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Wendell Holmes (Red) Camp

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9.9 linear feet (15 Boxes)


Wendell Holmes (Red) Camp, botanical explorer, taxonomist, nomenclature theorist, experimental botanist, educator, and landscape photographer, was born on February 22, 1904, in Dayton, Ohio. He received his B.S. in geology from Otterbein College in 1925 and his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1932. He took his first field trip that year - following the snowmelt at the timberline in the far-western mountains of the Mexican Border into British Columbia. Along with collecting, he preserved his memories with an extraordinary series of landscape photographs which he saved in two scrapbooks.

In 1936, following an extended collection and photography field trip through the Southern Appalachians (Virginia and Kentucky) and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, he joined the staff of The New York Botanical Garden as Assistant Curator, a position he held until 1946. After his war work with the Societé Haitiano Americain de Developpment Agricola (1943) and the Mision de Cinchona in Ecuador (1944-1945) during the Second World War, he was appointed Associate Curator until 1949.

H. W. Rickett remembers Camp's presence as a period of "pure intellectual ferment" that has "been seldom equaled and never surpassed." While he was at The New York Botanical Garden, Camp was engaged in issues of taxonomy. His specialty was the Ericaceae, especially Vaccinium, but Rickett states that "he was always looking for the generalizations, the answers to the larger questions in relationship and evolution." During his time at The New York Botanical Garden, Camp initiated and edited the Taxonomic Index (1939-1949) for members of the newly formed American Society of Plant Taxonomists. His major theoretical work Structure and Origin of the Species, written in collaboration with C. L. Gilly, argued that there were many forms of species and many ways in which species developed. Eventually, Camp would come to doubt the concept of species entirely, focusing on the unique elements of every specimen.

Camp bridged the worlds of botany and horticulture. As President of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (1949) and President of the American Horticultural Council (1952), Camp took on the challenge of bringing horticultural nomenclature into line with botanical nomenclature. At the Garden, he collaborated with H. W. Rickett and C. A. Weatherby to produce the "Brittonia edition" of the International Rules for Botanical Nomenclature, which had been enacted by the International Botanical Congress in Stockholm (1950). Camp then moderated the collaboration between the Stockholm Congress and the International Horticultural Congress in London (1952) to produce the "International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants." His taxonomic work on the Vaccinium led him to conduct extensive experiments in blueberry hybridization, while his taxonomic work on Fagus developed into a study on the treatment and prevention of beech bark disease.

But it is for his field work that Camp is most renowned. Immediately upon his arrival at The New York Botanical Garden, Camp was sent on a collecting expedition to Oaxaca with Thomas Baillie MacDougall (winter 1936-1937). He took many photographs and purchased work from or exchanged it with native photographers. Working with Carol Woodward, Camp secured a contract to write a popular book on his experiences to be titled, Winter in Oaxaca. This was never completed. However, one of his final publications was a popular book published by the National Geographic Society in 1957. Entitled The World in Your Garden, it contains theories of plant migrations and many anecdotes from his collecting expeditions.

Camp's adventurous spirit continued through World War II. In 1942 he was given leave from the Garden to work with the Societé Haitiano Americain de Developpment Agricola , a joint venture between the United States and Haitian governments to produce cryptostegia and vital drug crops for the war effort. Camp's participation in this venture was short-lived. He resigned in a dispute over the way land was being appropriated for the war crops.

Following this, he became an agent for the American Sponge and Chamois Company in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. He was charged with purchasing loofahs which were being used by the Navy as oil filters. By 1944 the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA) had established the U. S. Commercial Company as a purchasing agency for the United States Government. This agency engaged William Steere of The New York Botanical Garden to analyze Cinchona bark purchased from Ecuador for its quinine content. Steere discovered that second-growth specimens were weaker than those of materials from forests that had never been harvested. It was decided that Camp be engaged by the Misión de Cinchona de Ecuador in order to harvest Cinchona from the 'cloud forests' at higher altitudes. After working with Steere during the spring and summer of 1944, Camp and his assistants Francisco Prieto, Manuel Giler, and Henning Jorgensen set off on an expedition into the mountains which lasted about nine months. Camp kept careful records of their itinerary through previously unmapped areas controlled by Jivaro Indians. During the month of August, he was accompanied by William Steere.

