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Llewelyn Williams (1901-1980)

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76.2 linear feet (56 boxes)


Llewelyn Williams (1901-1980) was an economic botanist and wood technologist, and an authority on plants that produce latex used commercially for gums and rubbers. He was born in Conway, Wales and obtained his B.Sc. (1924), M.Sc. (1935), and D.Sc. (1963) at the University of Wales, specializing in tropical American woods and forest products. In 1928 he did post-graduate studies under Dr. Samuel J. Record of the Yale University School of Forestry. In the course of his career he collected and studied latex-bearing plants and other rain-forest products in tropical regions throughout the world for scientific and commercial purposes. He conducted extensive field investigations in the Amazon, Caura, and Orinoco River basins of northern South America, and later traveled to Africa, Southeast Asia, India, and the Philippine Islands.

From 1924 to 1926 Williams managed a 700-acre tea estate in Assam, India, before receiving an appointment as Dendrologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois. His career at the Field Museum spanned 26 years (1926-52), where he was Curator of Economic Botany from 1938. During this time he undertook several assignments on leave of absence, as Research Botanist for the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry of Venezuela (1938-40; 1941-42) and as Senior Field Technician for a United States Government agency, the Rubber Development Corporation (1942-45). The latter assignment was an emergency World War II project to recruit and train rubber-tappers to locate and extract Hevea rubber in the Upper Orinoco River valley.

After the War, Williams conducted fieldwork (1945-55) for the Dreyfus Corporation, a Wrigley Chewing Gum Co. subsidiary, to locate natural sources of gums, rubber, resins, and waxes in tropical forests. He remained a consultant for the Wrigley Company on tropical forest products from 1956 to 1960. In 1961 the United States Department of Agriculture recruited Dr. Williams for an appointment as Senior Economic Botanist, Crops Research Division. In this capacity he was engaged in research (1963-67) on the effects of chemical defoliants with the USDA Agricultural Research Service under contract with the Advanced Research Projects Agency (United States Department of Defense). Dr. Williams conducted an intensive study of forest and agricultural zones, including aerial reconnaissance, in Thailand and other countries of Southeast Asia, and he published a comparative study, Forests of Southeast Asia, Puerto Rico, and Texas (1967). In 1966 he participated in a USDA project under the auspices of the International Agricultural Development Service to evaluate agriculture and forest resources in the Republic of Dahomey, Africa.

Llewelyn Williams was a seasoned explorer, a world authority on botanical products of tropical rain forests, and a man firmly dedicated to his Welsh heritage. He did his own photography and amassed a substantial collection of photos that document the extraction and processing of gums, rubbers, resins, and related material from tropical plants. He published hundreds of scientific articles and industrial reports on wood species and products based on firsthand field investigations and surveys. He was a member of the International Association of Wood Anatomists from its founding in 1930, and Secretary for the Society for Economic Botany. Dr. Williams died in 1980, at the age of 79.


The collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts and typescripts, research papers, personal papers, maps, travel memorabilia, audio tape recordings (Dictaphone), film (16mm), artifacts, and photographic material which includes positive and negative prints, glass negatives, and color slides. A portion of the photography appears in scrapbooks and bound publications. The collection covers most of Dr. Williams' career including botanical research and fieldwork with the Chicago (Field) Museum of Natural History, Rubber Development Corporation, Dreyfus Corporation (a subsidiary of the Wrigley Chewing Gum Co.), and the USDA. A substantial portion of the research papers and photography documents worldwide botanical exploration in the tropics, especially in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins of South America and in Thailand. The personal papers document Dr. Williams' Welsh heritage and his affiliations to various Welsh, fraternal, and religious organizations. His field notebooks are located in the New York Botanical Garden Collectors' Field Notebooks series.


Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Manuscripts and Typescripts
Series 3: Research Papers
Series 4: Personal Papers
Series 5: Research Grants
Series 6: Photographic Material
Series 7: Maps
Series 8: Audio Recordings
Series 9: Film, 16mm
Series 10: Publications
Series 11: Artifacts
Series 12: Field Notebooks

Series 1     Correspondence, 1926-1974
                   2.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by author/organization.

There are 2 boxes of incoming and outgoing correspondence with colleagues, government officials and agencies, professional organizations, and forestry associations and agencies. Notable correspondents include Henri F. Pittier, Richard Evans Schultes, Dreyfus Corporation executives, Rubber Development Corporation officials, USDA officials, Wrigley Chewing Gum Company executives, and the Yale University School of Forestry. Three files relate to requests for specimens for a wood exhibition organized by Dr. Williams and the Chicago (Field) Museum of Natural History in 1931. Oversize documents are located in Box 19. Several subject files relating to research material are located in Series 3: Research Papers. For personal correspondence, see Series 4: Personal Papers, Boxes 16 and 17.

