Meadowlark Gallery: The Artist Biographies

Edwin R. Kalmbach

Edwin Kalmbach was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on April 29, 1884. After graduating from high school, he began working at the Kent Scientific Museum in 1903. In 1910 he became an assistant biologist with the United States Bureau of Biological Survey in Washington, D.C.. Advancing to a biologist and then senior biologist with becoming in 1931 the head of the newly formed Food Habits Laboratory in Denver. The combination of the Food Habits Laboratory and the Denver Control Methods Research Laboratory resulted in Kalmbach becoming the first director. Kalmbach retired from government service in 1954.

His areas of study included ornithology, mammalogy, entomology, botany, and ecology. Some of his many publications: The Crow in Relation to Agriculture (1920, revised, 1939); The Magpie in Relation to Agriculture (1927); The European Starling in the United States (1928, revise, 1931); and The Armadillo: Its Relation to Agriculture and Game (1943).

During the 1930's, Kalmbach was instrumental in the encouragement and establishment of the Department of Interior duck stamp program. Congress passed the Duck Stamp Act in 1934 which required waterfowl hunters to purchase the stamp each season. The money generated from the sale of stamps provided revenue to acquire wetlands.

Kalmbach was also a wildlife artist providing artwork for Bureau of Survey publications and illustrated two books: Knowing Birds Through Stories, by Floyd Bralliar (1922) and Alaska Bird Trails, by Herbert Brandt (1943). He designed the ruddy duck stamp for the 1941-1942 issue.

Dr. Kalmbach chose the ruddy ducks for his duck stamp because it is the only North American specie in which the drake commonly stays with the female and ducklings during their downy-young period. He featured the brood because it represents the purpose for which duck stamp funds are used: the perpetuation and enhancement of the species.

In 1955 the University of Colorado awarded him an honorary doctorate and that same year he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of the Interior. The Wildlife Society in 1958 awarded Kalmbach the Aldo Leopold Award for service in wildlife conservation. Also in 1958, he received the Founders Day Award from the Izzak Walton League of America.

Kalmbach died on August 26, 1972.

Wildlife Damage Management, National Wildlife Research Center, United States Department of Agriculture; June 28, 2007.

A Catalog of the Duck Stamp Prints with Biographies of the Artists compiled by Jean Pride Stearns and Russell A. Fink, 1978.

Federal Duck Stamp Story, Fifty Years of Excellence, by Laurence F. Jonson; Alexander & Co.

View high resolution images of works by Edwin R. Kalmbach when available.