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Marshall Avery Howe

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3 linear feet


Marshall Avery Howe was born in Newfane, Vermont on June 6th, 1887. The eldest of 5 children he was named after his father Marshall Otis Howe and his maternal grandfather Avery Joseph Dexter and was insistent on using his full name. Marshall Avery Howe graduated from the University of Vermont in 1890, where he was room mates with his life long friend Dr. Abel Grout. On leaving college, Howe taught for a year in the Brattleboro High School but left in the summer of 1891 to become an Instructor in Cryptogamic Botany at the University of California at Berkeley. At the end of the 1895-96 college year, Howe resigned to accept a fellowship at Columbia University where he studied Hepaticae with Lucien Underwood. He received his Ph.D from Columbia in 1898 and from 1898 to 1901 was Curator of the University Herbarium. During this time, the plans for the creation of the New York Botanical Garden were materializing and the Columbia University Herbarium was deposited at the NYBG. In 1901 Howe became a member of the NYBG scientific staff and in 1906 became curator. From 1901 until his death in 1936, Howe was associated with the NYBG being appointed Assistant Director in 1923 and Director in 1935 after the resignation of Elmer Drew Merrill.

During his 35 year association with the New York Botanical Garden, Marshall Avery Howe served as a plant collector, participating in numerous expeditions, he arranged exhibits, he distributed plant specimens primarily of algae and hepaticae, he was a taxonomist, a morphologist, an editor, an administrator as well as an expert on, and cultivator of dahlias and other ornamental plants. His work was done meticulously, with insight and thoroughness.

His home life was quiet and dignified. He made his home in Pleasantville, New York where he was an active member of the "Garden Club", and served as secretary and later President of the Board of Trustees of the Pleasantville Free Library. He lectured frequently at the local Men's club of Pleasantville and at numerous other venues. He married Edith Morton Packard in 1909 and had two children Gertrude Dexter Howe and Prentiss Mellen Howe.


The M.A. Howe papers documents his domestic and pubic life outside NYBG; including newspaper clippings of his botanical and administrative activities. It contains correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, lecture notes, manuscripts and photographs. The collections is arranged in four series.


Series 1:  Diaries 1900-1936
Series 2:  Correspondence. 1884-1930
Series 3:  Scrapbooks and Clippings. 1879-1936
Series 4:  Essays, lectures and addresses - 1886-1934

Series 1:     Diaries 1900-1936.
                         5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

Howe kept a daily log of his personal activities and the events of the day. Most entries are very brief and may describe the days weather conditions. They are not detailed chronicles of his scientific or personal exploits but rather simple chronicles of his daily life. There are 37 small volumes dating from 1900 to 1936 (there are two volumes for 1936.

Series 2:     Correspondence. 1884-1930.
                         1 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

Some of the correspondence in this series had been removed from its original place in the scrapbooks and photocopies were put in their place. Much of the correspondence in this collection of papers are contained with in the scrapbook and clipping series as they are bound in the scrapbooks.

Series 3:     Scrapbooks and Clippings. 1879-1936.
                         2 lin. ft. Arranged chronologically.

This series contain a number of bound scrapbooks as well as loose material that was meant to be inserted into the scrapbooks. The scrapbooks include letters. Invitations, newspaper clippings relating to his family or local affiliations such as the NYBG or the Pleasantville Library, etc. Howe also saved programs and dinner menus, award notifications and programs from theatrical productions his children were involved in.

Series 4:     Essays, lectures and addresses. 1886-1934.
                         5 lin. in. Arranged chronologically.

This series contains Howe's essays written when he was a student, as well as some of the numerous lectures and address he was asked to give on behalf of the Garden Club or Pleasantville, the Men's Club of Pleasantville, the Pleasantville Library, or as an outstanding citizen of Vermont, etc.


This material was donated to the NYBG by Mrs. Gertrude Newton, M.A. Howe's daughter, and the Packard family, and transferred to the NYBG by Dr. Frans Stafleu, and Pat and Noel Holmgren, in 1987.


New York Botanical Garden

RG 4:  Marshall Avery Howe Records

RG 3:  Records of the Chief Executive Officer

Processed March 1999 by  Susan Fraser 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, New York 10458-5126
(718) 817-8879

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