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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00073

Walter Deane papers


The papers of Walter Deane. Comprised of correspondence, diaries, journals, manuscripts, and photographs related to Deane's botanical pursuits. Also contains Deane's large autograph collection of botanists.


  • circa 1789-1929
  • Majority of material found within 1874-1929

Conditions Governing Access

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


15.3 linear feet (5 record cartons, 11 document boxes, 1 half width document box, 1 flat box, 4 card files, 2 oversize folders in flat file)

The Walter Deane papers include correspondence with about 500 botanists, botanical and ornithological organizations, and family members. Also contains diaries and journals (1882-1929) mostly concerning summers which Deane spent in Shelburne, N.H. and other biographical material. Botanical papers include manuscripts and records pertaining to Deane's botanical pursuits as well as notes on Flora of Blue Hills, plant records, indexes, and drafts of lectures and articles. The collection also contains about 350 original negatives including views of Sherburne and other New Hampshire towns, two photographic albums, and one photograph on metal that is thought to be Merritt Lyndon Fernald and Dr. Kennedy. Also contains Deane’s autograph collection with signatures of about 600 botanists and an autograph collection from an unknown collector.

Biographical / Historical

Walter Deane was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 23, 1848. His family moved to Cambridge in 1853 and he was educated at Cambridge High School, from which he graduated in 1862, and at Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1870. While at Harvard, Deane was active in the Handel and Haydn Society and was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club. After college he tutored for a year and then became a teacher at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts. He married a headmaster's daughter, Margaret Chapman Coolidge, on December 31, 1878, and shortly thereafter the Deanes moved to Cambridge. Deane taught at the Hopkinson School in Boston until 1895, when he gave up teaching for health reasons. Deane developed a lifelong interest in botany in 1880 when he pressed his first plant specimen. In 1895 and 1896 Deane tutored, led small classes in botany and worked for the Metropolitan Park Commission compiling a flora of the park system. From 1897-1907 he worked as curator for William Brewster's ornithological museum and assisted in the preparation of Brewster's “Birds of the Cambridge Region.” Deane held no more paid positions after 1907, but devoted himself to his own interests. After his wife's death in 1917, he was cared for by Lilla Brown, a nurse who served as his companion. For many years Deane lived in Cambridge in the winter and on the farm of Augustus Philbrook in Shelburne, New Hampshire, in the summer. Deane died on July 30, 1930.

During the course of his life Deane engaged in a number of botanical activities, including serving as a founding member of the New England Botanical Club. He served on several botanical visiting committees for Harvard (the Committee to visit the Botanical Department, 1891-1896; the Visiting Committee for the Botanical Museum, 1923-1929; and the Visiting Committee for the Gray Herbarium, 1897 until his death.) Deane helped on several floras including Maria Owen's “A Catalogue Plants Growing without Cultivation in the County of Nantucket, Mass.,” “Flora of Mt. Desert Island, Maine,” by Edward Rand and John Redfield, and Arthur Pease's of “Vascular Flora of Coos County, New Hampshire.” He also corresponded with a great number of botanists. He published short articles in a number of botanical journals, including the the “Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club” and “Rhodora.” He was an inveterate collector, with collections ranging from a carefully constructed herbarium and autographs of botanists to stereopticon views and picture postcards of the bridges of Paris. Deane had many non-botanical interests as well. He was secretary of the Old Cambridge Shakespeare Association from 1883-1925 and was an active member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club. Deane was also interested in astronomy, and at one point he collected insects for J.H. Emerton and Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. The genus Deanea, a small group of Mexican Umbelliferae, was named for Walter Deane.


1942. Who Was Who in America Vol. I, 1897-1942. A.N. Marquis Co., Chicago, 1942.

Robinson, B. L. 1930. Botanical Legacies of Walter Deane. Science. 72: 459.

Weatherby, C.A. 1933. Walter Deane. Rhodora. 35(411): 69-80.


The collection is arranged in five series
  1. I. Correspondence, 1878-1929
  2. II. Diaries, journals, and personal materials, 1874-1929
  3. III. Botanical papers, 1878-1925
  4. IV. Photographs, undated
  5. V. Autograph collection, approximately 1789-1929

Series I. Correspondence, 1878-1929.

Major correspondents (over 100 letters) include:
  1. Liberty Hyde Bailey (over 800 letters)
  2. William Whitman Bailey (560 letters)
  3. Charles Reid Barnes (123 letters)
  4. Michael Schuck Bebb (175 letters)
  5. Albert B. Carr (102 letters)
  6. Curtis Gates Lloyd (150 letters)
  7. Thomas Morong (183 letters)
  8. Maria Louisa Owen (255 letters)
  9. Joseph Nelson Rose (155 letters; a note indicates that Deane destroyed most of his correspondence with Rose because it was personal)

Other Finding Aids

A detailed paper inventory of the autograph collection is available in the repository.


The Deane papers were donated to the Gray Herbarium by Walter Deane through several separate gifts.

On May 1, 1908, Deane donated the card index of preliminary work on the “Flora of the Blue Hills, Middlesex Fells.” Deane made a series of gifts during 1918 which included his entire collection of botanical pamphlets and clippings, approximately 2600 items in all. He also donated a portion of his correspondence and the papers pertaining to the difference between Canadian foxberries and Swedish lingonberries. His herbarium, which contained approximately 40,000 sheets, was gifted to the Gray Herbarium. Deane made a gift of autographs on June 6, 1918, and of autograph letters on November 1, 1918.

Deane’s diaries and portraits were likely bequeathed after his death. The large diaries were labeled as received in 1932. There do not seem to be provenance records for the other miscellaneous botanical papers.

There is more detailed provenance information about the correspondence in the paper finding aid in the repository.

Related Materials

Related materials: The New England Botanical Club archives housed by the Harvard University Herbaria.

Other related material at Harvard University: William Brewster Papers, Ernst Mayr Library and Archives of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University. The William Brewster papers include diaries (1865-1919), journals (1871-1919), notebooks with field observations, photographs (1851-1919) and correspondence (1862-1919). Included in the correspondence are 40 letters from Brewster to Deane (1898-1907) and 37 letters from Deane to Brewster (1892-1915).

The Brewster and Dean correspondence is digitized and hosted by BHL.

Separated Materials

The Walter Deane collection originally included a large number of photographs of botanists. These were indexed and integrated into the Botany Libraries photograph collection. That includes a tintype studio portrait of Walter Deane and an unidentified botanist holding vascula for specimen collecting.

Digitization note: Boston Metropolitan Park Flora Project

Parts of the Walter Deane papers were digitized as part of the Boston Metropolitan Park Flora Project.

In 1894, the Metropolitan Park Commission in Boston, Mass., commissioned the firm of Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot to survey of the plants of the woodland reservations. The firm appointed Warren H. Manning to lead a team of volunteers in consultation with local botanists to accomplish the work. The results were compiled, edited, and published by Walter Deane in 1896 under the title, Flora of the Blue Hills, Middlesex Fells, Stony Brook and Beaver Brook reservations, of the Metropolitan Park Commission, Massachusetts. Another outcome of the successful amateur-professional collaboration was the founding of the New England Botanical Club (NEBC) in 1896.

The Boston Metropolitan Park Flora Project presents the historic materials from various collections associated with Walter Deane’s Metropolitan Park census and includes nearly 2,000 specimens, 40,000 pages of manuscript material, and published books, articles, and maps. Funds to digitize the collection were generously provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (2010-2014).

Deane, Walter, 1848-1930. Walter Deane papers, circa 1789-1929, bulk 1874-1929: 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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