Marshall Avery Howe Papers (PP)

Archives, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
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Collectors: Howe, Marshall, A. (Marshall Avery), 1867-1936.
Title: Marshall Avery Howe Papers (PP)
Dates: 1879-1936
Quantity: 3 linear feet; 9 boxes
Call Phrase: Howe (PP)

Biography of Marshall Avery Howe

Marshall Avery Howe was born in Newfane, Vermont on June 6th, 1867. The eldest of 5 children he was named after his father Marshall Otis Howe and his maternal grandfather Avery Joseph Dexter and was insistent on using his full name. Marshall Avery Howe graduated from the University of Vermont in 1890, where he was room mated with his life long friend Dr. Abel Grout. On leaving college, Howe taught for a year in the Brattleboro High School but left in the summer of 1891 to become an Instructor in Cryptogamic Botany at the University of California at Berkeley. At the end of the 1895-96 college year, Howe resigned to accept a fellowship at Columbia University where he studied Hepaticae with Lucien Underwood. He received his Ph.D from Columbia in 1898 and from 1898 to 1901 was Curator of the University Herbarium. During this time, the plans for the creation of the New York Botanical Garden were materializing and the Columbia University Herbarium was deposited at the NYBG. In 1901 Howe became a member of the NYBG scientific staff and in 1906 became curator. From 1901 until his death in 1936, Howe was associated with the NYBG being appointed Assistant Director in 1923 and Director in 1935 after the resignation of Elmer Drew Merrill.

During his 35 year association with the New York Botanical Garden, Marshall Avery Howe served as a plant collector, participating in numerous expeditions, he arranged exhibits, he distributed plant specimens primarily of algae and hepaticae, he was a taxonomist, a morphologist, an editor, an administrator as well as an expert on, and cultivator of dahlias and other ornamental plants. His work was done meticulously, with insight and thoroughness.

His home life was quiet and dignified. He made his home in Pleasantville, New York where he was an active member of the "Garden Club", and served as secretary and later President of the Board of Trustees of the Pleasantville Free Library. He lectured frequently at the local Men's club of Pleasantville and at numerous other venues. He married Edith Morton Packard in 1909 and had two children Gertrude Dexter Howe and Prentiss Mellen Howe.

Scope and Content

The M.A. Howe papers documents his domestic and pubic life outside NYBG; including newspaper clippings of his botanical and administrative activities. It contains correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, lecture notes, manuscripts and photographs. The collection is arranged in four series.


The collection is organized into seven series:
Series 1: Diaries.1900-1936. Arranged chronologically.
Series 2: Correspondence. 1884-1930. Arranged chronologically.
Series 3: Scrapbooks and Clippings. 1879-1936. Arranged chronologically.
Series 4: Essays, lectures and addresses. 1886-1934. Arranged chronologically.


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.
Howe, Marshall A. (Marshall Avery), 1867-1936--Archives.
Jamaica--Description and travel--Photographs.
Men's Club of Pleasantville (N.Y.)
New York Botanical Garden Archives.
Panama--Description and travel--Photographs.

Related Material

New York Botanical Garden

RG4-- Marshall Avery Howe Records

RG3-- Records of the Chief Executive Officer

VF-- Howe, Marshall Avery

VF-- Reprints

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Marshall Avery Howe Papers (PP), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This material was donated to the NYBG by Mrs. Gertrude Howe, M.A. Howe's daughter and transferred to the Garden by Dr. Frans Stafleu, and Pat and Noel Holmgren, in 1987.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Susan Fraser, NYBG Archivist, March 1999, with grant funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA-23141). Converted into EAD in June 2006 by Kathleene Konkle under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) PA-50678-04.

Container List


Series 1. Diaries.

Scope and Content:

Howe kept a daily log of his personal activities and the events of the day. Most entries are very brief and may describe the days weather conditions. They are not detailed chronicles of his scientific or personal exploits but rather simple chronicles of his daily life. There are 37 small volumes dating from 1900 to 1936 (there are two volumes for 1936.

Box Title Date
1 Diaries--37 volumes 1900-1936

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Series 2. Correspondence.

Scope and Content:

Some of the correspondence in this series had been removed from its original place in the scrapbooks and photocopies were put in their place. Much of the correspondence in this collection of papers are contained with in the scrapbook and clipping series as they are bound in the scrapbooks.

Box Title Date
2 Correspondence 1884-1930

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Series 3. Scrapbooks and Clippings.

Scope and Content:

This series contain a number of bound scrapbooks as well as loose material that was meant to be inserted into the scrapbooks. The scrapbooks include letters. Invitations, newspaper clippings relating to his family or local affiliations such as the NYBG or the Pleasantville Library, etc. Howe also saved programs and dinner menus, award notifications and programs from theatrical productions his children were involved in.

Box Title Date
2 Miscellaneous clippings 1879-1936
3 Scrapbook I 1879-1914
4 Scrapbook II 1915-1928
5 Scrapbook III 1929-1935
6 Scrapbook IV 1936
7 Photo albums n.d.
7 Jamaica 1906-1907
7 Panama 1909-1910
8 Post card album n.d.
8 Ireland, England, France, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Bahamas n.d.

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Series 4. Essays, lectures and addresses .

Scope and Content:

This series contains Howe's essays written when he was a student, as well as some of the numerous lectures and address he was asked to give on behalf of the Garden Club or Pleasantville, the Men's Club of Pleasantville, the Pleasantville Library, or as an outstanding citizen of Vermont, etc.

Folder Title Date
9.1 The Word "The" October 1886
9.2 A brief sketch of the History of England to 449 A.D. April 1887
9.3 The Chronicles of Brutus April 1888
9.4 Shakespeare March 1888
9.5 Greene, Marlowe and Ben May 1888
9.6 Geoffrey Chaucer June 1888
9.7 Essay on William Tell December 1988
9.8 Origin and Antiquity of the American Aborigines January 1889
9.9 Report on the dissection of a Cat January 1889
9.10 The State of the Country May 1889
9.11 Specialism in Science May 1889
9.12 Anatomy of Fragaria Virginiana June 1889
9.13 Description of the common buttercup June 1889
9.14 Unconscience Cerebration October 1889
9.15 The Rank of American Diplomatic Officials October 1889
9.16 The Saracens November 1889
9.17 The Utopia of Sir Thomas More December 1889
9.18 letter to the editor of The cynic ca. 1890
9.19 Third Period of Shakespeare 1601-1608 January 1890
9.20 Addison as an Essayist February 1890
9.21 The Poetry of Campbell and Moore March 1890
9.22 Natural Evidence of Man's Immortality April 1890
9.23 Camper Oration-Class day June 1890
9.24 Notes on the Comparative Histology of Pleris, Aquilina June 1890
9.25 Kepler and his Discoveries November 1890
9.26 Knowledge for its own sake June 1893
9.27 Burlington, Vermont January 1904
9.28 Planning next summer's flower garden-Pleasantville February 1917
9.29 Remarks at Annual Dinner- Pleasantville February 1919
9.30 Introducing James Howard at University club- Pleasantville January 1921
9.31 Beautifying Pleasantville February 1921
9.32 Remarks at Annual dinner- Pleasantville October 1921
9.33 Farewell address- University Club - Pleasantville February 1922
9.34 Presbyterian Church- Pleasantville March 1922
9.35 Address- Alumni luncheon- Univ, of Vermont June 1925
9.36 The 18th Amendment. Its applications February 1926
9.37 Pleasantville PTA November 1934
9.38 Remarks as President of the Wilson and Marshall Club - Pleasantville n.d.

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