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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00001

William Oakes letters to James Watson Robbins

Scope and Content

The collection consists primarily of correspondence. There are about 50 letters from Oakes to James Watson Robbins, dated 1827-1847. There is also a letter written in shorthand to Oakes from an unidentified correspondent and a letter to Robbins from Charles Upham Shepard. Additional materials pertaining to Oakes and Robbins were apparently compiled by Walter Deane.


  • 1827-1902
  • Majority of material found within 1827-1847

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available by appointment for research. Researchers must register and provide valid photo identification. Please contact for additional information.


0.15 linear feet (5 folders in flat box, 1 folder in file cabinet (50 letters in 6 folders))


William Oakes was born on July 1, 1799, in Danvers, Massachusetts. He entered Harvard in 1816 and developed a strong interest in natural history under the tutelage of William Dandridge Peck. After graduating from Harvard in 1820, Oakes studied law for three years. In 1824 he moved to Ipswich, Massachusetts and began to practice law. A few years later he gave up law and devoted himself to the study of natural history, particularly that of New England. In 1842 he was asked to write a brief description of the flora of the White Mountains for a geological survey report on New Hampshire, and he expended much energy on this project for the rest of his life. On July 31, 1848, he fell off a ferry between Boston and East Boston and drowned.


This collection was given to the Gray Herbarium by Walter Deane on May 14, 1918. Materials in the collection indicate that Deane conducted research on Oakes and Robbins in 1901 and 1902. The packaging in which the collection was found bore a label in what appears to be Deane’s handwriting: "Wm Oakes to J W Robbins, W. Deane - I have the story of my getting these at home. May 17, 1818." Deane may have acquired the Oakes correspondence through Thomas Morong, whom Robbins mentored and to whom he left a collection of his specimens and papers.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria: Asa Gray correspondence files, 1832-1892; James Watson Robbins Papers.

Processed by

Lynn McWhood

December 1981

Oakes, William, 1799-1848. William Oakes letters to James Watson Robbins, 1827-1902, bulk 1827-1847: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries. The Gray Herbarium Library specializes in the identification and classification of New World plants with emphasis on North American plants. The Archives of the Gray Herbarium 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 Gray Herbarium.

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