enthusiasm for observation and collecting was known to Baird.
This probably explains that in making his appointment he stipulated
that "Mr. Edwards was to do no regular work on Sunday." Edwards'
services to the Fish Commission and to the biologists who came
later to work at Woods Hole were recognized by many prominent
scientists. Their feelings are well summarized by the words
of E.B. Wilson, who wrote on May 12, 1919 after the death of
Edwards, as follows: "It is hard to realize that the familiar
figure of Vinal N. Edwards will no longer be seen at Woods Hole,
and he will be greatly missed, especially by all the earlier
workers who had come to rely so often upon his advice and judgment.
No one could know Vinal Edwards without having the kindliest
feelings toward him personally and without coming to realize
that he was a man of rare character and attainments. I always
associated him with Spencer Baird who I know had a very high
regard for him and fully appreciated his important services
to the Fish Commission... Woods Hole will not seem the same
without him." A commemorative plaque for Edwards was presented
by friends of Wards to the Fisheries Laboratory at Woods Hole
and was mounted on a wall at the entrance to the old aquarium
building. It can now be seen in the lobby of the new laboratory.
In the years 1872-74 the operations of the Fish Commission were
shifted northward to the Bay of Fundy with the special purpose
to study the fisheries of Maine and the adjacent portion of
the British Provinces. In 1872 the headquarters was established
at Eastport, Maine, where Baird was permitted to use the U.S.
Revenue Cutter Mosswood. The vessel was armed with a small gun
on the forward deck and carried a number of rifles and cutlasses.
The arrangement with the revenue office specified that if a
suspicious craft should be sighted the dredging must be suspended
while the suspect was overhauled and investigated. The records
fail to show that dredging and seining were interfered with,
since most of the smuggling was done at night. As in the previous
year, several scientists, including A. E. Verrill, S. I. Smith,
G. Brown Goode, Th. N. Gill and others, assisted in the work
and collaborated in the identification of collected materials.
The Commissioner of the Dominion Fisheries, William F. Whitcher,
and his staff showed great interest in the fishery investigations
and gave Baird valuable assistance and cooperation. A biologically
interesting conclusion was reached by Baird regarding the probable
cause of the reduction of cod and river fishes, both of which
have declined in equal ratio. He state din his report for 1872-73
(Baird, 1874) that "the reduction in the cod and other fisheries,
so as to become practically a failure, is due to the decrease
off our coast in the quantity, primarily of alewives; and secondarily,
of shad and salmon, more than to any other cause."
Early in 1872, the American Fish Culturists Association at the
February meeting in Albany, New York, passed a resolution urging
the U.S. Government to take measures for the introduction and
artificial propagation of shad, salmon, and other valuable food
fishes throughout the country, especially in the waters common
to several states. An appropriation of $15,000 for this purpose
was given by Congress and added new responsibilities to the
Commission of Fisheries. This action greatly influenced the
work at Woods Hole where a marine hatchery was established as
an integral part of the station.
In 1873 the field operations were based at Peaks Island in Casco
Bay, Maine, about three miles from Portland. The location was
selected as the principal area of the herring and cod fisheries.
A Navy steam tug Bluelight (fig. 8) which weighed about 100
tons and was 100 feet in length ,was placed under the jurisdiction
of the Commissioner. This vessel was sufficiently large to provide
an opportunity of trying, for the first time, the steam windlass
for hoisting the dredges and trawls. This improvement of technique
attracted the attention of the Secretary of the navy who visited
the headquarters and spent several days in examining the operations
at sea. The assignment of the U.S. Coast Survey steamer Bache
to the Fisheries Commission gave an opportunity to extend the
operations farther offshore between Mount Desert and Cape Cod.
As in previous years many visitors, including several scientists
who attended the Portland, Maine, meetings of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, Maine Commissioners of Fisheries,
representatives of the New York Tribune, and others came to
see Baird's explorations.
For marine investigations in 1874, Baird selected a locality
in the village of Noank, Conn. At the mouth of the Mystic River
on Fishers Island Sound. The place was sufficiently remote from
the previously explored areas of New England waters to permit
the notice of some important zoological differences. In addition
to the waters adjacent to Noank, the Bluelight visited Montauk
Point on the eastern tip of Long Island, Gardiners and Peconic
Bays, Block Island Sound, and the eastern part of Long Island
Sound. Verril and his associates reported that over 100 species
of invertebrates new to the fauna of New England were found.
They also reported that some of the more southern species of
animals were discovered in localities which had a higher sea-water
temperature than others. In addition, the party conducted experiments
in artificial propagation of sea bass and attempted to introduce
young shad into salt-water rivers. Valuable background information
necessary for selecting a place for the permanent location of
the laboratory and hatchery was obtained through the four years
of studies of the abundance, habits, and distribution of the
more important species of fishes and invertebrates. The final
decision had to be postponed until later years.
