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Fred Jay Seaver (1877-1970)

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Records of the Herbarium (RG4)
6.5 linear feet (14 boxes)


Fred Jay Seaver (1877-1970) was a mycologist and authority on the taxonomy and life histories of the Discomycetes (cup fungi). Born March 14, 1877 in Webster County, Iowa, Dr. Seaver received his B.S. (1902) from Morningside College in Sioux City and his M.S. (1904) and Ph.D. (1912) in biology at the State University of Iowa. In 1903 he worked for a brief period under J. C. Arthur at Purdue University. Early in his career he held appointments as an instructor of biology at Iowa Wesleyan University (1905-06) and assistant professor at the State University of North Dakota in Fargo (1907-08), where he served as mycologist to its Experiment Station under Professor H. L. Bolley. His Ph.D. thesis Hypocreales of North America was published in Mycologia (1909-10), for which he served as editor for nearly 40 years, and in the North American Flora, 1910.

Dr. Seaver was associated with The New York Botanical Garden for most of his professional life, first through a fellowship to Columbia University in 1906. The Garden appointed him Director of Laboratories (1908-1911), after which he held the positions of Curator (1912-1943), Head Curator (1943-1948), and Curator Emeritus (1948-until his death in 1970). For the journal Mycologia he served as Associate Editor (1909-24), Editor (1925-32), Editor-in-Chief (1933-45), and Managing Editor (1933-47). He collaborated with New York Botanical Garden Director Nathaniel Lord Britton on the botany of the Caribbean and contributed mycological sections to Flora of Bermuda (1918), The Bahama Flora (1920), and Botany of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands (1926). Among his associates in the mycological study of the Caribbean were Carlos Chardon, J. M. Waterston, and H. H. Whetzel.

Dr. Seaver studied and published on a diversity of fungi from Colorado, Iowa, North Dakota, and New York, specializing in the Pezizales, Helotiales, and Hypocreales. In 1928 he published his magnum opus, North American Cup-fungi (Operculates). A supplement was issued in 1942, and a second volume, North American Cup-fungi (Inoperculates) was released in 1951. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Botanical Society of America, the Mycological Society of America, and the Torrey Botanical Club (Vice-president, 1943; President, 1945). In 1955 The New York Botanical Garden presented him with its Distinguished Service Award. Upon retirement in 1948 he made his home in Winter Park, Florida, where he died December 21, 1970.


The Fred Jay Seaver collection consists of correspondence, research and personal papers, manuscripts and typescripts, artwork, exhibit material, and photographic material including prints, negatives, lantern slides, and Kodachrome slides. It covers the entirety of his mycological career at The New York Botanical Garden (1908-1948) as curator, and as editor of Mycologia. Artwork (Boxes 13 & 14) has been removed to the New York Botanical Garden Art & Illustration Collection #55.


Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Research Papers
Series 3: Manuscripts and Typescripts
Series 4: Lectures and Course Outlines
Series 5: Photographic Material
Series 6: Personal Papers
Series 7: Exhibit Material
Series 8: Degrees and Certificates
Series 9: Artwork

Series 1    Correspondence, 1904-1969
                  1.4 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by last name of correspondent.

There is one container of material (100+ files) concerning the identification of fungi, specimen exchange, taxonomy, fieldwork, and the operation of Mycologia. Correspondents range from Nathaniel Lord Britton to Clark Rogerson, spanning the first half-century of Garden history. Three files ("Bermuda Dept. of Agriculture") pertain to fieldwork in Bermuda with correspondence primarily with J. M. Waterston. "Fungi of Bermuda" is a collection of letters from Dr. Seaver's collaborators on the Bermuda project (except Waterston), arranged and tabbed alphabetically within the file. Other files, e.g., "Genera of Fungi by Clements & Shear" and "International Rules of Nomenclature" also contain letters from a number of mycologists. Additional correspondence is located in Series 2: Research Papers; Series 3: Manuscripts and Typescripts; and Series 6: Personal Papers (see reminiscences and scrapbook material).

