American Museum of Natural History Logo link: Congo Expedition Main Page

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Chapin went back to Africa several times in the following years. In 1926, he joined the yearlong Ruwenzori-Kiwu expedition to East Africa and the Congo. The documentary film Mountains of the Moon was produced on that trip. In 1937, Chapin returned to track down the Congo peacock, a rare relative of the Asian peacock, whose feather he had found many years earlier. Once in his possession, and described, Chapin named the bird Afropavo congensis. From 1953 to 1958, Chapin and his wife, Ruth Trimble Chapin, lived in the eastern Congo where they studied birds and trained others to do so under the auspices of the Belgian Institute for Scientific Research in Central Africa.

While Chapin is best known for his ornithological work in Africa, he also studied and published his research on the birds of Europe, the Canadian Rockies, Panama, Polynesia, and the Galapagos Islands.

Chapin received many awards during his long career. In 1931, King Albert of Belgium gave him the Order of the Crown for his work in the Congo. In 1932, Chapin was awarded the Elliot Medal of the National Academy of Sciences. He was also given the Officier de l'Étoile Africaine (The Star of Africa), by Belgian King Baudouin, in 1956. Chapin served as vice president of the American Ornithologists Union from 1934 through 1939 and as its president from 1939 until 1942.

Chapin died at his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on April 7, 1964. At that time he was a research associate in Ornithology and curator emeritus at the Museum. He was 74 years old. Dean Amadon, then Chair of the Ornithology Department at the American Museum, said "He was the best-loved and at the same time one of the most scholarly of American naturalists. He had thousands of friends."

More Expedition Readings

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(click images for larger view)

AMNH # 223009

Chapin and young kingfishers

Chapin's watercolor

fire skink

 AMNH # 36617

Chapin painting

(James P. Chapin's relatives visited the Digital Library Project in April 2001 as we were finishing this website. Click the thumbnails below to view images of the visit.)

James Chapin's Family visits the Digital Library James Chapin's Family visits the Digital Library
James Chapin's Family visits the Digital Library James Chapin's Family visits the Digital Library