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Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell papers

Identifier: COU:359

Scope and Contents

The organization of the Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell Papers begin with his academic career then shifts into his personal life and ends with an array of audiovisual and oversized materials. Throughout the Papers anything labeled T.D.A. or Ckll is referring to Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell. Anything with the label W.P.C. is referring to T.D.A.’s second wife, Wilmatte Porter Cockerell.

The first 20 boxes of the T.D.A. Cockerell Papers are solely ACADEMIC CORRESPONDENCE. Each person has an individual file. Each folder has the dates of the first and last correspondence as well as which institution the person was primarily associated with. If the letter was clearly written from an institution and not a particular person the file was labeled under the institution’s name.

The GENERAL WRITINGS consist of writings written by T.D.A. Cockerell including; Biographies written for friends and collogues, Manuscripts consisting of his personal thoughts and opinions on academic matters, Plays dealing with evolution. Papers also included under General Writings include Academic Administration, Academic Surveys, Courses Taught, Biological Miscellany and General Miscellany. After the academic general writing section is the RESEARCH section of his Papers. Included are 20 boxes of research on; Hexapoda, Bees, Fossils and Miscellaneous. The research materials found with in these subjects are mostly handwritten notes and manuscripts. There are nine boxes of Field Books in the BOOKS segment of the T.D.A. Cockerell Papers. Other books in this subdivision are; Drawing Books, Diaries, Published books (written by T.D.A. and by William Weber) and other Miscellaneous Books.

Besides the few published books written by Cockerell there are literally thousands of scientific publications in the PUBLICATIONS sector of T.D.A. Cockerell's Papers. Professor Emeritus William Weber created a published bibliography for all of Cockerell’s published materials. This bibliography is located in the Publication information box # 77. If the publication is housed in these Papers it will be marked with a check next to its publication number. The publications are numbered in increasing order of publication date. Researchers looking for certain published items should see Weber’s bibliography first. The PERSONAL papers of T.D.A. Cockerell consist of CORRESPONDENCE with wives, family and personal friends. There are also folders containing his many Honors and awards as well as Finances and Miscellaneous items such as poetry, newspaper clippings and his obituaries. Both of his wives, ANNIE FENN COCKERELL and WILMATTE PORTER COCKERELL, were scholars on their own. Their papers are included at the end of T.D.A.’s personal papers. Annie’s paper consist mostly of diaries and writing books whereas Wilmatte’s papers consist mostly of notes taken from their trip around the world, and correspondence with colleagues.

The AUDIO VISUAL MATERIALS section houses items such as PHOTOGRAPHS, GLASS SLIDES, NEGATIVES, and MOVING IMAGE FILMS. There are a large number of family photographs, organized by the person’s name. However the majority of photographs and glass slides are from the Cockerell’s travels around the world. These photos and slides are arranged by location. Included in the photographs are also various blank postcards depicting different cities. The films are mostly published films on nature, and natural processes recorded over time. One item that could not find a proper place is an actual framed specimen of the mutant RED SUNFLOWER which the Cockerell’s grew. This preserved item is located at the end of the photograph section of the Papers.

The OVERSIZED materials contained in the Cockerell Papers include an Index of Publications, Honors and Diplomas, Maps, Miscellaneous Oversized items and Galley Proofs. The index of publications was put together by Professor William Weber to help write Cockerells bibliography. The maps are various ones from around the world, and the diplomas and honors are all belong to T.D.A. and W.P.C. Along with the oversized materials are four OVERSIZED ITEMS which include; a film projector, slide camera, slide projector and the plaster plaque of T.D.A. Cockerell. To our knowledge the equipment is still in operating condition.


  • 1878 - 1948

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Copyright Statement

The University Libraries may not own the copyright to all materials in this collection. Researchers are responsible for contacting the copyright holder(s) for this material and obtaining permission to publish or broadcast. The University Libraries will not grant permission to publish or broadcast this material and are not responsible for copyright violations resulting from such use.

