Archives and Manuscript Collections
DR. TRUMAN G. YUNCKER PAPERS (1919-1989)
10.5 linear feet (12 boxes)
G. Yuncker (1891-1964) was a taxonomic botanist whose field was the Piperaceae,
especially the Peperomia and Piper genera. He described 839
new species, 211 new varieties, and 25 new forma in the Piperaceae. He
wrote the treatment of that family in almost every regional flora published
during his lifetime. His early studies were on the genus Cuscuta
in which he described 67 new species and 39 new varieties.
Yuncker was head of the Department of Botany and Bacteriology at DePauw
University from 1923 until his retirement in 1956. Concurrently, he was
curator of the DePauw Herbarium from 1919 to 1964. This herbarium was acquired
by The New York Botanical Garden in 1987.
Yuncker was a botanical explorer who held the position of Associate
Botanist at the Bernice P. Bishop Museum from 1941 to 1964. He was responsible
for the first Floras of Niue Island and the Tonga Islands. He also compiled
floristic treatments of the Manua Islands, and of large areas of Honduras.
His Piperaceae of Brazil was published posthumously.
Truman George Yuncker was born March 20, 1891, on a farm near Carson
City, Michigan. When he was 13 the family settled in Lansing. His father
became ill and Yuncker had to leave school to support the family, taking
up work in the trolley barns. Soon he became a conductor, attending secretarial
school at night. In 1907 he entered Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan
State University) as an engineering student. After two years he was forced
to leave again due to family financial problems. He worked as a secretary
for the Durant-Dort Carriage Company in Flint.
It was during this period that he met Ethel Burnett Claflin and became
secretly engaged to her. Ethel encouraged Yuncker to return to college
and then, in an extremely unusual move for that era, entered Michigan State
along with him, delaying marriage until both had graduated. They married
in 1915, after Ethel's graduation and a one-year assistantship for Truman
at the University of Nebraska under Charles E. Bessey. They moved to Indianapolis
where he was teaching at the Emmerich Manual Training High School. In 1916
both Yunckers enrolled at the University of Illinois. Ethel received her
M.A. in dietetics and Truman completed his Ph.D. under William Trelease,
undertaking a revision of the North American and West Indian species of
Eventually he would take up Trelease's study of the Piperaceae, completing
his Piperaceae of Northern South America after Trelease's
During World War I the Yunckers moved to Washington, D.C., where Truman
served as a bacteriologist with the Army Medical Corps. Ethel worked as
a dietician with the Food Administration.
In 1919, the new Ph.D. took up an appointment as Assistant Professor
of Botany and Curator of the Herbarium at DePauw University in Greencastle,
Indiana. The Yunckers remained in Greencastle for the rest of their lives.
By 1921, he had been promoted to full professor and to head of the department
in 1924. He became one of the most outstanding teachers and administrators
of his generation. More than sixty percent of his students went on to earn
The Yunckers began their botanical explorations in 1926 with an extended
trip to European herbaria for a world survey of Cuscuta. In 1932
Yuncker was awarded a Yale-Bishop Museum fellowship for a one-year sabbatical
at the Bernice P. Bishop Museum. Ethel Yuncker took over his duties as
department head, teaching some courses as well. At the height of the Depression,
she made it possible for Yuncker to devote himself to his studies without
undue economic hardship to the family. In 1939, the whole family went to
Hawaii for the summer. Truman went on to Niue and Samoa for fieldwork on
his floras of those places. He was forced to use military transport in
this sensitive area, soon to become a front in World War II. Other explorations
were a survey of the Tonga Islands in 1953-1954, the study of the flora
of Jamaica through a Fullbright and a study of Brazilian Piperaceae, 1957-1962,
under a National Science Foundation grant. Yuncker studied not only the
flora but the activities of the people of those places and recorded his
observations in his correspondence and notes.
Following the death of William Trelease in 1946, he was invited to the
University of Illinois to complete Trelease's unfinished work on the Piperaceae
of Northern South America. This involved a complete revision
and editing of Trelease's notes. All 675 photographs in the work were taken
and prepared by Yuncker. The work has become a classic.
Yuncker's last major work, The Piperaceae of Brazil (1972-1975),
was completed with the help of Ethel Claflin Yuncker and published and
distributed to the scientific community by her. Her work on it was recognized
in many quarters from the Bishop Museum to the Smithsonian Institution.
Both Ethel and Truman were active in Greencastle civic life for their
entire lives. Ethel held office in the Daughters of the American Revolution
on a state level and was national president of Phi Omega Pi. She often
went by her maiden name. Truman served for years as the honorary forester
of Greencastle. He was active in the Kiwanis Club. Both Yunckers belonged
to the Freemasons.
Yuncker officially retired from DePauw in 1956. He became emeritus and
remained curator of the herbarium until his death in 1964. At that time
it was renamed the T.G. Yuncker Herbarium by its new curator, Winona Welch.
In 1987, as Welch's ability to care for it became compromised, the Herbarium
was sold by DePauw to The New York Botanical Garden. Separate Brittonia
festschrifts, edited by Dr. Patricia K. Holmgren, were prepared in Yuncker's
and Welch's honor.
In 1966, 2 years after Truman's death, Ethel moved to Asbury Towers,
a retirement community she had helped to plan. Her apartment was on the
same floor as Dr. Welch's. In Dr. Yuncker's memory, she donated a solarium,
whose plaque reads "Scientist and Teacher, Jungles and the South Seas were
his workrooms, DePauw and Greencastle his home."
