Beginning as a series of forty-seven abstracts of species published in the Missouri Conservationist from July 1953 to September 1957, The Wild Mammals of Missouri has a long, rich history. Naturalists Charles W. Schwartz and Elizabeth R. Schwartz compiled the text and detailed illustrations from their original fieldwork and observations, as well as several other sources.
The University of Missouri Press released the first edition of the book in 1959 as the third book of the original books published by the Press; it was printed in Kansas City. It was jointly published with the Missouri Conservation Commission, as the Commission wanted a reference like this for a long time.
For nearly 60 years this book has been regarded as the definitive guide to the identification of these animals. Charles Schwartz’s technically accurate drawings capture the spirit of his subjects. Many researchers and college classes have used this text and led to its popularity. More than just a taxonomy guide, however, this book also describes the mammalian relationships to each other and to human and concerns of ecology. Management concepts and economic considerations also varied over this span of half a century.
This book went through six printings before the Schwartz family revised it in 1981. Two other revisions followed, one in 2001, and most recently, the third revised edition appeared in 2016.
Larry R. Gale, Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, wrote this in the 1981 foreword:
“During the past twenty-one years, this scientific yet popular publication by Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz has been widely acclaimed as the definitive work on its subject. The book has been adopted as a standard text by many universities and colleges, and it has become a frequently cited reference for mammal research. Sustained sales over the years prove it is equally popular with nonprofessionals wanting to know more about wild animals.”
Each edition has stayed current with habitats, increased numbers of species, and nomenclature changes through the years. The fields of social communication and behavior added further research to the first revision. The number of mammals in Missouri described in the book has increased from 63 species in 1959 to 72 in 2016.
Even though both of these conservationists have died (Charles in 1991 and Elizabeth in 2013), they left an invaluable mark in their field. The authors won national and international recognition for their films of the mid-20th century.
“Only this collaboration of wildlife biologist, artist, photographer, and writer could have made this book possible,” wrote William E. Towell, Director of the Missouri Conservation Commission, in the 1959 foreword.