CHAPTER IV. SPLIT BETWEEN FIELD AND ACADEMIC
Even while Britton was in office, the gradual drift from field botany as the major focus of the club started. May 23, 1906 was the Tenth Anniversary of the NYBG. The day's address was by Rusby on "The History of Botany in New York" followed by an informal reception. Rusby (1906:137) talked of a disjointed period in TBC. He made reference to an invasion of botanists with new ideas and methods. The invasion may have been necessary he conceded, but as a result: "Laboratory work was given undue prominence. Ecological and other field work came to be largely neglected . . ."
During Gray's time for the most part a "pure" science based on experimentation had not reached the United States. But young American botanists trained in Europe would bring back a new laboratory approach. The new fields of morphology and physiology were now competing with systematics for attention. (Rodgers 1968:1-2)
The leading names of the "New Botany" and "New Horticulture" were Beal, Bessey, Coulter, Farlow, Barnes, Penhallow, Bailey, Trelease, Arthur as well as others. These leaders were all at one time or another pupils or associates of Asa Gray (Denny 1968:198-199). In the 1870's among the first laboratories to be established to teach undergraduate botany were those of Charles E. Bessey, William James Beal, Thomas J. Burrill, and George Lincoln Goodale.
Combining with the increasing emphasis on laboratory botany, less and less attention came to be paid to the local flora as the academic botanists wanted to move on to less studied ground. They settled on the southeast of the United States. Staff personnel of the NYBG (who were at the same time TBC members) started botanizing in the American south. John Kunkel Small (1863-1938) became a new member of Torrey at the January 14, 1890 TBC meeting. He was a very active member with lots of reports on his travels in the South and a long series of articles on southern plants. In 1903 he published at age 34 Flora of the Southeastern United States of almost 1400 pages, two years after his first visit to Florida.
Another active person was Per Axel Rydberg (1860-1931) who started botanizing in the American West. At the October 27, 1897 TBC meeting, Rydberg presented a paper concerning his botanizing for the summer in Montana. Dr. Britton remarked that Mr. Rydberg's Montana trip was the first expedition sent out officially by the NYBG.
For eighteen consecutive years from 1939 to 1956 (except for 1952), Rupert C. Barneby and H. D. Ripley, or Barneby alone, collected in western America. Together they amassed a total of 10,959 collection numbers. Many of the specimens are in the NYBG herbarium. From their collections botanists were able to describe sixty new taxa. (Maguire 1958:221)
At a TBC meeting of June 14, 1887, Judge Brown spoke of the paucity of American local floras as compared with those of Europe and said that the descriptions of the manuals, framed as they are for a wide range of locality, are very unsatisfactory for careful distinction of species.
In 1899 the field committee reported that 36 field meetings had been held (meeting of January 10, 1899). The chair was W. A. Bastedo. Britton was a real supporter of the field trips. At a meeting of November 29, 1899 he raised the question of continuance of the field excursions through the winter for the study of bryophytes, algae, etc.
The waning interest in local botany is marked by the meeting of March 25, 1896. Traditionally, the TBC president had appointed the members of the field committee. But at this particular meeting, Vice President T. F. Allen appointed N. L. Britton chair of the Field Committee, "the other members of the committee to be selected by him." Britton selected Mr. L. G. Fay and Mr. John H. Stotler.
In the 1890's, there were lots of reports on southern plants and quite a few on western plants with a respectful dose of plants from South America. In contrast, there was very little on local flora.
Another sign of a growing split between academic and field botany was the 1901 division between the Bulletin and Torreya. Torreya was seen as a publication of notes and botanical matter of a "popular" nature, especially to stimulate local botany, as opposed to the Bulletin which was now to be reserved for "technical" matters. (The first editor of Torreya was Marshall A. Howe, later director of NYBG.) Harper (1945:102), in his recollections of the early days of the TBC, remarked about Torreya that "In fact it was much like the Bulletin had been in its first decade or two."
In May 1900 they held a meeting at 4:30 p.m. in the lecture Hall Museum Building of the New York Botanical Garden. They then would take turns holding the meetings between the Bronx and the College of Pharmacy in Manhattan.
In 1901 Torreya began. The Proceedings of the Club were placed in Torreya beginning in 1902.
At a meeting held on May 14, 1901, Dr. Schoeney, the field chair, suggested printing the field programs for the entire summer at one time instead of at periodic intervals over the warmer months.
