Sellards, Elias Howard (1875–1961)

By: Christopher Long

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Elias Howard Sellards, geologist and paleontologist, was born in Carter City, Kentucky, on May 2, 1875, the son of Wiley W. and Sarah (Menach) Sellards. The family moved to Kansas during Elias's youth. He attended the University of Kansas, where he received his B.A. and M.A. degrees, and Yale University, from which he graduated in 1903 with a doctoral degree in paleontology. During his years as a graduate student in Kansas he discovered about 6,000 specimens of Permian insects, among the richest finds of its kind. After completing his doctorate he worked briefly at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh and taught at Rutgers University for one year. In 1904 he was appointed professor of geology and zoology at the University of Florida. From 1907 to 1918 he served as state geologist of Florida, and in 1908 he attended the first Conference for the Preservation of Natural Resources in Washington, presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1918 Sellards moved to Austin, Texas, where he worked in the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas. He was commissioned by the Texas attorney general's office to research the history of the Red River and testify in a boundary dispute with Oklahoma (see BOUNDARIES). His evidence gained a settlement favorable to Texas. During his forty-three years in Texas, Sellards also made numerous significant finds, including early sculpture in East Texas, estimated to be 25,000 years old; Pleistocene deposits in Bee County containing the fossilized remains of elephants, camels, giant wolves, and three-toed horses; a twenty-five-foot sea lizard near the Gulf Coast; and brontosaurus tracks. Sellards was the author of numerous works, including Pliocene and Pleistocene (1906), The Geology of Texas (1933), and Early Man in America (1952), and was widely honored in his profession. He served a president of the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists in 1938 and the Paleontological Society in 1942. He was assistant director of the Bureau of Economic Geology from 1925 to 1932 and director from 1932 to 1945. He was a longtime member of the Philosophical Society of Texas. Sellards married Anna Mary Alford on September 4, 1907. The couple had two daughters. He died in Austin on February 11, 1961.

Proceedings of the Philosophical Society of Texas, 1961. E. H. Sellards et al., Investigation on the Red River Made in Connection with the Oklahoma-Texas Boundary Suit (University of Texas Bulletin 2327, Austin: Bureau of Economic Geology and Technology, July 15, 1923).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Christopher Long, “Sellards, Elias Howard,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995