Herman F. Becker Papers (PP)

Archives, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
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Collectors: Becker, Herman F. (Herman Frederick), 1907-1985.
Title: Herman F. Becker Papers (PP)
Dates: 1931-1983
Abstract: Collection consists of miscelleaneous notes, newspaper clippings, journals, and scrapbooks.
Quantity: 2 linear feet; 2 boxes
Call Phrase: Herman F. Becker (PP)

Biography of Herman F. Becker

Herman F. Becker (1907-1985) was a reknown paleobotanist whose specialty was the Tertiary paleobotany of southwest Montana. He was employed by the NYBG from 1958 to 1974 and served as Curator of Paleobotany from 1965.

Born in Dusseldorf, Dr. Becker studied horticulture at the Berlin Botanical Gardens and emigrated to the United States in 1930. He was initially employed as a horticultural assistant and eventually became Superintendant of the Conservatory for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He attended Brooklyn College from 1939 to 1947 when he received his BA. He went on to study botany at Columbia University and received his MA in 1952. He then went to the University of Michigan to study paleobotany with Chester Arnold and received his PhD in 1956.

From 1947 to 1968, Dr. Becker made a total of ten summer expeditions to the Ruby River basin of southwestern Montana. These shale deposits provided him with the research material he needed to complete his dissertation and he continued to write extensively about the deposits of this area. He also was known for his work in clarifying the structure of the controversial Sanmiguelia from the Triassic deposits of Colorado.

Dr. Becker received many honors during his lifetime. He was a member of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, the Cactus and Succulent Society of America and the New York Academy of Sciences. He served as a fellow of the Geological Society of America and as president and vice-president of the Torrey Botanical Club. In 1977 he received a Distinguished Service Award from the Botanical Society of America. In 1981 he received a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Brooklyn College Alumni Association and in 1985 a symposium was held in his honor entitled “Evolution of the Modern Vegetation of the Northern Rocky Mountains. The symposium was jointly held by the Botanical Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of Dr. Becker’s research notes, teaching materials, clippings file and travel notebooks. Dr. Becker was also interested in orchids and the collection includes two of his orchid photo scrapbooks.


The collection is organized into five series:
Series 1: Personal papers. 1931-1979. Arranged chronologically.
Series 2: Travel notes. 1953-1968.
Series 3: Research notes and clippings.
Series 4: Teaching materials. 1961-1979.
Series 5: Orchid scrapbooks.


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.
Becker, Herman F. (Herman Frederick), 1907-1985 -- Archives.
Hollick, Charles Arthur, 1857-1933.
Paleobotany -- Outlines, syllabi, etc.

Related Material

New York Botanical Garden

RG4 Herman F. Becker Records

CFN Collectors' Field Notebooks

Yale University

In 1983, the entire NYBG Paleobotanical Collections were placed on long term loan with Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History where they remain a discrete collection.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Herman F. Becker Papers (PP), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was retrospectively accessioned on 24 February 1981. The original accession number was x305

Processing Information

Originally processed by Stephen Sinon, Assistant Archivist, April 1999. Converted to 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. Personal papers.

Scope and Content:

Materials in this series include a souvenir of the Boy Scouts, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens material, lecture invitations, a geology paper written from Dr. Becker’s student days, thank you notes written by a class from P.S. 92, advice to fossil hunters, book deal correspondence and consulting work.

Folder Title Date
1.1 Brooklyn Botanic Garden 1931-1939
1.2 Boy scout Jamboree 1933
1.3 Student notes 1946
1.4 Lecture invitations 1960-1976
1.5 P.S. 92 visit 1962
1.6 Doubleday & Co 1962-1965
1.7 Miscellaneous 1963-1977
1.8 Advice to Fossil Hunters 1965-1968
1.9 Job Seekers 1967
1.10 Silverman and Rogers estate 1974
1.11 Meleney, Grace C. 1974

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Series 2. Travel notes.

Scope and Content:

One small box contains 13 wire bound pocket sized note pads with various jottings concerning trips and expenses. Many of these are only written on a few pages and the bulk of the notebooks are left blank. A larger box contains 9 notebooks and numerous jottings and receipts. Two of the notebooks are labelled Europe.

Folder Title Date
1.12 Trip notes and expenses 1953-1968

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Series 3. Research notes and clippings .

Scope and Content:

These files are Dr. Becker’s personal research notes and include several folders of clippings from various newspapers and magazine sources. There are files on the fossil beds of the Ruby River region, a NYBG symposium, orchids, Sanmiguelia and Dr. Hollick. The Hollick file was compiled by Dr. Becker’s longtime assistant, Grace Meleney and appears to be the notes for an unpublished work. There is also a manuscript in French and Italian entitled Notes on the Echinocactus williamsii (Peyote).

Folder Title Date
1.13 Clippings, misc. n.d.
1.14 Hollick materials n.d.
1.15 Beaverhead Basins n.d.
1.16 Beaverhead Basins fauna n.d.
1.17 York Ranch n.d.
1.18 Metzel Ranch n.d.
1.19 Mazon Creek n.d.
1.20 Notes on the Echnocactus williamsii (Peyote) n.d.
1.21 NYBG Challenge for Survival Symposium 1968
1.22 Orchids n.d.
1.23 Sanmiguelia n.d.
1.24 University of Michigan Museum n.d.
1.25 Research notes, misc. n.d.

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Series 4. Teaching materials.

Scope and Content:

This series consists of the lecture notes of Dr. Becker, his class handouts, several outstanding student papers and correspondence concerning his teaching contracts.

Folder Title Date
2.1 Student papers – Agostini 1968
2.2 Student papers – Achuff 1968
2.3 Student papers – LaFrance 1966
2.4 Student papers – Moore 1965
2.5 Hunter College n.d.
2.6 Lehman College n.d.
2.7 NYBG Continuing Education courses n.d.
2.8 Field Trips n.d.
2.9 Lecture notes, Misc. n.d.
2.10 Tracheophyta sphenopsida lecture n.d.
2.11 Ferns lecture n.d.
2.12 Paleobotany lectures n.d.
2.13 Time scale/radiocarbon dating lecture n.d.
2.14 Supra-specific variation lecture n.d.
2.15 Coniferophyta lecture n.d.
2.16 Lycopsida lectures n.d.
2.17 Evolution lectures n.d.
2.18 Fossil lectures n.d.
2.19 Class handouts 1962-1979
2.20 Physiography n.d.
2.21 Telome lectures n.d.
2.22 Geofloras lecture n.d.
2.23 Cretaceous coastal plain lectures n.d.
2.24 Coal cycle lecture n.d.
2.25 Coal ball peels n.d.
2.26 Origins of Life lecture n.d.
2.27 Insect/flower evolution lecture n.d.
2.28 Angiosperms lecture n.d.
2.29 Palynology lecture n.d.
2.30 Field lab n.d.
2.31 Amber lecture n.d.
2.32 Darwin lectue n.d.
2.33 Pre-Darwinian evolution lecture n.d.

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Series 5. Orchid scrapbooks.

Scope and Content:

These two albums of black and white photos are labelled with species. Orchids were an interest of Dr. Becker.

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