The project was termed complete by the FEA in April 1945. At that time The New York Botanical Garden, at the urging of then Director William J. Robbins, fowarded funds to Camp to collect "medicinal plants." In all, he collected 5,828 numbers (26,000 duplicates). John J. Wurdack organized the distribution of specimens to authorities on each taxon. Three percent of the material was designated as new taxa. In his field book, Camp recorded ethnobotanical data on 335 collections.

Shortly after his return to the United States, Camp left the Garden for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia for a position created for him, Curator of Experimental Botany and Horticulture. This position involved industrial contracts for research on Vaccinium, Veratrum, Hedera, and forest conditions in Quebec. In addition, he designed the Taylor Arboretum, which opened in 1951. In 1953 he accepted the Chair of the Department of Botany at the University of Connecticut.

He returned to The New York Botanical Garden in 1962 to receive its Distinguished Service Award. Some months later, on February 4, 1963, he was dead. Rickett summarized his influence as that of "a stimulant, a catalyst, a purveyor of ideas, a challenger of the established order." He predicted that it would live for a long time.

In 1978, Elaine Joyal was curator of the Garden's neotropical collections. She began sorting through Camp's Ecuadorian collections and was so impressed with them that she published two articles on his work, one of which reproduced his field collection notes in their entirety - including the ethnobotanical data: "Ethnobotanical Field Notes from Ecuador: Camp, Prieto, Jorgensen and Giler" (Economic Botany 41(2), 1987).  The other, "Plant Collectors in Ecuador: Camp, Prieto, Jorgensen and Giler" (Brittonia 32 (4), 1980) details the collectors' itinerary.


The collection documents the research of Wendell Holmes Camp in the fields of taxonomy, horticulture, botanical exploration, and education. The documentation of Camp's activities in South America on behalf of the United States Government's economic botany programs during World War II includes correspondence, reports, maps, determinations, and analyses of Cinchona and other plants collected by Camp. A manuscript transcription, produced in 1986, of Camp's field notebook is also included. Camp's noteworthy photographs - landscapes, specimens, and records of activities at the Garden make up a significant portion of the material. The collection contains correspondence, articles, reports, unpublished essays, photographs, negatives, glass slides and transparencies, collection lists, maps, and drawings. Negatives, lantern slides, and motion pictures have each been designated with separate series. The collection is organized into eleven series.


Series 1: Biographical Materials
Series 2: Correspondence
Series 3: Field Trips and Expeditions
              Subseries A: Western U.S./ Virginia and Kentucky
              Subseries B: Oaxaca
              Subseries C: Haiti
              Subseries D: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala
              Subseries E: Cinchona
Series 4: Systematic Botany
              Subseries A: Anthodendron
              Subseries B: Araceae
              Subseries C: Azalea
              Subseries D: Ericales
              Subseries E: Eupatorium
              Subseries F: Fagus
              Subseries G: Gautheria
              Subseries H: Gaylussacia
              Subseries I: Pernettya
              Subseries J: Pyrolaceae
              Subseries K: Quercus
              Subseries L: Rhododendron
              Subseries M: Themistoclesia
              Subseries N: Thibaudieae
              Subseries O: Vaccinium
              Subseries P: Tilia
              Subseries Q: Wolffia
              Subseries R: Miscellaneous Studies
              Subseries S: Literature and Specimen File
Series 5: Experimental Botany
              Subseries A: Student Work
              Subseries B: Vaccinium
              Subseries C: Industrial Work
Series 6: Nomenclature
              Subseries A: American Horticultural Council
              Subseries B: American Horticultural Council, Commission on Nomenclature and Registration
              Subseries C: Joint Session of Committees on Nomenclature of International Botanical Congress and
                                  International Horticultural Conference.
              Subseries D:  Nomenclature Literature
Series 7: Literature
              Subseries A: Taxonomic Index
              Subseries B: Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern States and Canada
              Subseries C: Continental Tilt
              Subseries D: Essays
              Subseries E: Essays from Others
Series 8: Photographs
              Subseries A: Biographical Material
              Subseries B: Field Trips and Expeditions
              Subseries C: Systematic and Economic Botany
              Subseries D: Illustrations
Series 9: Lantern Slides
              Subseries A: Glass Slides
              Subseries B: Transparencies
Series 10: Negatives
               Subseries A: Biographical Materials
               Subseries B: Specimens
               Subseries C: Line Drawings, Tables and Figures
               Subseries D: Field Trips and Expeditions

