William Alphonso Murrill Records (RG4)

Archives, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
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Collectors: Murrill, William A., 1869-1957.
Title: William Alphonso Murrill Records (RG4)
Dates: 1903-1957
Dates: bulk, 1908-1925
Quantity: 2.6 linear feet; 4 boxes
Call Phrase: Murrill (RG4)

Biography of William Alphonso Murrill

William Alphonso Murrill (1869-1957) was a mycologist, taxonomist, writer, and authority on the fleshy fungi (Basidiomycetes). Born 13 October 1869 near Lynchburg, Virginia, he gained a B.S. degree (1887) from the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College; B.S. (1889), B.A. (1890), and M.A. (1891) degrees from Randolph Macon College; and Ph.D. (1897) from Cornell University. He taught biology for four years at DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City and in 1904 began his career with the New York Botanical Garden as Assistant Curator, succeeding Franklin S. Earle as staff mycologist. From 1909 to 1919 he acted as Assistant Director and became Curator and Supervisor of Public Instruction from 1919 to 1924.

Murrill collected over 70,000 specimens of fungi in North and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, of which the NYBG cryptogamic herbarium holds about 14,000 specimens, including more than 1700 type specimens. Using the American Code of nomenclature he identified and described many new genera and species and made nomenclatural revisions of existing taxa that were variously criticized and praised by American mycologists. On at least four occasions Murrill traveled to England, France, Italy, Germany, and Sweden to study type specimens in European herbaria. He identified the pathogenic fungus Diaporthe [Cryphonectria] parasitica that causes Chestnut blight disease.

Murrill published important monographs on hymenomycetes and over five hundred scientific articles on a wide range of botanical subjects. His major works include a series on the Polyporaceae in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club (1902-06) and five monographs on the Boletaceae and Polyporaceae in 1914-15. He lectured widely and wrote autobiographical pieces and popular books on natural science for young adults. Murrill founded and served as editor of Mycologia (1909-1924) and the Journal of the NYBG (1906-1908), and was a contributor to the North American Flora. In 1924 he retired both from the NYBG and from professional life altogether. During the 1930s he became associated with the University of Florida in Gainesville where he resumed mycological study and publication until his death in 1957.

Scope and Content

The William A. Murrill collection consists of correspondence, notebooks, research papers, photographs, negatives, and watercolor illustrations of mushrooms covering portions of his career at the NYBG and at the University of Florida. The artwork has been separated and removed to the NYBG Art & Illustration Collection.


The collection is organized into seven series:
Series 1: Correspondence. 1908-1957. Arranged alphabetically.
Series 2: Research Papers. 1904-1925. Arranged alphabetically.
Series 3: Notebooks. 1903-1942. Arranged by subject.
Series 4: Photographic Material. 1903-1955. Arranged alphabetically.
Series 5: University of Florida. 1927-1964. Arranged alphabetically.
Series 6: Artwork. 1908-1919. 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.
Earle, Esther J. Skehan.
Eaton, Mary E.
Kauffman, C.H. (Calvin Henry), 1869-1931.
Murrill, William A., 1869-1957.
Plants--Caribbean area.
Polyporaceae--North America.
Trees--Florida--Alachua County.

Related Material

New York Botanical Garden

ART-- W. A. Murrill Collection

PP-- Norman Taylor Papers

RG4-- Nathaniel Lord Britton Records

RG4-- Franklin Sumner Earle Records

RG4-- Fred J. Seaver Records

National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Field Notes, Florida, 1939-1940.

University of South Carolina, South Carolina Library (Columbia)

William Chambers Coker Papers

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

William Alphonso Murrill Records (RG4), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

Research Papers and Notebooks were transferred from the NYBG herbarium by William R. Buck (Curator, Institute of Systematic Botany, NYBG) in November 1999. The University of Florida materials were donated by Professor James Kimbrough, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Florida, in January 2000.

Processing Information

This collection was originally processed by David Rose in November 1999 (revised January 2000) with grant funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA 23141-98) and the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation. Converted to 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. Correspondence.

Scope and Content:

There are 34 files of correspondence, including that with Luther Burbank on Opuntias, Calvin H. Kauffman on a key to the genus Inocybe, Elmer Drew Merrill on Philippine polypores, Margaret McKenny on specimen collection, and Cornelius Shear on Pyrenomycetes.

Folder Title Date
1.1 Barre, Henry Walter n.d.
1.2 Bruner, Stephen C. n.d.
1.3 Burbank, Luther n.d.
1.4 Dearness, John n.d.
1.5 Dodge, Bernard O. n.d.
1.6 Dodge, Carroll W. n.d.
1.7 Fink, Bruce n.d.
1.8 Fisher, William H. n.d.
1.9 Garrett, Albert Osbun n.d.
1.10 Goodwin, Frederic n.d.
1.11 Griffiths, David n.d.
1.12 Harris, H. W. (Mrs.) n.d.
1.13 Hershey, Andrew H. n.d.
1.14 House, Homer Doliver n.d.
1.15 Johnson, Margaret n.d.
1.16 Kauffman, Calvin Henry n.d.
1.17 Levy, Daisy n.d.
1.18 Lloyd, John Uri n.d.
1.19 Long, William Henry n.d.
1.20 Martin, George W. n.d.
1.21 Matz, J. n.d.
1.22 McKenny, Margaret n.d.
1.23 Merrill, Elmer Drew n.d.
1.24 Millspaugh, Charles F. n.d.
1.25 Miscellaneous n.d.
1.26 Nelson, Edgar n.d.
1.27 On Psilocybe caerulescens n.d.
1.28 Ostenfeld, C. H. n.d.
1.29 Overholts, Lee Oras n.d.
1.30 Robinson, Charles B. n.d.
1.31 Rosen, H. R. n.d.
1.32 Shear, Cornelius L. n.d.
1.33 Standley, Paul C. n.d.
1.34 Sumstine, David R. n.d.
1.35 Whetstone, Mary S. n.d.