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Truman G. Yuncker Papers (1919-1989) document Dr. Yuncker's taxonomic
studies on Cuscuta and Piperaceae, especially his work on William
Trelease's Piperaceae of Northern South America and his life as
an educator at DePauw University. One series contains materials from Brittonia
41(3), 1989, a volume dedicated to him as a Festschrift. Material from
many locations was photocopied for this volume and remains here with the
papers. The Ethel Burnett Claflin Yuncker Papers, photocopies of a biographic
scrapbook spanning three generations, provides information on small-town
family life in the first half of the twentieth century. It contains correspondence,
photocopies, notes, diaries, manuscripts, drawings, maps, clippings, bound
material, glass negatives, lantern slides, photographs, microfilm, an audio
tape, a field collection bag, and one field collector's notebook. The collection
is arranged into 14 series.
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1936-1968
Series 2: Festschrift, 1987-1989
Series 3: DePauw Archives, 1919-1989
Series 4: Ethel Burnett Claflin Yuncker Papers, 1943-1981
Series 5: Correspondence,1938-1964
Series 6: Expeditions, 1932-1953
Series 7: Manuscripts and Publications, 1972
Series 8: Cuscuta, 1921-1957
Series 9: William Trelease Papers, 1928-1936
Series 10: Geographic Files, [ca. 1920-1950]
Series 11: Species Files, [ca. 1920-1950]
Series 12: Illustrations
Series 13: Photographs and Lantern Slides
Series 14: Negatives
Series 1 Biographical
1.5 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series contains a biographical sketch of Truman Yuncker and photocopies
of material from the DePauw Archives related to Yuncker's life. Other biographical
materials are found in Series 4: Ethel Burnett Claflin Yuncker Papers.
Biographical photographs are found in Series 13: Photographs and Lantern
Series 2 Festschrift,
5.5 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series contains materials assembled for the issue of Brittonia
dedicated to Truman Yuncker. It includes photocopies from the DePauw and
Smithsonian Institution Archives, a microfilm from the Gray Herbarium,
correspondence from Yuncker's students and colleagues, and material related
to the publication of the volume. Photographs and plates from the Festschrift
are found in Series 13: Photographs & Lantern Slides.
Series 3 DePauw Archives, 1919-1989
4.5 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series contains photocopies of materials housed in the DePauw University
Archives that are related to Truman Yuncker's career as an educator and
his to civic life in Greencastle. Other material on these subjects is located
in Series 1: Biographical Information and Series 4: Ethel Burnett Claflin
Yuncker Papers. Photographs documenting Yuncker's career are found in Series
13: Photographs and Lantern Slides.
Series 4 Ethel Burnett
Claflin Yuncker Papers, 1943-1981
3 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series contains a photocopy of a pictorial biography, a scrapbook
assembled by Ethel Yuncker over the course of the Yunckers' life together,
and her life after Truman Yuncker's death. Correspondence in this series
is original and relates to Ethel Yuncker's distribution of her husband's
last book to the scientific community.
Series 5 Correspondence,
2 lin. in. Arranged alphabetically.
This series contains original correspondence culled from the Truman
G. Yuncker Herbarium as it was processed and incorporated into the New
York Botanical Garden's Herbarium. Material relates to determinations,
exchanges, and disposition of duplicate materials.
Series 6 Expeditions,
1 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.
This series contains photocopies of personal and scientific correspondence,
clippings, memorabilia, a diary, and a field notebook. Dr. Yuncker's plant
collection bag is found here. Other material related to Dr. Yuncker's expeditions
is found in Series 3: DePauw Archives and Series 4: Ethel Burnett Claflin
Yuncker Papers. The field notebook has been removed and is located in the
Field Collectors' Notebook collection.
Series 7 Manuscripts
and Publications, 1972
2.5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically
This series contains photocopies of some of Yuncker's reprints, promotional
material, manuscripts, and typewritten notes. Other manuscript material
is found in Series 9: William Trelease Papers, Series 10: Geographic Files,
and Series 11: Species Files.
Series 8 Cuscuta,
1 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
Cuscuta was the first genus studied by Yuncker. This series contains
some early notes, reprints, correspondence, and manuscripts.
Series 9 William Trelease
5 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series holds manuscripts and correspondence for Trelease's unpublished
North American Flora monographs on Peperomia and Piperaceae. Other material
by William Trelease is found in Series 10: Geographic Files and Series
11: Species Files.
Series 10 Geographic
1.5 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
These files contain bound notes by William Trelease and Truman Yuncker
on Peperomia and Piperaceae arranged geographically.
Series 11 Species
4.75 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.
This series contains bound notes by William Trelease and Truman Yuncker
on Peperomia and Piperaceae arranged by species.
Series 12 Illustrations
3 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series contains line drawings of Piperaceae related to Yuncker's
research, and 3 herbarium sheets with line drawings. Slides of some of
the drawings are also included in this series.
Series 13 Photographs
and Lantern Slides
4 lin. in. Arranged by subject.
This series contains photo plates and unused material from the Festschrift
volume. Other photographs are found in Series 10: Geographic Files
and Series 11: Species Files.
Series 14 Negatives
1 folder, 2 glass plates. Arranged by subject.
This series holds the negatives of the photographs used for the Festschrift
volume. The glass plates are of 2 unidentified fungi.
The New York Botanical Garden
PP The Winona H. Welch Papers
Bishop Museum Archives
The Truman Yuncker Papers, 1943
DePauw University Archives
The Winona H. Welch Collection
The Truman G. Yuncker Collection
Processed March 2000 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
Back to Top