Alexander P. Anderson Records (RG5)

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The New York Botanical Garden
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Collectors: Anderson, A. P. (Alexander Pierce)
Title: Alexander P. Anderson Records (RG5)
Dates: 1899-1931
Quantity: 3 linear feet; 3 boxes
Call Phrase: Anderson (RG5)

Biography of Alexander P. Anderson

Alexander P. Anderson was born on a farm in Featherstone, Goodhue County, Minnesota on November 22, 1862 of Swedish immigrant parents. He attended local schools and briefly attended the University of Minnesota but was obliged to return to the farm to help his parents. After their death he returned to the University in 1890. He received his B.S. degree in 1894 and a M.S. degree in 1895. During this time, the University published the results of a laboratory study that he made of the growth in weight of a pumpkin by training the vine and resting the pumpkin in the scale-pan of a self registering balance.

Alexander P. Anderson came to work at the NYBG Laboratories through the encouragement of Dr. Daniel Trembly MacDougal, who was at the time Director of Laboratories at the NYBG. It was under MacDougal that Anderson received his Master's degree at the University of Minnesota. After obtaining his B.S. and M.S. he went to Munich for his Ph.D., where he became interested in the structure of starch grains. He left for Munich in 1895 and received his PhD. one year later. He became very interested in the Meyer starch grain granule theory. He did some work at the Missouri Botanical Garden when he returned from Munich but soon went to South Carolina to teach botany at Clemson College and later the University of Minnesota. When offered a position as Curator of the Herbarium of Columbia University with the use of the Laboratories at the New York Botanical Garden, he resigned his teaching position and moved to New York. His work on starch granules continued at the laboratories at NYBG.

In December 1901 it occurred to him that starch granules could be exploded and blasted into powder with particles infinitely smaller that starch granules themselves. He took small glass tubes and hermetically sealed powdered starch in each tube. In an oven, the tubes were heated up to 400 degrees and when taken out, while still hot, cracked with a hammer. Once the pressure was released, the starch came out a porous, enlarged, snow white mass. Later, rice, wheat, and other whole grain cereals were treated in the same way. Over 1000 experiments were conducted on different products in 1902. He also worked on killing bacteria by disrupting and exploding their cell walls thus rendering their culture media sterile. The results of the experiments on cereal grains were commercial products known as "puffed rice" and "puffed wheat" made from exploding the grains. Puffed rice was first exhibited at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.

In 1902, Dr. Alexander sold his patent and his services to the Quaker Oats company and left the New York Botanical Garden. He continued his research on the minute structure of starch grains and continued to develop improved cereal foods and adhesives until his death in 1943.

Scope and Content

The bulk of the records are a collection of laboratory notebooks in which Anderson meticulously recorded each of his experiments as well as the equipment and instruments he used during the experiments. The collection also includes several hundred patents from the U.S. Patent office, both of his own inventions and those of other inventors. The records also contain a few pieces of correspondence relating to his invention of the "puffing process" as well as a few articles written by Anderson himself. The notebooks cover the career of Alexander Anderson from the time just prior to his working at the New York Botanical Garden until 1931. An Inventory of his notebooks prepared by his daughter, Lydia Elizabeth Hedin is also included.


The collection is organized into three series:
Series 1: Laboratory Notebooks. 1899-1931.
Series 2: Patents.
Series 3: Correspondence.


Access restrictions

This collection is open for research with permission from Mertz Library staff.


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be submitted in writing to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Agricultural inventions.
Anderson, A. P. (Alexander Pierce) -- Archives.
Cereal products.
New York Botanical Garden Archives.
Starch -- Structure.

Related Material

The notebooks have been microfilmed by the Minnesota Historical Society. St. Paul, MN.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

A. Anderson (RG5), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

The Anderson Papers were donated to the New York Botanical Garden Archives in 1977 by the Family of A. P. Alexander.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Susan Fraser, Head, Information Services and NYBG Archivist, July 1998. Converted to EAD in October 2006 by Kathleene Konkle under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA 50678-04).

Container List


Series 1. Laboratory Notebooks .

Scope and Content:

The notebooks contain the starch experiments which Dr. Anderson began at Clemson College and continued at the New York Botanical Garden in 1901 where the process of puffing starch, rice and wheat was discovered. Dr Anderson continued his investigations for the Quaker Oats Company, to improve the cereal products of "puffed wheat" and "puffed rice". In 1917 he built a complex of laboratories in Red Wing, Minnesota where he continued his experiments. 38 notebooks numbering from 1-40. Notebooks 29 and 30 are missing.

Box Title Date
1 Notebook 1

Starch Investigations
A series of 25 investigations by Alexander Anderson begun at Clemson College South Carolina in 1899, continued at Columbia University 1901-1902, continued at the New York Botanical Garden, New York City and completed in Minneapolis Minnesota and Chicago Illinois. Includes plant names, plant organs, experimental data, notes, etc. Patent no. 707892 issued to Alexander P. Anderson on August 26 1902 on the new method of treating starch was issued as a result of the experiment data in this notebook. The patent was removed and foldered.

1 Notebook 2

Starch, Cereals Investigations.
Data of experiments given from work begun at Minneapolis Minnesota and continued at Chicago IL. Data pertains to testing of cylinders, sugaring and hardening of rice, ideas for toaster.

Aug. 1902-July 1903
1 Notebook 3

Starch, etc. Investigations.
Data given from work carried out in Chicago, IL. devoted to experiments:
•to determine usefulness of various cylinder constructions,
•to sugar and glaze rice and other puffed materials with some form of sweetener.
•to crisp rice permanently
•to make cereal coffee from puffed barley and green coffee
•cracker jack
•to puff dent corn
•puffed pearl hominy and hominy grits
•puffed paddy rice, puffed "argo" starch, puffed wheat, buckwheat, starch, tapioca barley, puffed bread and macaroni, etc.

