CHAPTER XI. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO . . .
THE JOHN TORREY HERBARIUM?
Over the years John Torrey accumulated an herbarium of many thousands of botanical specimens. Torrey presented most of these specimens to Columbia University in 1860, containing about 50,000 specimens. The herbarium had enough cases to hold 3/4s of the collection, which occupied almost 75 feet of space. It took up an entire story of Torrey's house. When he transferred his herbarium he became the curator of the herbarium for Columbia College. And then for the next ten years he was involved in herbarium work.
THE TBC HERBARIUM?
In 1880 TBC began meeting at the College of Pharmacy at 115 West 68th Street. October 1887 and in 1888 Henry H. Rusby was replaced by E. S. Burgess as secretary. Burgess ( -1928) was a professor of natural science at what is now Hunter College. He was a Torrey member since 1895, recording secretary from 1897 for six years, and served as president of TBC for two years, 1912 and 1913.
At the October 9, 1894 meeting: "It was unanimously resolved that the Curators request the College of Pharmacy of the City of New York to permit the local herbarium of the Club to be deposited in the herbarium room of the new College of Pharmacy Building and to allow the members of the Club access thereto, the College in return being permitted to use the Club herbarium."
At the October 31, 1894 meeting news of an invitation from the President of the New York College of Pharmacy arrived. The college offered the Club the use of the Assembly Rooms of that institution. The invitation was gratefully accepted.
The October 27, 1897 meeting notes mention that the first meeting of the club following summer vacation was held in its new quarters of the College of Pharmacy.
Gleason (1943:38-39) says that Torrey gave their herbarium of some 65,000 species from what is known as the "Torrey Botanical Club range" (100 miles around New York City) to NYBG. In those early days, NYBG tried to send on each Torrey field trip a member of its staff or an aid, who collected for "the local herbarium" (Torreya Vol. 1, #10, October 1901, p 119).
The minutes of the December 12, 1883 meeting mentions that the plants left by M. Ruger were incorporated into the Club's herbarium which then contained 1,203 species (and 1,400 specimens). At the same meeting the field of the Club's herborizations were extended from 30 to 100 miles around New York City.
At a meeting on January 8, 1901, Dr. P. A. Rydberg, as Chairman of the Library and Herbarium Committee, reported on the unsatisfactory condition of the club's herbarium as to care, accessibility, and determination. The suggestion was made, therefore, that the club donate the herbarium to NYBG under certain conditions. One condition was that the garden recognize that the collection would be the nucleus of separate local collections to be known as the Torrey Botanical Local Herbarium or some similar agreed upon name. Another condition was that all TBC members have full and free access to the TBC local herbarium.
At a meeting of February 12, 1901 the attendees adopted the committee proposal to transfer the Club herbarium to the NYBG.
Even after the herbarium had been transferred to NYBG, members of the TBC still donated herbarium species to NYBG. Dr. Timothy Field Allen donated his collection of Characeae to the NYBG. The collection was the result of many years of collection. The herbarium was said to be rich in types and co-types and is doubtless one of the largest collections of Characeae in existence. (Torreya February 1901:23)
At the December 6, 1966 Council meeting Dr. Maguire announced that the TBC's herbarium at the NYBG is known as the Local Herbarium. It had just been given a new home under the dome of the old library of the Garden, and contained some 100,000 specimens. It had been recently housed in new cases. Dr. Maguire suggested that it be called the John Torrey Room.
At the January 19, 1971 Council Meeting Dr. Basile announced some renovations to the Museum Building of the NYBG. One of the plans was to incorporate the TBC herbarium into the overall NYBG collection.
Dr. Greller questioned whether the local herbarium would be as useful if it was incorporated into the remainder of the Garden's herbaria. Dr. Cronquist suggested the herbarium (local flora) got little use in its present form. (Truthful observation perhaps, but not a wise political approach.)
At the March 2, 1976 regular meeting Dr. Cronquist showed a plaque to be displayed in the NYBG herbarium acknowledging the donation of 20 herbarium cases by the TBC. The plaque said "Twenty cabinets in this herbarium have been donated to the NYBG by the TBC in conformation with their objective of furthering knowledge and research in the botanical services."
The minutes of March 9, 1886 indicate plans to permanently deposit the TBC library in the Botanical Library of Columbia College in return for library privileges at Columbia.
THE TBC ARCHIVES?
A letter (July 14, 1953) to Donald P. Rodgers, the Recording Secretary, noted that Dr. Robbins of the NYBG had written that the institution would be glad to house the archives of the TBC. A letter from Donald P. Rogers, dated August 31, 1953, to TBC President Simpson in Quebec, Canada, informed her that the Council told the Corresponding Secretary to make arrangements with the library of NYBG for housing the archives of the Club. (Dr. Simpson had lived in Manhattan but was now 400 miles north.)
