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Personal papers of Robert Morrow Mengel

Call Number: PP 8


Robert Mengel came to the University of Kansas in 1953 to work on a bibiliography of the Ellis Collection of Ornithological Books in the Department of Special Collections, Spencer Research Library, and completed manuscripts for three volumes of the bibliography. He was a research associate at the Museum of Natural History at KU from 1953 until he became curator of ornithology in 1967. The collection includes research, field notes, and correspondence, as well as course plans and museum notes, family photographs, and medals and pins, some of which are military.


  • Creation: 1929 - 1994


Conditions Governing Access

These materials are stored in the KU Annex off-site storage area.

All researchers interested in reviewing this material must consult Spencer Research Library Public Services staff (785-864-4334 or, 9-5 M-F CST) no less than three days in advance of a planned visit. Be advised that drop-in requests for this material cannot be accommodated.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Robert M. Mengel (1921-1990)

Robert M. Mengel was born in 1921 in Glenview, Kentucky. As a young child, Mengel was interested in nature and birds, writing and illustrating his own bird books.

Mengel served in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1942 to 1946, serving in the Army Airways Communications System overseas from April 1944 to December 1945.

Mengel received a B.S. from Cornell University in 1947. He went on to receive his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan. His research interests were the systematics, ecology, biogeography, and evolution of birds and mammals.

His first work at the Museum of Natural History at the University of Kansas was a painting of a flock of geese on the dome of the Panorama of North American Plants and Animals. He was a research associate at the museum from 1953 until he became curator of ornithology in 1967.

He was a Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union and edited The Auk, journal of the Aou, from 1963 to 1967. From 1970 to 1974, he edited the Aou Ornithological Monographs. He wrote The Birds of Kentucky in that series and more than one hundred scientific papers.

Mengel was also an artist and illustrator, working primarily in watercolor and pen and ink. Among the publications he illustrated, in part or whole, were The Birds of Kentucky and Birds of Colorado, published by the Denver Museum of Natural History, and the five-volume Handbook of North American Birds, published by Yale University Press and sponsored by the Aou and the Smithsonian Institution. In 1988 he was one of eleven U.S. artists, among forty-three worldwide artists, included in Twentieth Century Wildlife Artists.

After Mengel's death, his wife continued to work to have his manuscript, then called You Should Have Been Here Last Week, published. Finally in 1993, Mengel's book, Fly Fisherman's Odyssey, was published by Lyons and Burford.


13 Linear Feet (13 boxes)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

PP 8

Physical Location

Annex (Contact Spencer Library Public Services)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Marion Mengel.

Related Materials

The Ellis collection of literature pertaining to natural history consists of some 15,000 bound volumes, as well as a very large quantity of pamphlets, letters, original drawings, manuscripts, and other miscellanea. Perhaps a third of the collection is concerned wholly with ornithology, including a great many items which are rare or in some way unique, and considerable portions of the rest are concerned partially with the same subject.The library, of great value both for its cultural and aesthetic content and for its utility in scientific research, was formed mainly in the years 1930-1945 by the late Ralph Nicholson Ellis, Jr. (1908-1945), by whose bequest it came to the University of Kansas.

Mengel's catalog of the Ellis collection, A catalogue of the Ellis collection of ornithological books in the University of Kansas Libraries, is located in Spencer Research Library (Reference), Z5335.K32.

Consult library staff regarding the availability of related photographs, biographical files, and scrapbooks.

Guide to the Robert M. Mengel Collection
Personal papers of Robert Morrow Mengel
Finding aid prepared by sk, 2005. Finding aid encoded by sk, 2005. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2020.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Personal papers of Robert M. Mengel, University Archives, PP 8, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States