Archives and Manuscript Collections
CAROLINE KATHRYN ALLEN PAPERS (1926-1957)
1.3 linear feet (3 boxes)
Caroline Kathryn (C. K.) Allen (1904-1975) was a taxonomist specializing
in Lauraceae. She served the New York Botanical Garden as an honorary Collaborator
in Lauraceae from 1951 to 1959 and as a Research Associate from 1959 to
1974. In the course of her career she described over 275 new species, wrote
numerous journal articles and contributed sections on Lauraceae in fourteen
Flora from Panama to Okinawa; collaborating with authorities such as Bassett
Maguire, E. D. Merrill, J. A. Steyermark, E. H. Walker, and Robert E. Woodson.
An accomplished botanical artist, she often illustrated her own articles
and used her skills to record the microscopic dissections demonstrating
the distinctions among the genera of Nectandra, Ocotea and Pleurothyrium.
Dr. Allen was born in Pawling, N.Y. on April 7, 1904. Her father, Howard
N. Allen, was a member of the New York State Assembly, serving at times
on the Agriculture Committee and the Committee on Religious Societies.
She studied Botany and Chemistry at Vassar, graduating in 1926. After
a year at the Arnold Arboretum under Alfred Rehder and M. L. Fernald she
transferred to the Missouri Botanical Garden where she studied under J.
M. Greenman, receiving her Ph.D. in 1932. Her dissertation, " A Monograph
of the American species of the genus Halenia " was published in 1933.
She returned to the Arnold Arboretum in 1932 as Assistant in the Herbarium.
Her initial field of research was the Laurel family of the Eastern Hemisphere.
Utilizing collections of E. H. Wilson, J. F. Rock and materials sent from
Lingan University, she published her first Study in 1938. Four other floristic
papers (1939-1942) followed—treatments of several genera from Eastern Asia
and the Pacific Islands using material from the Archbold Expeditions to
At the close of World War II, Robert Woodson, Jr. solicited her collaboration
for the treatment of Lauraceae in his Flora of Panama. This was the initiation
of her research into the Lauraceae of tropical America. The publication
of the Flora of Panama in 1948 brought an invitation from Bassett Maguire
to prepare a treatment of Lauraceae for his Plant Explorations in Guiana
Family responsibilities forced her to resign from the Arboretum in 1948
and return to Pawling. Her work was severely curtailed over the next decade
as she discharged her responsibilities.
On January 18, 1950, Bassett Maguire with whom she had collaborated
on his Guiana study, presented her with a whimsical document granting "all
and any priviledges of working, studying, loafing or snooping in the herbaria…of
the New York Botanical Garden, whenever and in whatever manner shall to
her seem fitting." It was signed by J. J. Wurdock, Carol H. Woodward, Donald
T. Rogers and Richard S. Cowan along with Maguire's signature and thumbprint.
By 1951 she had a formal title—Collaborator in Lauraceae and a contract
which carried no stipend but was renewed every three years until 1959.
During this period she performed all of the determinations on Lauraceae
sent to the NYBG for examination. She also supervised the graduate work
of Lucille Kopp from suggesting a topic, A Revision of the Lauraceous
Genus Persea, to attending to its publication in 1966.
In 1959, her family duties accomplished, she was hired as a Research
Associate under Bassett Maguire's grant for his Botany of the Guayana Highland.
She contributed all of the taxonomic determinations of the Lauraceae in
both studies. With the support of Maguire and the NYBG, Allen then began
applying for grants to support her own research.
In 1952, A. J. G. H. Kostermans of the Herbarium Bogoriensis had published
a revision of the Lauraceae genera in which he proposed the combination
of Nectandra and Ocotea into the single genus Ocotea. Dr. Allen did not
agree with this model and the remaining portion of her career was dedicated
to maintaining Nectandra and Ocotea as separate genera along with the related
The differences among the three are discernable through microscopic
dissection. With the collaboration of Richard M. Klein, curator of Plant
Physiology, she sought to differentiate the genera through chromophotography
and isolation of alkaloids. This involved collaborations with Smith, Kline
and French Pharmaceuticals and the McCormick Spice Company who supplied
bay leaves for their experiments.
