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ITEM — drawer: P1.5 Identifier: gra00066

Thomas Nuttall diary reproduction

Scope and Contents

This is a reproduction of Thomas Nuttall’s diary made during his 1810-1811 explorations. The diary is dated April 12, 1810 to September 1810 and contains 124 pages. The copies were likely make by Jeannette E. Graustein during research for her book, Thomas Nuttall, naturalist: explorations in America, 1808-1841.


  • 1810 April-September


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0.1 linear feet (1 folder)


Thomas Nuttall was born on January 5, 1786, in Settle, Yorkshire, England. He was apprenticed to his uncle Jonas Nuttall, a printer, at 14 and worked for a few years as a journeyman printer but left England for Philadelphia in 1808.

In Philadelphia Nuttall came under the patronage of botanist Benjamin Smith Barton. Nuttall made several collecting trips with Barton’s support: to Chesapeake Bay, to coastal Virginia and North Carolina, and to the Great Lakes region. In early 1811 Nuttall and Scottish botanist John Bradbury joined the Overland Expedition of the Pacific Fur Company and spent a year exploring along the Kansas, Platte, and Missouri Rivers.

For the next few years Nuttall spent most of his time in Philadelphia and undertook collecting trips during the summers. He began publishing botanical articles around 1817 and his “Genera of North American Plants” was published in 1818. In October that year he departed on a longer trip to the Arkansas and lower Mississippi Rivers, returning to Philadelphia in the spring of 1820.

In 1822 Nuttall was appointed curator of Harvard’s Botanic Garden. He remained in Cambridge for the next 11 years, teaching botany and cultivating plants at the Botanic Garden. In 1833 he resigned his position at Harvard to join Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth’s second expedition to the Pacific Northwest. Nuttall spent 1834 through 1836 traversing the continent and botanizing along the Pacific coast, as well as in Hawaii and the Sandwich Islands.

Nuttall reached Boston in September 1836 and made his way back to Philadelphia. In 1842 his uncle Jonas Nuttall bequeathed to him his estate near Liverpool. The terms of the inheritance required Nuttall to reside at the estate, called Nutgrove, for nine months each year. With the exception of a short trip to the United States in the winter of 1847/1848, Nuttall spent the rest of his life in England. He died at his estate on September 10, 1859.


Durand E. 1860. Biographical notice of the late Thomas Nuttall. Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc. 7(63):297-315.

Powers WH. 1925. Some facts in the life of Thomas Nuttall. Science. 62(1609):389-391.


The Nuttall diary reproduction was given to the Gray Herbarium by Jeannette E. Graustein around 1951. The original diary was loaned to Graustein by Major [William Frank] Dixon-Nuttall, a descendant of Jonas Nuttall’s grand-nephew, Francis Dixon, who inherited Nutgrove when Thomas Nuttall died. The original diary remains in the Nuttall family.

Related materials

The Archives of the Arnold Arboretum (Cambridge) holds a related collection of 58 original drawings (numbered 1-108) prepared for Nuttall's edition of The North American Sylva. Three plates are signed by W. Gambel. The collection also includes a one-page biographical sketch of Thomas Nuttall and typed notes, signed "EDB [Elizabeth Dean Bennett], Jan. 24, 1928," that compare the drawings to the published plates.

Thomas Nuttall correspondence at the Ernst Mayr Library, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

Processed by

Lynn McWhood, January 1983

Nuttall, Thomas, 1786-1859. Thomas Nuttall diary reproduction, 1810 April-September: A Guide.
Archives, Gray Herbarium, Harvard University Herbaria
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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