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Arlow Burdette Stout (1876-1957)

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Records of the Laboratory (RG5)
44.8 linear feet (105 boxes)


Arlow Burdette Stout (1876-1957) stands as a seminal figure in the advancement of the science and hybridization of daylilies. Dr. Stout was born in Albion, Wisconsin on March 10, 1876. Early in his career Dr. Stout was a teacher in rural schools. He graduated from Whitewater (Wisconsin) State Normal School in 1908 and went on to gain his B.A. degree at the University of Wisconsin, where he later taught botany. Afterwards, in 1911, The New York Botanical Garden appointed him Director of Laboratories, launching a 36-year career as a geneticist, plant-breeder, and educator. His appointment was concomitant with matriculation into graduate studies at Columbia University, under Professor R. A. Harper, where he gained his Ph.D. in 1913. During his career at the Garden he made his home in Pleasantville, New York.

Dr. Stout himself best defined the essence of his life's work as a research scientist. In a summary of his life written in 1956, the year before his death, he stated, "His main technical research was concerned with experimental studies on the nature and genetics of intraspecific self- and cross-incompatibilities in the sexual reproduction of flowering plants." An accurate statement, but one which does little justice to the evolution and details of his accomplishments.

In his 1939 autobiography he enlarged the description of his investigation of the "processes of seed reproduction in flowering plants." In 1919 Dr. Stout initiated an experimental study to produce seedlessness in grapes. This continued as a lifelong project that resulted in the introduction of scores of new kinds of grapes. Later, after an investigation into the flower behavior of avocado, his contributions to the improvement of its commercial production were dramatic and newsworthy; the New York Times (March 6, 1927) reported, "Finds Flower's Sex Changes Each Day." The title referred to Dr. Stout's "astonishing" discovery that the avocado flower reverses its sex from male to female and vice versa on a daily basis, consequently producing fruit irregularly. His findings led to the breeding of male and female flowers in close proximity that resulted in productive, instead of barren, orchards. Though often he seemed completely focused only on garden work and experimentation (and he considered himself a gardener in a direct sense), the impact of Dr. Stout's work continued to be widely publicized.

The focus on the self-sterility of Lilium (lily) and Hemerocallis (daylily) was the backbone of success in selective breeding and led to the development of stunning hybrid flowers that brought great horticultural value. Self-sterility in flowers refers to the incapability of the ova of flowers in certain species to become fertilized by the individual flower's own pollen. It has been noted in many places that Stout observed this phenomenon in his mother's garden as a boy. What resulted was the regular failure of the familiar tiger lily and the fulvous daylily to produce capsules and seed. He began investigating this reproductive anomaly in his first year at The New York Botanical Garden and continued systematic selective breeding for more than three decades. In over 50,000 cross-pollination experiments, Dr. Stout produced over one hundred viable Hemerocallis hybrids, revolutionizing nursery breeding and popular interest in daylilies. Without a doubt, Dr. Stout's public renown rested largely on the knowledge and innovation he brought to the breeding of daylilies. His success led Dr. Henry A. Gleason, Head Curator of the Garden in 1938 to remark, "It is not unlikely that the commercial value of the work of Dr. A. B. Stout . . . will exceed the entire cost of the Garden during the forty years of its history."

From his position as Curator of Education and Laboratories at the Garden, Stout lectured widely, even in radio program broadcasts, on his findings in the breeding of daylilies. His publications numbered over 350, including the landmark monograph Daylilies, published in 1934 (reprinted in 1986), and Reproduction in Petunia (1952). He established business relationships with local nurseries, notably the Bertrand Farr Nursery Company, in programs to evaluate and propagate his hybrid clones. He coordinated several lines of research and their practical application. This included a long-term project for the selection of hardy poplar trees in association with the New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

Of his many scientific affiliations, Dr. Stout was an Honorary Life Member of the Horticultural Society of New York and an Honorary Life Fellow in the Royal Horticultural Society. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Naturalists, and of the Botanical Society of America. In 1937 he received the Thomas Roland Medal of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and won a gold medal for an exhibit of seedling daylilies by the Horticultural Society of New York. The American Hemerocallis Society established in 1950 a Stout Award in his honor, considered the most distinctive award in annual recognition of a Hemerocallis clone. In 1954, seven years after his retirement, The New York Botanical Garden honored Dr. Stout with a Distinguished Service Award for "outstanding contributions to the advancement of horticulture and botany."