Series 11: Motion Pictures

Series 1      Biographical materials, 1929-1951
                         2.5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

Included in this series is Camp's C.V. ca. 1950, his desk calendar from the years 1950-1951, a folder of miscellaneous visual materials, a folder of Camp's original poetry and humorous verse, and a group of caricatures of Camp and other Garden personnel in the mid-1930's by Margaret Sorenson. Photographs of Camp, his family, and associates are located in Series 8: Photographs, Subseries A and Series 9: Lantern Slides, Subseries A. Negatives are found in Series 10: Negatives, Subseries A.

Series 2      Correspondence, 1943-1954
                         5.75 lin. in. Arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

This series consists of Camp's professional correspondence. It contains the full range of Camp's work from his collecting through his projects in experimental botany and his work on international nomenclature committees. Many collection and determination lists are found in this series filed under the individual correspondent. These include Camp's determinations of Salix collected in Oaxaca; specimens collected in Rio Piedras by L. R. Holdridge and L. E. Gregory; Plants of Martinique collected by Frank Egler; and Camp's determinations of material collected by him in Shenandoah National Park, transmitted to F. R. Fosberg as an aid in preparation of his Flora. The manuscript for an article "Stablization of Plant Names", 1952, is in the Frese folder. Other correspondence is located in the series to which it pertains. Correspondence is found in Series 3: Field Trips and Expeditions; Series 4: Systematic Botany, Subseries C, F, H, I, L, M, N, P; Series 5: Experimental Botany, Subseries B, D; Series 6: Nomenclature, Subseries A, B, C and Series 7: Literature, Subseries A, C.

Series 3      Field Trips & Expeditions, 1936-1950
                         8 lin. in. Arrranged by subject.

This series contains materials preserved by Camp relating to his field trips and expeditions to Virginia and Kentucky (1936), Oaxaca (1936-1937), Haiti (1943), and Ecuador (1944-1945). Notable in this series is the personal diary, written via correspondence to an unknown recipient, which records the impressions of Camp regarding the effect of the war on Central America as well as his intimate philosophical speculations. A complete record of the analyses of the Cinchona samples from  the 1944 expedition to Ecuador can also be found here, as can important maps of this, at the time, uncharted area. The manuscript of Elaine Joyal's publication of Camp's Field Notes has been added to this series. Photographs, except for those of botanical samples which would lose their context are found in Series 8: Photographs, Subseries B. Oversize photographs from this series of Oaxaca, Guatemala, and Ecuador and analytical charts regarding Cinchona are found in Box 13. The scrapbook of photographs of the western United States (1932) and mounted landscapes from Virginia and Kentucky (1936) are located in Box 5. Series 9: Lantern Slides contains 12 boxes of "Kodaslides" transparencies, some of which are dated during the period of his expeditions but which have not been identified. There are also 4 glass positives relating to his field trips and expeditions. All negatives are found in Series 10: Negatives, Subseries D, Boxes 8-10.

