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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00052

Henry Knute Svenson papers

Scope and Content

The Svenson papers contain professional and personal correspondence, research notes, original sketches, photographs, reprints, scrapbooks, and maps. Correspondence pertains to Svenson’s involvement in professional societies, his work at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, plant identifications, and plant collecting.


  • 1926-1989


Conditions Governing Access

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


3.34 linear feet (2 record center cartons, 2 manuscript boxes, 1 flat oversize box)


Henry Knute Svenson was born in Hinnaryd, Sweden, in 1897 and moved to Malden, Massachusetts, with his family in 1898. He graduated from Harvard University in 1921 and went on to serve in the U.S. Army. After his service ended he returned to Harvard and completed a Ph.D. in 1929. In 1930 Svenson was appointed assistant curator at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. That spring he was chief botanist for the Vincent Astor Expedition to the Galapagos Islands. His collections were deposited at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and at the Gray Herbarium. Svenson was promoted to curator of the Botanic Garden in 1936. In 1946 he accepted a position with the department of forestry and botany at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He remained there until 1952 when he joined the military branch of the U.S. Geological Survey. Svenson worked on vegetation maps of North America and Europe until his retirement in 1966. Svenson retired to Cape Cod and in 1979 he co-authored “Flora of Cape Cod” with Robert W. Pyle. He died on March 4, 1986 in Hyannis, Massachusetts.


Henry K. Svenson 1897-1986. Rhodora. 88(855):426; 1986.

Svenson HK. 1935. Plants of the Astor Expedition, 1930 (Galapagos and Cocos Islands). Amer. J. Bot. 22(2):208-277.

Series Description

The collection is divided into 5 series.

Series I. Correspondence, 1939-1989. Both personal and professional correspondence organized alphabetically by last name. Letters are both to and from H.K. Svenson. When additional correspondence exists in other series, a note is made in the container listing.

Series II. Research materials. Research materials include, but are not limited to: notes, notebooks, manuscripts, photographs, illustrations, citations, and photocopies. Original order and labeling has been kept when possible. Materials found loose, unfoldered, and unlabeled in original housings have been organized and labeled by the best determination of the archival processor.

Series III. Professional organizations. Includes materials related to the professional organizations that Svenson was involved with.

Series IV. Miscellaneous materials. Contains clippings, corrected typescripts, maps, notes, obituaries, a botanical chart, annotated reprints, and assorted ephemera.

Series V. Scrapbooks. There are five scrapbooks in this collection. There is one photographic scrapbook, 1926-1937. There are three Cyperaceae scrapbooks containing reprints, annotations, and notes. There is one scrapbook of Research notes on Eleocharis. The scrapbooks were all assembled in commercially produced scrapbooks. They have all been disbound and the original bindings have been discarded.


The collection was donated to the Gray Herbarium by Svenson’s niece, Anna Mae Stainbrook, on April 5, 1986.

Separated Materials

Plant material was found throughout the collection in the correspondence, research materials, and scrapbook pages. The plant material was pulled from the papers and researched by the curatorial staff at the Harvard University Herbaria. When possible the plant material was added to the Herbaria collections. If the plant material could not be added to the Herbaria collections it was disposed. The entire folder for "2.4 Woody amaranth Hawaiian Islands" was removed from the collection because it only contained plant material fragments. There is no folder 2.4 in this collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Lynn McWhood

Svenson, Henry Knute. Henry Knute Svenson papers, 1926-1989: 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.

Harvard University Herbaria
22 Divinity Ave
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2366