skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   25 August 1869

Down. | Beckenham | Kent.

Aug. 25. 69

My dear Sir,

I am much obliged for your note.1 But when I wrote last I returned to you a memorandum with information from Mr. Hewitt about the chickens of Sebright bantams; for I could not read one word about the spangling of the feathers; I further asked whether the Spangles were crescent-shaped or rounded.—2

Many thanks for the feathers of the Silver Spangled Polish, but I do not understand whether the general plumage of the chickens resembles that of the adult birds as nearly as do the crest feathers.3

I hope that you will succeed in finding out for me the character of the plumage of “cuckoo chickens” when about 7 or 8 weeks old.4

It is very important to me to learn whether in breeds in which the adult sexes resemble each other in plumage, the chickens nearly approach in plumage to the adults;5 but I am well aware that I have no claim to give you so much trouble.—

Many thanks for the Review; the fact would have been of much interest to me, if Mr Williams had stated to what species his experiments referred.6

Believe me, my dear Sir, | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I will not accept your very kind offer of lending me the Polish chickens.

When you say that “the notes give the information you require” I suppose you refer to the notes on the paper with the feathers; but I am more concerned with the general plumage of the body.


Tegetmeier’s note has not been found.
See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 21 July [1869] and enclosure. CD refers to Edward Hewitt.
There are two sets of Polish chicken feathers sent by Tegetmeier in the Darwin Archive–CUL; one is of crest feathers of twelve-week old chicks (DAR 142: 51) which CD annotated as ‘silver spangled’, and the other is headed ‘Genealogy of cross-bred chickens’ in Tegetmeier’s hand (DAR 142: 52).
CD discussed the plumage of immature and mature birds in a number of breeds of fowl, including Sebright bantams and cuckoo sub-breeds, in the context of the inheritance of sexual characters in Descent 1: 294. He expanded the discussion in Descent 2, chapter XVI; see especially pp. 208–16.
Neither Mr Williams nor the review has been further identified.


Inquires about the differences in plumage between chicks and adults of certain poultry breeds. Is anxious to know whether the chick’s plumage closely approaches the adult’s in those breeds in which the sexes resemble each other in plumage.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
4pp, WBT note

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6870,” accessed on 19 July 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17