Correspondence of John Hussey and G. W. Clinton, Part 1
P. M. Eckel and Nick Harby
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
September 10, 2011
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The Correspondence of

John Hussey (1831-1888) and

George William Clinton (1807‑1885). Notes on the early herbarium of Purdue University: Part 1.


P. M. Eckel, P.O. Box 299, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, 63166‑0299; email:


Nick Harby, Arthur & Kriebel Herbaria, Dept. of Botany & Plant Pathology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana; email:



The following text is the result of the second author discovering information on the label of a specimen, i.e., Kühlewein in Petropolis (Leningrad), at the Purdue Herbarium that corresponded with one of a series of electronic publications published by the first author on the correspondence of George W. Clinton, of Buffalo, New York.

Clinton was botanically active in western New York State during the period from 1860 to 1881. The second author had also discovered that a donation of over a thousand specimens to the then young Purdue University had been made in January of 1879 by George Clinton, a gift that increased the size of the University’s research herbarium by one hundred percent. Since several letters exist in the Clinton correspondence make reference to this gift, a joint effort was made to discover more information on this transaction.


George W. Clinton, President of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences in Buffalo, New York, participated in a “carefully elaborated project” (Clarke 1921) prepared for the New York State Legislature in 1865 for the reorganization of the New York State Cabinet in Albany, New York. In 1871, the “Cabinet” became a “Museum of Scientific and Practical Geology and General Natural History” (Clarke 1921). Charles H. Peck was made botanical assistant to James Hall, the foremost American geologist of the time and Director of the Museum. Peck later became the first New York State Botanist and one of the foremost mycologists in the United States.


George Clinton had been elected President of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences in 1862 and since that time had worked indefatigably towards the Society’s function as a Museum up to his resignation in 1881. His specialty was botany and, on the basis of his hand-written collecting journal (1862-1878) and the some 2,000 letters of correspondence he maintained in his lifetime, it is clear that he spent as much time in the field as in the courts over which he presided as Superior Court Judge for the City of Buffalo. Clinton was well-known as the son of DeWitt Clinton, to whom the young States owed an immense debt of gratitude for opening up the interior of the United States (Great Lakes at Buffalo to the Hudson River south to New York City to the Atlantic Ocean) to canal shipping. He proved that government funding for such enterprises was successful beyond the wildest dreams of politicians. George Clinton was also a symbol of the Democratic Party, as defined just prior to the Civil War, and as such possessed immense prestige in political circles. Hence his wide correspondence commanded the attention of everyone he wrote to, with the result that he was successful at soliciting botanical specimens from many well-known botanists, on the basis of exchange for his own specimens.


Clinton built up the herbarium at the Buffalo Society of Natural Scientists and also in the Cabinet of the State Capitol, assisting in every way in the expansion of the botanical career of Charles Peck, including extending Peck’s appointment and rescuing Peck’s salary from elimination by the legislature. Peck was flooded with specimens for determination from Clinton’s efforts and several of his correspondents.


Relatively unknown is the activity of a woman who participated in the improvement and expansion of the Buffalo Society with respect to its collections and outreach activities, and who partnered closely with Clinton in establishing a career in botany - Miss Mary L. Wilson. She, it appears from Clinton’s collecting journal, was responsible for organizing the specimens Clinton collected according to the systems of Bentham and Hooker and Gray’s Manual, and opening and arranging packets of material sent in by his correspondents, as well as preparing packets to be sent out to his correspondents. Her specialty and particular interest was lichens.


When Clinton left Buffalo, he also left a legacy of a herbarium that went from 1,000 specimens at the beginning to 20,000 by 1881. “The twenty-year period of Clinton’s presidency was botanically the most productive in the history of the BSNS” (Goodyear 1994).


When 1878 began, George W. Clinton’s correspondents were working hard to find botanical specimens for him. The Gilded Age (ca. 1870-1890) of post Civil War and post Reconstruction economic expansion was developing rapidly. The President of the United States was Rutherford B. Hayes, after a famous contested election in 1876 between Hayes (who won) and Samuel J. Tilden (who lost). Tilden’s vice-presidential running mate was Andrew Haswell Green, soon to become one of the Commissioners of the newly created (1885) Niagara Reservation at Niagara Falls, New York, the first State Park in the United States (after California’s ill-fated Yosemite State Park, falling soon under the management of the federal government).


While the public telephone was making its appearance in the United States, and Thomas Edison was soon to invent practical electric lighting systems, new academic institutions that would develop into some of the foremost universities in the United States were becoming established with departments of agriculture, and botany and medicine. Such schools included Cornell University in New York State, Purdue University and the University of Indiana at Bloomington, both in Indiana, and Stanford University on the West Coast. In pre-Civil War years, the primary source of natural history exploration in the United States derived from the State geological surveys. Many of the new faculty had participated in these initial studies of the unknown American geography. The American Association for the Advancement of Science sprang from the geological surveys of the eastern States and Joseph Henry was struggling to make the Smithsonian Institution worthy as the center of natural history expertise at the federal level, and in the dissemination of knowledge about the United States world-wide.


