Archives and Manuscript Collections
HAROLD N. MOLDENKE PAPERS (1927-1990)
1.3 linear feet (3 boxes)
Norman Moldenke (1909-1996) was born in Watchung, New Jersey. He received
his bachelor's degree from Susquehanna University in 1929 and his M.A.
and Ph.D. in Taxonomic Botany from Colombia University in 1934.
The Moldenkes of Watchung, New Jersey were an extraordinary family.
The grandfather, Edouard Friedrich Moldehnke, was sent to Wisconsin as
a Lutheran missionary from East Prussia. Eventually he became pastor of
St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City. Moldenke's father, Charles
Edward Moldenke (1860-1935), was a renowned Egyptologist. In 1935, Harold
republished Charles's The New York Obelisk, a translation of the
hieroglyphics on Cleopatra's Needle, the obelisk behind the Metropolitan
Museum in New York City. The family home, built in 1901, was named Villa
Elsinore. Across the road was the home of Charles Moldenke's brother, Richard
George Gottlub Moldenke (1864-1930), who was a renowned metallurgist and
mining engineer, specializing in iron smelting. Richard Moldenke's home
was called Castle Elsinore and, popularly, Moldenke's Castle.
Harold Moldenke began his career at The New York Botanical Garden as
a Research Fellow and part-time assistant in 1929. He was Assistant Curator
(1932-1937) and Associate Curator (1937-1948) under Henry A. Gleason. In
1949 he was named Curator and Administrator of the Herbarium. He was a
member of the Graduate Faculty, Department of Botany at Columbia University
from 1936-1942 and from 1946-1952. He also taught a course at the Garden
in Systematic Botany for gardeners.
During the war years, Moldenke served in the Civilian Public Service
with the Soil Conservation Service and as a hospital attendant in Warren,
Pennsylvania. He wrote a series of papers on "Plants Strategic to the War
Effort" and on curare-producing plants of Amazonia with B. A. Krukoff .
Moldenke's taxonomic expertise was in the fields of Verbenaceae,
Nyctanthaceae, and Eriocaulaceae
of the world. He published
botanical handbooks on those families, and he wrote the volume on Eriocaulaceae,
Avicenniaceae, and Verbenaceae for Flora of Texas (Vol. 3, pt.
His collections ranged through every state except Alaska, and Europe,
Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa, Malaysia, and Japan.
They numbered 31, 279 in 1977. His bibliography that year numbered 2,584
titles, including journal articles, lectures, pamphlets, and monographs.
A library reference question directed to Moldenke, regarding whether
the "crown of thorns" plant sold by florists was actually the same plant
mentioned in the Bible, led to twelve years of research and the publication
in 1941 of the ground-breaking Plants of the Bible, still
in print in 1999. In 1941 Moldenke supervised illustrations for this work,
made by artists employed at The New York Botanical Garden through the Federal
Arts Project. Another federal Works Project Authority project he provided
was the enumeration of his collection numbers at the time.
Moldenke's collaborator on Plants of the Bible was his
wife, Alma Lance Ericson Moldenke. Mrs. Moldenke attended graduate courses
in Botany and Education at Columbia University from 1931 to 1938. She taught
biology at Hunter College High School and Evander Childs High School in
New York City. In 1980 Mrs. Moldenke assumed the co-editorship of the journal
Phytologia, which had been initiated by Harold Moldenke and Henry
A. Gleason in 1933. The journal was transferred from the Moldenkes to B.
L. Turner and Michael Warnock in 1989.
Moldenke resigned from the Garden in 1952. He returned to Watchung to
undertake a career in botanical and ecological education as Director of
the Trailside Museum, later the Trailside Nature and Science Center in
Mountainside, Union County, New Jersey. Concurrent with these duties, he
was professor of botany at Newark State College (now Keane State College)
in Union, New Jersey. He also taught enrichment courses at Westfield and
Livingston Adult Schools, both in New Jersey. During his stewardship, the
Trailside Center developed into a year-round facility and visitation grew
from 60,000 in 1952 to 290,000 in 1966.