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Series 2. Research Papers.

Scope and Content:

There are 16 files of indices, lists, dichotomous keys, and notes on the Agarics and Basidiomycetes of Florida, the Polyporaceae of North America, the Philippines, and Japan, the trees of Alachua County, Florida among others.

Folder Title Date
1.36 Boletus spores n.d.
1.37 Florida dark-spored agarics n.d.
1.38 Florida rosy-spored agarics n.d.
1.39 Index to the Polyporaceae of the North American Flora (volume 9) n.d.
1.40 Key to Inocybe n.d.
1.41 List of North American fungi n.d.
1.42 Notes on fungi illustrations n.d.
1.43 Notes on species n.d.
1.44 Philippine Polyporaceae n.d.
1.45 Polyporaceae from Japan n.d.
1.46 Porodaedalea n.d.
1.47 Report of Progress, University of Florida herbarium June 1942
1.48 Species of Florida basidiomycetes I. Not agarics 1942
1.49 Species of Florida basidiomycetes II. Agarics 1942
1.50 Summary of spore colors n.d.
1.51 Trees of Alachua County [Florida] 1939

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Series 3. Notebooks.

Scope and Content:

There are 26 notebooks (files) of handwritten data on European herbarium specimens in Trento, Berlin, Paris, Upsala, Stockholm, and Kew, England. Several notebooks contain remarks on Giacomo Bresadola, Elias Magnus Fries, Paul Hennings, George Massee, Christiaan Hendrik Persoon, and Lars Romell. Some files pertain to specimen exchanges and distribution of fungi.

Folder Title Date
1.52 Paris n.d.
1.53 Berlin & List of Numbers n.d.
1.54 Upsala (Fries’ collection) n.d.
1.55 Stratford-on-Avon, Kew 1903
1.56 Kew (first) Polystictus n.d.
1.57 Hennings; Romell n.d.
2.1 Schroeter 1888 Flora of Silesia n.d.
2.2 Bresadola, 1913 n.d.
2.3 Notes on mycological authors n.d.
2.4 Romell, Kew (first) n.d.
2.5 Ganoderma - Notes on all species n.d.
2.6 Kew Book n.d.
2.7 Distribution of fungi n.d.
2.8 Chronological List--1753-1902 n.d.
2.9 Summary of French Notes, Paris notes, Berlin notes n.d.
2.10 B. Alphabetical List n.d.
2.11 A. Chronological List n.d.
2.12 Alphabetical List n.d.
2.13 Polyporae Adanson. Jussieu, Gleditsch n.d.
2.14 Specimens n.d.
2.15 Genera, origin of each n.d.
2.16 Genera now needed n.d.
2.17 List of Specimens Exchang’d n.d.
2.18 Genera Excluded n.d.
2.19 II Alphabetical summary n.d.
2.20 Kew, second visit n.d.

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Series 4. Photographic Material.

Scope and Content:

There are 3 files of photos and one of negatives. Subjects include portraits (one with Giacomo Bresadola) and a tropical polypore, Amauroderma brittonii, collected in Puerto Rico.

Folder Title Date
2.21 Amauroderma brittonii n.d.
2.22 Portrait and gravestone n.d.
2.23 Snakes n.d.
2.24 Negatives n.d.

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Series 5. University of Florida.

Scope and Content:

This series contains biographic material on Murrill collected by George F. Weber at the University of Florida (see Provenance, page 6). It includes Murrill’s will, a financial account of the ‘William A. Murrill Fund,’ and photocopies of correspondence with John Kunkel Small.

Folder Title Date
2.25 Biographical n.d.
2.26 Murrill fund n.d.
2.27 Small, John Kunkel n.d.
2.28 Weber, George F. n.d.
2.29 Will and letter of instruction n.d.

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Series 6. Artwork.

Scope and Content:

The artwork consists of two sequences of watercolor illustration. First are original works by Edward C. Volkert and Mary E. Eaton for the series “Illustrations of Fungi” published with accompanying descriptions by Murrill in Mycologia (1909-22). There are 10 plates (1910-15) by Edward C. Volkert, seven (1916-19) by Mary E. Eaton, and four (1909-10) of uncertain origin (possibly Mrs. Murrill). The latter are watercolor treatments of photographs taken by F. C. Berte. For detailed information see “Index to Illustrations of Fungi I-XXII” 1908 Mycologia 8(1): 47-51, and “Subject Index,” Mycologia Index, Vols 1-58, 1909-1966, p. 977. There are four additional plates by Mary Eaton, one for the Reference Handbook for the Medical Sciences.

There are eight folders of watercolor illustrations (approximately 300 items) of American, Mexican, and Caribbean fungi composed by (1) Edna Lee Lutrell Murrill, wife of W. A. Murrill; (2) Esther J. Skehan Earle, wife of Franklin S. Earle; and (3) Bertha Fanning Taylor, wife of Norman Taylor. Murrill and Earle collected fungi in the Caribbean from 1902 to 1910. On one occasion, in 1905, the two mycologists collected together in Cuba. One packet of watercolors labeled “Mrs. Taylor” is the result of a collecting expedition made by the Taylors to the Dominican Republic in 1909 (see Journal of the NYBG, 1910, 11:3-15). The artwork has been removed and is housed with the NYBG Art & Illustration Collection #44. Note that many Murrill vouchered specimens found in the NYBG Herbarium are often accompanied by original watercolors attached to the specimen sheets.

Box Title Date
3 Artwork n.d.
4 Artwork n.d.

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