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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00031

Thomas Wentworth Higginson field notebooks

Scope and Content

The Higginson papers consist of four botanical notebooks and two letters found inserted in the notebooks.


  • 1841-1894


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


Thomas Wentworth Higginson was born on December 22, 1823, in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was the youngest child of merchant Stephen Higginson and his wife Louisa Storrow Higginson. He entered Harvard College in 1837 at the age of 13 years and was the youngest member of his class. There he came under the influence of Thaddeus William Harris, who inspired his lifelong interest in natural history. Higginson completed his bachelor’s degree in 1841 and taught for a few years before entering Harvard Divinity School. He was ordained in September 1847 and later that month married Mary Elizabeth Channing. The couple had no children but raised a niece. Mary Higginson died in 1877; two years later Higginson married Mary Potter Thacher. The couple had two daughters: Louisa, who died in infancy in 1880, and Margaret Waldo, born in 1881.

Higginson became active in the abolitionist movement while a theology student. Following his ordination he was involved in politics, religious and anti-slavery activities, and in the women’s suffrage movement. During the American Civil War, he was commanding officer of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first regiment of freed slaves in the Union Army. Following the war, he turned his attention to writing.

Throughout his life Higginson maintained an interest in entomology and botany. He was a member of the Boston Society of Natural History and the Cambridge Entomological Club, helped found the Worcester Natural History Society, and published a book of essays on plant lore (“The procession of the flowers and kindred paper”) in 1897. He died in Cambridge on May 9, 1911.


Higginson MPT. 1914. Thomas Wentworth Higginson: the story of his life. Cambridge (MA): Riverside Press.

Higginson TW. 1869. Memoir of Thaddeus William Harris. Boston (MA): Boston Society of Natural History.


The notebooks in this collection were given to the Gray Herbarium by Higginson in at least two separate gifts. Notebooks 1 and 3 were received on June 14, 1906 and notebook 2 was received on February 25, 1909. There is no acquisition date for Notebook 4.

Processed by


September 1993

Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 1823-1911. Thomas Wentworth Higginson field notebooks, 1841-1894: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University.
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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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