Series 2     Manuscripts and Typescripts, 1902-1974
                  7.1 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by author, thereunder by title.

There are approximately 6 boxes of manuscripts and typescripts in English and Spanish. Although other authors are represented, Llewelyn Williams authored most of the material, some of which is unpublished. Topics include plant collecting, botanical exploration, latex-yielding plant species, latex products and toxicity, phytogeography, wood technology, commercial applications, vernacular names of plants, agricultural development, and forest resources. There are drafts of industrial reports and a reference compilation of American woods as well as various biographical, historical, and popular writings. Transcripts of radio broadcasts include a Universal Broadcasting Council program (1937) "From the Ends of the Earth" (see Series 8: Audio Recordings). Oversize material is located in Box 19. See also Series 4: Personal Papers for autobiographical writings, reminiscences, and short stories; and Series 10: Publications for related published material.

Series 3     Research Papers, 1929-1973
                  17.5 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

The Research Papers consist of subject files on (a) latex-yielding plant species; (b) gum and rubber products; (c) tropical woods; (d) agricultural and forest resources (by country); and (e) genus files. There are 13 files of bibliographic material, 22 files of field exploration reports (primarily from Brazil), and 9 files of photo indices (see Series 6: Photographic Material). Thirty-eight files of data entitled "Field Collection Numbers" are organized regionally and/or sequentially (e.g., "18000" sequence). Of these there are comprehensive collection data on Peruvian woods (1929-1930), Orinoco River basin plants (1939-1942), Plantas Venezolanos (1938), and Plantas Recogidas en Guayana (1940) among several others. These files consist of transcriptions of field notebook data, for which see Series 12: Field Notebooks, below.

Research milestones of Dr. Williams' career are documented with data on the Marshall Field Amazon Expedition (1929); Rubber Development Corporation reports on sources of South America rubber during World War II (1942-46); Dreyfus Corporation reports and memoranda; and research on chicle and chilte for the Wrigley Chewing Gum Co. Several files relate to government research under the auspices of the USDA on the effects of herbicides and patterns of successional forest growth after defoliation. For this project, see Advanced Research Projects Agency; Forests of Southeast Asia, Puerto Rico, and Texas; Thailand; Vietnam, and various USDA files. An index card file is located in Box 18, and oversize documents in Boxes 19-22.

Series 4     Personal Papers, 1924-1963
                  1.2 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

The Personal Papers consist of biographical writings, clippings, correspondence, diaries, memorabilia, typescripts of short stories, and personal records (e.g., employment, financial, genealogical, legal, and medical). There are 15 correspondence files, including 4 files with Dr. Williams' wife, Mary Williams. The latter provide personal information about events at home and about detailed travel itineraries, hardships, personnel, and accomplishments from field locations throughout the world. Several files contain records and memorabilia relating to Dr. Williams' membership in religious and fraternal organizations and his participation in a variety of Welsh and Welsh-American organizations. Notable items include diaries (English and Spanish) of field trips to the upper Orinoco River basin (1941-42) and to the Peruvian Amazon (1959) and a missionary's account of travel to the North Lushai Hills of Assam, India (1924).

Series 5    Research Grants, 1960-1973
                  0.3 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by granting institution.

There are 7 files of research grant application and related material. Most relate to applications for National Science Foundation (NSF) grants; all but one concern research projects of Dr. Williams.

Series 6    Photographic Material, 1929-1968
                  37.0 lin. ft. Arranged by media, thereunder by size, thereunder by subject.

There are an estimated 11,000+ photographic images in the collection in the form of positive and negative prints, color slides, and glass slides. The photography documents botanical expeditions and fieldwork; tapping and production operations of latex-bearing trees; identity and forms of plant species (especially those producing gums and rubbers); plant cultivation; and regional surveys of forest and agricultural habitats. Comprehensive regional surveys in Thailand, Puerto Rico, and the Peruvian Amazon include aerial photography. Some of the photographic material consists of line drawings of plant species, diagrams, and maps. Much of the photography is captioned and has been used in published material (Series 10: Publications), documenting a variety of research projects and botanical expeditions throughout the tropics. See Series 3: Research Papers for a photo index list.

Photos appear in single shots, numbered photographic sequences, scrapbooks (intact and disassembled), and suspended on hanging mounts ("Fotofolio" books). There are 4 boxes of color slides, some of which duplicate other photographic material. Images are organized alphabetically by plant species, botanical product, country, or location. Positive and negative prints have been cross-referenced with Dr. Williams' identifying numbers where possible. Major pictorial sequences have been coded systematically as follows: D = Dahomey; E1 = Puerto Rico defoliation study; IC = Indochina; M = Manilkara; PR = Puerto Rico; T = Texas; #-63/64 = Thailand, 1963/64; #-65 = Thailand, 1965; W = Vanilla.

