Historical Markers
Samuel S. Haldeman (1812 - 1880) Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text

Samuel S. Haldeman (1812 - 1880)

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
PA 441 at Locust Grove, S. of Bainbridge

Dedication Date:
September 21, 1991

Behind the Marker

Oil on canvas portrait.
Samuel S. Haldeman, by S. B. Waugh, 1881.
Although few people know about him today, Samuel Stehman Haldeman (1812-1880) in the nineteenth century was one of America's most prominent men of science and letters. Like markerWilliam Darlington, he was an amateur scientist who became a respected scholar largely through self-study. Haldeman's principal contributions were in the fields of zoology and linguistics, but he was learned in other disciplines as well, including archeology, geology, chemistry, and natural history.

In an age when amateur scientists were proficient in many fields, the extent and depth of Haldeman's knowledge was still exceptional. Charles Darwin shared that Haldeman's paper on "Species And Their Distribution" helped him toward his conclusions in The Origin of Species (1859). The publishers of Webster's dictionary consulted Haldeman for words and definitions. Haldeman was also a mentor to Joseph Leidy, the founder of American vertebrate paleontology, who in turn trained markerEdward Drinker Cope, one of the era's foremost paleontologists. A prolific writer and correspondent and a beloved mentor to his students, Haldeman influenced scholarship across continents and disciplines.

In this black and white photograph an iron factory sits in the middle, in the background one can make out ore banks, and in the foreground railroad tracks with a train caboose and a couple of rail car loads of iron ore. Four men stand nearby the train on the tracks.
Chickies Furnace No. 2, Lancaster County, PA, circa 1890.
Haldeman acquired a lifelong love of books and learning from his parents and at school in Harrisburg, where he received a thorough grounding in Latin, Greek, and classical literature. His training in natural history came from exploring the fields, forests, and streams near his Lancaster County home, where he collected fresh water shells, insects, rocks, and minerals. He also observed the habits of local birds and, like markerJohn James Audubon, stuffed and mounted local birds.

In 1828, he enrolled atmarker Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, but dissatisfied with the academic routine, he left after two years. Haldeman then managed a sawmill with his father and worked with his brothers in a pig iron mill in nearby Chickies, where he conducted detailed experiments on the use of anthracite for smelting iron. He was also a geological assistant on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania state geological surveys.

An illustration of freshwater univalve Mollusca.
Ampullaria, Plate 1, published in Samuel Haldeman's A Monograph of the Freshwater...
In his spare time, Haldeman conducted scientific research, initially concentrating on malacology (the study of clams, snails, and other mollusks) and conchology (sea shells). In 1845, he published A Monograph on the Freshwater Univalve Mollusca of the United States, a lavishly illustrated study that was noteworthy for depicting the living animal within the shell and for including a description of the ancient Scolithus linearis. Also interested in entomology (the study of insects), Haldeman discovered that certain lepidopterous insects (butterflies, moths) had an organ for sound.

In 1848, he was asked by Charles Wilkes, head of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, to study the Lepidoptera specimens collected during that voyage. By now a respected scientist, Haldeman lectured on zoology at the Franklin Institute of Technology (1842-43), became a member of Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences, and was a professor of natural history at the University of Pennsylvania (1851-55) and Delaware College (1855). In later years he also lectured on chemistry and geology at the markerPennsylvania State Agricultural College (today's Penn State University).

An accomplished linguist, Haldeman was fascinated by the origin and historical development of words (etymology), the pronunciation of words (orthoepy), and the spelling of words (orthography). In a book about Pennsylvania Dutch he explained how the language was derived from the southern German Pfalz dialect.

Haldeman was among a distinguished group of Americans who, under the auspices of the American Philosophical Society, collected information about the languages, history, and culture of Native-American peoples. Haldeman's collection of numerals in Wyandot (spoken by the Wyandot and Shawnee peoples) was included in a Wyandot vocabulary with collections by markerBenjamin Smith Barton and markerConrad Weiser. In 1858, he received the Trevelyan Prize from the Phonetic Society of Great Britain for his article entitled "Analytical Orthography." In 1868, he returned to the University of Pennsylvania to become the first chair of Comparative Philology. With other "professors, friends, and patrons of linguistic science," he co-founded the American Philological Association in 1869, dedicated to the study of Greek and Roman languages, literatures, and civilizations.

When Samuel Haldeman died on September 10, 1880, he left behind him more than 200 publications in six separate disciplines. He also departed with the respect and admiration of his peers, no small feat in an age when science was often competitive and cut-throat, as witnessed by the "Bone Wars" between Edward Drinker Cope and O.C. Marsh. As one of his contemporaries remarked, "he was a personage who lived in one's memory."
Back to Top