Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Papers, 1805-1910 finding aid

The Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Papers are available online via Amherst College Digital Collections. As of early 2016, the collection is not yet 100% digitized, but will be by the end of the year.

All of the Orra White Hitchcock Classroom Drawings are currently available via Amherst College Digital Collections.

Edward Hitchcock

Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864) Orra White Hitchcock

Orra White Hitchcock (1796-1863)

Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864) was the first state geologist of Massachusetts and the third President of Amherst College, but these are just two of his many accomplishments. Edward Hitchcock was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts on May 24, 1793. He was educated at Deerfield Academy and earned his MA from Yale College. In 1821 he married Orra White who was a teacher at Deerfield Academy and shared Edward's passion for investigating the natural world. The pair would go on to produce dozens of books and articles that joined Edward's scholarship with Orra's artwork.

Rocking Stones

One of Orra's illustrations for Edward's Final Report on the Geology of Massachusetts (1841)

Leaves by Orra White Hitchcock

In January 1826, Edward and Orra settled in Amherst where Edward began teaching chemistry and natural history at Amherst College. In 1845 Edward became the third President of Amherst College, a post he held until 1854. After retiring from the Presidency, he returned to his teaching duties and remained at the college until his death in 1864. Edward Hitchcock is credited with rescuing the college from the brink of bankruptcy through his skill as a fundraiser. The college erected several new buildings during his tenure: The Octagon (Woods Cabinet and Lawrence Observatory) in 1848; Morgan Library in 1853; and Appleton Cabinet in 1855. In addition to these buildings, the scientific collections grew substantially under President Hitchcock. Thanks to Hitchcock's efforts, the college holds a world-class collection of fossils collected throughout the Connecticut River Valley and elsewhere.


A lithograph of Orra's illustration "Emblems of the Resurrection" for Edward's Religious Lectures on Peculiar Phenomena in the Four Seasons (1850)

The lives of Edward and Orra Hitchcock are thoroughly documented in the holdings of the Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College. The Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Papers are the primary archival collection with additional material in the Edward (AC 1849) and Mary Judson Hitchcock Family Papers and elsewhere. A nearly complete collection of Edward's published works can be found by searching the online library catalog. The Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College is home to the Hitchcock Ichnology Collection, among other scientific specimens.

Many of Hitchcock's books have been fully digitized and can be found in the open access Internet Archive.


Our holdings also include the largest collection anywhere of Orra White Hitchcock's original artwork. Her works range from small sketches to the very large format classroom charts she prepared to illustrate Edward's lectures on geology. Images of all of her classroom charts can be seen via the Archives' Flickr site. The Mead Art Museum at Amherst holds additional works of art by Orra White Hitchcock along with several portraits of Edward. In 2011 the Mead mounted the a major exhibition of Orra's work: Orra White Hitchcock: An Amherst Woman of Art and Science.

Curious Footprints

The Hitchcocks have been the subject of several books and articles, most of which can be found in the Archives & Special Collections and the open stacks in Frost Library. These include:

Curious Footprints: Professor Hitchcock's Dinosaur Tracks & Other Natural History Treasures at Amherst College. By Nancy Pick and Frank Ward. (Amherst College Press, 2006)

A Woman of Amherst: The Travel Diaries of Orra White Hitchcock, 1847 and 1850. By Robert Herbert. (iUniverse, 2008) Full text available online through Google Books.

Orra White Hitchcock: An Amherst Woman of Art and Science. By Robert Herbert and Daria D'Arienzo. (Mead Art Museum, 2011)

Robert L. Herbert continues his research into Edward and Orra White Hitchcock and we are pleased to include his work here: