Richard D. Sparks was the treasurer of Sparks Milling Company, Alton, Illinois, and animal rights advocate for gorillas.
Collection is chiefly correspondence between Richard Sparks and a variety of people, mainly from the 1930s, about the proper treatment of gorillas. Of particular concern is the well-being of Ngagi, Mbongo, and Okere, captured by author Martin Johnson in the Belgian Congo, in 1931. Sparks advocates for their scientific study in a zoo rather than becoming a circus sideshow. Chief correspondents are: Mary L. Jobe Akeley, naturalist associated with the American Museum of Natural History; Belle J. Benchley, manager of the Zoological Society of San Diego; and Harold C. Bingham, psychobiologist in the study of gorilla behavior. Other correspondence, magazine articles, and black-and-white photographs are concerned with Congo, a gorilla brought from the Belgian Congo in 1925 by author Ben Burbridge, and studied by Yale University researcher Robert M. Yerkes. Miscellaneous material relates to Carl Akeley's animal sculptures, Theodore Spicer-Simson's medallic art, and other gorillas in captivity.