Photographic subjects include surveys of latex-yielding species (e.g., Achras, Castilloa, Cnidoscolus, Couma, Dyera, Hevea, Manilkara, Palaquium, Sapium et al) and latex products (e.g., balata, chicle, chilte, gutta-percha, jelutong, leche-caspi et al). There are photo surveys of the Marshall Field Amazon Expedition (1929); exploration of South America during World War II; comparative studies of the forest resources of Puerto Rico, Texas, and Thailand relating to herbicide testing; and the economic botany of the Caura and Orinoco Valleys, Venezuela. Much of the collection has ethnographic significance as Dr. Williams photographed individuals of aboriginal cultures in the context of their aesthetic, material, economic, and social culture. There are portraits of Dr. Williams, his wife and family, and group photos of professional organizations. Oversize photos are located in Boxes 33 and 34. Photographic material can also be found in Series 2: Manuscripts and Typescripts; Series 3: Research Papers; and Series 4: Personal Papers.

Series 7    Maps, 1935-1966
                  1.3 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically or by assigned number.

There are 2 boxes containing maps in a variety of formats and media. Most of the maps are housed in file folders and are of photographic quality (glossy and matte) or of paper and board. There are 13 oversize maps, both published and hand-drawn. Subjects include travel routes, encampments, forest and agricultural zones, topography, and physical and national boundaries. Several are marked and annotated. Most are country maps, especially of Southeast Asia and South America; there are regional and local maps as well. Notable maps describe botanical areas studied by Dr. Williams, travel routes in the Orinoco and Peruvian Amazon River basins, and a wide variety of forest and agricultural zones and types in Thailand. There is one composite aeronautical chart of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. Negatives of photo-quality maps (and smaller photo maps) are located in Series 6: Photographic Material. The collection complements and supports the botanical and expedition information of Series 2: Manuscripts and Typescripts, and Series 3: Research Papers.

Series 8    Audio Recordings, 1937-1960
                  0.5 lin. ft. Arranged by media.

There are two types of audio recordings: (a) Dictaphone tape recordings, and (b) an oversize 33.3 long-playing record. The Dictaphone recordings (ca. 1960) relate to latex substances, e.g., chilte, couma, et al, and are labeled by subject and date. The single oversize LP record is a recording of a 1937 radio broadcast of a program entitled "From the Ends of the Earth" featuring Llewelyn Williams' narrative about a Chicago (Field) Museum Expedition to Peru. A transcript of the recording is located in Series 2: Manuscripts and Typescripts, Box 3.

Series 9     Film, 16mm, 1940-1958
                  2.8 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

There are 3 boxes of film of fieldwork activities on several botanical expeditions. Of this material there are 31 containers of 16mm film and 4 oversize reels relating to travels in Venezuela and the western United States.

Series 10    Publications, 1924-1974
                   1.3 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically by title.

There is one box of publications (bound and unbound), most of which are USDA publications (1963-1973) on forest and agricultural studies in Southeast Asia and Puerto Rico. One item, Orinoco Basin (1962), contains original photographic prints pasted within. There is also an assortment of journal articles and reprints in both English and Spanish relating to tropical woods, latex-bearing trees, and botanical exploration of South America. Most published material appears in draft form in Series 2: Manuscripts and Typescripts. One oversize folder is located in Box 21.

Series 11    Artifacts, ca. 1950's
                   1.3 lin. ft. No arrangement.

There is one box of artifacts that Dr. Williams collected in his travels to South America and elsewhere, including a wooden deskplate from the Philippine Islands. There are an assortment of woven items (baskets, brush, and pouch), a small box containing kapok (silk floss), 2 wooden spindles, a lump of resin, and 10 wooden arrows (darts). [Caution: the darts are extremely sharp - handle with care.]

Series 12    Field Notebooks, 1921-1965
                    3.4 lin. ft. Arranged by assigned number.

There are 48 field notebooks containing field collection (specimen) data and numbers, diaries, accounts, and other field notes. In addition, there is one (unnumbered) box containing 35 notebooks of field notes, diaries, accounts, and other textual material. Most of these are small pocket notebooks. All of Dr. Williams' field notebooks have been separated and removed to the New York Botanical Garden Collectors' Field Notebooks series.


The University of Wisconsin (Madison) Department of Botany donated the Llewelyn Williams collection to The New York Botanical Garden in 1988 via Dr. Brian Boom.


The New York Botanical Garden

RA     Society for Economic Botany Records
CFN   Numbers 119, 380-392

Processed October 2000 by David Rose 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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