Dondale, continuing his 1974 metaphor, said:
“One of these puddles was the gathering, in November 1967 of about 25 arachnologists for a symposium under the umbrella of the American Entomological Society in New York. The symposium was organized by Will Whitcomb, and among the attendees were Willis Gertsch, BJ Kaston, John McCrone, Vince Roth. The thing I remember the most about the meeting was the sheer fun at meeting some other arachnologists – people who understood. The idea of an arachnological society may have been born there.”
Another “puddle” was a California organization “Arachnologists of the Southwest” (ASW), born at a meeting of the California Academy of Sciences in San Diego in 1966. Don Lowrie was the organizer and the initial membership was about 15. They met at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. In March 1968 the meetings were transferred to the Robert M. McCurdy Nature Study Center in Eaton Canyon. The program featured talks about wolf spiders by Lowrie, crab spiders by Bob Schick and trap door spiders by Mel Thompson. At the conclusion of the program, officers were elected: B.J. Kaston, President, R.X. Schick, Vice-president and Mel Thompson, Secretary-treasurer. For the next couple of years, the meetings consisted of only a dozen or so attendees. By 1970 ASW had grown to nearly 30 members, and there was talk of publishing a journal. After AAS was formed in 1972 the Notes of the Arachnologists of the Southwest were to be published in the Journal of Arachnology, and in 1973 it was announced that AWS had been absorbed by the new society.
Again, in Dondale’s metaphor, Dondale, himself, was the trickle that started the stream. In September 1968, he sent out a questionnaire titled “American Arachnology Issue No 1” to about 50 people asking what kind of newsletter they wanted. There were 32 responses, and the newsletter was born. John McCrone had accepted the job of reproducing and mailing the newsletter..
American Arachnology (AA) #2 was issued in February of 1969, including information about other arachnological societies, a book review of Spiders and their Kin by Levi & Levi, a list of four formal courses of Arachnology in universities, and a biography of Harriet Exline. Also included was a list of over 100 subscribers to AA, with 70 including information about their research and occupations.
During the summer of 1969, Dondale received a Fellowship from the (Canadian) National Research Council to spend a year in Montpellier France to study with Legendre. He asked Beatrice Vogel, who had been corresponding with him since 1966, if she would like to take over editing AA. She readily agreed and AA #3 was issued November 1969. It contained a report from Dondale about his stay in France, a remembrance of Wilton Ivie who died in August, and announcement that John A.L.Cooke had been appointed as interim Curator of Arachnology at the American Museum of Natural History.
AA #4 issued June 1970 listed 6 formal university arachnology courses: California State College Los Angeles by Don Lowrie; California State College San Francisco by Stan Williams; San Diego State College by BJ Kaston; Oklahoma State University Stillwater by William Drew; Texas Tech University Lubbock by Bob Mitchell; University of Dayton Ohio by James MacMahon; and Western Carolina University Cullowhee North Carolina by Fred Coyle. This issue of AA also included information about arachnologists, their projects and names of new members.
AA #5 March 1971 included notes by Willis Gertsch, who had moved to Portal Arizona, about spiders of the Chiricahua Mountain region. AA #6, October 1971, contained a Directory of American Arachnologists, 149 in number. In addition to the usual notes and announcements was a suggestion that there should be a Journal of Arachnology separate from a Journal of Entomology.
In January 1972, Bea Vogel mailed the following letter to about 170 persons.
Texas Memorial Museum
24th & Trinity
Austin Texas 78705
3 January 1972
“Would you be interested in the formation of a SOCIETY OF AMERICAN ARACHNOLOGY?
“In compiling the Directory of American Arachnologists for the last newsletter, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are now so many of us. And for the 170 or so who are listed, there are probably half again as many interested, who have not yet sent their names.
