Scientist of the Day - Samuel Hubbard Scudder
Samuel Hubbard Scudder, an American entomologist, was born Apr. 13, 1837. Although Samuel Scudder was the world’s leading expert on fossil cockroaches, we prefer to remember him for his Butterflies of the Eastern United States and Canada: With Special Reference to New England (1889). The plates that illustrate these volumes display almost photographic realism, but they are not photographs—they are chromolithographs. The realism derives from the multiple stones that were used in the printing process, each stone adding a different color. The swallowtail plate was printed in color using 15 stones, the caption tells us. It seems absolutely incredible that 15 stones could be printed in succession on one piece of paper, with such impeccable registry that there is no blurring whatsoever. Scudder’s illustrations represent a high-water mark of chromolithography, for which much of the credit goes to the lithographic firm of Thomas Sinclair & Son. If some of the butterflies look odd, it is because many of the figures depict the top side of the wing on the right and the lower side on the left.
The details in the images above show a Tiger Swallowtail (first image), a Red Admiral (fourth image), a Painted Lady (fifth image), and a Red Spotted Purple (sixth image).
We exhibited the Swallowtail chromolithograph in our 2012 exhibition, Crayon and Stone, which is not yet available online.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City