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The Bio of Gladys Doy Archerd

Born near Ferndale, Washington, on May 10, 1901, Gladys grew up as a young girl in the Bellingham area. She and her mother lived alone, and her connection with the seacoast began early in life, where they spent many hours collecting shellfish along the beaches of Western Washington. Her mother worked as a beautician, and with money always limited, shellfish were often their main source of food. The shells they brought home had intrigued Gladys. An unusual and particularly beautiful four-inch black Murex shell remained one of her few childhood possessions. When Gladys was in her teens, her mother died, and she found it necessary to move frequently, living with families and relatives in Washington and Oregon until she reached adulthood.

In 1919, Gladys moved to Oakland, California, where she worked for a time as an operator for the telephone company, one of the main ways of that period for young women to enter the labor force. While living at the Young Women’s Christian Association in Berkeley, California, she joined the University of California (UC) hiking club, where she met Russell Hale Archerd. Russell, a UC student and Northwesterner, also, had been born in Oregon. They married in 1923 and had two children, Russ, Jr. and Artis. A successful insurance company executive, Russell loved to fish and often visited the Russian River region of northern California. He and Gladys eventually purchased a small summer cabin in Guernewood, eleven miles from the oceanside, not far from the old Russian coastal settlement at Fort Ross.

With little sense of childhood security, Gladys always saw the seacoast as a sustaining source and was happiest at the ocean, where she would spend long hours searching the shell wash. Gladys especially wanted her daughter, Artis , to have something commemorative of their family activity. She gave her daughter the black Murex shell from her own childhood and began a collection for her daughter. Their first efforts involved collections from the wash at Shell Beach, between the mouth of the Russian River and Fort Ross. Shell Beach, then a private holding, is now part of the California State Park System. Family entertainment during the summer consisted of scooping a bucket of the fresh tidal shell wash, bringing it home to the cabin, and with the family sitting around the kitchen table, sifting through the wash to collect perfect shell specimens. This is how many shells seen in her miniature displays were collected.

For the 1939-1940 International Exposition in San Francisco, Gladys made a gift of her second smallest miniature shell display to Jules Charbneau, the world famous miniature collector. At the time, he had nothing comparable to exhibit, and it was shown at the Exposition. Her tiniest collection, over 60 varieties of shells inside a gold fob watch case, was stolen. In 1979, we learned from the Seattle Post Intelligencer that Jules Charbneau had died and that his daughter was liquidating his estate. Charbneau’s daughter was contacted, and she agreed that the gift should return to Gladys. On her 78th birthday, Gladys original gift to Charbneau was returned to her at a family reunion in Seattle. It is now on display in the Natural History Museum at Washington State University at Tri-Cities.

Gladys had early on recognized the importance of identifying shells taxonomically, verifying their genus, species and other systematic information. She had been an active member of the University of California’s Mothers Club, where her association with the University began, and she had worked with several friends and members of the Northern California Malacozoological Club. As her expertise grew, Gladys was invited to become a formal member of the Northern California Malacozoological Club, where she published several scientific papers in "The Veliger". She corresponded extensively with experts from around the world, often trading shells she collected with those of other experts, thus building a world-wide collection. Her expertise was called upon when Stanford University organized its shell collection, and she was quite pleasantly surprised to find one of her articles quoted by a professor in discussion with others. Her collection was now numbering in the thousands, most of them scientifically identified, and it became well known in  Northern California _quite an accomplishment for someone who had only eight years of formal schooling!

Her learning continued throughout a long life. One of our enduring remembrances of Glady is in her large living room at family gatherings. In a study nook at one end, surrounded by a desk and taxonomic reference works, Gladys would be patiently studying her latest shells, checking off features, and verifying taxa, while the rest of us socialized within earshot. The Collection was a work in progress continuing up to her death at 84 years.

Dr. Burton E. & Artis L. Archerd Vaughan


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