“I can think of at least two reasons why we should consider the formation of such a society at this time. The first reason is to support a journal. The Arachnologists of the Southwest have been talking about expanding their Notes into a journal for the whole continent. Some of us, including both residents of Southern California and elsewhere, think it would be more appropriate for a SOCIETY OF AMERICAN ARACHNOLOGY to be sponsoring such a journal. There is no conflict here. The matter was discussed at the last meeting of the Arachnologists of the Southwest, and if we cannot form a continental society, they will probably go ahead with the expansion of the Notes.
“The second reason for forming a SOCIETY OF AMERICAN ARACHNOLOGY is for the reinforcement of our common interest in the exploration of the biology of arachnids. Many of us work on small budgets and the unfortunate tendency in these days is to equate importance with budget. There is also a tendency in some scientific circles to downgrade Natural History. I feel that a formal Society would counteract both these tendencies and could improve the image of our research. Such a Society might help others understand the importance of biological exploration at the organismic level. I think there is a very real chance that we will know 90% of the Martian biota before we know 90% of our own. This is a misplaced priority. Lest I be misunderstood, may I say that by ‘biological exploration’ I do not mean alpha taxonomy, I mean all phases of biology of arachnids.
“I have been discussing the formation of a Society with Don Lowrie and we would like to see an organizational meeting this year. Since arachnologists like to congregate in Portal Arizona during the summer, Lowrie suggests Portal in August as a place and time of an organizational meeting, probably an al fresco one. For those of you who don’t know Portal, it is a small village about 4 miles from the Southwestern Research Station of the American Museum, of Natural History. There are National Forest campgrounds around Portal, and a few motel accommodations in Portal [names can be supplied]. Reservations at the Southwestern Research Station must be made in advance, probably before summer.
“If you are interested in a SOCIETY OF AMERICAN ARACHNOLOGY, please answer the enclosed questionnaire [sorry, no copy remains] and add any remarks that you wish. Please return before March because I will publish the responses in the next newsletter, AMERICAN ARACHNOLOGY, in April 1972, including the place and time of the meeting.
“NOTE; IF I DO NOT HAVE YOUR CORRECT ADDRESS, PLEASE SEND IT TO ME!
Beatrice R. Vogel”
There were enough positive responses to pursue the idea. AA #7 was issued April 1972 announcing the time August 12-13 at a Rustler’s Park Campgound in Chiracahua National Forest. It would be an open air meeting at Rustlers Park, the suggested starting time was 10 AM.
The meeting did happen as scheduled. August 12,1972 in the Chiricahua mountains at 6000’ feet of altitude on a sunny Ariizona morning, some 37 people were assembled around concrete picnic tables. The meeting was called to order by Bea Vogel at the suggested hour. All present readily agreed that a society should be formed and the name AMERICAN ARACHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY was chosen with the inference that it included the entire western hemisphere. The main rational for forming a society was the journal, which created considerable discussion as to content, languages, frequency of publications, and editorial staff. Robert Mitchell had volunteered to be editor and was accepted by the assembly. The question of language was tabled, and frequency of publication would be at least annually. In practice most of these issues were modified by discretion of the editor. After a brief intermission for lunch the business session continued.
A constitution committee was chosen that included John A.L. Cooke, Russel Gable and Dave Marqua. Cooke received his degree from Oxford University and was the interim curator of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History after Gerstch retired. Russ Gable, a professor in the biology department of San Francisco State University, was fond of tarantulas. Dave Marqua was a member of the Arachnologists of the Southwest. All three were present at the meeting. Bea Vogel was elected president pro-tem with an expectation that a slate of officers and a draft of the constitution would be published in the fall. Membership dues were set at $10 annually, and a category of charter membership was established to increase the treasury. For an extra $10 paid within a year, anyone, whether attending the meeting or not, would be listed as a Charter Member (see Appendix).
By mid afternoon a rain storm was pending so Vince Roth invited all attendees to reconvene at the Southwestern Research Station. The afternoon ended in a surprise picnic of barbecued chicken hosted by Willis and Jean Gertsch at their house. A detailed report of the day was published in AA #8, October 1972.