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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00007

William Darlington collection of William Baldwin correspondence

Scope and Content

The collection contains letters to William Darlington from or pertaining to William Baldwin. There are 48 letters from Baldwin to Darlington dated 1803-1819, 45 of which are reproduced in “Reliquiae Baldwinianae.” There are three letters from John J. Lowry, in whose home Baldwin died, to Darlington, dated 1819-1844, and there are 10 letters from Baldwin’s widow, Hannah, to Darlington, dated 1819-1843.


  • 1803-1844
  • Majority of material found within 1817-1819


Conditions Governing Access

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


0.3 linear feet (61 letters in 3 folders)


William Baldwin was born on March 29, 1779 in Newlin, Pennsylvania, to Quaker minister Thomas Baldwin and his wife Elizabeth Baldwin (née Garretson). He was educated in rural schools and taught briefly before entering the University of Pennsylvania in 1802 to study medicine. He developed a close friendship with William Darlington that year, but was forced to put off further study due to financial hardship. He worked as an assistant to physician William A. Todd, who introduced Baldwin to botanist Moses Marshall.

Baldwin went on to serve as a surgeon on a merchant ship to Canton, China from 1805 to 1806, earning enough money to return to the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his M.D. in 1807 and moved to Wilmington, Delaware, to practice medicine. He married Hannah M. Webster in 1808.

Baldwin moved with his family to Georgia in 1811. At the outbreak of the War of 1812 he accepted a commission as a naval surgeon and was based first at St. Marys, Georgia, then at Savannah. At the end of the war Baldwin’s family returned to Wilmington while he spent the winter and spring of 1816-1817 collecting around the south. He renewed his correspondence with William Darlington during this period.

From late 1817 to July 1818 Baldwin served as the surgeon on the frigate “Congress” on its voyage to Buenos Aires. He used the opportunity to botanize the areas he visited and began compiling a botanical treatise on southern U.S. and South American plants at Darlington’s encouragement b

Baldwin set aside his treatise to accept an appointment as botanist on an expedition to the Rocky Mountains led by Stephen Harriman Long. Baldwin departed with the expedition in March 1819, but his health deteriorated and he was forced to leave the group. He died in Franklin, Missouri, on September 1, 1819.


Baldwin W. Reliquiae Baldwinianae: selections from the correspondence of the late William Baldwin, with occasional notes, and a short biographical memoir compiled by William Darlington. Philadelphia (PA): Kimber & Sharpless; 1843.

Redfield JH. 1899. Some American botanists. VI. Dr. William Baldwin. Bot. Gaz. (London). 8(6): 233-237.


Arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Baldwin's letters were given to Asa Gray by William Darlington, likely after the publication of “Reliquiae Baldwinianae” in 1843 and before Darlington's death in 1863.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria: Jane Gray autograph collection, 1563-1908.

Processed by

Lynn McWhood

December 1982

Baldwin, William, 1779-1819. William Darlington collection of William Baldwin correspondence, 1803-1844, bulk 1817-1819: 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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