Henry A. Gleason Papers (PP)

Archives, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
200th Street and Kazimiroff Boulevard
Bronx, New York 10458-5126
Phone: 718-817-8604
URL: http://library.nybg.org/

The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. © 2005

This finding aid was produced in English.

Finding aid produced using NoteTab Pro

Collectors: Gleason, Henry A. (Henry Allan), 1882-1975.
Title: Henry A. Gleason Papers (PP)
Dates: 1835-1968
Dates: bulk, 1914-1964
Quantity: 2.2 linear feet; 6 boxes
Call Phrase: Gleason (PP)

Biography of Henry A. Gleason

Henry Allan Gleason (1882-1975) was associated with the New York Botanical Garden for 32 years from 1918-1950. During this time he served as curator, head curator, assistant director and acting director of the New York Botanical Garden for 19 months between 1936 and 1938. He was editor of the Garden Journal, Addisonia, and the Bulletin. In 1933 he began and co-edited Phytologia with Henry Moldenke. He edited revised and expanded editions of North American Flora and Plants in the Vicinity of New York.

A taxonomist and ecologist, Dr. Gleason was responsible for the development of the South American collections at the New York Botanical Garden. His specialty was the Melastomacea.

Gleason was born in Dalton City, IL on Jan. 2, 1882. He began his studies in botany at the age of 13 and published his first contribution in "The American Naturalist" while still in high school. He received his BS and MA from the University of Illinois. After a year as a fellow at the University of Ohio and a summer as the invertebrate zoologist on a survey of Isle Royale sponsored by the University of Michigan, Gleason began his studies in taxonomy under Nathaniel Lord Britton at Columbia University, graduating with a PhD. in 1906.

After teaching at the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan, Dr. Gleason studied tropical vegetation for one year , travelling to the Philippines, Java and Ceylon.

In 1918 he delivered a lecture on his findings to the Torrey Botanical Club. Following that talk, Nathaniel Lord Britton offered Gleason a permanent position at the New York Botanical Garden.

Dr. Gleason was responsible for over 235 contributions to the field of vascular botany. One of the first ecologists, he considered his idea that the "combination of morphological and geographical evidence can be of greatest service in developing the phylogeny and history of a group of plants" to be his primary theoretical contribution. He is identified with the individualistic concept of plant association which has been a strong influence on both ecological and geographical studies of vegetation.

When the American Museum of Natural History sent the first expedition to explore Mt. Duida in Venezuela, the zoologist G.H.H. Tate collected botanical material for Gleason which resulted in hundreds of species descriptions.

He married one of his students at the University of Michigan, the former Eleanor Theodolinda (Thea) Mattei in 1915. They had three children, Henry Allan, Jr., a linguist at the University of Ontario, Anne and Andrew Mattei.

Gleason retired from the NYBG in December, 1950. During his retirement, Dr. Gleason wrote an autobiography, "The Short and Simple Annals of Henry A. Gleason" and a volume of "Thumbnail Sketches of Botanists", a reference copy of which is shelved in the Library. He died on April 12, 1975.

Scope and Content

The Henry Allan Gleason Papers, 1835-1973, documents the life and career of Dr. Gleason before and after his association with the New York Botanic Garden. The bulk of the material consists of manuscripts produced by Dr. Gleason during his retirement—a three-volume autobiography, "The Short and Simple Annals of Henry A. Gleason"; reminiscences of his contacts with the leading botanists of his age; and historical and scientific essays. Other materials are brochures and memorabilia related to his research tour of the Far East in 1913-1914, his collection of herbarium labels and autographs, personal and professional correspondence, photographs and realia. The collection is arranged into seven series.


The collection is organized into seven series:
Series 1: Biographical Material. 1835-1964. Arranged chronologically.
Series 2: Correspondence. 1880-1919. Arranged chronologically.
Series 3: Manuscripts and Publications. 1904-1962. Arranged chronologically.
Series 4: Label and Signature Collection. n.d.
Series 5: Travel Memorabilia. 1913-1914. Arranged by subject.
Series 6: Photographs. 1895-1973. Arranged by subject.
Series 7: Realia, n.d. Arranged by subject


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.
Botanists -- Anecdotes.
Botany -- United States -- History -- Sources.
Britton, Nathaniel Lord, 1859-1934 -- Biography.
Gleason, Henry A. (Henry Allan), 1882-1975. -- Archives.
New York Botanical Garden -- History -- Sources.
New York Botanical Garden Archives.
Plants -- Philippines.

Related Material

New York Botanical Garden

RG4--Henry A. Gleason Records

PP--Harold Moldenke Papers

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Henry A. Gleason Papers (PP), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was transferred to the New York Botanical Garden Archives.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Laura Zelasnic, Project Archivist, January 1999, with grant funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities. (NEH-PA 23141-98). Converted to EAD in August 2006 by Kathleene Konkle under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA 50678-04).

Container List


Series 1. Biographical Material.

Scope and Content:

This series contains material about Dr. Gleason’s natal and marital families, his early school records, financial records, diaries, and the manuscript of a three volume autobiography written between 1961-1964.

Folder Title Date
1.1 Gleason Family Records 1835/1912
1.2 Diplomas and Report Cards 1893-1899
1.3 Notebooks and Diaries 1898/1904/1919/1924
1.4 Financial Data 1904-1913
1.5 Gleason Family Papers 1923-1974
1.6 "The Short and Simple Annals" Vol. 1, pt. 1 1961-1964
1.7 "The Short and Simple Annals" Vol. 1, pt. 2 1961-1964
1.8 "The Short and Simple Annals" Vol. 2, pt. 1 1961-1964
1.9 "The Short and Simple Annals" Vol. 2, pt. 2 1961-1964
2.1 "The Short and Simple Annals" Vol. 3, pt. 1 1961-1964
2.2 "The Short and Simple Annals" Vol. 3, pt. 2 1961-1964
2.3 "The Short and Simple Annals", Transmission Correspondence 1984

Return to the Top of Page

Garden Home   Science Home   Contact Us   Terms of Use 

Series 2. Correspondence.