The decline continued. At the April 13, 1909 meeting the field chairman Norman Taylor asked the authority to issue a circular letter requesting members to vote as to whether or not the field meetings should continue. At the April 28, 1909 meeting, the results were discussed. There were a lot of abstentions, but of the 58 members who did make a choice 9 said to discontinue, 20 said to discontinue just the July and August meetings, while 28 said there should be a permanent continuance of the trips. This was not exactly a resounding affirmation of the field trips.
In 1905 TBC held some meetings at the American Museum of Natural History. In 1905 Rusby became president of the TBC.
TORREY BOTANICAL CLUB
In 1906 N. L. Britton and Lucien Marcus Underwood of Columbia College had gone to Jamaica in September and later presented the sedges of that Island at a Club meeting. Dr. Marshall Avery Howe, who had returned from Jamaica where he had studied marine algae, gave an account of his experiences there during the disastrous earthquake of January 14, 1907 (Jan 30, 1907 TBC meeting).
The Club received a splendid collection of fungi from the Bureau of Science, Manila, Phillippines through Mr. Elmer Drew Merrill (1876-1956). (p 173 1908 Torreya). He moved to Berkeley as Dean of College of Agriculture after 22 years at Manila.
In 1910 the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was founded; Dr. Charles Stuart Gager was first director. In 1936 Gager was the president of the Botanical Society of America.
In 1912 E. S. Burgess became the TBC president, succeeding Dr. Rusby.
In 1914 Roland M. Harper became the president of TBC. At Athens, Georgia he attended college from 1894 to 1897. He lived in Americus, Georgia from 1892 to 1897, followed by a stint in Massachusetts for two years. In 1899 he went to New York for graduate work in botany at Columbia University. He studied paleobotany under Dr. Arthur Hollick. He published in the Torrey Bulletin for June and August, 1900 articles on the plants around Athens, Georgia. He (1945:103) wanted to spend the summer of 1900 in Georgia and wrote that "At the suggestion of Dr. Britton, Judge Brown lent me enough money to pay my traveling expenses." Later he became the head of the department of botany at Columbia University. It was Harper who was often at loggerheads with N. L. Britton.
In 1917 H. M. Richards (professor of botany at Barnard College for 20 years) became the president of TBC.
The U. S. National Herbarium Andean Program was carried on by the Smithsonian Institution, the NYBG , and Harvard University. The program started in 1917 with the trip to Colombia of F. W. Pennell and H. H. Rusby, both then associated with the staff of the NYBG. In 1933 Rusby published Jungle Memories which told the story of his 1885-1886 botanical exploration in South America.
Francis Whittier Pennell (1886-1952) was born in West Chester County, Pennsylvania. He attended the Friend's School in Westtown. He got his B.A. in 1911 and his Ph. D. In 1913 from the University of Pennsylvania. He was an international authority on members of the Scrophulariaceae (snapdragon family). From 1914 to 1921 he was associate curator at the New York Botanical Garden and since that time until his death he was the Curator of Plants at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. He was a president of the Philadelphia Botanical Club and editor of Bartonia from 1924 until his death. He published in 1911 the Flora of the Conowingo Barrens of southeastern PA. Proc. Aca. Nat. Sci Phila. 62: 541-566. 13 D 1910; 567-584. 14 January 1911 Pennell and Rusby botanized in Colombia seeking stands of wild quinine as part of the war effort. Their 4791 general collections made this year initiated a twelve-year cooperative field exploration of the northern Andes by the New York Botanical Garden, Harvard University, and the Smithsonian Institution, which resulted in 20,000 numbers by later collectors. P. 17 In 1917 with the world's cultivated quinine supply in the hands of the Germans, Rusby and Pennell searched Colombia for native Cinchona, the tree growing as individuals scattered throughout hillside forests. 150
In 1920 N. L. Britton was president of the Botanical Society of America.
George Tracy Hastings was the editor of Torreya from about 1921 to 1941. He did his undergraduate work at Cornell University and two years after graduation he was a graduate assistant in botany there. He was a teacher at a Mission School in Santiago, Chile for awhile. His other employment was a year of teaching at Winona, NJ and a staff worker for the Philadelphia Commercial Museum.
He began teaching high school biology at DeWitt Clinton High School starting in 1910. Here he remained until he entered war work with the YMCA. He got an M.A. from Columbia University. With the opening of the new Theodore Roosevelt High School on Fordham Road he was made head of the department of biology and stayed here until he retired in 1940. Hastings not only led trips for TBC but organized an extensive field course in biology for teachers in the New York area.