Baird, with his assistants, returned to Woods Hole in 1875 with
the idea that second survey of local waters would provide a
means for determining the variation in the abundance of fishes
as compared with the conditions recorded four years previous,
in 1871. The need for a more permanent field accommodation for
the Commission became acute. It was solved by the authorization
of the Light-House Board to convert the large shed on the banks
of Little Harbor into a two-story laboratory (fig. 9) and to
construct a 5,000-gallon reservoir and a windmill for pumping
sea water. The regular appropriation of the Commission provided
funds necessary to cover the cost of the alteration, but laboratory
equipment, including tables, shelves, tanks, aquaria, and plumbing,
for which Government funds were not available, was purchased
with the liberal contributions made by Mr. And Mrs. John F.
Forbes of Naushon Island and Robert L. Stuart of New York. This
laboratory greatly facilitated the work of sorting, identification,
and preservation of the material collected at sea and made it
possible to observe the behavior of various animals, and to
study their spawning and hatching of eggs. The opportunities
for research in marine biology offered by the new laboratory
attracted many outstanding biologists from New England colleges,
as well as State fisheries Commissioners and the general public.
Baird realized the importance of public support of his venture
and encouraged the visitors to come and see the laboratory and
the collection of live fish and other animals kept in tanks.
He was pleased when popular accounts of the activity of the
new institution appeared in the New York Tribune under the signature
of William C. Wyckoff, the scientific editor, who on several
occasions was his guest at Woods Hole.
The year 1875 should be considered the year of the establishment
of the Woods Hole laboratory, although the construction of a
permanent building had to be postponed for several years. During
1875 and in the following years the biological investigations
continued under the supervision of Baird and his principal collaborators,
George Brown Goode and A. E. Verrill. A number of students were
attracted to the new institution which offered an opportunity
to conduct scientific research under Baird, who liberally offered
his guidance and advice. At this time he actively participated
in dredging, seining, or in collecting material in shallow water.
Being an enthusiastic collector, he enjoyed going aboard the
vessels with his students and assistants. He was frequently
seen wading along the beaches of Woods Hole or seining from
a small boat in Little Harbor (figs. 10 and 11). The research
work conducted in the temporary laboratory buildings was well
organized. The first floor was utilized by those who worked
with fishes the second floor was used by the biologists studying
invertebrates. The students employed by Baird spent the early
morning hours collecting materials in nearby waters. Sometimes
the steam launch Cygnet would take them to the "Hole". After
several half-hour tows were made the material was brought to
the laboratory and examined before the investigators left for
the night. Edwin Linton in his recollection of life at Woods
Hole in the earlier days of the Fish Commissioner (Linton, 1927)
remarks of the "total absence of anything in the way of play,
other than the daily swim." However, it is known that a small
part of the laboratory shed was set aside as a social hall used
for discussions, conversation, reading, and relaxation. It was
unofficially known in the village as "Sharks Parlor." A photograph
(fig. 9) taken during this period shows a carriage standing
near the shed entrance. The crate on the carriage apparently
contained a piano.
For his family, Baird rented the house facing Little Harbor
belonging to Miss J. Fish (fig. 12), but his associates were
scattered in different dwellings throughout the village. When
the number of Commission employees increased, a house was rented
to provide office space, living quarters, and mess facilities.
It burned in 1883, and the site is now occupied by the Woods
Hole Public Library.
The purpose of scientific investigations was little understood
by the public. Their questions about what the biologists were
doing in the laboratory were sometimes difficult to answer.
Linton reported that on one occasion A. E. Verrill, who was
in charge of the laboratory, found it impossible to enlighten
his interlocutors. He had an inspiration and told them that
he was paid for his work. This seemed to be accepted as quite
a satisfactory explanation. Of course there were many laymen
of better education and higher intelligence who were able to
grasp the significance of research. Since Baird's time to the
present, the problem of visitors and how to satisfy their natural
curiosity and at the same time avoid interference with scientific
work has been of great concern to all in charge of scientific
institutions at Woods Hole. Baird encouraged the people to visit
his laboratory because he was convinced that in a democratic
society the people are entitled to know about the activities
of the institutions which are maintained by expenditures of
He also thought that research and education should not be divorced.
As a practical person he believed that public support would
be effective in obtaining the necessary appropriations by Congress
for the construction of a good marine station.