Scope and Content:

Letters from Dr. Gleason’ s family during his school years and professional contacts regarding publications and collections make up the bulk of this series. There is one folder of correspondence addressed to Professor T.J. Burrill, which has autographed letters from some of the most distinguished scientists of the era preceding Dr. Gleason’s. Another folder of material from Thea Mattei tells the story of Gleason’s courtship and their eventual marriage. Dr. Gleason’s early contacts with the New York Botanic Garden is also chronicled through correspondence with N.L. Britton, E.D. Merrill and L. M. Underwood.

Folder Title Date
2.4 Papers of Professor T. J. Burill 1880-1907
2.5 Personal Correspondence 1896-1905
2.6 Personal Correspondence 1906-1919
2.7 Personal Correspondence, Thea Mattei 1914-1916
2.8 Professional Correspondence 1900-1905
2.9 Professional Correspondence 1906-1909
2.10 Professional Correspondence 1910-1919
2.11 Professional Correspondence, Britton, N. L. 1905-1918
2.12 Professional Correspondence, Underwood, L.M. 1906-1907
2.13 Professional Correspondence, Merrill, E. D. 1915

Return to the Top of Page

Garden Home   Science Home   Contact Us   Terms of Use 

Series 3. Manuscripts and Publications.

Scope and Content:

This series holds the whimsical aspects of Dr. Gleason’s career. One folder contains some lines of music and poetry composed by him and a number of verse parodies of the popular songs of the day. Other material includes a full run of the mimeographed community newsletter, "The Biolog", published at the summer station of the University of Michigan, during Gleason’s tenure. The original and a reference copy of the book, "Thumbnail Sketches of Botanists", invaluable for biographers of its subjects, is included in this series. A bound copy is in the library collection. Also in this series is a collection of essays on scientific and non-scientific topics, a long biographical essay on Nathaniel Lord Britton and an unidentified bibliography which touches on a variety of plant families and includes references dated before 1925.

Folder Title Date
3.1 Music, Poetry and Songs 1904
3.2 Botanical Parable n.d.
3.3 Speeches n.d.
3.4 "The Biolog" 1920-1923
3.5 "The Biolog" (reference copy) 1920-1923
3.6 Bibliography ca. 1925
3.7 Bibliography ca. 1925
3.8 "The Scientific Work of Nathaniel Lord Britton" ca. 1950
3.9 "The Scientific Work of Nathaniel Lord Britton" (annotated) ca. 1950
3.10 "Things I Never Published" 1962
3.11 "Things I Never Published" 1962
4.1 "Thumbnail Sketches of Botanists", Bound ca. 1962
4.2 "Thumbnail Sketches of Botanists", reference copy ca. 1962
4.3 "Thumbnail Sketches of Botanists", Transmission Letter 1962

Return to the Top of Page

Garden Home   Science Home   Contact Us   Terms of Use 

Series 4. Travel Memorabilia.

Scope and Content:

This series contains ephemera from Dr. Gleason’s research trip to the Far East. He traveled on the steamships "SS. Manchuria and Nordeutscher Lloyd", stopping in Italy and Switzerland, the Philippines, Singapore, Ceylon, Java and Japan. The series contains brochures and maps from each location. A packet of cartes de visite is contained in the steamship folder. One folder contains his field notes and specimens collected during the trip.

Folder Title Date
4.4 Steamships 1913-1914
4.5 Italy and Switzerland 1913-1914
4.6 Philippines and Singapore 1913-1914
4.7 Ceylon 1913-1914
4.8 Japan 1913-1914
4.9 Java 1913-1914
4.10 Field Notes and Specimens 1913-1914

Return to the Top of Page

Garden Home   Science Home   Contact Us   Terms of Use 

Series 5. Label and Signature Collection.

Scope and Content:

Dr. Gleason’s collection of herbarium and collectors’ labels was gathered over a lifetime and donated to the NYBG in 1968.

Folder Title Date
5.1 Label and Signature Collection, part 1 n.d.

Return to the Top of Page

Garden Home   Science Home   Contact Us   Terms of Use 

Series 6. Photographs.

Scope and Content:

Included in this series are portrait photographs and snapshots of Dr. Gleason, his family and their various living quarters. One folder contains snapshots of Dr. Gleason’s 91st birthday party in 1973. Other photographs are reproductions of award certificates with which he was honored. All negatives are housed in one folder.

Folder Title Date
5.4 Portraits ca. 1895-1973
5.5 Family ca. 1895-1973
5.6 91st Birthday ca. 1895-1973
5.7 10 Geddis Heights, Ann Arbor ca. 1895-1973
5.8 Awards ca. 1895-1973
5.9 Travel ca. 1895-1973
5.10 Negatives ca. 1895-1973

Return to the Top of Page

Garden Home   Science Home   Contact Us   Terms of Use 

Series 7. Realia.

Scope and Content:

This series contains three-dimensional objects, separated from other series for more secure storage.

Box Title Date
6 Turtle Shell n.d.
6 Baby Bracelet n.d.
6 3 Ivory spoons n.d.
6 Protractor n.d.

Return to the Top of Page

Garden Home   Science Home   Contact Us   Terms of Use