Biographical Note

Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell was one of the foremost biologists, entomologists, paleontologists and humanists of his time. He was born in Norwood, England on August 22, 1866 and started his career soon after. By age twelve he had written his first publication on his discovery of the caterpillar of the Madeiran butterflies. Literally thousands of his articles have appeared in various scientific journals on such subjects as; the taxonomic studies of flora and fauna recent and fossils, entomology, genetics, evolution, geographical distribution, fish, reptiles, biography, ecology, and even sociological concerns and world affairs . Cockerell continued his research up until the day he died in San Diego, California on January 26, 1948 at the age of 81.

T.D.A. Cockerell began his formal studies at Middlesex Hospital School and at the British Museum. In 1887 it was discovered that he had a mild case of tuberculosis and was informed that the mild climate of the Rocky Mountains could be beneficial to his condition. Leaving behind his sweetheart, Annie Fenn, Cockerell moved to Westcliff, Colorado in July of 1887. It was here that he began to catalogue both the recent and fossil flora and fauna of Colorado. Three years later, feeling cured, he moved back to Bedford Park, England and worked in the British Museum. Annie Fenn married Cockerell in 1891. Shortly afterward the couple moved to Kingston, Jamaica where T.D.A. had obtained the curator position at the public museum, a position he held for two years. In 1892 the Cockerell’s first child, Austin D. Cockerell, was born but died shortly after at the age of 33 days. Along with the loss of his son, T.D.A. was said to have suffered a relapse of his tuberculosis symptoms during 1892.

Cockerell was able to exchange positions with Professor C.H.T. Townsend at the New Mexico Agricultural College, in a climate which was more conducive for his health problems. On September 9, 1893, his second son Martin Cockerell was born, and Annie Fenn passed away on September 14th. From 1893 to 1896 he held a professorship of entomology and zoology at the New Mexico Agricultural College. It was during this period Cockerell began his research of Hymenoptera. In 1898 he started a position at the New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station; he held this position until 1901.

He continued to work in New Mexico as a teacher of Biology at the New Mexico Normal University in Las Vegas; he worked there from 1900 until 1903. On June 19, 1900, T.D.A. Cockerell married Wilmatte Porter. Martin Cockerell died of diphtheria shortly after in 1901. In 1903 he moved to Colorado Springs and became the Curator of the museum for Colorado College. Soon after in 1904 he moved to Boulder, Colorado and while he became a teacher at Colorado State Preparatory School he was a lecturer in entomology at the University of Colorado. Throughout the early years of the 20th Century, he worked on the side as a consulting entomologist for the Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station and began his research of fossils and fish scales. In 1910, Wilmatte discovered a mutant red sunflower near the Cockerell home in Boulder. This mutant was studied and bred further; they sold the Red Sunflower to an English firm which marketed it throughout the world. Cockerell continued to teach at the University of Colorado in various subjects such as comparative anatomy, evolution, and zoology until 1934 when he retired and received the title Professor Emeritus. During the summers between 1911 and on the Cockerell’s took many field trips around the world to collect bees, insects, and to study the floras and faunas of the various regions. A few notable excursions were his summer trips to, California (Coronados Islands), Japan, Vladivostok, Buenos Aires, and many others. In 1927, Cockerell took a leave of absence and crossed Siberia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Again in 1931 the Cockerells took off the fall semester and traveled to Africa with other colleagues from the University of Colorado.

Although T.D.A. Cockerell never attended college or received an earned degree, he provided an early example of a research scholar at a time when the University of Colorado scarcely encouraged such activities. Despite his lack of formal education, his research propelled him to the heights of his field of entomology, making him a world authority on bees.

After retiring, the Cockerells spent their winters in California. In 1941 they volunteered to be the curators of the Desert Museum in Palm Springs California. Due to the war they received only lodging until 1945. In 1946 the Cockerells began a new adventure working at Escuela Agricola Panamericana in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. T.D.A. Cockerell died in San Diego, California at the age of 81 and was interred at Columbia Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado. Wilmatte followed in 1957, and is buried next to her lifelong companion.

