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Record Group 4 (RG4)
4 linear feet (9 boxes)

Robert Hagelstein was Honorary Curator of Myxomycetes at The New York Botanical Garden from 1930 until his death in 1945. He accompanied Nathaniel Lord Britton on the Scientific Survey of Porto Rico in 1926, 1928, and 1929. His Diatomaceae of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands was published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 1939.

Hagelstein was born May 16, 1870, in Brooklyn, New York. Hagelstein was self-taught. After graduating from high school in Brooklyn, Hagelstein joined J. and D. Lehman Co., a glove manufacturer located at 15 Union Square West in New York City. He retired as manager in 1925 and dedicated himself full-time to his scientific studies.

His first interest was microscopy. This he studied as a young man, at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. Throughout his career he continued to do his own photomicrography. The photographs in his monograph The Mycetozoa of North America, based on the specimens in the herbarium of the New York Botanical Garden, are examples of his mastery of microphotography.

Hagelstein served as President of the New York Microscopical Society during 1923 and 1924. At the time, Hagelstein was engaged in the study and photomicrography of diatoms. Nathaniel Lord Britton, a member of the Society, invited Hagelstein to participate in the Scientific Survey of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Hagelstein's attention was captured by the myxomycetes, then known as mycetozoa. At first he studied them concurrently with the diatoms. Eventually they became his primary interest. He made collecting trips from Canada to Florida, concentrating primarily on Long Island and Pennsylvania. His first publication on Mycetozoa appeared in 1927.

Concurrent with his service as Honorary Curator of Myxomycetes, Hagelstein was the unofficial curator of microscopic devices in the New York Botanical Garden collection. In 1936, the New York State Museum invited him to survey, verify, and make determinations for its myxomycete collections, including materials collected by Charles H. Peck.

When he began his curatorship, the New York Botanical Garden's myxomycete collection consisted of 2,000 specimens collected by J. B. Ellis. Hagelstein oversaw the purchase of the W. C. Sturgis collection of 3,200 specimens. By 1943 the collection had grown to 13,207 specimens. Of those, Hagelstein collected 4,970, and 2,700 were gained through the exchange of materials he had personally collected. Of the 319 accepted world species at the time, 304 could be found in the New York Botanical Garden Herbarium. Hagelstein kept detailed records of the collection including microscopical study of sporangia and spores, and he drew upon this collection while writing The Mycetozoa of North America. A reviewer at the time called it "a momentous revelation of painstaking study..." and said, "The air has been cleared of confusion in the validity of many species by the author's scrupulous examination and comparison of countless specimens in the world's largest collection of Myxomycetes."

In 1940, he lent his collection of 15,000 slides of diatoms to the New York Botanical Garden; it included the collections of D. B. Ward, W. A. Poysner, and others that he had purchased over the years. On January 11, 1941, a room in the Cryptogamic Herbarium was dedicated to Hagelstein's two interests - diatoms and myxomycetes.

Throughout his career, Hagelstein enthusiastically shared his interests with amateurs. He is remembered for the entertaining and informative field trips he led for members of the New York Botanical Garden. He died on October 20, 1945, in Mineola, Long Island, New York, survived by his wife Marsha and a sister, Charlotte Hagelstein, of Brooklyn, New York.


The Robert Hagelstein Records, 1904-1945, document Hagelstein's study of myxomycetes from the inception through the publication of his monograph The Mycetezoa of North America, based on the specimens in the herbarium of the New York Botanical Garden. The production of the book is documented thoroughly with the annotated typescript, photographs, galleys, and the photoengraved plates used to produce the work. The bulk of the material consists of correspondence with colleagues around the world, concerning determinations and specimen exchanges. Notebooks include specimen studies and an informal journal of his collecting trip to the West Indies. The collection is arranged into six series. The Garden also owns one of Dr. Hagelstein's field notebooks in its Collectors' Field Notebooks series.


