Caroline Kathryn Allen Records (RG4)

Archives, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
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This finding aid was produced in English.

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Collectors: Allen, Caroline Kathryn Allen, 1904-1975.
Title: Caroline Kathryn Allen Records (RG4)
Dates: 1948-1975; bulk, 1948-1971
Abstract: Collection consists of correspondence, notes, clippings, printed matter, manuscripts, specimens, lists, grant proposals and reports, photographs, field notes, field drawings and memorabilia.
Quantity: 3.4 linear feet; 3 boxes
Call Phrase: Caroline Kathryn Allen (IR)

Biography of Caroline Kathryn Allen

Caroline Kathryn (C.K.) Allen (1904-1975) was a taxonomist specializing in lauraceae. She served the New York Botanical Garden as an honorary Collaborator in Lauraceae from 1951 to 1959 and as a Research Associate from 1959 to 1974. In the course of her career she described over 275 new species, wrote numerous journal articles and contributed sections on lauraceae in fourteen Flora from Panama to Okinawa, collaborating with authorities such as Bassett Maguire, E. D. Merrill, J. A. Steyermark, E. H. Walker, and Robert E. Woodson. An accomplished botanical artist, she often illustrated her own articles and used her skills to record the microscopic dissections demonstrating the distinctions among the genera of nectandra, ocotea and pleurothyrium.

Dr. Allen was born in Pawling, N.Y. on April 7, 1904. Her father, Howard N. Allen, was a member of the New York State Assembly from 1923-1944, serving at times on the Agriculture Committee and the Committee on Religious Societies.

She studied Botany and Chemistry at Vassar, graduating in 1926. After a year at the Arnold Arboretum under Alfred Rehder and M. L. Fernald she transferred to the Missouri Botanical Garden where she studied under J. M. Greenman, receiving her Ph.D. in 1932. Her dissertation, A Monograph of the American species of the genus Halenia was published in 1933.

She returned to the Arnold Arboretum in 1932 as Assistant in the Herbarium. Her initial field of research was the Laurel family of the Eastern Hemisphere. Utilizing collections of E. H. Wilson, J. F. Rock and materials sent from Lingan University, she published her first Study in 1938. Four other floristic papers (1939-1942) followed—treatments of several genera from Eastern Asia and the Pacific Islands using material from the Archbold Expeditions to New Guinea.

At the close of World War II, Robert Woodson, Jr. solicited her collaboration for the treatment of lauraceae in his Flora of Panama. This was the initiation of her research into lauraceae of Tropical America. The publication of the Flora of Panama (1948) brought an invitation from Bassett Maguire to prepare a treatment of Lauraceae for his Plant Explorations in Guiana in 1944 (1948).

Family responsibilities forced her to resign from the Arboretum in 1948 and return to Pawling. Her work was severely curtailed over the next decade as she discharged her responsibilities.

On January 18, 1950, Bassett Maguire with whom she had collaborated on his Guiana study, presented her with a whimsical document granting "all and any priviledges of working, studying, loafing or snooping in the herbaria…of the New York Botanical Garden, whenever and in whatever manner shall to her seem fitting." It was signed by J. J. Wurdock, Carol H. Woodward, Donald T. Rogers and Richard S. Cowan along with Maguire’s signature and thumbprint.

By 1951 she had a formal title—Collaborator in Lauraceae and a contract which carried no stipend but was renewed every three years until 1959. During this period she performed all of the determinations on Lauraceae sent to the NYBG for examination. She also supervised the graduate work of Lucille Kopp from suggesting a topic- A Revision of the Lauraceous Genus Persea to attending to its publication in 1966.

In 1959, her family duties accomplished, she was hired as a Research Associate under Bassett Maguire’s grant for his Botany of the Guayana Highland. She contributed all of the taxonomic determinations of the Lauraceae in both studies. With the support of Maguire and the NYBG, Allen then began applying for grants to support her own research.

In 1952, A. J. G. H. Kostermans of the Herbarium Bogoriensis had published a revision of the Lauraceae genera in which he proposed the combination of Nectandra and Ocotea into the single genus Ocotea. Dr. Allen did not agree with this model and the remaining portion of her career was dedicated to maintaining nectandra and ocotea as separate genera along with the related genus Pleurothyrium.

The differences among the three are discernable through microscopic dissection. With the collaboration of Richard M. Klein, curator of Plant Physiology, she sought to differentiate the genera through chromophotography and isolation of alkaloids. This involved collaborations with Smith, Kline and French Pharmaceuticals and the McCormick Spice Company who supplied bay leaves for their experiments.