In 1962 Dr. Allen embarked on her first field collections. Supported
by grants from the American Philosophical Society and the National Science
Foundation, she collected in Brazil, Venezuela and Surinam and examined
specimens in herbaria in those countries. She purchased the Bausch and
Lomb compound microscope and the Dictaphone which were to accompany her
on all of her four succeeding field investigations. In 1963, she spent
two months collecting in the cloud forests of Mexico. She met Thomas MacDougall
in Oaxaha and secured a photocopy of his field notebook for the NYBG. In
1964 she made a three month survey of types and critical material of Tropical
American Lauraceae in the major herbaria of Europe. In 1965 she collected
for a month in Trinidad. In 1966 she surveyed Lauracea species in the Amazon
Region. She published The Generic Status of Nectandra, Ocotea
and Pleurothyrium in Phytology in 1966. She had shown that the three
genera were distinct.
In 1967 she spent six months in the major herbaria of Europe with her
microscope and Dictaphone, producing numerous drawings of microscopic dissections
of type and critical Lauraceae material as a preliminary to her final study
of Nectandra, Ocotea and Pleurothyrium. It was never completed. In all,
she received five National Science Foundation grants which were administered
by the NYBG to support her research and publications.
She retired from the NYBG in May, 1974. According to those present,
she simply closed the door to her office one evening and never came back.
She removed to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where she died on April 6, 1975.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The collection documents Dr. Allen's studies before her association
with the New York Botanical Garden, including her studies at the Missouri
Botanical Garden and her early career at the Arnold Arboretum. It contains
correspondence, curricula vitae, bibliographies, reprints and drawings
with specimens attached. The collection is arranged into five series.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1932-1957
Series 2: Correspondence, 1932-1948
Subseries A Lauraceae, 1932-1948
Subseries B Halenia, 1932-1940
Subseries C Personal, 1935-1948
Series 3: Reprints, 1933-1939
Series 4: Student Papers, 1926-1931
Series 5: Botanical Sketches, n.d.
Series 1 Biographical Materials, 1932-1957
2 fldrs. Arranged by subject
Materials in this series include an early bibliography of work by Dr.
Allen and a folder containing newspaper clippings related to the Arnold
Arboretum and a book cover from a work by Alfred Rehder.
Series 2 Correspondence, 1932-1948
3.5 lin. in. Arranged by subject
Lauraceae correspondence concerns determinations and records of incoming
and outgoing specimen loans made by Dr. Allen during her tenure as Assistant
in the Herbarium at the Arnold Arboretum. Lauraceae correspondence with
Bassett Maguire relates to her treatment of Lauraceae in his "Plant Explorations
of Guiana". Halenia correspondence is related to the publication of her
monograph on the "American Species of the Genus Halenia" and the comments
and requests for determinations that followed it. Personal correspondence
offers an insight into the cordial relations that Allen maintained with
her professors and colleagues at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Series 3 Reprints, 1933-1939
1 lin. in. Arranged by subject
Contained in this series are reprints of Dr. Allen's published dissertation
"A Monograph of the American Species of the Genus Halenia" bound with descriptions
of two species of Halenia identified by her—Halenia eurphylla and Halenia
phyllophora. Separate pages of notes on the monograph have been removed
and attached to the binding cover. The place that previously contained
them is indicated.
Series 4 Student Papers, 1926-1930
5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically
Dr. Allen's student laboratory notes and drawings on Gymnosperma, Angiosperma,
Algae, Bryophytes, Fungi and the History of Botany are contained in this
Series 5 Botanical Sketches, n.d.
5 lin. in. Organized by genus
This series contains pen and pencil sketches of flora local to New York
State, both wild and cultivated. Many sheets have specimens attached. Noteworthy
is a giant specimen of Taraxacum.
New York Botanical Garden
RG4 Caroline Kathryn Allen Records
Processed March 1999 by Laura Zelasnic under a grant from
the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) PA-23141-98 and a grant
from the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation.
For more information and a complete description contact
Susan Fraser, NYBG
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
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