals are to be sought before it returns to the United States which, according to the present schedule, will be late next February.”

December 20, 1929 [The Evening Journal]: “Museum To Get 2 Giant Lizards. One specimen in Nine Feet Long; Found in Interior of Komodo. Bears resemblance to Ancient Species. Two specimens of the very rare giant lizards of Komodo, the world's largest lizards, have been obtained for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago by the Chancellor-Stuart Field Museum expedition to the South Pacific, according to a cablegram received from Philip M. Chancellor, leader of the expedition...”

February 15, 1930 [Green Bay Press-Gazette]: “Former Reporter Spends His Time Hunting Reptiles. Philip Chancellor Returns to America After Year In Dutch East Indies [with Norton Stuart]. San Francisco—Philip Chancellor, 22, once an $18 a week reporter in Chicago, has returned to San Francisco aboard the liner Maura after a year hunting rare reptiles in the Dutch East Indies, the Malay Peninsula and Australia. As a member of the Chancellor-Stuart Field Museum expedition, Chancellor left here last February to gather specimens for the Chicago museum with Norton Stuart, Santa Barbara naturalist, C. H. Dabney and Dr. Henry Sidebotham. He particularly desired to capture a reticulated python and investigate stories of sea serpents reported to have been seen in the South Seas. He got the python, three Komodo lizards and 100 other rare specimens of reptilian life—but no sea serpent. Dr. Philip S. Chancellor, the youthful millionaire's father, disclosed that his son plans to return to the jungles next June after supervising the mounting of his collection in Chicago...”

February 15, 1930 [Star Tribune]: “Expediiton to Explore South Pacific Island. Chicago, June 4.—The Field Museum announced today that its latest expedition in search of natural rarities—fro the remote south Pacific island of Aitutaki—will sail from San Francisco June 11. It will be led and sponsored by Philip M. Chancellor of Santa Barbara, Calif., with Norton Stuart of Santa Barbara, a naturalist, as co-leader. Aitutaki is a small island rarely visited by white men.”

May 31, 1931 [Arizona Daily Star]: “Will leave for Mexico. Ben Shantz, son of Dr. and Mrs. H. L. Shantz, will leave shortly after commencement at which he will receive the degree of Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arizona, for a summer to be spent traveling in Mexico. He will be accompanied by Norton Stuart of Santa Barbara and together they will collect antiques to bring back to Tucson. Mr. Shantz will return in the fall to resume his studies in the College of Law.”