In 1962 Dr. Allen embarked on her first field collections. Supported by grants from the American Philosophical Society and the National Science Foundation, she collected in Brazil, Venezuela and Surinam and examined specimens in herbaria in those countries. She purchased the Bausch and Lomb compound microscope and the Dictaphone which were to accompany her on all of her four succeeding field investigations. In 1963, she spent two months collecting in the cloud forests of Mexico. She met Thomas MacDougall in Oaxaha and secured a photocopy of his field notebook for the NYBG. In 1964 she made a three month survey of types and critical material of Tropical American Lauraceae in the major herbaria of Europe. In 1965 she collected for a month in Trinidad. In 1966 she surveyed Lauracea species in the Amazon Region. She published The Generic Status of Nectandra, Ocotea and Pleurothyrium in Notes on Lauraceae of Tropical America in Phytology in 1966. She had shown that the three genera were distinct.

In 1967 she spent six months in the major herbaria of Europe with her microscope and Dictaphone, producing numerous drawings of microscopic dissections of type and critical lauraceae material as a preliminary to her final study of nectandra, ocotea and pleurothyrium. It was never completed. In all, she received five National Science Foundation grants which were administered by the NYBG to support her research and publications.

She retired from the NYBG in May, 1974. According to those present, she simply closed the door to her office one evening and never came back.

She removed to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where she died on April 6, 1975.

Scope and Content

Correspondence (1948-1974), notes, clippings, printed matter, manuscripts, specimens, lists, grant proposals and reports, photographs, field notes, field drawings and memorabilia documenting Dr. Allen’s field and laboratory studies and publications in Lauraceae during her 25 years with the New York Botanical Garden as a Collaborator and Research Associate. Correspondents include: Luciano Bernardini, A. J. G. H. Kostermans, Alain Liogier, E.H. Walker, Robert Woodson, Julian Steyermark, William L. Stern and C.G.G.J. van Steenis as well as staff of the New York Botanical Garden, especially Bassett Maguire . The collection is arranged into nine series.


The collection is organized into nine series:
Series 1: Biographical material. 1961-1971.
Series 2: Correspondence. 1947-1974.
Subseries A: Lauraceae. 1948-1974
Subseries B: General. 1947-1969
Subseries C: Personal.
Series 3: Notes and clippings.
Series 4: Species notes.
Series 5: Field work.
Subseries A: South America
Subseries B: Mexico
Subseries C: European Herbaria
Subseries D: West Indies
Subseries E: European Herbaria
Series 6: Grants.
Series 7: Manucripts and publications.
Series 8: Photographs
Series 9: Memorobilia.


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.
Allen, Caroline Kathryn, 1904-1975--Archives.
MacDougall, Thomas Baillie, 1896-1973.
Maguire, Bassett, 1904-
Botanical exploration--Amazon River Region.
Botanical exploration--Mexico.
Botanical exploration--Trinadad and Tobago--Trinadad.
Women botanists.
New York Botanical Garden Archives.
Document Types
Field notes.

Related Material

New York Botanical Garden

RG4 -- Personal Papers of C.K. Allen

FCN -- Field Collectors Notebook Series/Vol. 624-626. Volume 624 contains her observations in Trinidad and Tobago (1965-1966). Volume 625 records her expedition to the Cloud Forests of Mexico in 1963. Vol. 626 is MacDougall’s notes on Oaxaca and Chiappas (1939-1971).

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Caroline Kathryn Allen (IR), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was retrospectively accessioned on 29 January 1980. The original accession number was x62.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Laura Zelasnic, Project Archivist, March 1999, with grant funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA 23141-98). Converted into EAD in December 2005 by Kathleene Konkle under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) PA-50678-04.

Container List


Series 1. Biographical materials.

Scope and Content:

Located in this series are the curricula vitae prepared by Dr. Allen for grant applications and inclusion in professional directories such as American Men of Science and Who's Who of American Women. Also here are Allen's complete bibliographies. Portrait photographs of Dr. Allen can be found in Series 8: Photographs.

folder Title Date
1 Curricula Vitae 1961-1971
1 Bibliographies 1962-1971
1 Publicity 1963-1964
1 Retirement Plan 1972

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Series 2. Correspondence.

