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COLLECTION Identifier: far00008

Eliza Beulah Blackford papers

Scope and Content

The Blackford papers contain correspondence, scrapbooks, notebooks, spore prints, original artwork, photographs, and various items relating to the Boston Mycological Club. These materials mainly pertain to Blackford’s interest in mycology. The original artwork includes 605 matted and numbered watercolors of cryptogams; 147 unmatted and unnumbered watercolors of cryptogams; and a group of small watercolors that were originally boxed together. The collection also includes 218 watercolors of vascular plants that are kept in the Gray Herbarium Archives.


  • 1893-1934


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available by appointment for research with the following restrictions: Box 1, Folder 27 and Series III: Spore prints, are extremely fragile and require special handling by staff. Researchers must register and provide one form of valid photo identification. Please contact for additional information.


4.8 linear feet (10 flat boxes, 2 manuscript boxes, 2 volumes, 1 carton)


Eliza Beulah Blackford (née Larsh) was born to a Quaker family in Eaton, Ohio around 1847. Her early interest in the natural world led her to spend much time outdoors, collecting and painting the plants she found. She married schoolmate Levi P. Blackford in 1869.

Blackford moved to Boston with her husband in the early 1890s and enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1895, where she studied drawing and painting. She became interested in the study of fungi around the same time and was one of the first women to join the newly-established Boston Mycological Club. Blackford joined the staff of the MFA in the Ticketing Office in 1901. She began corresponding with several notable mycologists and dedicated much of her free time to collecting and painting fungi. She also made spore prints, dried specimens, and compiled meticulous field notes of the fungi she gathered.

Blackford sent specimens to mycologists for identification and distributed duplicates to the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station and to botanists outside of New England. Charles Horton Peck was perhaps her most important collaborator. Between 1899 and 1915, Blackford provided Peck with hundreds of specimens which led to descriptions of at least ten new species.

Blackford retired from the MFA in 1926 and continued to devote her time to mycology. In 1933 Harvard Professor William “Cap” Weston convinced Blackford to give her artwork to the Farlow Herbarium, where it would be cared for and made available to researchers. Her artwork, correspondence, and spore prints were given to Harvard after her death on January 25, 1935. She is buried at Mound Hill Cemetery in Eaton, Ohio.


Archives of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Eliza Beulah Blackford papers, Archives of the Farlow Herbarium, Harvard University.

Series Description

This collection is arranged in seven series. Series I. Correspondence. Series II. Scrapbook, Notes, and Notebooks. Series III. Spore Prints. Series IV. Paintings, Prints, and Drawings. Sub-Series A. Cryptogamic Plants. Sub-Series B. Vascular Plants. Sub-Series C. Boxed original watercolors, mostly fungi. Series V. Photographs. Series VI. Boston Mycological Club. Series VII. Ephemera.


Blackford donated her papers to the Farlow Herbarium in 1933; they arrived in 1935 following her death.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria: William Gilson Farlow papers.

Painting title note

Painting titles were transcribed directly from the recto or verso of the painting when labels were present. Spelling corrections that were supplied by library staff appear in square brackets.

Some unlabeled fungi illustrations could not be identified by herbaria staff; those paintings were labeled Fungi indet. followed by a number.

Many of the vascular plant paintings are labeled with both scientific name and common name; common names appear in parenthesis.

May 2020 Walter Kittredge, Curatorial Assistant in the Harvard University Herbaria, identified approximately thirty-five unlabeled vascular plant paintings. Those titles are in square brackets.

Conservation note:

Forty-four cryptogamic and vascular plant paintings were conserved in 2019.

Digitization note

Harvard's Imaging Services department digitized parts of this collection as part of the "Original botanical illustrations of the Botany Libraries" project.

Blackford, Eliza Beulah, 1847-1935. Eliza Beulah Blackford papers, 1893-1934: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries. The Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany specializes in organisms that reproduce by spores, without flowers or seeds. The Archives of the Farlow Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany houses unique resources including personal papers, institutional records, field notes and plant lists, expedition records, photographs, original artwork, and objects from faculty, curators, staff, and affiliates of the Farlow Herbarium.

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