The scientific work conducted at the station during the ensuing
years was carried out along the lines already established by
exploratory studies of New England Waters, with greater emphasis
on developing practical methods of artificial propagation of
fishes and in formulating a system for collecting statistical
data. Zoological research was in the hands of specialists, with
Verrill as head of the section of marine invertebrates and E.
B. Wilson as his outstanding assistant (fig. 13). The fact that
this eminent American embryologist and cytologist was associated
with the laboratory during the earliest years of its existence
has remained a source of pride to many biologists who during
the past 80 years were employed by the U.S. Fisheries Laboratory
at Woods Hole. Studies of fish and fisheries were continued
under the supervision of Goode, while Baird concentrated his
efforts in obtaining land and necessary funds for the laboratory.
In the scientific circles of his time Baird was recognized as
an organizer and administrator of the highest rank. He had a
rare faculty of adapting himself with unusual tact to subordinate
positions, as can be seen from his work for nearly 30 years
when he devoted his principal efforts to the organization of
the National Museum. Moreover, through his position as Assistant
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution he obtained cooperation
of nearly every branch of the Government. In spite of the well-known
fact that his chief, I. Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian
Institution, a physicist, had little or no fondness for zoology,
the relationship between the two men remained harmonious. Upon
the death of Henry in 1878, Baird succeeded him as Secretary
and assumed an even greater burden of administrative work. In
his discussions he displayed a remarkable ability to convince
his listeners and secure their assistance. This was so well
known in Congressional circles, where Baird was a frequent witness
at hearings of various committees, that one influential Senator
was quoted as saying: "I am willing to vote the money asked
we give him, one-half by direct purchase and one-half by gift."
This reputation helped Baird in obtaining Congressional appropriation
for the construction of the Fisheries Station, since the increased
scope of activities of the Fish Commission required larger and
more permanent accommodations than those provided by the Light-House
The power of persuasion of this remarkable man was so great
that he was equally successful in dealing with college professors,
students, local politicians, State Fish Commissioners, Senators,
Congressmen, and business officials. In his attitude to others
he was never condescending, vain, or "highbrow", but always
tried to explain the merits of his point in terms understandable
Since the Fish Commission became more and more involved in fish
culture, it was necessary to find an inexpensive and safe method
of transporting live fry to the place where they were to be
released. It was not difficult for Baird to obtain full cooperation
of the American railroads, who granted to the Fish commission
special low rates for travel of personnel and for delivery of
large containers of water and young fishes. Later on, special
railroad cars were built for this purpose. One such car was
frequently seen at the railroad terminal at Woods Hole.
On July 18, 1872, the Old Colony Railroad opened its services
to Woods Hole. This improvement was a great benefit to the members
of the Fish Commission. The first train conductor, Augustus
S. Messer, remained in the service of the company for many years
and became highly respected and known and loved by the residents
and commuters for his friendliness and services which he was
eager to extend. The administration of the railroad encouraged
friendly relations with the travelling public; this policy was
continued until the late 1950's when due to the financial adversity
of the owners, the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad,
to which the Old Colony Railroad was leased in 1893, stopped
passenger service between Boston and Woods Hole. Good transportation
facilities were an important factor in the growth of Woods Hole
as a scientific center. At first the fastest train travelled
from Boston to Woods Hole, a distance of about 80 miles, in
3 hours and 10 minutes. Soon, however, the famous "Flying Dude"
train was inaugurated. It made its first trip early in the spring
of 1884 and cut the travel time to only 1 hour 47 minutes. The
Old Colony Railroad "Was the equal to any road and inferior
to none." (Fisher, 1919).
At the request of Baird the Old Colony issued special tickets
which facilitated transportation of the officers and employees
of the Fish Commission to and from Woods Hole. An agreement
with various other railroad companies authorized the Fish Commission
to transport live fish in the baggage cars of passenger trains
without extra charge and allowed the Commission messengers to
have free access to them while en route.
During the formative years the final decision crystallized in
Baird's mind regarding the location and character of the permanent
laboratory of the Fish Commission. In 1882 he arrived at the
conclusion that the proposed station was to be used both for
research "and for propagation of the marine fishes and that
the best conditions for the latter purpose were found on the
south coast of New England because greater variety of fish can
be found here and so far as the winter hatching was concerned,
the cold being much less severe, and the other circumstances
more favorable." The choice was between two locations: Newport,
R.I., and Woods Hole. The citizens of Newport showed great desire
to have the station and exerted their influence on Government
authorities to induce the Fish Commission to choose their town.
Necessary buildings and the use of a suitable wharf were offered,
and the Navy Department invited the Commission to establish
its laboratory and hatchery on the northern end of Coasters
Harbor Island, which was thought not to be required for the
Naval Training School.