Scope and Content:

Organized into three subseries: Lauraceae 1948-1974; General 1947-1969; and Personal. Lauraceae contains communication with the international community regarding loans, determinations of species, and requests for her comments and collaboration on various projects. Among her correspondents are: Luciano Bernardini, A.J.G.H. Kostermans, Alain Liogier, Robert Woodson, Jr., Julian Steyermark, William L. Stern, E.H. Walker, and Carroll Wood. Manuscripts and publications resulting from these collaborations are found in Series 7: Manuscripts and publications. Allen's activities as a fundraiser for C.G.G. J. van Steenis' Flora Malesiana are documented in folders identified by the man and the publication. Correspondence filed under General documents Dr. Allen's professional contacts over the course of her career. The Personal Correspondence Subseries contains personal letters from friends, relatives and colleagues. It offers insight into Dr. Allen's cordial relations with her colleagues as well as the more general day-to-day activities of a professional woman of her era. Series 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 all contain correspondence, filed with the subjects to which it refers. All photographs which were enclosed in correspondence have been removed and placed in Series 8: Photographs and Memorabilia.


Subseries A. Lauraceae, 1948-1974.


Subseries B. General, 1947-1969.


Subseries C. Personal, 1948-1973.

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Series 3. Notes and Clippings.

Scope and Content:

This series contains research photocopies, reprints, bibliographies and clippings related to Dr. Allen's lauraceae studies. Here is located her research and correspondence on Photography, Chromotography and the Isolation of Alkaloids in Lauraceae - the means by which she challenged Kostermans' lumping of ocotea and nectandra. Non-lauraceae files contain notes towards entries destined for an unidentified encyclopedia or guidebook. The verso of many of these pages is a typescript of what appears to be a mystery novel set in a herbarium. Other non-lauraceae material is a photo essay on the Lorillard Snuff Mill, clipped from a magazine.

folder Title Date
1 Lauraceae Loans n.d.
2 Lauraceae Geront 1830-1971
3 Ocotea 1935-1956
4 Octotea Dissections from Type Material ca. 1971
5 Pleurthyrium clippings and notes n.d.
6 Misc. Lauraceae n.d.
7 Chromotography and Isolation of Alkaloids in Lauraceae 1961-1962
8 Photography Lessons 1962-1963
9 A Historical Survey of Lauraceae by A.J.G.H. Kostermans, with notes 1952
10 I. Vatt. to sort (Lauaceae) 1964-1966
11 Lauraceae in the Literature ca. 1968
12 Literature to check for Lauraceae 1968-1971
13 Lasser, T., Lauraceas Nuevas de Venezuela 1942
14 Mez, Carl, Biography and translation of American Lauraceae 1968
15 Kostermans, A.J.G.H., Materials for a Revision of Lauraceae II 1969
16 Ecquador Bibliographies 1970
17 Definitions of Biologist and Natural Historian n.d.
18 Biographical Notes and Botanists ca. 1959-1960
19 Encyclopedia, Cypridum ca. 1957
20 Encyclopedia, Dogwood ca. 1957
21 Encyclopedia, Gentiana ca. 1957
22 Encyclopedia, Nelumbo Lutea ca. 1957
23 Encyclopedia, Phyllitis Scolopendrum ca. 1957
24 Encyclopedia, Trailing Arbutus ca. 1957
25 Encyclopedia, Miscellaneous n.d.
26 Lorillard Snuff Mill, NYBG 1970

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Series 4. Species notes.

Scope and Content:

This series is organized by genera. Each folder contains bibliographic citations of species within the individual genus. Leaf sketches and dissection drawings are attached to some citations.

folder Title Date
27 A-Z (Small) with synonyms n.d.
28 Aniba (A-C) n.d.
29 Aniba (D-W) n.d.
30 Aiouea n.d.
31 Beilschmiedia n.d.
32 Cassytha n.d.
33 Cryptocaryeae n.d.
34 Endlichera n.d.
35 Kalima n.d.
36 Licaria n.d.
37 Mezilaurus n.d.
38 Nectandra n.d.
39 Persea n.d.
40 Phoebe n.d.
41 Pleurothyrium n.d.
42 Ocotea n.d.
43 Miscellaneous n.d.

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Series 5. Field work.

Scope and Content:

This series contains notes, correspondence, reports, specimen lists and dissections drawn on site during Dr. Allen’s five grant-funded field trips to South American, Mexican, and European herbaria and botanical gardens. A personal journal recording her experiences during her first expedition offers insight into her personality and issues faced by female scientists of her era. Other drawings and illustrations done by Dr. Allen are located in the Botanical Art and Illustration Collection.


Subseries A: South America.1962.


Subseries B: Mexico.1963-1970.


Subseries C: European Herbaria.1964.


Subseries D: West Indies.1964-1971.


Subseries E: European Herbaria.1967-1968.

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Series 6. Grants.

