Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: gra00064

Stephen Thayer Olney field notebooks

Scope and Content

The Olney papers consist of three small field notebooks. Two notebooks are covered in leather, one is missing a cover. Notebooks contain field notes and collecting lists, likely of Rhode Island plants. They were probably used in the preparation of Olney’s Rhode Island floras.


  • 1841-1870
  • Majority of material found within 1841-1848


Conditions Governing Access

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


0.1 linear feet (3 notebooks in shared box 5)
112 Leaves

Biographical / Historical

Stephen Thayer Olney was born on February 15, 1812, in Providence, Rhode Island to Stephen and Polly Olney (née Thayer). He was educated in Providence and worked for Isaac B. Cooke and Co. before starting the Wauskuck Company, a woolens firm, with Jesse Metcalf. The business was profitable and provided Olney with sufficient wealth and free time to pursue his botanical interests.

Olney was particularly interested in the genus Carex and contributed sections on Carices to Sereno Watson’s botanical report of the King Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel and to Asa Gray’s report on Elihu Hall’s Oregon plants. He amassed a large private herbarium and botanical library and corresponded with many prominent botanists.

Olney never married. He died in Providence on July 27, 1878 after a period of declining health. He bequeathed his herbarium and library as well as $35,000 to Brown University.


Bailey WW. 1880. The Herbaria and Botanical Libraries of the United States, III. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club. 7(11):116-117.

Gray A. 1879. Scientific Intelligence: III. Botany. Am. J. Sci. Arts. 17(98):176-180.

Humphrey HB. Stephen Thayer Olney, 1812-1878. In: Makers of North American Botany. New York: Ronald Press; 1961. p.192-193.


The Olney notebooks were found with the papers of Walter Deane, who was an avid collector of botanical autographs. Deane was also a good friend of William Whitman Bailey, who was Curator of the Herbaria at Brown; it is possible he acquired the notebooks through Bailey.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria: Asa Gray correspondence files, 32 letters, 1845-1876; Sereno Watson papers, 30 letters, 1869-1872.

Olney, Stephen T. (Stephen Thayer), 1812-1878. Stephen Thayer Olney field notebooks, 1841-1870, bulk 1841-1848: 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