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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00033

Thomas Morong correspondence

Scope and Content

The Morong correspondence consists of around 890 letters from 156 correspondents dated 1874 to 1888. The bulk of the letters are from the 1880s. Content is primarily botanical, with the exception of correspondence from three of Morong’s relatives living Chile. The correspondence was found partially grouped by nationality: American, European, Canadian, and English botanists. Letters have been arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Correspondents with 10 or more letters include:
  1. Allen, Timothy Field
  2. Bailey, Liberty Hyde
  3. Bennett, Arthur
  4. Bingham, Caroline P. (née Lord)
  5. Britton, Elizabeth Gertrude
  6. Britton, Nathaniel Lord
  7. Collins, Frank Shipley
  8. Cratty, Robert Irvin
  9. Curtiss, Allen Hiram
  10. Deane, Walter
  11. Faxon, Edwin
  12. Fletcher, James
  13. Greene, Edward Lee
  14. Hill, Ellsworth Jerome
  15. Howell, Thomas Jefferson
  16. Langlois, Auguste Barthélemy
  17. Macoun, John
  18. Mellichamp, Joseph Hinson
  19. Owen, Maria Louisa
  20. Patterson, Harry Norton
  21. Pringle, Cyrus Guernsey
  22. Tiselius, Gustaf
  23. Watson, Sereno

This collection previously included the correspondence and papers of James Watson Robbins. These materials were incorporated into a separate collection, the James Watson Robbins papers.


  • 1874-1888


Conditions Governing Access

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


0.85 linear feet (890 letters in 84 folders)


Thomas Morong was born in Cahaba, Alabama on April 15, 1827, the eldest son of Thomas and Jane C. Morong (née Travers). He moved to Massachusetts with his mother and three brothers after the death of his father in 1842. Morong was educated in Woburn and Medford and graduated from Amherst College in 1848. Later that year he married Mary L. Bennett. He spent part of 1849 at the Harvard Law School before abandoning law in favor of the clergy. He graduated from Andover Theological Seminary in 1853 and was ordained in 1854.

Morong’s interest in botany and expertise in flowering aquatic plants was particularly influenced by James Watson Robbins. Robbins bequeathed both his Potamogeton and Najadaceae collections to Morong with the understanding that Morong would continue his studies.

In 1888 Morong left his church in Ashland, Massachusetts and traveled to South America to visit his brother, John, in Chile and to study and collect the local flora. He spent a few days in Buenos Aires then traveled to central Paraguay, where he was based in Asunción for several weeks before continuing on to Valparaíso, Chile, and his brother’s home in Caldera. Morong collected 20,000 specimens during his time in South America. He returned to the United States with the intention of giving up the ministry to devote his time to botany and accepted a position as curator of the Columbia College Herbarium. He spent the last few years of his life working at the Herbarium, lecturing and teaching botany classes at Barnard College. Morong died at his son's home in Boston on April 26, 1894. His major works include a compilation of the plants he collected in Paraguay, prepared with the help of Nathaniel Lord Britton, and a monograph on the Najadaceae.


Britton NL. 1894. Thomas Morong. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club. 21(6):239-244.

Deane W. 1894. Thomas Morong. Bot. Gaz. 19(6):225-228.


Robbins likely left some of his papers to Morong along with his Potamogeton and Najadaceae collections. Evidence has been found in the archives suggesting Morong may have given these and his own papers to Walter Deane before traveling to South America. A note stating "Letters given me by Dr. Thomas Morong just before sailing for South America" in what appears to be Deane’s handwriting was found with several letters to Morong from Timothy Field Allen. Additionally, a set of picture postcards collected for Walter Deane was found with Morong’s papers in the Gray Herbarium and did not appear to belong to the collection.

Walter Deane gave his papers to the Gray Herbarium in several gifts. According to records found in Walter Deane's papers, he gave correspondence from Robbins and Morong to the Gray Herbarium on 25 October 1918.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria: James Watson Robbins papers.

Processed by:

Lynn McWhood

June 1982

Morong, Thomas, 1827-1894. Thomas Morong correspondence, 1874-1888: 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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