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Establishment of a Department of Entomology at Rutgers

The early settlers of New Jersey soon became acquainted with insects—especially mosquitoes, house flies, and deer flies, whose bites annoyed both them and their cattle; they also noted certain insect species that fed upon their crops. From 1637 to 1850 visitors to New Jersey are reported as having remarked about the mosquitoes they encountered in marshy areas, especially along the seacoast and the Delaware and Newark Bay areas. And when Peter Kalm, professor in the Swedish University of Aobo, was sent to America in 1748 by his government to find a species of mulberry adapted to the climate of Sweden, he made many observations about New Jersey insects, some of which he found to be beneficial, and others injurious. Writing about Elizabethtown Point and its meadows he mentioned mosquitoes and their annoyance to people and cattle.

Joseph Cooper, a successful farmer from Cooper's Point, New Jersey, wrote about many agricultural matters and improvements, made observations in 1796 on the Hessian fly and its injuries to wheat.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the American Philosophical Society offered a prize of sixty dollars for the best paper on a method of preventing the premature decay of peach trees. Two of the papers submitted were of such equal merit that the prize money was equally divided between the two authors. One of the papers, by John Ellis of New Jersey, dealing with the peach tree borer and its control was printed in the Transactions of the Society in 1802. To control the borer, Ellis wrote that the soil should be cleared away from the base of the tree to a depth of three inches and then a band of straw, one inch thick and three feet long, should be applied to bind the tree at three places, with the band extending to the bottom of the hole. The soil was then replaced, and upon the approach of frost, the straw removed. By this method, Ellis maintained egg deposition could be prevented.

As the numbers of explorers and settlers increased, and as agriculture developed, the entomological fauna slowly became known and economic insects commanded the attention of farmers or planters. Many Europeans, too, became interested in American Insects, numerous specimens of which were sent by settlers and explorers to European entomologists for identification. With the growth of agriculture came the birth of agricultural societies which eventually were forced to consider the question of insects long with soil fertility, crop adaptation, and other agricultural matters. Nearly seventy agricultural societies flourished in New Jersey for various periods during the ninety years from 1781 to 1871. These societies held fairs and meetings, gave awards, displayed exhibits, supplied lecturers, and provided informal educations on agricultural matters including insects. By 1850 many newspapers had agricultural departments, and almanacs and agricultural journals frequently printed accounts of insects, mostly injurious pests.

In 1832 Professor Benedict Jaeger, who was born in Vienna in 1789 and later entered the service of Alexander of Russia to take charge of the collection of the Natural History Museum of the University of St. Petersburg, was engaged by the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, to put their zoological museum in good order. Soon afterward he was appointed curator of the museum and lecturer on natural history at a salary of $200 per year. He offered his private cabinet of natural history - which included in addition to mammals, reptiles, and birds, an entomological collection of two thousand specimens of insects - to the college if they would agree to pay his salary in advance. Though the Board of Trustees, his account with the college was left in some confusion by his resignation in September 1841. Thirteen years later his book The Life of North American Insects was published.

Another student of entomology and writer on the subject was Mrs. Mary Treat of Vineland, New Jersey, who was born in 1835. Her entomological writings began in 1869 and she supplied articles for the American Entomologist, a publication that lasted from 1868 to 1879 inclusive. Her principle work, however, was a 288-page book Injurious Insects of the Farm and Garden, compiled largely from the writings of Riley and Comstock and published in 1882.

In 1865 there appeared the most complete account to that time of the plum curculio titled "A Treatise on Insect Enemies of Fruit and Fruit Trees." It was a quarto work of 149 pages and eleven plates devoted mainly to the plum curculio and codling moth. This work was favorably received by fruit growers not only in New Jersey but all over the East. the New Jersey Legislature appropriated $3,000 to the Agricultural Society of New Jersey for its preparation and publication. Isaac P. Trimble, a Newark, New Jersey physician and entomologist to the Society was its author.

Andrew S. Fuller, a resident of Ridgewood, New Jersey from 1869 until his death in 1896, in addition to being a botanist, a horticulturist of note, a widely known editor of horticultural and agricultural journals, an author on books on small fruits, forestry, etc., was an ardent collector of minerals and insects. He specialized in the Coleoptera and his collection is now in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He helped C. V. Riley to edit the American Entomologist in 1880 and he was the author of some 28 papers on a wide range of economic insects. As one of the founders of the New Jersey State Horticultural Society in 1875, he read a paper at the 1976 meeting on economic entomology and its relation to horticulture stressing the need for knowledge about injurious insects if future success was to be achieved.

It was in the early '80s that farmers in the state, having become acutely aware of the problem of insects, began to demand that research, teaching, and legislation help them. This led to the establishment in 1888 of the Department of Entomology in the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at New Brunswick. Subsequently regulatory and control activities were set up in the State Board of Agriculture, the predecessor of the present State Department of Agriculture. Thus, for nearly 75 years there have been two agencies in New Jersey working together in the field of entomology, the one agency charged with research and education, the other with regulatory and pest control duties.