July 1903-May 1904
1 Notebook 4

Starch, Puffed Rice, etc.
Experiments carried out at Chicago Il., St. Louis, Mo., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Includes description of manufacturing and sale of Puffed rice, the machinery used, recipes etc. at the World's Fair, St. Louis, MO.

May 1904-Aug. 1906
1 Notebook 5

Starch, Rice etc.
Investigations continued.

Oct. 1906-Feb 1907
1 Notebook 6

Starch, Wheat and rice.
Experiments on Puffing Wheat, Puffed rice, macaroni wheat, etc.

Feb.-May 1907
1 Notebook 7

Starch, Rice, Wheat, etc.
Experiments on puffed starch, pebbled starch, pebbled flour, hominy grits, paddy rice.

July 1907- Feb 1908
1 Notebook 8 -- Feb

Starch, Wheat, Corn, Rice, etc.
Experiments with corn starch, sago, tapioca, kaffir corn, puffed bread, and other cereal grain.

June 1908
1 Notebook 9

Starch, wheat, bread, flour.
Puffed bread, paddy rice, cereal coffee, pearl sago, pearl tapioca, etc.

Nov. 1908 - May 1909
1 Notebook 10

Experiments continued.

May - June 1910
1 Notebook 11

Cereal grain and starch investigations continued

July 1909- Mar. 1910
1 Notebook 12

Starch investigations continued...with potatoes, beans, peas, etc.

Feb.- May 1910
1 Notebook 13

Investigations continued

May - June 1910
1 Notebook 14

Investigations continued

Oct. 1910 - Jan 1911
1 Notebook 15

Investigations continued...with potatoes, bananas, oats and other cereal grains.

Jan.- Mar. 1911
1 Notebook 16

Investigations continued with corn, puffed sweet corn, puffed popped corn, puffed bananas, etc..

Apr.- June 1911
1 Notebook 17

Investigations continued with puffed bananas, puffed potatoes, puffed starch, etc.

June- Aug. 1911
2 Notebook 18

Investigations continued.

Aug.-Dec. 1911
2 Notebook 19

Experiments on the manufacturing of puffed corn from corn flour ("corn puffs").

Dec. 1911-May 1912
2 Notebook 20

Experiments continued.

Mar.- July 1912
2 Notebook 21

Experiments on "Corn Puffs" and puffed rice, starch etc.

Aug. 1912 - Feb. 1913
2 Notebook 22

Experiments continued.

Feb.- Sept. 1913
2 Notebook 23

Experiments on puffed corn, pebble starch machine, making of corn pellets, etc.

Sept.- Nov. 1912
2 Notebook 24

Experiments on rice pellets, banana pellets, corn puffs and rice puffs, etc.

Sept.- Dec. 1913
2 Notebook 25

Special corn puff experiments

Nov. 1913 - Apr. 1914
2 Notebook 26

Experiments on banana pellets, roasting and pealing, using oven as kiln, etc.

Apr. 1914 - Apr. 1918
2 Notebook 27

Experiments on corn pellets, making of and puffing them into "Corn Puffs".

May 1914 - Feb. 1917
2 Notebook 28

New Lab, Red Wing, MN
Experiments on paddy, barley, cereal coffee bread and crackers, rice, etc.

Dec. 1921- Aug. 1922
Notebook 29 - 30 Missing
2 Notebook 31

Continuous puffing process. Starch and cereal grains. Plastic starch materials.

Nov. 1924- Aug. 1925
2 Notebook 32

Starch and cereal grains. Puffing Durham wheat.

Aug. Oct. 1925
2 Notebook 33- Oct. 1925

Experiments mainly on the continuous puffing process. Plastic and starch material like Flour-dough.

Jan. 1926
2 Notebook 34

Puffing whole wheat Durham flour with the continuous puffing process.

Jan. - Mar. 1926
2 Notebook 35

Experiments mainly on the continuous puffing process. Plastic and starch material like Flour-dough.

Mar.- June 1926
2 Notebook 36

Experiments mainly on the continuous puffing process. Plastic and starch material like Flour-dough. Also Automatic Rice puffing process.

June 1926 - Nov. 1927
2 Notebook 37

Experiments mainly on the continuous puffing process. Plastic and starch material like Flour-dough, also on non-starchy material like agar gluten from wheat flour, roasted bananas, corn flour, etc.

Nov. 1927 - Mar. 1928
3 Notebook 38

Experiments mainly on the continuous puffing process. Plastic and starch material like Flour-dough. Also Automatic Rice puffing process (new) and sterilizing and cooking automatically.

Mar. -June 1928
3 Notebook 39

Investigations continued.

Dec. 1930 - May 1931
3 Notebook 40

Investigations continued.

May - July 1931
3 Unnumbered notebook 1930-1931

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Series 2. Patents.

Scope and Content:

Dating from 1841-1911, pertaining to starch and grain experiments, machinery, adhesives, etc. including 3 of his own patents. These include a number Patents secured by Anderson himself for the processes and products from experiments performed at the New York Botanical Garden, most notably, the "Puffed Rice" process for which he later negotiated an agreement with the Quaker Oats company providing further investigations and large scale production and marketing.

Box Title Date
3 Patents 1841-1911

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Series 3. Correspondence.

Scope and Content:

This series includes only a few letters regarding his experiments.

Box Title Date
3 Correspondence n.d.

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