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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00024

Alexander Forbes Labrador survey photographs

Scope and Content

The Forbes photographs collection contains photographs, correspondence, and notes. There are around 500 aerial photographs shot with a Fairchild survey camera during the 1931 expedition. These are accompanied by a letter from Forbes and a detailed list of the photos.


  • 1931-1932


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.


1 collection (One folder and three small boxes in shared box BD)


Alexander Forbes was born on May 14, 1882, in Milton, Mass., to William Hathaway and Edith Emerson Forbes. He received his B.A. in 1904, his M.A. in 1905, and his M.D. in 1910, all from Harvard. He taught at Harvard Medical School as Instructor (1910-1921), as Associate Professor (1921-1936), and Professor (1936-1948). In 1948 he became Professor Emeritus. He was awarded honorary Sc.D. degrees from Tufts College in 1952 and Johns Hopkins University in 1954. He died in 1965.

In the summer of 1931 in collaboration with the American Geographical Society, Forbes led an expedition to survey the northern third of the Labrador coast in Canada. The expedition consisted of the schooner “Ramah” and two airplanes -- a Fairchild cabin monoplane equipped with a surveying camera and a smaller Waco biplane. Osborn Maitland Miller (1897-1979) oversaw the expedition surveying efforts, which resulted in more than 500 aerial photographs of the region. The expedition also included geologist Noel Ewart Odell (1890-1987), botanist Ernst Cleveland Abbe (1905-2000), and a support crew.

The surveying continued the next summer under the leadership of Charles J. Hubbard (1902-1950) and a comparable number of photographs were taken. In the summer of 1935 Forbes and Hubbard flew to Cape Chidley to complete gaps identified in the previous surveys.

Forbes’s report of the 1931 expedition entitled “Surveying in Northern Labrador” was published in 1932 in “Geographical Review.” A second report entitled “Northernmost Labrador, Mapped From the Air”, was accompanied by a set of maps and navigational notes and was published by the American Geographical Society in 1938.


Cattell, J. 1960. American Men of Science. 10th ed. Tempe (AZ): Jacques Cattell Press, Inc.

Frank, RG, Goetzl JH. 1978. The J. H. B. Archive Report: The Alexander Forbes Papers. J. Hist. Biol. 11: 387-393.


The photographs were given to the Gray Herbarium by the American Geographical Society in April 1932. The identification list was given to the Gray by Osborn M. Miller through Ernst C. Abbe on September 30, 1932.

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.
Forbes, Alexander, 1882-1965. Alexander Forbes Labrador survey photographs, 1931: 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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