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William Baldwin (1779-1819)

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2.5 linear inches (1 box)


William Baldwin (1779-1819) was a physician and one of the first botanists to explore the American Southeast, parts of Latin America and the West Indies. He was the initial botanist on Stephen Long's expedition to find the headwaters of the Missouri River. Sadly, he died at Franklin, Missouri, six months into the expedition.

 Baldwin was born in Newlin, Chester County, Pennsylvania. As a child, he became interested in botany through his acquaintance with Dr. Moses Marshall, nephew of Humphry Marshall. In 1802 he began the study of medicine under Dr. William A. Todd at the University of Pennsylvania. There he met William Darlington. Baldwin nursed him through an illness and earned Darlington's lifelong friendship.

In 1805, short of money to continue his studies, Baldwin enlisted as ship's surgeon on a merchant ship bound for Canton by way of Antwerp. In 1807 he was awarded his medical degree. He married Hannah M. Webster and moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where he opened a practice. They would have four children.

In 1811 he began a correspondence with Henry Muhlenberg, who introduced him to Stephen Elliott. Baldwin's contributions to his Sketch of the Botany of South Carolina and Georgia were acknowledged by Elliott in his book. Baldwin collected in Georgia and in territory occupied by the Creek Indians in Florida. He was extremely sympathetic to them, comparing them favorably to those of his own race who would displace them. In 1817 Baldwin was named a corresponding member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

In 1818, he was appointed ship's physician on the U.S. Congress, and accompanied Rodney's diplomatic mission to South America. He collected in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janiero, and Uruguay.

The Long Expedition left on March 24, 1819. Baldwin fell ill at Franklin, Missouri and resigned from the expedition, remaining behind. He died in Franklin on September 1, 1819, and was buried beside the Missouri River. Darlington tried unsuccessfully to obtain a military pension for Hannah Baldwin and their children. In 1843 he published Baldwin's collected letters. These were reprinted with a new introduction by Joseph Ewan in 1969.

Baldwin's personal herbarium was sold to Zaccheus Collins after his death and subsequently purchased by Lewis David von Schweinitz. Although von Schweinitz discarded Baldwin's labels, lists of his collections and von Schweinitz's commentaries are found in the Lewis David von Schweinitz Papers located in The New York Botanical Garden Archives. The von Schweinitz herbarium is located at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.


The William Baldwin Papers document Baldwin's collections and plant classification studies in the United States and South America, through his correspondence with scientists in the United States and England. There is one manuscript for a published article and the journal from which it was drawn. Baldwin's journal recording his experiences on the Long Expedition was removed to Columbia University in 1956. This collection contains correspondence, journals, a manuscript, and a notebook.


Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Journals
Series 3: Notices on the Sea Coast of E. Florida and the State of Georgia
Series 4: Plant Classification Studies

Series 1     Correspondence, 1811-1819
                   2 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

Correspondence and notes of collections exchanges with colleagues.

Series 2     Journals, 1812-1819
                  1.5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

Manuscript records of Baldwin's observations in the southeastern United States and South America.

Series 3     Notices on the Sea Coast of E. Florida and the State of Georgia, 1816
                  2 fldrs

Manuscript of one of two publications by Baldwin and the journal from which it was drawn.

Series 4     Plant Classification Studies, n.d.
                  1 fldr.

Two notebooks containing Baldwin's notes for a catalogue of American plants and his studies of Monandria Canna.


The New York Botanical Garden

PP Papers of Lewis David von Schweinitz

Harvard University, Gray Herbarium

Papers of William Baldwin, 1803-1844

American Philosophical Society Library

Botanical Correspondence of Zaccheus Collins of Philadelphia, 1805-1827

Processed May 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 Archivist
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
(718) 817-8879

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