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Newton Horace Winchell papers

Identifier: 981

Scope and Content

The collection contains field notebooks Winchell kept while he conducted geological observations of Minnesota as State Geologist of the Minnesota Geological and Natural History Survey (MGNHS). The notebooks, which contain records of stones, outcroppings, deposits, etc., were used to compile the twenty-four annual reports Winchell authored and submitted to the Board of Regents between 1872 and 1899. Two notebooks in Box 1, Folder 3, record Winchell’s 1874 trip to the Black Hills in the Dakota Territory, where he served as a field geologist for a military and scientific expedition lead by General George A. Custer. Winchell obtained several specimens for the General Museum during the trip as well. Two notebooks in Box 2, Folder 2, document Winchell’s travel and study in Paris from May 1, 1895 – May 1896, where he studied Minnesota rocks in the laboratory of Professor Lacroix, noted mineralogist and petrographer.

The collection also contains scrapbooks (Box 2, Volumes 1-2) of newspaper clippings that document articles published about the MGNHS, as well as broader geological issues.


  • 1872-1908


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Requests for permission to quote Newton Horace Winchell should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives head.

Biographical Note

Newton Horace Winchell (1839-1914) was born in 1839 to Horace and Caroline McAllester Winchell in Salisbury, Massachusetts. He was educated at the University of Michigan (undergraduate 1866, M.A. 1867), where his elder brother Alexander served as professor of geology and was also in charge of the Michigan geological survey. Between 1869 and 1872, Winchell assisted his brother on the Michigan survey and performed geological studies in Ohio and New Mexico.

On March 1, 1872, the legislature of the state of Minnesota approved a bill establishing the Minnesota Geological and Natural History Survey, a scientific survey that was administered by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. The law came with an appropriation of $1,000 to be used in the execution of the work. Winchell met with the Regents and President William Watts Folwell in June 1872 to discuss the survey, and in July of that year, he accepted the position of survey director and State Geologist. On September 1st, 1892, Winchell began the survey by making a “general reconnaissance” of the state. He visited locations easily accessible by railroad to make initial observations of the types of stones and soils present.

During subsequent observations, which Winchell made county by county, he discovered the valuable iron ore deposits of the Mesabi and Vermilion ranges, mapped the iron and mineral deposits of the state, and estimated the rate of recession of St. Anthony Falls, from which he determined the approximate date for the second glacial epoch.

Serving as the State Geologist,Winchell directed the geological portion of the survey, which was initiated in 1872 and concluded in 1900. (The zoological and botanical veins of the survey were formally established in 1888 and 1889 and were administered by a State Zoologist and State Botanist.) Winchell also served as instructor of courses in geology, botany, and zoology at the University (1873–1878), was named chair of the Department of Geology and Mineralogy upon its establishment in 1874, and also served as Curator of the General Museum (1872 -1889).

In the summer of 1898, the Board of Regents adopted a resolution to conclude the geological portion of the Survey and set an end date, December 31, 1898, to Winchell’s execution of geological observances, with the instructions that he be employed through 1899 to arrange the specimens in the General Museum and oversee the publication of the final volumes of the Final Report of the survey. Between 1872 and 1900, Winchell published twenty-four annual reports, ten bulletins, and six final volumes on the geology of Minnesota.

In addition to his work in Minnesota as State Geologist and executor of the Survey, Winchell was the organizer of the Minnesota Academy of Natural Sciences (1873). He founded the journal "American Geologist" in 1888 and served as editor through 1905. He was also a founder and served as president of the Geological Society of America (1902). Following his service as State Geologist, Winchell became the head of the Department of Archaeology at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). He wrote “The Aborigines of Minnesota,” which was published by MHS in 1911.

The Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences, established in 1988, is comprised of the Department of Earth Sciences, the Minnesota Geological Survey, Limnological Research Center, and the Institute for Rock Magnetism.

Newton Horace Winchell died on May 2, 1914 in Minneapolis.


3 boxes (1.3 linear feet)


Collection contains field notebooks, scrapbooks of clippings, and articles and reports written by Winchell.

Related Material

Annual Reports of the Minnesota Geological and Natural History Survey

Inventory of the Minnesota Geological and Natural History Survey papers

Minnesota Geological Survey Field Notebooks

Horace Vaughn Winchell papers

Newton Horace Winchell and family papers, Minnesota Historical Society

Processing Information

Digitization funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Newton Horace Winchell papers, 1872-1908
Leslie Czechowski
November 2004
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area