At the end of a fulfilling career of tireless labor and dedication, as well as life accomplishments recognized in arenas both scientific and public, Dr. Stout enjoyed ten years, amidst the setbacks of illness, of his post-retirement life. He died at the age of 81 on October 12, 1957, at his home in Pleasantville. In a letter of November 1953 he wrote of some infirmities and of his hopes to complete a work on the evaluation of the botany of Hemerocallis. Yet he admitted to his correspondent that "if I do not get to any more reports on Daylilies we can say; ---

With daylilies
We have done
We leave done
We are done
With daylilies"


The Arlow Burdette Stout collection consists of correspondence, research records, lecture notes, personal papers, photographic material (photos, negatives, and lantern slides), photoengraving plates, artwork, journals, reprints, and awards. It covers Dr. Stout's entire career at The New York Botanical Garden (1911-47). There is a small selection of papers from his high school years (1899-1903) and graduate study at Columbia College (1911-13). The collection is a record of his research into the genetics and hybridization of Hemerocallis, and studies of other economically important plants. The artwork consists of watercolor illustrations as well as pen and pencil drawings. All artwork has been transferred to the New York Botanical Garden Art & Illustration Collection #58.


Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Research Papers
Sub-series 2a: Genus Files: Acer - Vitis
Sub-series 2b: Genus File: Hemerocallis
Sub-series 2c: Genus File: Rubus
Sub-series 2d: Research Notes
Series 3: Negatives
Series 4: Lantern Slides
Series 5: Lectures
Series 6: Artwork
Series 7: Personal Papers
Series 8: Photo Engraving Plates
Series 9: Journals and Reprints
Series 10: Awards

Appendix I Hemerocallis Named Hybrids (chart)
Appendix II List of Discarded Materials

Series 1    Correspondence, 1911-1957
                  1.25 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

The bulk of this correspondence concerns Dr. Stout's professional and business relationships with three plant nurseries: the Burpee Seed Company, the Bertrand Farr Nursery, and the Amos Perry Nursery. Supporting materials (e.g., hybridization records, royalty agreements, etc.) related to the correspondence appears here. Additional correspondence may be found in Series 2: Research Papers.

Series 2    Research Papers
                  22.7 lin. ft. Arranged by genus.

The research papers are divided into four sub-series: (a) Genus Files: Acer - Vitis, (b) Genus File: Hemerocallis, (c) "Genus File: Rubus, and (d) Research Notes. The sub-series are organized by genus or botanical topics pertinent to the research and contain correspondence, research notes, photography, charts, bibliographic material, and reprints.

Sub-series 2a     Genus Files: Acer - Vitis
                     3.6 lin. ft. Arranged by genus; photos arranged chronologically.

These files include correspondence, research notes, photography, manuscripts, typescripts, genetics and hybridization charts, bibliographic notes, reprints, and other records pertinent to each genus. Files relating to Lilium (lily), Petunia, Fragaria, Lobelia, Tsuga (hemlock), and Vitis (grape) contain significant numbers of photographs.

