J. C. Branner and the Arkansas Survey
Published:January 01, 1952
During the two years that I had been in Texas,” wrote Dick Penrose in his Memoirs, “I had frequently received invitations from Dr. J. G. Branner, State Geologist of Arkansas, to come to that State and take charge of the work on manganese and iron ores; but the wide and very interesting field for research in Texas had always made me decline this offer. On my return from the Rio Grande, however, I felt that I had covered practically all of eastern Texas in the way of reconnaissance, and I began to wonder whether a new field in Arkansas would not have its attractions.
“I was so uncertain about the matter that I spent one whole evening in my room in the Capitol Building in Austin, making a balance sheet as to the inducements for the two appointments. I must acknowledge that the strongest point on the Arkansas balance sheet was that I would be associated with geologists better known in their profession than those in Texas; while in Texas, on the other hand, my work lay largely in a wild country where one was constantly subjected to unexpected events, and which was correspondingly attractive on that account. Finally, however, success in my profession prevailed, and I wrote to Doctor Branner accepting his appointment. In the meanwhile I kept up a nominal connection with the Texas Survey for a year or more.
“I must acknowledge that I did not go to Arkansas with any great enthusiasm, but simply because it was in the interest of advancement in my profession. The country was hot, swampy, full of malaria, and had nothing of the active spirit of progress which characterized Texas.”
Figures & Tables
Life and Letters of R. A. F. Penrose, Jr.
When, in the summer of 1931, Richard Alexander Fullerton Penrose Jr., died in Philadelphia, he left his personally acquired fortune, amounting to approximately ten million dollars, to be divided equally between The Geological Society of America and the American Philosophical Society. As a memorial to its benefactor and as a picture of a period in the history of American geological science, this volume has been prepared by The Geological Society of America. Beginning with notebooks, diaries, and letters in the possession of the Society, and adding thereunto material slowly accumulated from his family, his friends, his associates, and acquaintances, the story of his life has been pieced together. For members of Penrose’s profession, the geologists, this account of his life should have particular interest, for it presents a picture of a period which is gone forever, a picture of conditions under which the early investigators in geology and the mineral industry labored and brought forth the principles and methods of later days, methods more scientific, perhaps, but, nevertheless, methods founded upon the efforts of those pioneers. If one is inclined to smile at the picture of the young man of the 1880’s sitting on a bluff above a Texas river, confronted with the problem of making a survey without knowing how to go about it, let him ask himself what he would have done, similarly unequipped and in hitherto unknown territory. Let the geologist of today, with his carefully prepared field equipment, ask himself just how well he would like to look forward to “living off the country”, as Penrose did in the early days in Arkansas. It speaks volumes for the stamina of any man to be able to confront uncomfortable conditions with the nonchalance which Penrose displayed. And how much more to his credit this is, when a man is endowed by birth, position, and economic security so that he need never have left the comforts of urban living in Philadelphia.