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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.


  • approximately 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 two forms of 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.

This series contains letters from almost 500 correspondents, addressed mostly to Walter Deane. The majority of the correspondents are botanists, but some letters are from Deane’s relatives, companies with which he dealt, and botanical and ornithological organizations.
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)
The correspondence was originally arranged alphabetically by sender in several chronological segments, with the letters of a few individuals pulled out as separate collections. The letters are currently filed in one alphabetical sequence. Some letters that were originally in the correspondence files were moved by Deane to his autograph collection files.
Series II. Diaries, journals, and personal materials, 1874-1929.

This series includes 54 large format diaries or journals (1882-1929) including temperature records, bird sightings, clippings, and some obituaries. It also contains 22 small format diaries (1908-1929), including a variety of clippings and memoranda. After circa 1916 the large format diaries pertain mostly to summers in Shelburne, New Hampshire. Other materials include a dozen letters sent to Deane on his 50th birthday, notes pertaining to a funeral, membership certificates, financial matters and contributions, and a bundle of blank picture postcards.
Series III. Botanical papers, 1878-1925, undated: This series is organized into three subseries: general notes and plant records, manuscripts of articles and talks, and “Flora of the Blue Hills” materials.

A . General notes and plant records contains general botanical notes (1881-1887); notes on the distribution of plants in New England (1903); notes on botany, birds, weather and visits to Shelburne (1915-1918); record of grasses and sedges sent to Rudolph Blaschka; catalog of grasses in USDA reports (1878-1883); and catalog of Deane herbarium.

B. Manuscripts of articles and talks includes manuscripts and letters relating to Euphorbia cyparissias L. in fruit; letters relating to the difference between Canadian foxberries and Swedish lingonberries; letters relating to preliminary lists of New England plants; manuscript drafts of talks or articles pertaining to seashore plants, salt marsh plants, the study of botany, native ferns; and a few bird notes.

C. Flora of the Blue Hills materials contains three card indexes, manuscript notes, and letters regarding the publication "Flora of the Blue Hills, Middlesex Fells, Stony Brook and Beaver Brook reservations, of the Metropolitan Park Commission, Massachusetts."
Series IV. Photographs, undated.

This series contains approximately 350 numbered negatives that feature people and places. One photograph on metal is thought to be of Merritt Lyndon Fernald and Kennedy.

It also includes two portrait albums belonging to Deane featuring images of botanists and their families. The albums have been disbound and the photographs are individually sleeved.
Series V. Autograph collection: This series includes 3 document boxes and one oversize folder of letters and autographs from almost 600 people, primarily amateur and professional botanists. Many of the letters were originally addressed to Walter Deane, but a large number were obtained from other sources. The autograph collection of M.S. Bebb was included in this collection, and Deane also obtained letters from Thomas Morong (including letters to J.W. Robbins), Lester F. Ward, C.G. Lloyd, Benjamin Pickman Mann, J.M. Coulter, N.L. and E.G. Britton, L.H. Bailey, W.W. Bailey, M.L. Owen, J.N. Rose, Horace Mann, George E. Davenport and others. Of special interest are a number of letters given to Deane by Asa Gray and Sereno Watson, which should fill gaps in the Administrative correspondence of the Gray Herbarium and Harvard University Herbaria files.

Deane also purchased some letters and autographs from dealers and went to some lengths to acquire special letters, such as a fragment of a letter from John James Audubon and two letters from Henry David Thoreau, from other individuals. Deane's objective seems to have been to find sample letters from one individual to several different correspondents. He documented his collection carefully; the letters from each sender were enclosed in a paper on which the name of the sender was written, the names of recipients which weren't clear from the letters themselves were noted, and information about the source and date of acquisitions of the letters was recorded.

In addition to the main autograph collection, there is one oversize folder of sheets which appear to have come from someone else's autograph collection, possibly Ben W. Austin's. Letters are mounted on large sheets of paper, accompanied by biographical information and, often, portraits. Twenty-nine botanists are represented in this collection.

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.

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.
Deane, Walter, 1848-1930. Walter Deane papers, approximately 1789-1929, bulk 1874-1929: A Guide.
Archives, Gray Herbarium, Harvard University Herbaria
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University Repository

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