"Roy Chapman Andrews & Snowball pose for picture on top of Dodge Sedan as Mrs. Andrews watches." Circa 1934.

“Roy Chapman Andrews & Snowball pose for picture on top of Dodge Sedan as Mrs. Andrews watches.” Circa 1934. A publicity shoot for Dodge.

Roy Chapman Andrews was an explorer and paleontologist, director of the American Museum of Natural History from 1935 to 1941. He was the quintessential adventurer.  Andrews began as a volunteer janitor and self-taught taxidermist at the museum in 1906. His first expedition was to the Pacific Coast to study marine mammals; he went on to explore in Alaska, Japan and Korea, and, aboard the U.S.S. Albatross, the East Indies. Andrews made over 20 expeditions, but his most famous were the Asiatic Zoological Expeditions, especially the third, from 1921 to 1930, known as the Central Asiatic Expeditions, which traveled to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China.

This summer I processed two collections of his personal papers, correspondence, and publications. The first collection I worked on was the Roy Chapman Andrews papers, 1987 Accession. The boxes contained mostly Chapman’s personal papers and information of his publicity efforts. Roy kept a good amount of his fan mail and you can find some very interesting letters, such as the one composed entirely in collage complete with rebus puzzles.

Fan letter to Roy Chapman Andrews, March 1931.  Created by E.M. Sherwood.

Fan letter to Roy Chapman Andrews, March 1931.
Created by E.M. Sherwood.

There are also letters from Chapman referencing the Templeton-Crocker Pacific expedition for the Whitney Wing to collect birds, discussing the individuals chosen to go on the expedition and the itinerary for the trip. The collection also contains a small amount of papers related to the research on Yvette Borup’s Family. Yvette was Andrews’ first wife and companion on some of his expeditions.


The second collection relates to Andrews’ most famous adventures, the Central Asiatic Expeditions. Andrews fell in love with China and led his team there three times to explore the origins of man. Much of the collection is comprised of letters to and from Andrews about the preparation of the expeditions including lists of local people who worked on the expedition. Among the letters are a few from Harry Caldwell, a missionary in Yenping, China. He writes to Andrews about an infamous blue tiger. The blue tiger, or Maltese tiger, is a reported but unproven coloration of a tiger, reported mostly in China. Caldwell wrote the book Blue Tiger (1924) about his time searching for the animal. In his letter he states:


Things look bad for the ‘blue tiger’. Da Da has returned from a visit home, and confirms the reports reaching me for months. He listed more than 70 people which have been killed by the beast within the past few months. One woman saw it plainly a short time ago and lived to tell the story. She was washing clothes at a pool when the tiger sprang upon her from above. She dodged, and the tiger went over her head and into the pool. It swam around in the pool and then climbed out on opposite side and went away. The woman was taken up unconscious from fear. She describes the beast definitely, and it is my ‘blue tiger’.


Andrews eventually went in search of the blue tiger and described the hunt in his autobiography “Under a Lucky Star”, but was never able to catch it.

The project has been as exciting as it is informative. I hope, now that these collections have updated finding aids, they will prove to be valuable tools for researching Andrews and the details of the Central Asiatic Expeditions.

4 Responses to Under a Lucky Star, Roy Chapman Andrews

  1. Mark Caldwell Becker says:

    Hello there,
    We are writing a book about Harry Caldwell ( my Great grandfather) and are interested in any correspondences between Roy Chapman Andrews and him.

    • Clive Coy says:

      Greetings: I have some letters from Harry Caldwell to Andrews if they might be of interest.

      • Mark Caldwell Becker says:

        Wow, thanks! It’s been a while, hope you’re still out there! We’d love to have a chance to see letters from Harry Caldwell to Andrews!

  2. […] are entries on Roy Chapman Andrews and his search for the blue tiger, new information on the participants of the Whitney South Sea […]