Series 2    Research Papers, 1888-1942
                  0.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

There are 16 files consisting of collection catalogues, fieldwork data, reports, maps, and annotated books. One bound volume, Catalogue of the Mycological Library of Howard A. Kelly, contains notes and inserts. The notebook of Howard J. Banker contains collection data on the Hydnaceae (1888-1914), accompanied by a transmission letter relating to the deposit of the Banker herbarium at the Garden (see also Banker file in Series 1: Correspondence). The New York Botanical Garden Cryptogamic Herbarium reports contain detailed information on the status of collections in1939 and 1940 and Mycologia financial reports.

Series 3    Manuscripts and Typescripts, 1935-1952
                  0.4 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by author, thereunder by title.

There are 8 files that include North American Cup-Fungi (Operculates) (1928), the section on Discomycetes for the North American Flora, a corrected proof of North American Cup-Fungi (Inoperculates) (1951), and an unpublished typescript, The Fungi of Porto Rico by Seaver and Carlos Chardon.

Series 4    Lectures and Course Outlines, 1944-1957
                  0.1 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

There are 2 files containing lecture notes and a course outline in biology taught at Orlando Junior College in 1956-57.

Series 5    Photographic Material, 1929-1948
                  3.0 lin. ft. Arranged by size, thereunder by media.

This series consists of photographic prints (mounted and unmounted), negatives, Kodachrome slides, and lantern slides. There are 2 glass negatives and a small selection of photo postcards. The photographic record documents fungi specimens and fieldwork locations, as well as personal and group portraits. One sequence (6 files) consists of mounted and captioned plates of cup-fungi, some with watercolor enhancement. There are several portraits of Dr. Seaver alone and with colleagues, including Bernard O. Dodge, H. M. Fitzpatrick, Cornelius Shear, and others. There are two photos of Seaver with Nathaniel Lord Britton, et al in St. Croix (1923). There is 1 box (Box 10) of lantern slides which holds 6 separate boxes within, labeled 10a through 10f. Two envelopes of oversize photos are located in Box 11 with Exhibit Material (Series 7).

Series 6    Personal Papers, 1901-1971
                  0.4 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

There are 14 files consisting of correspondence, memorabilia, reminiscences, a scrapbook, and genealogical material. Three files contain biographical writing, two of which are reminiscences with attached correspondence and photos. These deal with Seaver's boyhood and early career as a Columbia University fellow and professor at the State University of North Dakota, including details of his career decision to move from Fargo, North Dakota to the Garden. This material contains attached letters of Nathaniel Lord Britton and Lucian Marcus Underwood. One file contains a paperbound volume entitled The Seaver Genealogy by Jesse Seaver, with inserted notes and correspondence from Clark Rogerson to Bernice Seaver Blackmon, Dr. Seaver's daughter.

Series 7    Exhibit Material, nd
                  0.2 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

There are 15 files of oversize multi-media material illustrating the life cycles of the Uredinales (rust fungi) and Ustilaginales (smut fungi). Each exhibit is mounted on poster board with captioned pencil and watercolor illustrations of fungus and host, along with actual specimen material attached and integrated into the life cycle representation.

Series 8    Degrees and Certificates, 1896-1931
                  0.1 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically.

There are 6 oversize items, including a high-school diploma, higher education degrees (B.S., M.S., Ph.D., and D.Sc.), and a certificate of the Society of Sigma Xi.

Series 9    Artwork, 1926-1948
                  0.4 lin. ft. Arranged by artist's surname, thereunder alphabetically.

There are 2 boxes of watercolor illustrations, one of macrofungi and cup-fungi by Mary E. Eaton and George E. Morris. Two items are reprints by Charles Horton Peck and C. Fausel. The second box contains illustrations, primarily of cup-fungi, artist unknown. This series has been removed to the New York Botanical Garden Art & Illustration Collection #55.


The New York Botanical Garden

RG4     Nathaniel Lord Britton Records

RG4    William Alphonso Murrill Records

RG4    Clark T. Rogerson Records

RG4    Herbarium Office Records

Processed by Serena Gomez and revised June 2000 by David Rose 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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