Henry Hurd Rusby Records (RG4)

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Collectors: Rusby, Henry Hurd, 1855-1940.
Title: Henry Hurd Rusby Records (RG4)
Dates: 1885-1928
Quantity: 1.5 linear feet; 2 boxes
Call Phrase: Rusby (RG4)

Biography of Henry Hurd Rusby

Henry Hurd Rusby (1855-1940) was influential in promoting the study of economic botany at the New York Botanical Garden throughout the first fifty years of its existence. As a youth growing up in Franklin (now Nutley) New Jersey, Rusby demonstrated a passionate interest in plants. At the age of 21 his personal herbarium won him first prize at the Centenial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. At that time he became acquainted with Dr. George Thurber who was the President of the Torrey Botanical Club. Rusby joined the Torrey Botanical Club in 1879 and around that time began studying medicine at the Medical College of New York University. In 1880, while still a medical student, he spent 18 months collecting plants in Texas and New Mexico as an agent for the Smithsonian Institution. In 1883 he returned to the Southwest to study and collect medicinal flora of Arizona, for Parke, Davis & Co.

Rusby graduated from medical school in 1884 and in 1885 he embarked on a two year excursion for Parke, Davis & Co., traversing the South American continent and exploring remote regions of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Brazil.

Although trained as a physician, Rusby chose to forego medicine in favor of his interest in plants. In 1889 he was made Professor of Botany and Materia Medica at the College of Pharmacy at Columbia Univeristy. He served 26 years as Dean of the Faculty until his retirement in 1930 and as Dean Emeritus until his death in 1940.

Rusby’s association with the NYBG began even before the Garden was formally established. As a member of the Torrey Botanical Club, he met Nathaniel Lord Britton. It had long been a goal of the club to establish a botanic garden. In 1888 a botanic garden committee of eight distinguished club members including Britton and Rusby was formed. Rusby is listed among the numerous incorporators and was instrumental in arranging to have the Columbia College herbarium and botanical library deposited at the NYBG. In 1898 Rusby was appointed Honorary Curator of the Economic Botany Museum and served on the Board of Managers until 1933.

Rusby’s neotropical explorations, particularly in the Amazon region set the precedent for the systematic and economic botany that has characterized subsequent research at NYBG. The productivity of his trips was due to his endurance and resourcefulness as an explorer. In 1921 when Rusby was 65 years old he embarked on his last field trip to South America as the Director of the Mulford Biological Exploration of the Amazon Basin.

Rusby died on November 18, 1940 at the age of 85.

Scope and Content

The collection documents Rusby’s botanical explorations and studies of South American flora. Includes lists, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, lantern slides and field notebooks. The collection is arranged in four series.


The collection is organized into seven series:
Series 1: Research and Field Notes. 1885-1917. Arranged alphabetically.
Series 2: Correspondence. Arranged alphabetically.
Series 3: Diary. 1921-1922.
Series 4: Photographic material. 1917.


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.
Pennell, Francis W. (Francis Whittier), 1886-1952.
Rusby, Henry Hurd, 1855-1940.
Botanical exploration--Amazon River Valley.
Botanical exploration--Bolivia.
Botanical exploration--Brazil.
Botanical exploration--Colombia.
Mulford Expedition for the Biological Exploration of the Amazon Basin.
Plants--Patagonia (Argentina and Chile).

Related Material

The New York Botanical Garden

RG2-- Records of the Board of Managers

RG3-- Records of the Chief Exec. Officers—Nathaniel Lord Britton

RG4-- Field Collectors Notebooks – Vol 101 –F.W. Pennell-Colombia 1917.

NYBG Small Collections file-- Lucille Mann’s manuscript. The Drug Hunters: {Mulford Biological Expedition}.

Merck & Co. – (Whitehouse Station, N.J.)

Mulford Biological Exploration material.

Seperated Material

Field notebooks have been removed from the bulk of this collection. Materials currently reside in the Field Notebook collection of the Archives:

Record of Plants collected in (1885-1886)--Field notebook #106

Venezuela (1896) and Colombia (1917)--Field notebook #101

Mexico (1910)--Field notebook #30

Mulford Biological Exploration of the Amazon Basin, (1921-22)--Feld notebook #86

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Henry Hurd Rusby Records (RG4), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was transferre to the Archives of the New York Botanical Garden.

Processing Information

Originally processed by Susan Fraser, NYBG Archivist, March 1999, with grant funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA 23141-98). Converted into EAD, June 2006, by Kathleene Konkle under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA 50678-04).

Container List


Series 1. Research and Field Notes .

Scope and Content:

Includes miscellaneous research notes and comments, field notebooks for his South and Central American trips.

Folder Title Date
1.1 The Flora of the Higher Catskills – Abstract of paper read by Dr. Rusby at the meeting of the Torrey Botanical Club 1891
1.2 Plants of South America, chiefly Bolivia, collected in 1885, 1886 n.d.
1.3 Notes assembled from the Tate collection of Bolivia n.d.
1.4 Notes assembled from the Tate collection of Bolivia n.d.
1.5 Flora Patagonia, revision notes n.d.
1.6 Circular letters on Specimens 1888
1.7 Index to the revision of Macloskie’s patagonian botany n.d.
1.8 Index to species, Lob-Z n.d.
1.9 Plants sent to Princeton College n.d.
1.10 Specimen Photograph, Vitis munsoniana 1917
1.11 Report of Algae examination made of Stream in Caldwell, NJ. May 1880

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Series 2. Correspondence.

Scope and Content:

Includes incidental, miscellaneous correspondence pertaining to his participation as a member of the Board of Managers and his research on plants.

Folder Title Date
1.12 Chelling, A n.d.
1.13 Hart, J.H. n.d.
1.14 Harper, R. A. n.d.
1.15 Moore, Spencer n.d.
1.16 Royal Seed Establishment 1915

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Series 3. Diary.

Scope and Content:

Typescript of the Official Diary of the Mulford Biological Exploration of the Amazon Basin, 1921-1922, by H.H. Rusby.

Folder Title Date
1.17 Official Diary of the Mulford Biological Exploration of the Amazon Basin (typescript) 1921-1922

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Series 4. Photographic material.

Scope and Content:

Lantern slides from Colombia trip, 1917 (with Pennell)

Box Title Date
2a Photographic material 1917
2b Photographic material 1917
2c Photographic material 1917
2d Photographic material 1917
2e Photographic material 1917

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