In 1955 Moldenke advised Beth Israel Memorial Park, a cemetery in Woodbridge,
New Jersey, on the construction of the "Bible Gardens of Israel," which
contained plants and shrubs and rocks selected by him and imported from
Israel. He resigned from Trailside in 1967 to accept a professorship at
Paterson State College (now William Paterson College) in Wayne, New Jersey.
Moldenke created and marketed a series of 30 slide lectures, which were
delivered to civic and youth groups either by himself or by sending slides
and audio-tapes to the group. Moldenke maintained a close relationship
with the Garden, and he donated educational materials from Trailside to
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library. In 1969, he was named an Honorary Life Member
of the Torrey Botanical Club . He was made Honorary Curator of The New
York Botanical Garden in 1970.
In the late 1980's, both Harold and Alma Moldenke were stricken with
heart attacks. They moved to Corvallis, Oregon to be close to their son,
Andrew R. Moldenke, now an entomologist at the University of California,
Santa Cruz (1999). In 1984 Moldenke sold the major portion of his herbarium,
papers, and books to the University of Texas. His herbarium is housed in
the Moldenke Room at the Plant Resources Center, at the University of Texas
in Austin. An inventory of his unprocessed papers is located at the Harry
Ransom Humanities Research Center on that campus.
Harold N. Moldenke died at Corvallis, Oregon on January 7, 1996.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Harold N. Moldenke Papers, 1927-1990, document the career of Moldenke
after his association with The New York Botanical Garden, primarily his
work with the Union County Parks Commission in New Jersey. It includes
mimeographed lectures and guides, brochures, correspondence, specimens,
and photographs. The collection is divided into six series.
Series 1: The New York Botanical Garden, 1932-1940
Series 2: Personal Files, 1930-1990
Series 3: Correspondence, 1945-1974
Series 4: Publications, 1927-1979
Series 5: Trailside Museum, 1951-1960
Series 6: Ephemera
Series 1 The New York Botanical Garden, 1932-1940
0.33 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
This series contains mimeographed lectures, quizzes, and final examinations
for the Systematic Botany course taught by Moldenke at Columbia. Other
material includes a horticulture classification key by W. H. Camp, lectures
by Henry A. Gleason, and notes by Elizabeth C. Hall. Also here are memorabilia
from the 7th and 9th International Botanical Congresses.
Series 2 Personal Files, [ca. 1930]-1990
1.5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.
This series contains Christmas letters received by by staff of the Garden's
LuEsther T. Mertz Library, Alma Ericson's literature search on Saponaria
officinalis with one piece of correspondence, brochures and scripts
for Moldenke's public lectures, and a brochure for Set 46 of his specimen
Series 3 Correspondence, 1945-1974
1.0 lin. in. Arranged alphabetically.
This series contains miscellaneous pieces regarding Moldenke's research
and teaching work. A photograph of Egbert Walker and his family is found
in that folder.
Series 4 Publications,
5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.
This series contains manuscripts. A photocopy of the typescript bibliographic
volumes of "The Published Writings of Harold N. Moldenke" is here, although
the years 1966, 1967, 1974 and all years between 1980 and 1996 are absent.
Most of the material was self-published and sent to the Garden by the author.
The "List of Collection Nos. 1-11, 277" was a federal Works Project Authority
project. Moldenke's manuscript inserts for N. L. Britton's unpublished
"Catalogue of the Flora of Cuba" is found here. His work on the Avicenniaceae
and Verbenaceae is represented in this series, and a small research
file for Plants of The Bible also is found here.
Series 5 Trailside Museum, 1951-1960
4.5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.
This series contains mimeographed publications produced by Moldenke
in his capacities as Director of the Trailside Museum and as professor
of botany at Newark State and Patterson State Colleges in New Jersey. A
statistical report for the year 1955-1956 is also included.
Series 6 Ephemera, n.d.
Series 6 consists of a nature poem by Blythe Sherwood.
The New York Botanical Garden
RG 4 The Henry A. Gleason Records, 1921-1983
RG4 The Otto Degener Records, 1920-1987
ART Plants of the Bible Collection
University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Plant Resources Center, Moldenke Room
Processed October 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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