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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00054

George Thurber and William Munro Gramineae papers

Scope and Content

This collection consists of a bound volume of manuscript material by George Thurber and William Munro with annotations by Sereno Watson. Two letters from Munro to Thurber, dated 1858 and 1859, are taped in at the front of the volume; the Munro manuscript contains notes on Thurber's grasses (leaves 1-11), the Thurber manuscript contains notes on Gramineae of the U.S.-Mexican boundary survey (leaves 12-136). The collection also contains a bound copy of the contents of this volume with an added index, all in Sereno Watson’s handwriting, and a folder of loose sketches of grasses.


  • circa 1850-1892


Conditions Governing Access

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


0.25 linear feet (2 bound volumes and 1 folder)


George Thurber:

George Thurber was born on September 2, 1821, in Providence, Rhode Island to Jacob and Alice (Martin) Thurber. He was apprenticed to a pharmacist and eventually owned his own pharmacy in partnership with Joshua Chapin. He became interested in botany through its application to medicine. In 1850 Thurber was appointed botanist to the United States Boundary Commission which was established to survey the border between the United States and Mexico. Thurber spent almost four years with the survey and returned to Providence in 1853 when the commission was disbanded.

Thurber was awarded an M.A. in chemistry from Brown University and moved to New York to work in the United States Assay Office. He left in 1856 and over the next few years held teaching appointments at Cooper Union, the New York City College of Pharmacy, and the Michigan Agricultural College. In 1863 he became editor of “American Agriculturist” and settled near Passaic, New Jersey. He held this position for 22 years until failing health forced him to retire.

Thurber was a member of several scientific societies and served as president of the Torrey Botanical Club from 1873-1880. He corresponded with many prominent botanists and horticulturists, including John Torrey, Asa Gray, George Engelmann, and Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. He never married. Thurber died on April 2, 1890, of complications from rheumatism that developed during his time with the Boundary Survey.


Rusby HH. 1890. A biographical sketch of Dr. George Thurber. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club. 17(8):204-210.

William Munro:

William Munro was born around 1816 (although some sources suggest 1818) in Druid Stoke, Gloucestershire, England. He had a distinguished career in the British Army, entering as an ensign in 1834 and advancing to the rank of general in 1878. He served in India, the Crimea, Canada, and the West Indies, devoting what little spare time he had to collecting and studying the local flora. He also established gardens for the soldiers at several of these stations. Although he had little time to write, he published a monograph on bamboos in “Transactions of the Linnean Society of London” and was recognized as an authority on grasses. Munro died at his home near Taunton, Somerset, England on January 29, 1880. He bequeathed his collections, library, and manuscripts to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


General Munro, C.B. Gard. Chron. 13(319):169; 1880.

Census records, National Archives of the United Kingdom.

Physical Location

File Cabinet 11 - Field notes and plant lists, alphabetical


A Harvard University Herbarium bookplate on the inside front cover indicates that the manuscripts were purchased. The handwritten (by Sereno Watson) copy of the Thurber manuscript likely remained at the Gray Herbarium after Watson’s death in 1892.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria: Field notes and plant identification records, approximately 1804-2000; Sereno Watson papers, approximately 1852-1885.

Other related material at the Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries, Amherst, Massachusetts: Thurber-Woolson Botanical Collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Lynn McWhood

Thurber, George, 1821-1890. George Thurber and William Munro Gramineae papers, circa 1850-1892: 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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