In a 1922 News Item in Torreya it was announced the Thompson Institute for Plant Research was founded by Colonel William Boyce Thompson of Yonkers. The research facilities were located at 1086 North Broadway, Yonkers. Many of their research staff became members of the TBC. The Institute set up an arboretum of 300 acres on the side of Sprain Ridge which was open to the public in 1928.
President H. M. Richards died January 9, 1928 at his home on Riverside Drive. He was replaced by one of the early founders of TBC, the Rev. Herbert M. Denslow.
In 1929 Britton retired from the NYBG. He, however, still attended TBC meetings.
Edmund Ware Sinnott (1888-1968) became president of TBC in 1930. He got his A.B., A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard in 1980, 1910, and 1913 respectively. He did research with Irving W. Bailey. From 1915 to 1928 he was at the University of Connecticut at Storrs (then the Connecticut Agricultural College). From 1928 to 1939 he taught at Barnard College. In 1937 he was president of the Botanical Society of America. He was chair of Botany at Columbia University from 1939 to 1940. From 1940 to 1956 he was professor of botany at Yale University and Dean of the Graduate School there from 1950 to 1956. In 1956 the Botanical Society of America (Meyer 1958:18) presented certificates of merit to fifty persons judged to have made an outstanding contribution in botanical science. One award went to Dr. Sinnott "morphologist, anatomist, geneticist, and botanical statesman, for his numerous, varied, and sustained contributions to plant anatomy, histology, evolution, and botanical theory." Late in his career Sinnott, who began in plant anatomy and early collaborated with Bailey before becoming involved with administration at Yale, published his magnum opus Plant Morphogenesis (1960).
ATTEMPT TO RESTORE A BETTER PLACE FOR FIELD BOTANY: RAYMOND TORREY
In 1938 Raymond H. Torrey (1880-1938) became the president of the TBC. Torrey was born in Georgetown, Massachusetts. He was distantly related to John Torrey because both were descended form William Torrey who had settled in 1640 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. He was a journalist and came to New York City in pursuit of that field.
Torrey was responsible for many of the trails in Harriman State Park. Among the trails were Fingerboard-Storm King Trail (FB-SK) (1922), blazed from a half-mile from Arden Valley Road north to Storm King Mountain; Long Path section over Long Mountain; many sections of the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail; and with Frank Place he was the first to blaze the Tuxedo-Mount Ivy Trail.
For many years he was in charge of publicity for the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. He was the editor of the New York Evening Post "Outings Page." In 1920 he helped organize a Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference. They elected Torrey secretary. (Myles 1991:484) Benton MacKaye proposed a trail from Maine to Georgia. Torrey described the plan in the New York Evening Post of April 7, 1922. The AT was adopted as the main project of Interstate Park Trail Conference. (Myles 1991:486) The name of Torrey's column in the New York Evening Post was "The Long Brown Path." The Conference was reorganized as the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and Torrey became the secretary.
He, along with his friend Frank Place and Dickinson, (1923) authored the New York Walk Book.
In 1925 he became the treasurer of the Appalachian Trail Conference. (Myles 1991:487) The NY-NJ Trail Conference was reorganized in 1931 and Raymond Torrey became the Chairman. From 1931 to 1938 he was president of the NY-NJ Trail Conference.
Raymond Torrey was active in the TBC since 1920. Since 1923 he was on the field committee and since 1928 he was the field chair until his death in 1938.
At the meeting of April 25, 1928, Raymond Torrey asked the feeling as regards the possible permanent field headquarters for the field group. He said he was planning two weekend outings to the Inkowa Club Hotel in Greenwood Lake, New York to see if it would be suitable as a possible permanent headquarters site.
Raymond Torrey drew the ire of the infamous road and park builder Robert Moses who even tried to strangle Torrey. Robert Moses wanted full control over the State Parks Council and Raymond Torrey was a reminder that he did not have that complete control. Moses needed the help of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (A.S.H.P.S.) in a dispute over the Taylor Estate and a way to win over the park patriots was to name Torrey secretary of the State Parks Council. Once the fight was over and Moses did not need the support of the park patriots he reduced Torrey's salary as much as civil service laws allow and gave the majority of the responsibilities of the secretary position to his "assistant," Henry Lutz.
