Archives and Manuscript Collections
RECORDS OF THE HERBARIUM (RG 4)
HENRY A. GLEASON RECORDS (1921-1975)
4 linear feet (9 boxes)
A. (Henry Allan) Gleason (1882-1975) was born in Dalton City, Illinois
on Jan. 2, 1882. He began his studies in botany at the age of 13 and published
his first contribution in The American Naturalist while still in
high school. He received his B.S. and M.A. from the University of Illinois.
After a year as a fellow at the University of Ohio and a summer as the
zoologist of invertebrates on a survey of Isle Royale, sponsored by the
University of Michigan, Gleason began his studies in taxonomy under Nathaniel
Lord Britton at Columbia University, graduating with a Ph.D. in 1906.
After teaching at the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan,
Dr. Gleason studied tropical vegetation for one year , traveling to the
Philippines, Java, and Ceylon. In 1918 he delivered a lecture on his findings
to the Torrey Botanical Club. Following that talk, Nathaniel Lord Britton
offered Gleason a permanent position at The New York Botanical Garden.
In his 30 years with the New York Botanical Garden, Gleason served in
a variety of capacities including curator, head curator, and assistant
director. He was acting director for 19 months between 1936 and 1938. Gleason
served at various times as editor of the Garden Journal, Addisonia,
and the Bulletin. He edited revised and expanded editions of North
American Flora and Plants of the Vicinity of New York.
A taxonomist and ecologist, Dr. Gleason was responsible for the development
of the South American collections at the New York Botanical Garden. His
specialty was the Melastomacea.
Gleason served as Vice-President of the Pacaraima-Venezuela Expedition
co-sponsored by the Garden, the American Museum of Natural History, and
the National Geographic Society. Dr. Gleason was responsible for
over 235 contributions to the field of vascular botany.
One of the first ecologists, he considered his idea that "the combination
of morphological and geographical evidence can be of greatest service in
developing the phylogeny and history of a group of plants" to be his primary
theoretical contribution. He is identified with the individualistic concept
of plant association, which has had a strong influence on both ecological
and geographical studies of vegetation.
Gleason retired from the New York Botanical Garden in Decemer 1950.
During his retirement, he wrote an autobiography, "The Short and Simple
Annals of Henry A. Gleason" housed in his Papers and a volume of "Thumbnail
Sketches of Botanists," a reference copy of which is shelved in the
Library. Henry Gleason died on April 12, 1975.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Henry Allan Gleason Records, 1921-1975, document the scientific
and administrative career of Dr. Gleason at The New York Botanical Garden.
The bulk of the material consists of correspondence generated in his capacities
as head curator, assistant director, and acting director of the institution.
Other materials are photographs, and printed, typewritten, and manuscript
articles and botanical descriptions, especially material related to his
life work-- a comprehensive study of the flora of British Guiana. Gleason's
Field Collection Notebooks (Vol. 94, 95) from his trip to Northern South
America and G. H. H. Tate's Field Collection Notebook (Vol. 98) from the
Pacaraima-Venezuela Expedition to Mt. Duida in 1939 have been removed to
the Collectors' Field Notebooks series (CFN). The Gleason collection is
arranged into five series.
Series 1: Biographical Material
Series 2: Annual Reports
Series 3: Correspondence
Series 4: Photographs
Series 5: Manuscripts and Publications
Series 1 Biographical Material, 1944-1975
3 folders. Arranged chronologically.
This series consists of an autobiographical essay written by Dr. Gleason,
a curriculum vitae written in 1947, and biographical reminiscences by colleagues
and family. Photographs of Dr. Gleason, taken during his career at the
New York Botanical Garden can be found in Series 3: Photographs.
Series 2 Annual Reports, 1942
This is the manuscript of an annual report filed by Dr. Gleason in his
capacity as Head Curator in 1942.
Series 3 Correspondence, 1921-1948
3.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by correspondent, subject, and institution.
This series provides a cross-section of the scientific and administrative
issues faced by Dr. Gleason during his tenure at The New York Botanical
Garden. Correspondence with the principal botanical institutions and the
major botanists of the time, especially those engaged in the study of Latin
American flora, can be found here. Often attached to correspondence are
manuscripts or lists of specimens either sent to or by Dr. Gleason for
collegial review. Material in the John M. Merrill file contains financial
data relative to the New York Botanical Garden's operations in the 1920's.
Correspondence with the landscape architect, Anne M. Baker, who designed
the Herb Garden is located in the "Herb Garden" folder. Amateur botanists
frequently wrote to Dr. Gleason for identification of their finds. Examples
of their questions and Gleason's thoughtful replies can be found here.
Six years of correspondence with H. C. Oakley regarding the never-to-be-realized
establishment of the "California Botanic Garden" illustrates Gleason's
administrative generosity and his commitment to that garden's development.
Correspondence between Gleason and Maxon is from both Gleason's files at
the New York Botanical Garden and material photocopied from Maxon's files
at the Smithsonian Institution.
Series 4 Photographs, 1928-1937
1 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series contains snapshots of Gleason and his colleagues in the
field, which were removed from Series 3: Correspondence during processing.
There is one formal group portrait of a professional society meeting with
identifications written on the back. Photographs of specimens, especially
streptopees roselies, are also in this series.
Series 5 Manuscripts and Publications, 1924-1953
6 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
Included in this series are the notes, correspondence, manuscript, and
outline for the comprehensive study of the flora of British Guiana, on
which Gleason collaborated with D. B. Fanshawe. Also here are reviews and
publicity material for Gleason's edition of Britton and Brown's Illustrated
Flora and his Plants of the Vicinity of New York. Material related
to his McMillan Wildflower Guide can be found in Series 1 in the McMillan
The New York Botanical Garden
RG4 Elmer Drew Merrill Records
RA Records of the American Society
of Plant Taxonomists
PP The Henry A. Gleason Papers
Columbia University, Oral History Project: William Steere
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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