Archives and Manuscript Collections
Records of the Herbarium (RG4)
PER AXEL RYDBERG RECORDS (1898-1929)
0.8 linear feet (2 boxes)
A. (Per Axel) Rydberg (1860-1931), the first curator of The New York Botanical
Garden Herbarium, was a plant taxonomist whose specialty was the flora
of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains areas. He began working for The
New York Botanical Garden in the summer of 1897 as a member of the first
Garden field expedition, and joined the permanent staff in 1899 when they
were first organized. In the course of his career, he was to publish over
7,000 pages of research, making him one of the most productive scientists
at The New York Botanical Garden.
Born in Sweden, Rydberg emigrated to America in 1882. He first worked
in the iron mines of Michigan where he hoped to become a mining engineer
but he suffered a serious accident which left him with a lifelong limp
and forced him to turn to intellectual pursuits. From 1884 to 1890, he
taught mathematics at the Luther Academy in Wahoo, Nebraska, while he studied
at the University of Nebraska. He received his B.S. in 1891, and the strong
influence of his botany professor, Charles Edwin Bessey, helped to determine
his lifelong devotion to plant studies.
Soon after he graduated, Rydberg received a commission from the United
States Department of Agriculture to undertake a botanical exploration of
western Nebraska. He received another one in 1892 to explore the Black
Hills of South Dakota, and in 1893 he was in the Sand Hills, again in western
Nebraska. During this time he continued to teach at the Luther Academy.
In 1895, Rydberg received his M.A. from the University of Nebraska.The
university published his monograph on Rosales, one of only three parts
published of a projected 25-part series on the flora of Nebraska. That
summer, he was collecting once again for the United States Department of
Agriculture in Montana with Cornelius Lott Shear. When autumn arrived,
he moved to New York to pursue a Ph.D. degree at Columbia University under
the guidance of Nathaniel Lord Britton. During this time he also was teaching
natural sciences and mathematics at the Upsala Institute (later Upsala
College) in Brooklyn and in Kenilworth, New Jersey. In the summer of 1897
he was sent to collect in Montana and the Yellowstone Park region with
Ernst Athearn Bessey, son of his mentor Charles Edwin Bessey. The two men
were part of the first field program expedition of The New York Botanical
Dr. Rydberg received his Ph.D. in 1898 and during that summer was employed
once again by the Garden to process the collections obtained from the Montana
and Yellowstone park expedition. Early in 1899, the Garden organized its
first permanent staff and he became one of the nine original members. His
title initially was Assistant Curator and this was changed in 1908 to Curator
of the Herbarium. He would hold that title until his death in 1931.
In 1900 Dr. Rydberg conducted field work in southeast Colorado with
King Vreeland. In 1901 he visited Kew Gardens in England and made a return
trip to Sweden as well. In 1905 he was collecting in Utah with visits to
the University of Wyoming, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. In 1911 he undertook
an exploration of southeast Utah with Albert Osbun Garrett and in 1925,
the Allegheny Mountains with John Tuttle Perry. A trip in 1926 took him
to Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas. His final field
expedition was in 1929 to Kansas and Minnesota but it was cut short due
to illness and only included work in Kansas.
Dr. Rydberg was elected to membership in the Torrey Botanical Club in
1896. In 1900 he joined the American Association for the Advancement of
Science and was elected a fellow the following year. Also that year, he
was chosen as an Associate of the Botanical Society of America. In 1907
he became a member of the American Geographical Society and the Ecological
Society of America.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The family of Dr. Rydberg destroyed most of his personal papers at the
time of his death. The few that remain consist of miscellaneous correspondence
and research notes, along with the manuscript proofs for several papers
and publications, including his dissertation, Monograph of the North
American Potentilleae, and the first edition of one of his most well-known
works, Flora of the Rocky Mountains.
Also included in this collection are a group of research materials related
to the publication of a bio-bibliography of Dr. Rydberg written by Arnold
Tiehm. This appeared under the title Per Axel Rydberg: a biography,
bibliography and list of his taxa. It was published in 1990 as volume
58 of the series Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden. Dr. Rydberg's
field notebooks have been removed to the Collectors' Field Notebooks series.
Series 1: Correspondence, 1898-1929
Series 2: Research and Field Notes, mostly undated
Series 3: Publication Proofs and Illustrations
Series 4: Bio-Bibliography Materials
Series 1 Correspondence, 1896-1929
3 folders. Arranged by date.
One folder in this series deals mostly with plant nomenclature and specimen
exchanges. Also included is a copy of Dr. Rydberg's wedding invitation.
The second folder consists of correspondence between Dr. Rydberg and Aven
Nelson between the years 1896 and 1923. These are copies of papers which
are part of the archives of the University of Wyoming American Heritage
Center and are included herein as part of the research materials for Arnold
Tiehm's bio-bibliography of Dr. Rydberg. The third folder, also part of
the Tiehm research material, is field reports dated 1891-1892 from the
Smithsonian Institution archives.
Series 2 Research and Field Notes
1 folder. Undated.
This series includes several abstracts, notes on the Grimes numbers
of Rubus, plants desired for the Belle Fourche Experiment Farm, illustration
lists for Abram's Illustrated Flora, a list of Montana grasses,
and lists of new plant names.
The field notebooks of Dr. Rydberg have been removed to the Collectors'
Field Notebook series. They are five in number. Number 13 (Montana 1896),
Number 14 (Utah and New Jersey 1905-1908), Number 15 (Allegheny Mountains
1925), Number 16 (Kansas 1929) and Number 115 (Western states n.p., n.d.).
Series 3 Publication Proofs and Illustrations
13 folders. Arranged chronologically.
Dr. Rydberg's Ph.D. thesis and its accompanying illustrations, are included
herein. One of Dr. Rydberg's works, Flora of the Rocky Mountains,
went through two editions in his lifetime but was never illustrated. This
collection contains the manuscript for the first edition of this work (1918).
Also included is an apparently unpublished manuscript called Vicia, concerning
this genus, and notes and sketches concerning a publication called A
Preliminary Revision of the Genus Lathyrus in North and Central America,
by T. G. White, as well as a copy of this work annotated by Dr. Rydberg.
Materials related to Dr. Rydberg's publications can also be found in
the Botanical Art & Illustration Collection of the New York Botanical
Garden special collections. The illustrations for his dissertation were
drawn by himself and a professional artist named F. Emil. It is not possible
at this time to distinguish the difference between the two as neither Rydberg
nor Emil signed their work. Furthermore, these illustrations were reused
for the publication Flora of North America and the Library's collection
bears the stamp of this publication. Also in the collection are drawings
by Mary Eaton for other Rydberg publications.
Series 4 Bio-Bibliography Materials
1 folder. Unsorted.
This folder consists of research material for the bio-bibliography of
Dr. Rydberg written by Arnold Tiehm and published by the New York Botanical
Garden Press in 1990. Included are personal replies to requests for information
on Dr. Rydberg, obituaries,xeroxes of correspondence, articles and photographs
concerning Dr. Rydberg, and a few of the author's research notes as well.
Much of the material concerns Rydberg types.
The New York Botanical Garden
CFN Numbers 13-16, 115
ART Rydberg illustrations by F. Emil
Processed March 1999 by Stephen Sinon 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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