Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated August 9, 1849.
My dear Mr. Marsh
I hasten to employ the first moment of health and leisure in giving you an account of
my trip to Virginia and its somewhat unfortunate consequences. I left Carlisle on
the 13 of July accompanied by three of my trained corps of student collectors, and
made straight for Winchester Va. I remained in that vicinity two days in the course
of which I secured the skeletons of two elk which had died in a park. The next stage
was to Harrisonburg stage. Here we engaged a square carriage, horses,
and driver and commenced in earnest to collect specimens. Our plan was to ride along
the road until we got to a stream of water, then to get out and sweep it with our
seine, selecting such fish as we deemed proper. We generally made 30 or 35 miles a
day. I examined pretty thoroughly the minor tributaries of the Shenandoah and James
river on the east, and the Greenbriar on the west of the mountains One night
sleeping by an open window during a rain I caught a "cold on the stomach"! as the
doctor termed it which soon turned to a severe dysentery. I managed to get to the
white sulphur springs and there took my bed which I kept for 10 days. I had two of
the fiercest sort of physicians who dosed me in true southern style. They made me
take about 15 Dover powders, & the same
number of doses of Calomel not to mention Castor
oil and other fixins. Wednesday of last week the Doctor said that I was getting no
better there and that perhaps the riding home would be beneficial, and advised or
rather permitted me to leave
A mattress was procured and laid in the carriage to which I was carried by my companions. In this way they took me a distance of about 130 miles. Strength pouring in on me every hour, I took stage and rode 70 miles to Winchester in one day, feeling all the better for it. Next day 42 miles in carriage to Hagerstown and Tuesday morning to Carlisle. I now feel quite well baiting a certain stiffness in the joints & muscles & a difficulty in moving about in my usual active manner. I am doing much better however than I have any right to expect and strength will, I hope, come in due time..
How do you like Garrigue's name for Bilder? It is rather a formidable one, and will, I am afraid deter many a simple minded man from subscribing. I send him to day the Mss. 80 columns the German text and will send as much more in the course of a few days. I think the book will have a run.
With regard to the Bosphorus things. I want very much to get the fishes I dont
believe they have ever been collected, and will therefore furnish a fine field for
Neuigkeitin. The fresh water fish of Turkey are of most interest, and after that,
the salt water ones. Please have a clean sweep made of them several specimens of a
species. If any snakes, salamanders or other reptiles can be caught have them
pickled likewise. Sculls or skeletons of any mammalia if they come in your way are
desirable, as also are the insects, particularly the Coleoptera & Lepidoptera, but these are troublesome to get. Fishes are easiest collected of all, as an arrangement can be made with some fisherman who will bring everything in.
I hope you will write occasionally after you cross the waters. I shall miss your home letters exceedingly. It sent quite a chill over me when I found you were actually going out of the country, and that I might not see you for years. I dont know another person, after my own famiy who could have excited the same sensation. What if you turn Turk and never return? In that case I will come and smoke a pipe with you some of these days even if tobacco does make me sick.
The illness of Mrs. M. distresses us very much. I hope and trust she is better by this time. Please present to her our warmest love. Good bye, dear Mr Marsh.
Yours most affectionatelyS. F. Baird
[In a different hand]
And the love of your daughter Mary --
References in this letter:
A powder of epicac and opium that is compounded in the United States with lactose and in England with potassium sulfate that is used as an anodyne and diaphoretic.
White tasteless salt found in nature as a sectile tetragonal mineral, used as a cathartic, fungicide and insecticide.
Charles Rudolph Garrigue, a New York publisher, obtained the plates to F. A. Brockhaus's Bilder Atlas zum Conversations Lexicon (Leipzig) with the intention of republishing them with an English text. Marsh suggested that Baird translate and revise the work. It was a massive undertaking on which Baird spent four years. Published in 1852 as The Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature, and Art, it established Baird's reputation.