Tromp! Tromp! Tromp! On a chilly evening in March 1875, seven teenage boys clattered up the stairs to a bedroom in a big Victorian home near downtown Minneapolis. A little wood-burning barrel stove heated the room. A large cabinet held wooden trays of stiff, feathered bird skins. Some trays had skins of mice. Stacks of dried wild plants, pressed flat and glued to paper sheets, were tucked into corners. Boxes of snail shells, mussels, fossils, and animal bones lined shelves and the window ledge.
The boys gathered in a circle, eager to hear researched reports from each other. They had formed this group to study nature in 1874 and called it the Young Naturalists' Society, also known as the YNS.
The YNS members took their scientific work seriously. Sometimes their other friends poked fun at them and sent them bogus plant or animal specimens to identify. They took the teasing as good fun. They had each other, and they believed the study of nature was necessary to understanding the world.