The Robert Statham Williams Records (RG4)

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Collectors: Williams, R.S. (Robert Statham), 1859-1945.
Title: The Robert Statham Williams Records (RG4)
Dates: 1888-1938
Quantity: 1 linear foot; 2 boxes
Call Phrase: Williams (RG4)

Biography of Robert Statham Williams

Robert Statham Williams (1859-1945) was born on May 6th 1859. As a boy growing up in Minneapolis, MN, R. S. Williams was an ardent naturalist. When he was 20 years old his love of nature took him from Minneapolis to Montana where he became a successful businessman, miner and explorer and for a short while he was a rider for the famous Pony Express.

In 1898 during the early days of the “gold rush”, Williams joined one of the parties going to the Yukon by way of Alaska, where he engaged in business rather than search for gold which also gave him time to collect plants. His plants collected there during 1898 and 1899 represent the first extensive collections made there by a resident naturalist.

In 1899, R.S. Williams came to the New York Botanical Garden with his collections and determinations. He was appointed Museum Aid in 1899 which he held in absentia, until January 1906 when he was named Assistant Curator. In 1910 he became an Administrative Assistant and in 1932 his title became Research Assistant in Bryology.

Williams chose to work on Mosses and made a substantial contribution of his own collections of mosses from Alaska and the Yukon. In 1901, Williams accompanied an English land company on a exploration to Bolivia. He returned to NY with an enormous collection of plants from Bolivia and Peru. Later, in 1903 the NYBG sent him to the Philippine Islands. He made large collections which furnished him with enough material to publish and authoritative work on Philippine mosses (1914). His last expedition was to Panama in 1908.

In 1909, the NYBG had purchased the William Mitten Herbarium, an important collection of bryophytes containing type specimens of hundreds of new species described by Mitten. R.S. Williams was sent to Hurstpierpoint, England , to Mitten’s home, to supervise the packing and shipping of it.

Williams was one of the few botanists at the NYBG who could devote himself full time to bryology and was therefore called upon by many botanist for help with identification of mosses. He made every effort to identify these mosses and often prepared meticulously careful drawings to illustrate details.

Williams lost his fortune in the 1930’s during the financial depression which contributed to his waning health. He eventually lost his enthusiasm for bryology and finally retired to his boyhood home in Minneapolis where he remained until his death on March 13, 1945, at the age of 86.

Scope and Content

The R.S. Williams records documents his career at the NYBG, his bryological collections which are deposited in the NYBG Herbarium, and his botanical explorations. It contains correspondence, research and field notes and specimen determinations and receipts. Among the correspondents represented with extensive correspondence files are Elizabeth Britton, John Holzinger and William Maxon. The collection is arranged in two series.


Numbers in brackets indicate unmarked [box.folder] numbers.
The collection is organized into seven series:
Series 1: Correspondence. Arranged alphabetically.
Series 2: Research and Field Notes. Arranged alphabetically by subject and then alphabetically by geographic location.


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.
Kelley, Arthur Pierson, 1897-.
Williams, R.S. (Robert Statham), 1859-1945.
Botanical exploration--Alaska.
Botanical exploration--Bolivia.
Botanical exploration--Panama.
Botanical exploration--Philipines.

Related Material

New York Botanical Garden

RG4-- Records of Elizabeth G.K. Britton

RG4-- Records of Nathaniel Lord Britton

Seperated Material

Field Notebooks from Bolivia (Vols. 83-84 and 192), the Philipine Islands (Vols. 295-296) and Panama, (Vol. 29) have been removed from the collection are shelved in the Field Collector’s Notebook Series in the Archives.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Robert Statham Williams Records (RG4), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was transferred to the NYBG Archives.

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 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:

Correspondence from colleagues requesting determinations of moss and lichen specimens Primary correspondents include Elizabeth Britton, A.J. Grout, J.M. Holzinger and W. R. Maxon. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically.