Sub-series 2b    Genus File: Hemerocallis
                     11.2 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

Files for the plant genus Hemerocallis comprise records that are voluminous and diverse. Contents of 'species files' within this genus consist of a variety of materials as described in Series 2, above. Species files are arranged alphabetically by species name, followed by three photographic sequences. The first sequence is arranged alphabetically by species; the second is arranged chronologically by year; and the third, 'inflorescence,' is arranged by species. There are also notebooks and files on Hemerocallis hybrids and clones. The sequence of photos (the fourth photo sequence) which follows is arranged alphabetically by hybrid name. See Appendix I 'Hemerocallis Named Hybrids' for additional information. There are also accession records, evaluations, correspondence, research notes, pollination records, notes on authors, and journals and reprints.

Sub-series 2c    Genus File: Rubus
                    4.6 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This sub-series consists of correspondence, research notes, manuscripts, and typescripts relating to the genus Rubus (berries). Manuscripts and typescripts relate to an unpublished monograph "Reproduction in Rubus."

Sub-series 2d    Research Notes
                    3.3 lin. ft. Arranged by research topic.

This sub-series consists of topics in genetics and plant science related to the development of registered Hemerocallis hybrids. They are arranged either by species or by hybrid name, where appropriate, within each file.

Series 3    Negatives, 1922 - 1948
                  9.5 lin. ft. Arranged by genus, then chronologically within genus.

Photographic negatives are organized in 6 independent sequences (3a to 3f), based on size and media. Three material sizes are (3a, 3b) 6.25 x 8.25; (3c, 3d) 4 x 6; and (3e, 3f) 3 x 5. Each size is organized in two sequences, glass or acetate. Negatives are numbered by year and/or hybridization number and are cross-referenced with corresponding positives of Series 2, above. Most material documents species and hybrid studies (indoor and outdoor), life cycle studies, staged displays, garden views, landscapes, and plant structure studies, e.g., seeds, capsules, foliage, scapes, and flowers. There are photomicrographs of plant cell structure, comparative studies of Hemerocallis clones, herbarium specimens of the Kew Botanic Garden, imported packages of dried daylilies for use as a food vegetable, and portraits of Dr. Stout at work, including views of the New York Botanical Garden experimental garden.

Series 4    Lantern slides, 1930 - 1945
                  4.4 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This series consists of 21 boxes of slides of daylilies and other botanical subjects.

Series 5    Lectures
                  0.4 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

The lecture notes consist of index cards, the papers and manuscripts were for presentations, and the syllabi and class notes were for courses taught by Dr. Stout.

Series 6     Artwork
                  2.1 lin. ft. Arranged by genus.

The artwork consists of watercolors, ink drawings, and pencil sketches that illustrate daylily species and hybrids and other floral subjects. The material is organized by genus and includes information on the subject, date, and artist, and an ID number. All artwork has been transferred to the New York Botanical Garden Art & Illustration Collection #58.

Series 7    Personal Papers, 1899 - 1957
                  0.75 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This series consists of high school notes, a commencement announcement, and an alumni register of the State Normal School in Whitewater, Wisconsin (1899-1903). Relating to Dr. Stout's interest in the archaeology and pre-history of the native Americans of Wisconsin are copies of journals with his publications on the subject. There are family photographs as well as those of a topographic formation known as the 'Wisconsin Dells.' Biographical highlights include an autobiography and a short biography written by his brother, Claude D. Stout.

Series 8    Photo Engraving Plates
                  2.5 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

These are engraving plates of Hemerocallis figures in Dr. Stout's Daylilies (2d edition) and other floral subjects.

Series 9    Journals and Reprints
                  1.25 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by author.

This material pertains to research in the genetics and self-sterility of flowering plants, especially Hemerocallis, as well as to conferences, congresses, and professional associations. There are also translations of articles from German.

Series 10    Awards
                    2.0 lin. in.

This series consists of 2 files and 1 framed award.


Appendix I, Hemerocallis Named Hybrids, is a chart of correlated hybrid files, photography, and artwork.
Appendix II, List of Discarded Materials, is an itemized record of damaged photography discarded from the collection.

Processed March 1999 by David Rose under a grant from the New York State Department of Education Documentary Heritage Program.

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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