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Carl and Susan Welty

From undated Rockford Register Star article:
Author and 'birder' share their interests

     Beloit, Wis. -- "Hurry! You'd better run," Susan Welty said eagerly. "Go right into the window so you can see the birds."

     It was dusk, and that meant dinner time for the cardinals and other birds that rely on the regular feedings provided by Susan and her husband Carl.

     The cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches, and white and redbreasted nuthatches fly into the stone wall behind the Weltys' home to peck at bird seed placed there by Carl.

     "We've counted as many as 42 birds at one time," he said.

     In addition to their avian automat, the Welty's share another primary interest -- writing.

     Welty, Beloit College professor emeritus of biology, is finishing the second revision of the third edition of his book, The Life of Birds. It is considered by many in the field to be the authoritative college text on ornithology.

     Originally published in the U.S. in 1962, the book has found a wide readership around the world.

     "We've had Beloit College graduates write us from Africa and say they'd seen the book there," said Mrs. Welty.

     Requests for foriegn language publication have come from Japan, Germany and Sweden. But translation remains too formidable a task.

     Mrs. Welty's writing is of a different bent. Her first book, published in 1951, was a novel for adolescents. Birds play an important role in Knight's Ransom, described by its author as "a boy's book about falconry."

     Three other books carry her name. Look up and Hope! tells the story of Maud Ballington Booth, a founder of the Volunteers of America.

     A Fair Field describes Mrs. Welty's home county in Iowa, and Birds with Bracelets is a young people's book on bird banding.

     In spite of her obvious enjoyment of birds, Mrs. Welty is not the "birder" in the family. That title goes to her husband. "he enjoys writing and I do not," he said. "I'd much rather feed the cardinals."

     "Writing is no easy job," said Mrs. Welty, whose first attempt was a play she wrote at age 8.

     She said non-fiction writing is especially difficult. "Writing a novel can be hard, but you don't have the facts to worry about. If he (Mr. Welty) gets the color of the tail feathers wrong, he'll hear about it from five people in Alaska."

     How did a non-writer manage to complete a detailed and highly praised book?

     His strong interest in birds, which dates back to boyhood days on a Michigan farm, carried him through, the Weltys said.

     "Mr. Welty started The Life of Birds because he couldn't find a good text in bird biology," and Mrs. Susan Welty, who helps her husband with the intricate organization involved in the books preparation.

     He has compiled 18,000 index cards filled with research information. He completed much of his research for the third edition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's biology library.

     With three years' work behind him, Welty finished the current edition manuscript at the end of January. "Everything is done now but the gallery proof, page proof and index," he said.

     That still amounts to time consuming, often tedious work.

     "Writing an index is like reading a telephone directory," said Mrs. Welty.

     When the book is published at the end of the year, it, like its two earlier counterparts, will be dedicated to Mrs. Welty.

     The Weltys have found that two writers (well, one writer and a non-writer who has written a successful book) can enjoy a compatible household.

     "We have a double desk upstairs," said Mrs. Welty, "but generally when one of us is writing, the other is not."

Examples of Archives Holdings:

  • American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) materials
  • Articles by and about Carl Welty and Susan Welty
  • Christmas cards
  • College notes
  • Correspondence
  • Funny animal and bird pictures
  • The Hunger Year in The French Zone of Divided Germany 1946-1947 - Document Inventory, Photograph Inventory
  • Manuscripts: Life of BirdsLook Up and Hope
  • Memorials
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Photographs
  • Publications
  • Slides
  • Speeches
  • Writings