Series 1: Correspondence, 1918-1945

Subseries A: 1918-1926

Subseries B: 1927-1942

Subseries C: 1943-1945

Series 2: Myxomycetes, 1927-1945

Series 3: Notebooks, 1929-1931

Series 4: Manuscripts, 1904-1944

Series 5: The Mycetozoa of North America, 1943-1945

Series 6: Photographs

Subseries A: Mycetozoa of North America

Subseries B: Journal Articles, 1929-1938

Subseries C: Specimens, 1936-n.d.

Series 1     Correspondence, 1918-1945
                    1.8 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically into subseries. Arranged alphabetically within the subseries.

Hagelstein's correspondence contains lists of specimens of both diatoms and myxomycetes, as well as formal and informal views from the most renowned scholars of both fields. In his capacity as President of the New York Microscopical Society, he exchanged information with similar groups throughout the world. The McKinley and Morris folders in Subseries A contain information about Hagelstein's financial investments and have informative value for students of that aspect of the era. More information on this historical aspect is found in Series 4: Manuscripts, where the backs of his lecture notes on diatoms are the February 1904 dailies of the Wall Street Journal electric news-ticker. All photographs which originally were enclosed in correspondence have been removed and placed into Series 6: Photographs.

Series 2     Myxomycetes, 1927-1945
                    8 folders. Arranged by subject.

Materials in this series relate to Hagelstein's primary interest and his role as curator at the New York Botanical Garden. Included are inventory lists for the New York Botanical Garden collections and those at the New York State Museum and the Farlow Herbarium. There is also a list of specimen donors by name. Two notebooks record dispatches and exchanges and there is a geographic distribution chart, made by Hagelstein. Correspondence regarding myxomycetes is located in Series 1: Correspondence. All photographs have been removed and placed into Series 6: Photographs.

Series 3     Notebooks, 1929-1942
                    3 folders. Arranged by subject.

The notebooks in this series are: a trial log of photomicrography, 1929-1931; a non-scientific journal of his voyage to the West-Indies in 1931; and 1 laboratory book dated 1930-1942 which records observations on particular materials.

Series 4     Manuscripts, 1904-1944
                    0.75 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

Manuscripts and typescripts for lectures, and published and unpublished articles are included in this series. The first folder, "Lecture notes on diatoms," consists of hand-written notes on the backs of Wall Street Journal electric page news-ticker service bulletins for the month of February 1904. Another item is an article written for Hobbies magazine extolling myxomycetes as a hobby. The query letter related to that piece is found in Series 1: Correspondence. The text of a talk on his experiences in the West Indies can also be found in this series. A History of the Microscope, which was never published, is included along with two folders containing English translations, in Hagelstein's handwriting, of chapter 2 of Frederich Brieger's Selbsterilität. Typescripts for Hagelstein's series Notes on the Mycetozoa, which was published in Mycologia, are also found here. All photographs have been removed and placed in Series 6: Photographs.

Series 5      The Mycetozoa of North America, 1944
                    1.1 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

This series contains all the material related to the production of The Mycetozoa of North America, based on the speciments in the herbarium of the New York Botanical Garden. Correspondence regards sales of the book after it was published and letters of praise. The complete typescript is found here, as are page proofs, printer's galleys, and an advertising prospectus. The set of photoengraved half-tone plates (less plate 16) used for the black and white photographic illustrations, and the color separation plates for the lithographic illustrations are preserved in this series. The photographs themselves have been transferred to Series 6: Photographs.

Series 6      Photographs, 1929-1944
                    5 lin. in. Arranged by subject.

This series contains all of the photographs, layouts, exposure trials and exposure logs used in The Mycetozoa of North America, based on the speciments in the herbarium of the New York Botanical Garden. Photengraved half-tones of these plates are  found in Series 5: Mycetozoa of North America.  Other photographs are connected with journal articles.  Photographs of the specimen Laproderma Muscorum can also be found here.  The is a group of diatoms photographed by E. W. Roberts in 1936.  Correspondence connected to the transmission of those photgraphs can be found in Series 1: Correspondence.


The New York Botanical Garden

PP     The William Codman Sturgis Papers

CFN    Number 394

Processed February 1999 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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