Dr. Annette Hervey worked out the details with Mr. Charles R. Long, Director of the Garden's library for transfer, storage and usage of the TBC's archives.
Dr. Linda D. Rachele replaced Matilde Weingartner in 1977. Soon after 1978 the files in the Torrey archives just stopped. The last Council Meeting minutes in the archives are from 1978. The last field schedule they have is from 1976.
THE CHOICE OF MEETING PLACES?
There is no consistent pattern of meeting places. The first meeting at the NYBG was in 1900 and more meetings were here than at any other place, but many years the TBC moved around and met at different Colleges, including the College of Pharmacy, Columbia, Fordham, Lehman, as well as other places such as the American Museum of Natural History.
THE JOHN TORREY ROOM?
On March 25, 1967 the Centennial Celebration of the TBC attended a "Dedication of the John Torrey Room." (Dr. Annette Hervey, the corresponding secretary and program chair, aided greatly in establishing the Torrey Room.) The welcoming address was made by Mr. Charles B. Harding, president of the NYBG Board of Managers. At 2:30 p.m. there was a talk by Director William Steere on "The Torrey Club and the Beginning of the Garden." At 3 p.m. there was a talked by Christine Chapman Robbins and William J. Robbins on "John Torrey: His Life and Times."
Dr. Steere told about the beginning of the Botanical Garden and its early history. He then dedicated the room of the Museum Building as the John Torrey Room to be used by the Torrey Club members as a reading room, herbarium study area, and a room for meetings. The Club had furnished the room with attractive furniture. The John Torrey Room was the room under the dome of the library building. (The amount spent on furnishings for the Torrey Rom was $2,000 dollars, according to the TBC Council meeting of March 25, 1967.)
In 1967 the president of TBC was Ralph H. Cheney. He was from the Biology Department of Brooklyn College. In the name of the TBC, Dr. Cheney thanked the NYBG for the generous use of the room. Cocktails and then a buffet supper were then served.
At the May 19, 1970 Council meeting Dr. Crockett appointed a committee to study how the Torrey Rom could be better utilized. It is interesting that Dr. Hervey mentioned that she "would like to find some other meeting places, that are less subject to student unrest."
The TBC spent some $2,000 dollars on furbishing the Torrey Room. Exhibited in the Torrey Room were two engraved portraits of John Torrey, a portrait of Torrey around 1873, and the funeral notice for Torrey along with the sprig of Torreya. (Robbins 1996:595)
At the January 19, 1971 Council Meeting Dr. Basile announced some renovations to the Museum Building of the NYBG which brought up the questions, what happens to the Torrey room, the Local Flora herbarium, and the Torrey memorabilia. (Matilde Weingarten, the recording secretary, capitalized all the letters starting from what happens!)
Dr. Basile had received a letter from Dr. Irwin making suggestions as to the depositions of these items. However, since Dr. Irwin was away on a protracted tour, it was suggested that the matter be tabled for the time-being.
Then at the Regular Meeting of December 7, 1971, Dr. Basile
announced that when the new Museum Building (then under
construction) was completed, the TBC would be assigned "the
best room in the house" for meetings and for the storage of
its records and memorabilia.
This promise, however, never came true. All Torrey got was a room with a tiny plastic name plate affixed to the outside wall. And then later the NYBG administrators started taking away the room from TBC/TBS for reasons such as "we need the room for educational courses."
DINNER FOLLOWING RECEPTION OF THE GUEST SPEAKER?
Corresponding Secretary Dr. Annette Hervey instituted the practice of taking the guest speaker to dinner.
For many years the TBC did trail maintenance for the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference on a stretch of the Apalachian Trail in the Kittatinnies of New Jersey. At the January 20, 1976 Council Meeting Dr. Greller suggested dropping the AT maintenance since it has little to do with botany and the volunteers are no longer available.
Later Dominick Basile suggested the Field Committee do Trail Maintenance for the NJ-NY Trail Conference. The Club was assigned to do the Letterrock Mountain Section of trails in Harriman State park. Dr. Susan Yost and her husband were the trip leaders for the trail maintenance. Dr. Patrick Cooney stopped this practice once again in the year 2000 because few Torrey members showed up and he wanted to use the members' skills to do more field work and prepare more plant lists.
Cooney even went so far as to drop out of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. He did not see that organization as doing much of anything except trail maintenance. And his knowledge of hikers did not impress him as most of them were interested in physical exertion and could care less about botany. This, of course, has now been changing with the state stepping in and demanding that the Trail Conference know something about the plants along its trail systems. Cooney will most likely reinstate Torrey in the hopefully newly changed Trail Conference. He awaits the November 12, 2000 meeting with the Trail Conference and many other invited environmental groups. He hopes this is the start of a new era of environmental consciousness and cooperation.