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Harvey Bassler Papers, 1900-1968

Identifier: SC MS 0019

Scope and Contents

This collection contains diaries, journals, personal correspondences, and material regarding his work in South America and the donation of his library.


  • Creation: 1900-1968
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1926-1939


Conditions Governing Access

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Harvey Bassler was born April 21, 1883 in Myerstown, PA, the son of John H. (1834-1916) and Amanda M. Bassler, nee Mosser (1840-1919). He died on March 14, 1950 (aged 66 years) in West Chester, PA, following an automobile collision. He is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Myerstown, PA. Bassler graduated from Myerstown Public School in 1899. He entered Albright College in Myerstown in 1900 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English, in1903. He graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in Mining Engineering in 1908. In 1909, he earned a master’s degree from Albright College. Bassler received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1913; honorary degree of Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) from Lehigh University in 1945 and Albright College in 1946. While working on his Masters degree at Albright College, he was employed by the college, from 1908 to 1910 as a teacher of Natural Sciences. From 1911 to 1920, he was employed by the United States Geology Survey, in Washington, D.C., as a Geologist. During this time, he completed his Ph.D. in geology at Johns Hopkins University and was involved in S.A.T.C. (Students’ Army Training Corps; a precursor to ROTC) and worked during the First World War as an officer and teacher. In 1920, Bassler was employed by Standard Oil Corporation out of New Jersey as a Petroleum Geologist. Working for Standard Oil in Iquitos, Peru, Bassler developed an extensive collection of artifacts, some of which currently reside on display in the Smithsonian Institute. It is claimed that he and his team were one of the first of the white men to enter the mouth of the Amazon River. Bassler was also a very active book collector. He collected rare books on South America, geology, anthropology, natural history, biology, zoology, reptiles, snakes in particular. Leaving Standard Oil in 1932, Bassler went on to work at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, NY, starting in 1934, as a research associate. His extensive travels and research in South America led to his recovery of priceless artifacts. During the Second World War, he took a leave of absence from the museum to work with the government, especially with raw rubber development in the Amazon Rainforest. He worked for the museum for 14 years and left in 1948. He took a job in 1949 at Franklin and Marshall College, located in Lancaster, PA, and worked as a consultant in Pennsylvania History until his death in a car accident in 1950. While researching at Franklin and Marshall, he turned his interests to Pennsylvania Dutch and compiled a collection of books, manuscripts and paintings related to the subject. Bassler left his personal library to Lehigh University. (source: Albright College Library, “Harvey Bassler Collection, 1883-1950”:


20 Linear Feet (19 boxes)

Language of Materials



Correspondence, handwritten and also edited transcription of diaries and records of the donation of his personal library of Harvey Bassler, who was a geologist for Standard Oil Company in Peru, from 1920-1932. Included are the diaries and other notes he took on his field trips in Peru, an edited copy of the diaries and the duplicated compilation of the diaries written by Bradford Willard in 1965-1966, as well as much personal correspondence during the period. Also included is a list of the books he gave to Lehigh University.


The material is arranged topically and chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Harvey Bassler bequest 1950.

Separated Materials

Boxes 7-11 were found in a closet at Linderman Library 4th Floor during the move before the renovation. Other materials that were wet and moldy couldn’t be salvaged.

Harvey Bassler Papers, 1900-1968
Special Collections Staff
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Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)