In the fight over the Northern State Parkway on Long Island, Torrey (Caro 1974:316-318) had opposed the route of the highway to run along the North Shore's glacial moraine. When a newspaper article came out with the same view, Torrey reprinted it in the monthly newsletter of the A.S.H.P.S. In September 1929 Moses learned that Torrey had also provided information on the proceedings of the Parks Council to the attorney for the North Shore barons who had been opposing the highway. Moses was furious that Torrey had revealed what Moses was deliberately trying to hide. Indeed, he was so furious that when Torrey walked in on the finance committee meeting of the Parks Council, Moses heaped verbal abuse on the secretary. In the bitter verbal exchange between the two men that followed, Moses lunged from his chair and grabbed Torrey by the throat and started choking him. A finance committee member was able to free Torrey and to hold Moses back by grabbing him around the waist. Moses was able to break free and he grabbed a heavy smoking stand and hurled it at Torrey, who was only saved from serious harm because the throw fell short because another finance committee member partially grabbed Moses' arm. Moses later said that his only regret about the incident was that he was not allowed to "finish that crackpot."
Torrey wrote a letter to Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt asking that he limit Moses' powers. Torrey (Caro 1974:318) wrote that under the control of Moses "the Council has lost its original character, as an advisory body of eminent citizens, working amicably together, and has become a vehicle for securing advantages for Moses, for granting favors for his supporters, and for supporting his hostility to any who oppose him." The Governor did not reply and Torrey gave a copy of his letter to the press. Torrey later resigned and the A.S.H.P.S. gave up its seat on the Parks Council, thereby giving Moses full control of that body.
At the November 18, 1936 TBC meeting the president read a letter from Raymond H. Torrey calling attention the lack of interest and discussions of taxonomic and ecological problems in our Tuesday evening meetings. The matter was referred to Council for consideration.
Torrey had wanted to restore some of the prestigeful place that field botany had at the start of the TBC. At meetings of the TBC he expressed his dissatisfaction with the limited discussion of themes that field botanists wanted to discuss, such as ecology and taxonomy. He became so dissatisfied, evidently, that as an experiment he asked the club to hold his own indoor meetings, but these designed for field botanists. In 1938 he became president of the TBC.
One of the field botanists very active in the late 1930's onward was Dr. Harold Moldenke (1909-1996). He led many walks, especially at the Watchung Reservation. He was born in Watchung, NJ and got his undergraduate degree from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania in 1929. In 1934 he got his Ph.D. in taxonomic botany from Columbia University.
In 1933 he founded the botanical journal Phytologia. His wife, Alma, later joined him as co-editor of the journal. The couple published the books Plants of the Bible and American Wild Flowers, the latter being one of the first books to have color photographs of wildflowers. Among his many jobs were curator at NYBG, director of the Trailside Nature and Science Center in the Watchung Reservation, and professor of Biology at William Patterson State College. He retired in 1972 and moved to Oregon in 1985. He and his wife continued to edit Phytologia until 1989.
As field chair Raymond Torrey was so active the number of field trips and excursions rose up to 100 a year. In fact, he worked himself so hard that he impaired his health. Members of the TBC were so concerned for him they sent him a get well declaration expressing their gratitude the man for all he had done for the Club. They mailed the declaration to him just three weeks before his death. He died at his home in Hollis, Long Island on July 15, 1938.
Raymond Torrey died July 15, 1938. His position as president was taken over by then Vice-President Alfred Ludwig Georg Gundersen (1877-1958). Gundersen was born in Norway. Upon the death of his father when Alfred was only 14 years of age, he came to Oregon to join his brother. He graduated from Stanford University in 1897 with a degree in physics. He studied botany in Minnesota while he taught school there, but he obtained an A.M. in anthropology at Harvard in 1907. He then went to Paris of Paris where he got his Ph.D. Back in the United States he was an assistant to Alfred Rehder at the Arnold Arboretum. From 1926 to 1928 Dr. Alfred Gundersen was the field chair. When the BBG began, in 1914 he became the assistant curator of the Herbarium. He was very active in the Torrey Botanical Club. On April 7, 1928 Dr. Gundersen was host at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to a group of thirty. In the greenhouses, the exhibit on Evolution of Plants proved interesting. They then took an outdoor walk around the grounds.
On July 16 1939 twenty-eight people went to Long Mountain to assemble on the top near the inscription in memory of R. H. Torrey. Among the people assembled were Mrs. Torrey, her son and son-in-law. Among the clubs represented were the Green Mountain Club, the New York Mycological Society, the Torrey Botanical Club, the Cygians, Westchester Trails Association; and the Tramp and Trail Club. Mrs. Torrey was presented with a posthumous award for her husband -- a medal from the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society.
