General Physical Description note
Terms of Access
Photocopies may be made at the discretion of the Arnold Arboretum Archives staff. Permission to make photocopies does not constitute permission to reproduce or publish materials outside the bounds of the fair use guidelines.
2.7 linear feet
The most active years of the controversy, 1949-1958, produced numerous published and unpublished documents including articles, brochures, correspondence, reports and pamphlets that contained detailed, cogent arguments from both parties. The documents were directed to the Harvard community, other botanical and horticultural institutions and associations, and the general public. Media coverage included Harvard publications such as The Harvard Crimson, Harvard Alumni Bulletin, and Harvard University President's Report. Coverage in major newspapers included The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, and The Christian Science Monitor. Articles also appeared in horticultural and scientific journals such as Science, Horticulture, and The Bulletin of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta.
The origins of the controversy began in 1945, with the issuance of a report entitled, Botany and Its Applications at Harvard, by Harvard Professor of Plant Anatomy and Arnold Arboretum staff member Irving Widmer Bailey (1884-1967). More commonly known as the "Bailey Report" or the “Bailey Plan,” it proposed a reorganization of the botanical agencies at Harvard and sought to eliminate the duplication of effort and waste of financial resources by creating two broad budgetary and administrative areas. The area of General Morphology would address the herbaria and libraries of the Botanical Museum, Gray Herbarium, Farlow Library and Cryptogamic Herbarium, in Cambridge and the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain. The area of Experimental and Applied Botany was to include the Arnold Arboretum, Atkins Gardens and Research Laboratories in Cuba (now the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden), Bussey Institution (During the mid-1960s the Bussey Institution land was taken by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by right of eminent domain and funds of the Bussey Institution endowment were committed by the Corporation to establish a new Professorship, the Bussey Professor of Biology, in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences), Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, Maria Moors Cabot Foundation for Botanical Research (established 1937, ceased 1987 see Torrey, John G., History of the Maria Moors Cabot Foundation for Botanical Research of Harvard University 1937-1987), and the Botanic Garden associated with the Gray Herbarium, a seven acre site on Linnean and Garden Streets, Cambridge (now the location of the Harvard Botanic Garden Apartments and the Herbarium building, Kittredge Hall now houses Harvard University Press), duplicate books and library resources were to be sold and proceeds applied to funds for a new botanical building. The Harvard Corporation approved the Bailey Plan in the winter of 1946, and proceeded with a plan to raise one million dollars for a central botanical building.
In 1949 dissent arose. Professor Oakes Ames (1874-1950) former supervisor of the Arboretum (1927-1935) and Chairman of the Division of Biology (1926-1935), who had originally accepted the Bailey Plan, now raised questions about its legality. The Harvard Overseers Committee to Visit the Arnold Arboretum charged that the transfer of resources from Jamaica Plain violated the terms of the James Arnold Trust that endowed the Arboretum from its inception. These concerns were addressed by the Overseers Coordinating Committee on Biological Sciences chaired by Walter D. Edmonds (1903-1998), a member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers from 1944 to 1950. A legal opinion was requested, and Alfred Lowell delivered a report upholding the Plan. Members of the Visiting Committee retained attorney J. W. Farley, whose report rejected the Plan as a "breach of trust." Grenville Clark (1882-1967), who had just resigned from the Harvard Corporation, called in a third lawyer, Robert Dodge, whose report concurred with Farley's. The President and Fellows of Harvard requested a fourth report. Oscar Shaw of Ropes & Gray wrote an endorsement, though with reservations about some details. Action under the Plan was suspended. In late 1952, the Overseers Coordinating Committee, now chaired by Laird Bell (1883-1965), recommended dropping the Bailey Plan regarding the Arnold Arboretum, but still favoring moving library and herbarium materials to the new Cambridge building. The Corporation approved the recommendation in January 1953.
Opponents were not mollified by the concessions made. In 1953, The Association for the Arnold Arboretum, Inc., an independent group of prominent citizens and scholars, many with ties to both Harvard and the Arnold Arboretum, formed with the purpose of testing the legality of the relocation of Arboretum resources. The Association asked the Massachusetts Attorney General, who alone had legal standing to sue a charitable trust, to bring suit against Harvard. When Attorney General George Fingold declined, the Association brought suit in John S. Ames et al. v. Attorney General to compel him to rehear their application.
In February of 1955, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court refused to compel the attorney general to enter a test suit over the legality of the move. Most books and herbaria specimens were transferred to the new building constructed in Cambridge in 1954, later named the Harvard University Herbaria. Erected between, and connected to, the Farlow Library and Herbarium and the Museum of Comparative Zoology, at completion the building housed the Gray herbarium and library, a major portion of the Arboretum’s herbarium, library, and its wood collection in its entirety, The Oakes Ames Orchid Herbarium and library, and the Palaeobotanical Collections of the Botanical Museum. Reed C. Rollins (1911-1998), the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany Emeritus and director of the Gray Herbarium from 1948 to 1978 describes the building’s planning and construction in “The Harvard University Herbarium” Taxon 4 (2) 1955.
The Association for the Arnold Arboretum, Inc. convinced the new Attorney General, Edward J. McCormack, Jr. to allow members of the Association to sue Harvard in his name and the suit was filed in 1958. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 1966 to uphold the removal of most books and herbarium specimens from the Arnold Arboretum Hunnewell Administration building in Jamaica Plain to the Harvard University Herbaria building in Cambridge by a 3-2 vote.
- "The Controversy" records : Guide.
- EAD ID
Part of the Arnold Arboretum Archives Repository
The Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library is a specialized collection devoted to the study of temperate woody plants. We collect works on botany, horticulture, floras, urban forestry and taxonomy. The library contains more than 25,000 volumes and 40,000 photographs, and includes an archive that both documents the Arboretum's history and is a repository for 19th, 20th, and 21st century horticultural and botanical collections.
Jamaica Plain MA 02130 USA