Henry A. Gleason 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: Gleason, Henry A. (Henry Allan), 1882-1975.
Title: Henry A. Gleason Records (RG4)
Dates: 1921-1983
Dates: bulk, 1930-1950
Quantity: 7.5 linear feet; 9 boxes
Call Phrase: Gleason (RG4)

Biography of Henry A. Gleason

Henry A. (Henry Allan) Gleason (1882-1975) was born in Dalton City, Ill. 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.

In his 30 years with the New York Botanical Garden, Dr. Gleason served in a variety of capacities including curator, head curator, and assistant director. He was acting director for 19 months between 1936 and 1938. Gleason served at various times as editor of the Garden Journal, Addisonia, and the Bulletin. He edited a revised and expanded edition of North American Flora and Plants of the Vicinity of New York and in 1933, he founded the journal Phytologia, along with Harold Moldenke.

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.

Dr. Gleason served as Vice-President of the Pacaraima-Venezuela Expedition co-sponsored by the NYBG, the American Museum of Natural History and the National Geographic Society. 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.

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 New York Botanical Garden in 1951. During his retirement, Dr. Gleason wrote an autobiography, “The Short and Simple Annals of Henry A. Gleason” housed in his Papers and a volume of “Thumbnail Sketches of Botanists”, a reference copy of which is shelved in the Library. He died on April 12, 1975.


“ Autobiography, n.d.”, Series 1: Biographical Material, Records of Henry A. Gleason, Record Group 4, Library, New York Botanical Garden.

Scope and Content

The Henry Allan Gleason Records, 1921-1975, documents the scientific and administrative career of Dr. Gleason at the New York Botanic Garden. The bulk of the material consists of correspondence generated in his capacities as head curator, assistant director and acting director of the institution. Other materials are photographs and printed, typewritten and manuscript articles and botanical descriptions; especially material related to his life work- a comprehensive study of the flora of British Guiana. Gleason's Field Collection Notebooks (Vol. 94, 95) from his trip to Northern South America and G. H. H. Tate's Field Collection Notebook (Vol. 98) from the Pacaraima-Venezuela Expedition to Mt. Duida in 1939 have been removed and is located in the Collectors' Field Notebooks collection (CFN). A collection of notebooks containing illustrations, citation data and research notes on Melastomataceae compiled by Gleason and J. J. Wurdack was given to the Archives in 2003. The collection is arranged into seven series.


The collection is organized into seven series:
Series 1: Biographical Material. 1944-1975. Arranged chronologically.
Series 2: Annual Reports. 1942.
Series 3: Correspondence. 1921-1948. Arranged alphabetically by correspondent, subject and institution.
Series 4: Photographs. 1928-1937. Arranged by subject.
Series 5: Manuscripts and Publications. 1924-1953. Arranged by subject.
Series 6: Field Notebooks.
Series 7: Melastomataceae notebooks.


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.
California Botanic Garden.
Gleason, Henry A. (Henry Allan), 1882-1975. -- Archives.
Maxon, William Ralph, 1877-1948.
New York Botanical Garden -- History -- Sources.
New York Botanical Garden Archives.
Pacaraima-Venezuela Expedition, Inc.
Phytosociology -- History -- Sources.
Plants -- Guiana Highlands.
Plants -- Guyana.
Plants -- Venezuela.
Scientific expeditions -- Venezuela.

Related Material

New York Botanical Garden

RG4--Elmer Drew Merrill Records

RG4--Records of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists

PP--The Henry A. Gleason Papers

Columbia University, Oral History Project: William Steere

Separated Material

Series 6: Field Notebooks (2 notebooks) have been removed and relocated to the Field Collectors' Notebooks collections. They are cataloged as Vols. 94 and 95.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Henry A. Gleason Records (RG4), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was transferred to the New York Botanical 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). Updated June 2009.

Container List


Series 1. Biographical Material.

Scope and Content:

Consists of an autobiographical essay written by Dr. Gleason, a curriculum vitae written in 1947 and biographical reminiscences by colleagues and family. Photographs of Dr. Gleason, taken during his career at the New York Botanic Garden will be found in Series 3: Photographs.

Folder Title Date
1.1 Autobiography 1944
1.2 Curriculum vitae 1982-1947
1.3 Biographies and Obituaries 1951-1983

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Series 2. Annual Reports.

