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Marshall Avery Howe (1887-1936)

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Records of the Herbarium (RG4)
[bulk dates 1901-1934]
6.75 linear feet (15 boxes)


Marshall Avery Howe (1887-1936) was born in Newfane, Vermont on June 6th, 1867. The eldest of 5 children he was named after his father Marshall Otis Howe and his maternal grandfather Avery Joseph Dexter and was insistent on using his full name. Marshall Avery Howe graduated from the University of Vermont in 1890, where he was room mates with his life long friend Dr. Abel Grout. On leaving college, Howe taught for a year in the Brattleboro High School but left in the summer of 1891 to become an Instructor in Cryptogamic Botany at the University of California at Berkeley. At the end of the 1895-96 college year, Howe resigned to accept a fellowship at Columbia University where he studied Hepaticae with Lucien Underwood. He received his Ph.D from Columbia in 1898 and from 1898 to 1901 was Curator of the University Herbarium. During this time, the plans for the creation of the New York Botanical Garden were materializing and the Columbia University Herbarium was deposited at the NYBG. In 1901 Howe became a member of the NYBG scientific staff and in 1906 became curator. From 1901 until his death in 1936, Howe was associated with the NYBG being appointed Assistant Director in 1923 and Director in 1935 after the resignation of Elmer Drew Merrill.

 During his 35 year association with the New York Botanical Garden, Marshall Avery Howe served as a plant collector, participating in numerous expeditions, he arranged exhibits, he distributed plant specimens primarily of algae and hepaticae, he was a taxonomist, a morphologist, an editor, an administrator as well as an expert on, and cultivator of dahlias and other ornamental plants.

 Throughout his scientific and administrative career Marshall Avery Howe continued his research work primarily in Hepaticology, Phycology , Algae and the cultivation of Dahlias. His work was done meticulously, with insight and thoroughness.

 His home life was quiet and dignified. He made his home in Pleasantville, New York where he was an active member of the "Garden Club", and served as secretary and later President of the Board of Trustees of the Pleasantville Free Library. He married Edith Morton Packard in 1909 and had two children Gertrude Dexter Howe and Prentiss Mellen Howe.


The Marshall Avery Howe Records documents career with the New York Botanical Garden, especially his research on Algae, Hepatics and the cultivation of Dahlias. It contains correspondence, research notes and administrative memoranda and specimen identifications, exchanges and loans, photographic prints and lantern slides. The collection is arranged into three series.


Series 1: Correspondence and Research Notes
Series 2: Photographic material and Memorabilia
Series 3: Lectures, Speeches and Addresses

Series 1:     Correspondence and Research Notes. 1898-1937
                         4. 5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically

The papers contained in Howe's correspondence series are arranged alphabetically by correspondent and are then arranged in chronological sequence. The series contains an assortment of letters received and carbon copies of letters sent, bibliographies, research notes, field reports and manuscript materials. The assortment of materials in this series is because the documents are glued together in meticulous fashion. In addition to scientific papers, this series includes some correspondence concerning Howe's administrative duties at the New York Botanical Garden, his term as President of the New York Academy of Sciences as well as some personal matters of a varied nature.

Series 2:     Photographic Material and Memorabilia
                         1.75 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by geographic location.

Howe documented many of his expeditions with photographs which are arranged alphabetically by place. Other photographs in the series include portraits of individuals and groups Howe was associated with and photographic prints documenting some his expeditions .

Series 3:     Lectures, Speeches and Addresses. 1901-1936
                         5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

This series contains lectures, speeches and addresses given by Howe at various venues. Each lecture is dated and arranged by year. Howe spoke at many dinners and gave formal lectures at Garden clubs and NYBG events. His lectures were usually accompanied by a presentation of slides although only one slide lecture remains intact. Photographic prints document some his expeditions .


New York Botanical Garden

RG3   Records of the Chief Executive Officer

RG2   Records of the Board of Managers

PP     Marshall Avery Howe Papers

Processed February 1999 by Susan Fraser, under a Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA-23141-98) and a grant from the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation.

For mote 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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