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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00019

Alvah Augustus Eaton papers

Scope and Content

The Eaton Papers consist of field notes, correspondence, and notes pertaining to Eaton’s botanical work. Sixteen notebooks dated from about 1895-1906 contain field notes and other botanical notes; five of these notebooks pertain to Eaton’s field trips to Florida. Correspondence consists of four letters dated 1899-1905. Notes are handwritten and undated.


  • 1895-1906


Conditions Governing Access

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


0.6 linear feet (1 document box, 1 half-width document box)


Alvah Augustus Eaton was born on November 20, 1865, in Seabrook, New Hampshire, to Alvah and Lydia Eaton (née Watson). The family moved to a farm in Salisbury, Mass., when he was twelve. He went to high school at the Putnam School in Newburyport, Mass., completing the four-year course in only two years. Eaton then taught for one year in Seabrook and then for three years after moving to California where he also took up farming. Eaton returned to New England to teach and farm, and later turned to work as a florist and gardener due to poor health.

Eaton was a self-taught botanist and focused on fern-worts (Pteridophyta), grasses, and orchids. His work on Equisetum and Isoetes is of particular note. He described many species in these groups and revised content for Asa Gray's “New Manual of Botany (1908).”

Beginning in 1902 Eaton undertook monographic, bibliographic, and taxonomic work at the Oakes Ames Botanical Laboratory in North Easton, Massachusetts. He made one collecting trip to Europe and three to Florida for the Laboratory, during which he discovered more than a dozen new ferns. He married Constance E. Wilkins (née Chapman) on September 26, 1904.

Eaton was a member of the Linnaean Fern Chapter (later the American Fern Society) and was a frequent contributor to “The Fern Bulletin.” He served as secretary of the American Fern Society for two years, as president for one year, and was responsible for creating the Society’s pteridophyte herbarium. He held the post of Curator of the Herbarium from its inception until his death. He also left two completed but unpublished manuscripts, a monograph on North American Isoetes and a study on Orchidaceae.

After Eaton’s death on September 29, 1908, Oakes Ames published a description of an orchid collected by Eaton in Florida in the early 1900’s. He named it Spiranthes eatonii.


Clute WN. 1902. Alvah Augustus Eaton. Fern Bull. 10(2): 52-53.

Clute WN. 1909. Death of Alvah A. Eaton. Fern Bulletin. 16(4): 109-111.

Day MA. 1908. Botanical Writings of the Late Alvah Augustus Eaton. Rhodora. 10(120): 211-214.

Leavitt RG. 1908. In Memoriam: Alvah Augustus Eaton. Rhodora. 10(120): 209-211.

Series Description

The collection is divided into two series: Series I - Correspondence; Series II - Notebooks and Notes.


The Eaton correspondence and manuscripts were found wrapped in paper addressed to Merritt L. Fernald from Eaton’s wife, Constance (the parcel was also labeled "Bundle 1365."). The notebooks may also have been given by Mrs. Eaton.

In 2020, four journals were donated by the Hingham Historical Society. They have been integrated into this collection.

Existence and Location of Copies

Numbers 1-17 have been microfilmed. Microfilm master number 11738.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria:
  1. Administrative correspondence of the Gray Herbarium and Harvard University Herbaria, 1890-1965
  2. Gray correspondence files, 1832-1892

Processed by

Lynn McWhood, 1982 January.

Eaton, Alvah Augustus, 1865-1908. Alvah Augustus Eaton papers, 1895-1906: 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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