Clinton, in Buffalo, attempted to give Buffalo, New York, one of the premier cultural institutions in science in the young country. He also served the people of the State of New York by supporting the excellence of the New York State Cabinet and Geological Survey, and is well-known in New York for his achievements.


Not so well known is his third great single gift, and that was to the infant herbarium of the young Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. Perhaps the last great act Clinton made, with his colleague Mary Wilson, was the assembly, from among his correspondents’ specimens of a nuclear collection for the herbarium of this new University. Such specimens represented many of the active botanists of the 1870’s in the United States. As such they often were authenticated at a high level of expertise - the perfect gift to provide a basis for academic achievement in the area of taxonomy for the students of what was then considered to be the western United States, although geographically east of the Mississippi River.


In the first six months of 1878, according to Clinton’s letters, Coe Finch Austin was setting out to botanically explore the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Clinton was corresponding regarding fungi with W. G. Farlow of Cambridge, Mass.


I. C. Martindale, cashier for the National State Bank of Camden, N.J., had, in spite of business pressures, managed to assemble the “largest and best arranged [botanical] collection in New Jersey” (Martindale, pers. comm. to Clinton), George Engelmann of Saint Louis, Mo., was sending Clinton reprints of articles, especially on Isoetes. Charles Peck, as with Farlow, was communicating regarding fungi, as was M. C. Cooke of London. Geo. D. Butler, a 27 year old, of Almont, Iowa, a friend of Engelmann’s and after whom a species of Isoetes was named, offered to open an exchange of specimens after collecting while on a government survey in the Indian Territories. Oliver R. Willis, Principal of Alexander Institute, a military boarding school at White Plains, New York, wrote to inform Clinton that he would contact friends in New Jersey to procure botanical specimens. Clinton was exchanging algae with Farlow, as well as fungi with Clinton’s duplicates of American lichens.


Eager for specimens from Brazil, Clinton wrote to Spencer F. Baird, Commissioner of the United States Commission, Fish and Fisheries, who offered his advice and assistance. Clinton was receiving specimens from Dr. Keck of Upper Austria and facilitating exchanges with Clinton’s friend, the Director of the Smithsonian Institution, Joseph Henry. David F. Day, a lawyer colleague of Clinton’s, wrote from the State of New York Assembly Chamber in Albany, New York, regarding the localities in Rochester of species new to the State.


Thomas C. Porter of Easton, Pennsylvania, was willing to sell Clinton a complete set of Garber's Southern Florida plants including samples of new species - over 500 specimens. H. W. Ravenel of Aiken, South Carolina, sent mosses, fresh-water algae, and an exsiccat he made in Georgia filled with all orders of cryptogams. The American Salix expert, M. S. Bebb of Fountaindale, Illinois, agreed to supply Clinton with many species. The father of Baron H. von Tuerckheim of Germany was contacted regarding his son’s collections in Guatemala. The Canadian collector John Macoun of Belleville, Ontario, was communicated with regarding Canadian material.


A Mr. M. Ruger of 54 Tompkins St., New York, had specimens and desired rare ones. Reinhold Fritz-Gaertner, PhD., formerly of the New York State Museum of Natural History, Albany, had been appointed State Geologist for Honduras, and put himself at Clinton’s disposal for specimens from that country.A. P. Garber, of Manatee, Florida had sets of south Florida plants for sale. Sereno Watson of Harvard University had plants from Oregon.


There is so much botanical enthusiasm in these Clinton Archive letters of the first half of 1878 that it gives one pause to remember that Clinton would resign the Presidency of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, a post he had assiduously filled since 1862, on December 9, 1881 and by 1882, he would leave Buffalo to live in Albany, where he would become an editor of family manuscripts. October of the year 1878 was the last entry in Clinton’s collecting journal, begun in the winter of 1862, and 1879, when he made his contribution to Purdue in January of that year, would be the last year Clinton preserved his correspondence.


    At the end of June, 1878, Clinton received the following letter:





  Vol 12 no. 33 [K 98]

    [printed stationery:]

John Williamson.                                        Jas. T. Lanham.

                                Office of

                          John Williamson & Co.

                        63 & 65 West Market Street,

                              Brass Founders

               Manufacturers of Railway and Street Car Trimmings,

                        Metal Spinners, Platers, &c.

                                Louisville, Ky., June 27, 1878

Geo. W. Clinton Esqr.

                Dear Sir

    Your letter was handed me several days ago. In answer to your enquiry if there is a good botanist in Kentucky or Tenn. who would supply the desiderata of the herbarium of your Society, I do not know any working botanist in this section, but would refer you to Prof. John Hussey of Lafayette Ind. Prof. Hussey was connected with the Geological Survey of this state and made a good collection. Prof. Coulter of Hanover College Ind. has now a party out collecting, through Indiana, and I think Prof. Jordan of Indianapolis is in the lower part of this state making a scientific collection. I have not done very much. I started several years ago to form a herbarium but I soon found that I could not have time enough to do it satisfactory [sic] so I have confined my studies to ferns & their illustrations. This occupies all my spare moments. I will be glad to hear from you at any time

                                Yours Respectfully,

                                  John Williamson.