Folder Title
[1.1] Andrews, A.L.
[1.2] Bacon, W.L.
[1.3] Bailey, J.W.
[1.4] Bartram, E.B.
[1.5] Best, G.N.
[1.6] Blackiston, H.
[1.7] Britton, E.K.G.
[1.8] Brotherus, V.F.
[1.9] Bues, C.
[1.10] Bureau of Biological Survey
[1.11] Burrell, W.H.
[1.12] Bush, B.F.
[1.13] Cardot, J.
[1.14] Chamberlain, E.B.
[1.15] Cheney, L.S.
[1.16] Conard, H.S.
[1.17] Cooper, W.S.
[1.18] Coville, F.W.
[1.19] Cummings, C.E.
[1.20] Davis, H.B.
[1.21] Dayton, W.A.
[1.22] Dixon, H.N.
[1.23] Dixon, H.N.
[1.24] Dunham, E. M.
[1.25] Dupret, H.
[1.26] Eastwood, A.
[1.27] Eckfeldt, J.W.
[1.28] Evans, A.W.
[1.29] Felippone, F.
[1.30] Fink, B.
[1.31] Frye, T.C.
[1.32] Graham, E.H.
[1.33] Grant, J.M.
[1.34] Grout, A.J.
[1.35] Henderson, W.C.
[1.36] Herrara, F.L.
[1.37] Hill, A.
[1.38] Hilpert, F.
[1.39] Holzinger, J.M.
[1.40] Hovey, E.C.
[1.41] Johansen
[1.42] Kew Botanical Garden
[1.43] Killip, E.P.
[1.44] Kittredge, E.M.
[1.45] Krieger, W.
[1.46] Leon, Bro.
[1.47] Lillie, D.
[1.48] Lowe, R.
[1.49] Macoun, J.M.
[1.50] Malta, N.
[1.51] Malte, M.O.
[1.52] Maplethorpe, C.W.
[1.53] Maxon, W. P
[1.54] Meslin, R.
[1.55] Muller, K.
[2.1] Nichols, G.E
[2.2] Nicholson, W.E.
[2.3] Parlin, J.C.
[2.4] Paterson, P.M.
[2.5] Pessin, L.J.
[2.6] Pettengill, G.T.
[2.7] Pittier, H.
[2.8] Prince, R.A.
[2.9] Rapp, S
[2.10] Reimers, H.
[2.11] Richards, P.
[2.12] Rose, J.N.
[2.13] Rosendahl, C.O.
[2.14] Roth, G.
[2.15] Rusby, H.H.
[2.16] Sasaoka, H.
[2.17] Schallert, P.O.
[2.18] Seidenfaden, G.
[2.19] Seifriz, W.
[2.20] Sharp, A.J.
[2.21] Spessard,E.A.
[2.22] Steere, W.C.
[2.23] Standley, P.C.
[2.24] Steyermark, J.A.
[2.25] Stultz, W.H.
[2.26] Taylor, W.R.
[2.27] Theriot, I
[2.28] True, R.H.
[2.29] Urban, I
[2.30] Verdoorn, F.
[2.31] Wernecke, C.T.
[2.32] Wiegmann, W.H.
[2.33] Willey, H.
[2.34] Woycicki, Z.

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Series 2. Research and Field Notes.

Scope and Content:

Contains miscellaneous notes on determinations of Mosses and Lichens and the Field Notebooks of collecting trips to Bolivia, the Philippines and Panama.

Folder Title
[2.35] Blinda Roerichii
[2.36] Determinations from A.P. Kelly
[2.37] ICBN Moss Nomenclature Committee
[2.38] Lindergia in North America
[2.39] Notes on Mosses and Lichens
[2.40] Notes on Brachythecium relexum
[2.41] Manuscripts and Proofs
[2.42] Subfossil Mosses, Notes and Correspondence
[2.43] Townsend-Albatross Expedition
[2.44] Misc. Notes on Specimens--arranged geographically

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