Renowned wildlife conservationist William L. Finley was born on August 9, 1876 in Santa Clara, California. His family moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1887. Finley graduated from the University of California in 1903 and in 1906 he married Nellie Irene Barnhart. The Finleys lived for many years at Jennings Lodge, Oregon, south of Portland.
Between 1900 and 1908, Finley and friend and partner Herman T. Bohlman made several trips around the Pacific Northwest to photograph birds. Finley published American Birds in 1907, and subsequently published two other books and over 100 illustrated articles in newspapers and wildlife magazines. He helped found the Oregon Audobon Society in 1902, assisted in setting up Oregon's first Fish and Game Commission in 1911 (Finley served as commissioner from the Portland area), served as state Game Warden in the 1910s, and later helped set up the system of federal wildlife refuges in Oregon. The Finley Wildlife Refuge south of Corvallis is named for him. The Finleys made their first motion picture in 1910, and in the 1920s and 1930s they made several wildlife films of expeditions that they took to Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, British Columbia, and other places. They used the films in nationwide lecture tours sponsored by the American Nature Association.
William L. Finley was a nephew of William A. Finley, the first president of Corvallis College, which today is Oregon State University. The school conferred an honorary degree upon him in 1931. Finley died on June 29, 1953.
For detailed information on Finley's life, see William L. Finley: Pioneer Wildlife Photographer, by Worth Mathewson (OSU Press, 1986). Copies of this book are located in the OSU Valley Library, including the University Archives.
Return to William L. Finley Papers Home