Scope and Content:

This is the manuscript of an annual report filed by Dr. Gleason in his capacity as Head Curator in 1942.

Folder Title Date
1.4 Report of the Head Curator 1942

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Series 3. Correspondence.

Scope and Content:

This series provides a cross-section of the scientific and administrative issues faced by Dr. Gleason during his tenure at the New York Botanic Garden. Correspondence with the principal botanical institutions and the major botanists of the time, especially those engaged in the study of Latin American flora can be found here. Often attached to correspondence are manuscripts or lists of specimens either sent to or by Dr. Gleason for collegial review. Material in the John M. Merrill file contains financial data relative to the New York Botanic Garden’s operations in the 1920’s. Correspondence with the landscape architect, Anne M. Baker who designed the herb garden is located in the “Herb Garden” folder. Amateur botanists frequently wrote to Dr. Gleason for identification of their finds. Examples of their questions and Gleason’s thoughtful replies can be found here. Six years of correspondence with H.C. Oakley regarding the never-to-be-realized establishment of the “California Botanic Garden” illustrates Gleason’s administrative generosity and his commitment to development. Correspondence between Gleason and Maxon is both from his files at NYBG and material photocopied from Maxon’s files at the Smithsonian Institution.

Folder Title Date
1.5 A 1922-1938
1.6 Ames, Oakes 1924-1948
1.7 Ba-Bo 1932-1949
1.8 Bailey, Liberty Hyde 1922-1938
1.9 Ball, Carleton 1922-1947
1.10 Br-Bu 1932-1938
1.11 Braun, Lucy 1934-1939
1.12 Brown, H.P. 1934-1939
1.13 Ca-Ci 1926-1942
1.14 Camp, W.H. 1934-1941
2.1 Chrysler, M.A. 1935-1938
2.2 Co-Cu n.d.
2.3 Cook, Mel T. 1927-1939
2.4 Cooper, George Proctor 1935-1938
2.5 Core, Earl L. 1935-1938
2.6 Cruz, J. S., de la 1928-1929
2.7 D n.d.
2.8 Deam, Charles C.. 1921-1947
2.9 De Forest, H. W. 1928-1936
2.10 Degener, Otto 1935-1937
2.11 Demaree, Delzie 1935-1942
2.12 E n.d.
2.13 Eggleton, Frank E. 1938-1947
2.14 Egler, Frank E. 1940-1946
2.15 Fa-Fe n.d.
3.1 Fassett, Norman C. 1935-1944
3.2 Fernald, M.L. 1935-1944
3.3 Fi-Fu n.d.
3.4 Fisher, George L. 1935-1937
3.5 Friesner, Ray C. 1936-1938
3.6 Fulford, Margaret 1936-1942
3.7 Furrow, Grace D. n.d.
3.8 Furtado, C. X. 1938-1946
3.9 Ga-Gi n.d.
3.10 Gl-Gu n.d.
3.11 Goodman, George J. 1936-1943
3.12 Goodwin, Lyle E. 1935
3.13 Graham, Edward H 1929-1937
3.14 Gray Herbarium 1923-1936
3.15 Greenman, J. M. 1928-1945
3.16 Guthrie-Smith, H. 1924-1925
3.17 Ha n.d.
4.1 Harper, Roland M. 1930-1949
4.2 He n.d.
4.3 Herb Garden (Anne M. Baker) 1937
4.4 Hi n.d.
4.5 Hill, Arthur W. 1927-1939
4.6 Ho-Hy n.d.
4.7 Hollick, Arthur 1933-1941
4.8 I n.d.
4.9 Ilitis, Hugo 1927
4.10 J n.d.
4.11 K n.d.
4.12 Killip, Ellsworth P. 1925-1938
4.13 La-Le n.d.
5.1 Lam, H. J. 1936-1939
5.2 Lawrence, Alexander E. 1933-1937
5.3 Liuba, Matho & Margaret 1940
5.4 Loew, F. A. 1936-1947
5.5 Loof, Ethel 1929-1941
5.6 Lundell, C. L. 1936-1946
5.7 Ma-Me n.d.
5.8 Mc n.d.
5.9 MacKenzie, Kenneth K. 1929
5.10 MacMillon Co. Publishers 1941-1942
5.11 Mahogany Association, Inc 1933-1941
5.12 Mason, Herbert L. 1936-1947
6.1 Maxon, William 1922-1942
6.2 Maxon, William R., Smithsonian Institution 1918-1946
6.3 McVaugh, Rogers 1936-1945
6.4 Merrill, E. D. 1928-1945
6.5 Merrill, John 1923
6.6 Mi-Mu n.d.
6.7 Moldenke, Harold 1929-1945
6.8 N n.d.
6.9 O n.d.
6.10 Oakley, H. C. 1928-1933
7.1 Pacaraima-Venezuela Expedition 1939
7.2 Pa-Pe n.d.
7.3 Pennell, Francis 1921-1941
7.4 Ph-Pr n.d.
7.5 Q n.d.
7.6 R 1927-1938
7.7 Robinson, B. L. 1922-1932
7.8 Rusby, H. H. 1937-1938
7.9 Sa-Sh n.d.
7.10 Sherff, Earl 1932-1942
7.11 Si-Sw n.d.
7.12 Smith, A. C. 1930-1950
7.13 Smith, Lyman 1927-1947
7.14 Standley, Paul 1923-1943
7.15 Steere, William 1936-1950
7.16 Steyermark, Julian 1936-1948
8.1 T 1929-1942
8.2 Tate, G.H.H. 1928-1937
8.3 Tiffany, L. H. 1935-1941
8.4 Trelease, Sam 1936-1940
8.5 U n.d.
8.6 V n.d.
8.7 Wa-Wir n.d.
8.8 Ward, Kingdon 1936-1941
8.9 Wittrock, G. L. 1935-1942
8.10 Wodehouse, Roger 1936-1939
8.11 Woodson, Robert 1937-1950
8.12 Wo-Z n.d.
8.13 Yuncker, T. 1938-1942
8.14 Unidentified Signatures n.d.