Series 4      Systematic Botany, 1935-1956
                        1.3 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by genus.

This series contains research notes, line drawings, correspondence, and manuscripts related to Camp's taxonomic work, primarily with Vaccinium. Camp's experimental work on Vaccinium is found in Series 5: Experimental Botany. Oversize illustrations for Subseries F: Fagus and Subseries R: Wolffia are located in Box 13. Illustration boards for the article "On the Structure of Populations in the Genus Vaccinium" are found in Box 14. Subseries S, Literature and Specimen File is located in Box 15. Some specimen photographs are found in Series 4 in the files to which they pertain. Most are found in Series 8: Photographs and in Series 9: Lantern Slides. Negatives are located in Series 10: Negatives.

Series 5      Experimental Botany, 1926-1953
                        0.35 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically by subject.

This series contains correspondence, reports, manuscripts, and similar material related to Camp's experimental and theoretical studies, especially the work he accomplished as Curator of Experimental Botany and Horticulture at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Summaries of this work are found in the Annual Reports folder. Also found here are correspondence and reports covering the work he did for industrial clients such as Riker Labs. Material relating to the Peony Test Garden is found in Box 14. Camp's dissertation on hemp and other material from his student days also is in this series. Photographs of the Taylor Arboretum are located in Series 8: Photographs. Negatives are located in Series 10.

Series 6      Nomenclature, 1941-1954
                        0.5 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically by subject.

Found in this series are materials related to Camp's work with the American Horticultural Council and its Commission on Nomenclature; Camp's collaboration with Gilly on species structure and origin; and published and unpublished manuscripts by Camp on nomenclature issues. Oversize materials related to the Joint Sessions of the Committees on Nomenclature of the International Botanical Congress and International Horticultural Conference 1951 and a follow-up questionnaire are in Box 14.

Series 7      Literature
                        0.25 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically by subject.

Manuscripts in this series are those not related to specific genera or sponsored researches. Here is located Camp's files from the Taxonomic Index, which he inititiated in 1939 and edited until 1948. Manuscripts related to specific genera are found in Series 4: Systematic Botany and Series 5: Experimental Botany. Manuscripts related to nomenclature are found in Series 6: Nomenclature. Also in this series are manuscripts from other authors sent to Camp for comments and work by Camp's students. Illustrations from manuscripts are located with the manuscripts and in Series 8: Photographs, Subseries D: Illustrations. Negatives are kept in Series 10: Negatives, Subseries G: Systematic and Economic Botany and Subseries H: Miscellaneous.

Series 8     Photographs, 1927-1953
                        1.75 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically by subject.

In this series are photographs that have been separated from subject files, and Camp's landscape work. Included is Camp's western United States scrapbook and documentation of the flowering of A. Titanum, Becc. at the Garden in 1937. Negatives are located in Series 10: Negatives. Photographic works in other media are found in Series 9: Lantern Slides and Series 11: Motion Pictures.

Series 9     Lantern Slides, n.d.- 1951
                        0.75 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically by subject.

This series contains glass-plate positives of family portraits, and photographic and line illustrations from lectures. Also in this series is a 35mm mounted color slide portrait of Camp and a collection of unmounted 35mm color transparencies dated 1941-1953.

Series 10     Negatives, 1932-1954
                         3.30 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically by subject.

Found in this series are all available negatives for Camp's photographs.

Series 11     Motion Pictures
                         0.75 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically.

This series contains 12 magazines of 16mm Kodachrome motion pictures.


The New York Botanical Garden

FNC Field Collectors Notebook Series
         Vols. 198, 212-215; 219-220, 258

RA Records of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, 1938-1983

RG4  Henry A. Gleason Records

Harvard University, Gray Herbarium

Papers of Charles Alfred Weatherby

Stanford University, Dept. of Special Collections

Papers of Ira. L. Wiggins

Processed April 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 Archivist
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
(718) 817-8879

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