Scope and Content:

Dr. Allen was the recipient of six National Science Foundation grants and one from the American Philosophical Society which supported her field work in European and South American herbaria and two collecting expeditions in Mexico and Northern South America. These were administered by the New York Botanical Garden. This series contains proposals, narrative and fiscal reports and correspondence related to their fulfillment.

folder Title Date
30 American Philosophical Society 1961-1963
31 Non-NSF Applications and Correspondence 1963
32 NSF General Materials 1963-1970
33 NSFG-9804, Proposal 1959
34 NSFG-9804, Budgets 1959-1962
35 NSFG-9804, Annual Report 1961
36 NSFG-9804, Correspondence 1959-1962
37 NSFG-B02, Proposal 1962
38 NSFG-B02, Ledger Sheets 1962-1964
39 NSFG-B02, Correspondence 1962-1964
40 NSFG-B3048, Proposal 1964-1966
41 NSFG-B3048, Ledger Sheets 1965-1966
42 NSFG-B3048, Annual Reports 1965-1968
43 NSFG-B3048, Correspondence 1964-1967
44 NSFG-B6431X, Proposal 1967
45 NSFG-B6431X, Financial Worksheets 1967-1969
46 NSFG-B6431X, Ledger Sheets 1967-1969
47 NSFG-B6431X, Annual Report 1969
48 NSFG-B6431X, Correspondence 1967-1968
49 NSFG-B6431X-1, Proposal and Budget 1969-1970
50 NSFG-B6431X-1, Annual Reports 1970-1972
51 NSFG-B22660, Proposal 1970-1972
52 NSFG-B22660, Budget and Fiscal Report 1972
53 NSFG-B22660, Ledger Pages 1970-1973
54 NSFG-B22660, Correspondence 1969-1970
55 Guggenheim Foundation, Proposal and Reply 1972

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Series 7. Manuscripts and Publications.

Scope and Content:

Included in this series are notes, manuscripts and reprints related to 5 of the 20 studies on lauracea that Dr. Allen published during her tenure at the New York Botanical Garden. The bulk of the material relates to her contributions in lauraceae (including plate drawings) to Bassett Maguire’s Botany of the Guyana Highland, V and VI. The detailed indexes to these articles created by Dr. Allen are found here. The manuscript for her review of Kostermans’ Bibliography of Lauraceae, published in Taxon in 1964 is here with its multiple and painstaking revisions. Other manuscripts include her Lauraceae contributions to E.H. Walker’s Flora of Okinawa, Steyermark’s Flora of Ayuan-tepui, and notes for her study of phytologia, nectandra, ocotea, and pleurothrium in South America (1966).

folder Title Date
44 Book Reviews, Drafts 1960-1964
45 Ernest Jesse Palmer, An Appreciation - Draft 1962
46 1963
47 Robert Everard Woodson, Jr.— Correspondence, notes and clippings 1964
48 Review of Kostermans, Bibliographarum Lauracearum, Drafts and correspondence 1964
49 Lauraceae in Botany of the Guyana Highland, V by Bassett Maguire, Reprint 1964
50 Lauraceae in Botany of the Guyana Highland, V by Bassett Maguire-Indexes 1964
51 Lauraceae in Botany of the Guyana Highland, V by Bassett Maguire-Plates 1964
52 Lauraceae in Botany of the Guyana Highland, VI by Bassett Maguire, Reprint 1965
53 Lauraceae in Botany of the Guyana Highland, VI by Bassett Maguire - Indexes ca. 1965
54 Lauraceae in Contributions to the Botany of Guiana, II, Reprint 1966
55 Lauraceae in Contributions to the Botany of Guiana, II, Indexes ca. 1966
56 Notes on Lauraceae of Tropical America – Drafts, drawings, notes and reprint 1966
57 Lauraceae in Flora of Auyan-tepui by J.A. Steyermark 1967
58 Lauraceae in Novitates Antillanae IV by Alain H. Liogier 1971
59 Lauraceae in Flora of Okinawa by E.H. Walker, Correspondence, drafts and revisions (1) 1965-1971
60 Lauraceae in Flora of Okinawa by E.H. Walker, Correspondence, drafts and revisions (2) 1965-1971

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Series 8. Photographs.

Scope and Content:

This series contains portrait photographs of Dr. Allen and photographs of specimens –including a photograph of South American Indians preparing lauraceous curare removed from Series 2: Correspondence.

folder Title Date
56 Portraits 1961-1971
57 Specimen photographs 1968-1970

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Series 9. Memoribilia.

Scope and Content:

Contains a medallion from L’Academie Royale des Sciences in Paris commemorating the Bicentennial of Linnaean Taxonomy (1763-1963).

folder Title Date
58 Medallion, L'Academie Royale des Sciences 1963

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