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Series 4. Photographs.

Scope and Content:

This series contains snapshots of Gleason and his colleagues in the field which were removed from correspondence during processing. There is one formal group portrait of a professional society meeting with identifications written on the back. Photographs of specimens, especially streptopees roselies are also in this series.

Folder Title Date
8.15 Portraits 1928-1937
8.16 Specimens n.d

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Series 5. Manuscripts and Publications.

Scope and Content:

Included in this series are the notes, correspondence, manuscript and outline for the comprehensive study of the Flora of British Guiana on which he collaborated with D.B. Fanshawe. Also here are reviews and publicity material for Gleason’s edition of Britton and Brown’s Illustrated Flora and his Plants of the Vicinity of New York. Material related to his McMillan Wild flower Guide can be found in Series 1 in the McMillan Company folder.

Folder Title Date
9.1 “Flora of British Guiana”-Correspondence ca. 1924-1953
9.2 “Flora of British Guiana”-Notes ca. 1924-1953
9.3 “Flora of British Guiana”- Manuscript (Partial A) ca. 1924-1953
9.4 “Flora of British Guiana”-Manuscript (Partial B) ca. 1924-1953
9.5 “Flora of British Guiana”- Reference Copy (Complete) ca. 1924-1953
9.6 “Flora of British Guiana”-Outline, Part 1 (A-M) ca. 1924-1953
9.7 “Flora of British Guiana”-Outline, Part 2 (N-Z) ca. 1924-1953
9.8 “Flora of British Guiana”-Outline notebook cover. ca. 1924-1953

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Series 6. Field Notebooks.

Scope and Content:

Included in this series are Gleason's Field Collection Notebooks from his 1919 expedition to Northern South America. These have been removed and are Vols. 94 and 95 of the Collectors' Field Notebooks collection.

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Series 7. Melastomataceae notebooks.

Scope and Content:

3.5 lin. ft. 13 numbered notebooks. This series was donated to the Archives in 2003 by J. J. Wurdack. They were compiled by Gleason and Wurdack. They consist of research notes, illustrations and citation information for various Melastomataceae species. In 2009, portions of this series were digitized by the C. V. Starr Virtual Herbarium as part of a grant project led by Dr. Fabian Michelangeli. Volumes 1 through 13 arranged chronologically.

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