ELMER DREW MERRILL
From 1930 to 1935 Elmer Drew Merrill was the chief executive officer of NYBG. In 1934 he was president of the Botanical Society of America. Elmer Drew Merrill worked for the U.S. government in the Philippines, 1902-1923, part of that time as director of the Bureau of Science there (1919-1923), and became a major figure in Philippine botany. He was an authority on the plants of China and the Philippines. Following his adventures abroad for six years he was Dean of the University of California College of Agriculture and director of the California Botanical Garden. At the time of these letters, he was director of the Arnold Arboretum, a post he held from 1937 to July 31, 1946. (Library of the Arnold Arboretum http://www.herbaria.harvard.edu/ Libraries/archives/MERRILL.html)
Dr. Elmer D. Merrill became director of NYBG and of the experimental station of the University of California. He had become a member of TBC at the November 20. 1929 Torrey meeting. (It is interesting that Torreya got the spelling of his name wrong -- E. B. Merrill instead of E. D. Merrill.)
In 1931 E. D. Merrill founded the serial Brittonia primarily for publication of research by members of the staff of the NYBG and their associates.
Albert Francis Blakeslee (1874-1954) 21, 65, 66 (plant genetics) was the TBC president in 1933. In 1935 he reported that 250 genes had been found in Zea mays; about 40 in Datura with 200 others not yet localized. Blakeslee was born in Geneseo, New York, the son of a Methodist minister. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1896. He received his Ph.D. degree from Harvard University in 1904. His thesis immediately won acclaim for the important discovery of sexuality in the lower fungi.
From 1907 to 1915 Blakeslee was professor of botany at the Connecticut Agricultural College in Storrs, Connecticut. In 1915 he began to work at the Carnegie Institution, Long Island. In 1923 he was appointed Assistant Director, during 1934-35 he was Acting Director, and in 1936 he became Director. His main interest in research was the genetics and cytology of plants of the genus Datura. In 1950 he was president of the Botanical Society of America.
In 1934 Elizabeth Britton died; her husband then had a stroke and died four months later at the age of 75.
A possible source of corruption of the founding of NYBG story may have occurred at this time for the committee of M. A. Howe, Robert A. Harper, and Margaret A. Graham on the death of Mrs. Britton wrote that "Mrs. Britton was one of the group of members of the TBC who most actively promoted the idea of establishing a botanical garden in the City of New York. In fact, the first suggestion of such a garden has been traced to a remark . . ." (Feb 25, 1934 meeting)
In that same year of 1934 Tracy E. Hazen became the TBC president. He was president for two years from 1934 to 1935. From 1934 to 1938 the editor was Dr. M. A. Chrysler of Rutgers. T. E. Hazen, F. W. Pennell, and E. P. Killip in 1922 collected extensively about Buenaventura Bay in Colombia. (Maguire 1958:233)
In 1935 Merrill stepped down from the NYBG directorship in order to accept the head position of the eight botanical units of Harvard University, one of these units being the Arnold Arboretum at Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts. His replacement would take over October 1 upon Merrill's leaving.
MARSHALL AVERY HOWE
From 1935 to 1936, a phycological trailblazer and Torrey member, Marshall Avery Howe (1867-1936) was the chief executive officer of NYBG. He was born in Newfane, Vermont in 1867. In 1890 he graduated from the University of Vermont and in 1898 he got his Ph.D. degree from Columbia University. From 1891 to 1896 he was instructor in cryptogamic botany at the University of California. He had been elected to membership in the Club as early as January 12, 1897. He came back east in 1901 to be a member of the NYBG scientific staff. He was assistant director of the New York Botanical Garden from 1923 to 1935 when he became the director.
A year after Collins and Hervey's Algae of Bermuda appeared, Marshall Avery Howe (1918), and authority on marine algae, contributed the section, 'Algae', in Nathaniel Lord Britton's Flora of Bermuda, but only included "the more common and more conspicuous algae occurring in the islands." For many years, this was the last report of Bermuda marine algae.
Howe was a member of the scientific staff of the museum since 1901 and an assistant director since 1923. He was also the first editor of Torreya and had at one time been the editor of the Bulletin of the TBC and of the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden. Soon after his becoming NYBG director, Howe was made professor of botany at Columbia University. He retired as president of the New York Academy of Sciences and Affiliated Societies. (Torreya 1935:158 & 160)
In 1936 he became president of the TBC. On May 5, 1936 Howe gave an illustrated lecture on the "Diatoms: Microscopic Beauty." At a meeting on October 21, 1936 Dr. Howe described his tour through Vermont and a visit in New Hampshire. On December 24, Howe died of a paralytic stroke at the age of 69 at Pleasantville, New York. He was a member of the TBC for 39 years. Torreya commented that "Dr. Howe was one of the most active and valuable members of the Club."