Although it is hard to say that T.D.A. was famous for one particular field, he did devote a large portion of his research to bees. Cockerell stated in 1938 that, “I have never ceased to work on bees, and have published 5,480 new names for species, subspecies and varieties, and 146 names for genera and subgenera.” These numbers, of course, do not reflect the total number of publications in scientific journals spanning various subject areas which are roughly estimated to 4,000 publications. Among his achievements he was a member of; the British Socialist League (1885), an honorary member of Kansas Academy of Sciences and an elected member of the American Philosophical Society (1931). Cockerell established the Literary and Debating Society and the first Colorado Biological Association in 1887 along with being an editor for the New Mexico Educator in 1896, and also wrote reviews for the Chicago Dial in 1902. He was appointed the president of the Entomological Society of America in 1923 and the president for the Southwest Division, American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1926. Among his many awards were a National Research Council Grant for work with bees in Africa during 1933 and was awarded the Sc.D. honoris causa at Colorado College in 1913 and again at the University of Denver in1942.

Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell was not only an irreplaceable scholar he was also deemed an irreplaceable friend and colleague. Herbert Schwarz of the American Museum of Natural History wrote on Cockerell’s personality,

The vast number of papers and longer works, like his Zoölogy, which Cockerell published in the course of his life span, might seem to leave little time for more informal writing. Yet he revealed his warm-hearted interest in friends and co-workers, distant and near, by letters that were treasured by the recipients not only for their scientific and personal content, but for the sprightly little drawing with which they were often embellished. Here his sense of humor and playfulness found one of its delightful outlets. He was always interested in what the other person was doing and, if there was any way in which he could further a piece of research, he aided generously. The breadth of his achievement gave him a comprehending viewpoint regarding life. One was aware in his presence not only of mental keenness, but also of mental calm and poised judgment and kindliness withal. He never seemed hurried, but he never wasted time. His personality will be remembered vividly by all who knew him.

Cockerell’s worldwide network of friends and academic colleagues left an interconnecting web of correspondence in his collection depicting both the state of his family and friends, and the nature of the zoological field in the early decades of the 20th Century.

Professor Cockerell’s work continues to elicit interest and research on into the 21st Century. His collection has received attention from local historians researching the 19th Century of Custer County, Colorado, as well as from a wide array of scholars of zoology in academia, the US National Park Service, the US Bureau of Land Management, and the US National Forest Service.

The life and work of Theodore Dru Allison Cockerell is further explored and examined in:

Schufle, J. A. Fragments From The Stream Of Time : A History Of The Sciences At New Mexico Highlands University, With Emphasis On The Chemistry Department. Las Vegas, New Mexico : New Mexico Highlands University Press, 1968.

Weber, William A. ed., Theodore D. A. Cockerell : Letters From West Cliff, Colorado, 1887-1889. Boulder, Colorado: Colorado Associated University Press, ©1976.

Weber, William A. ed., The American Cockerell : A Naturalist's Life, 1866-1948. Boulder, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, ©2000.

Weber, William A. F.L.S., ed., The Valley Of The Second Sons : Letters Of Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell, A Young English Naturalist, Writing To His Sweetheart And Her Brother About His Life In West Cliff, Wet Mountain Valley, Colorado, 1887-1890. Longmont, Colorado: Pilgrims Process, ©2004.


60 linear feet

Language of Materials



Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell, professor of zoölogy at the University of Colorado from 1904 to 1934, was an internationally known naturalist who researched and published prolifically in zoölogy, botany, ecology and paleontology.


The T.D.A. Cockerell Papers is arranged into the following series:

Series 1: Academic Papers Series 2: Personal Papers Series 3: Annie Fenn Series 4: Wilmette Porter Cockerell Series 5: Audio Visual Materials Series 6: Oversized Materials

The Academic papers consist of: correspondence, research notes and manuscripts, field books, drawing books, published books and academic papers. Personal Papers consist of: family correspondence and personal writings. Also included are the personal papers and correspondence of both Annie Fenn Cockerell and Wilmatte Porter Cockerell, his first and second wives. The Audio Visual materials consist of: photographs, glass slides, and moving image films of family, research, travels around the world. The Oversized materials consist of: diplomas and honors, maps from various regions, indexes for Cockerell’s bibliography, galley proofs and a few mass media machines.

Physical Location

A75 G6, H1-J7; Oversize folders 1-5: A-MC-1 D15 and D17; Oversize 1-4 A75 J7 selected film reels in Freezer 8

Processed by Anna Wagner, May 2006; Edited by Kathryn Holt, November 2006; Revised by Kalyani Fernando, August, 2018, and Jamie Marie Wagner, September 2019; uploaded by Jennifer Sanchez to ArchivesSpace
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States