In 1878, perhaps just after this letter was written, John Williamson had published The Ferns of Kentucky (Louisville, KY) and his name was probably given to Clinton by the pteridologist D. C. Eaton of New Haven, Connecticutt, with whom Clinton was a correspondent. Prof. Hussey, Coulter and Jordan, all of Indiana, as with John Hussey, were working for geological surveys.


A note on both Williamson and Hussey was published by William Barton Youmans (The ferns of the Mammoth Cave National Park Region. 1933. American Fern Journal, Vol. 23 (4) (Oct. - Dec.) pp: 113-116):


“In 1878 the book by John Williamson on “Ferns of Kentucky” was published. This book, which has the distinction of being one of the most important books on ferns published in the United States, includes descriptions, original drawings, and some recorded habitats for all of the species found in the state previous to that date. About thirty-eight or forty species are discussed in it which are considered indigenous to the state. Among those who supplied Williamson with information concerning the localities where certain species were to be found was Professor John Hussey, of Purdue University, who was appointed botanical assistant in 1874 of a party sent by the Kentucky Geological Survey into the district of Edmonson, Butler and Grayson Counties. Hussey was interested primarily in the timber but was continually on the watch for a new or rare species of fern. Several of his vivid descriptions of the habitats of rare species which he observed in the Mammoth Cave region or in other parts of Edmonson and adjacent counties are quoted in Williamson’s book.”


The Prof. Jordan of Indianapolis “in the lower part of this state making a scientific collection” was most likely David Starr Jordan 1851-1931), author with Joseph Swain of a “List of fishes collected in the Clear Fork of the Cumberland, Whitley County, Kentucky, with descriptions of three new species” published in 1883 in the Proceedings of the United States National Museum (pp. 248-251), where: “... the writers, aided by a party of students from Indiana University, made a small collection of fishes ....”


Jordan was a native of the Town of Gainesville, New York, in Wyoming County - this tiny village, according to whose website (2011), was only incorporated in 1902. According to his biographer, A. Melville (1894), he completed a county plant catalogue which seems to have included parts of Genesee County, although this was probably not published. He enrolled in the first freshman class at the newly created Cornell University in 1869, graduating in 1872. Jordan became one of those astonishingly adept scientists who sprang up without any particular academic training in the United States (including James Hall, the geologist of New York State), and went on to write massive and formative texts on subjects such as Zoology and Ichthyology. In 1875 Jordan became Professor of Zoology at Indiana University, and in 1885 its president. In 1891 he was sought out to become the first President of the newly created Stanford University as a testament to his unusual executive powers. Nearly all of his numerous academic appointments were at important American institutions that were in their infancy.


It may be interesting to note that there appeared to be hard feelings when Jordan left Indiana for Stanford that his leaving Indiana for Stanford was at the time regarded as a great abandonment by Indiana University at that time, as Jordan not only packed up and left Bloomington but he took a lot of the best faculty with him.  


Prof. Coulter was John Merle Coulter (1851-1928), educated at Hanover College in Indiana. “He served in the Rocky Mountains for two years (1872-73) as botanist to the United States Geological Survey” (Wikipedia, May 7, 2011). Coulter returned to Hanover College as professor of natural science, transferring to Wabash College in 1879, becoming president of Indiana University from 1891 to 1893, taking over that job when David Starr Jordan stepped down to become the President of Stanford University.


Coulter founded the Botanical Gazette in 1875, a journal devoted to botanical research and similar to the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Society. Coulter was editor of the Gazette. In the year (1877) previous to the letter to John Williamson transcribed above, Clinton wrote two letters to Coulter in March, when he made inquiries regarding the acquisition of plant specimens from western North America. One of the results of Coulter’s Geological Survey work was a book, with Thomas Porter and F. V. Hayden, a Synopsis of the Flora of Colorado in 1874. Thomas Porter was a botanist living in Pennsylvania and with whom Clinton corresponded and exchanged specimens.



Vol. 11 no. 167 [J 88]

    [printed stationery:]

Office of Botanical Gazette.

J. M. Coulter, Hanover;    ]  Editors

M. S. Coulter, Logansport, ]

                                Hanover, Ind. March 12, 1877

Hon. Geo. W. Clinton:

    Dear Sir:

        Your note is received & you are credited with $2.00 enclosed. Vol. II ends with Oct. 1877, to which number your subscription runs.

    There are several sources from which you can obtain western plants. You have some of the best & fullest collections. Dr. C. C. Parry has still a few sets I believe. x Rev. E. L. Greene of Yreka, Cal., has specimens for exchange or sale & they are very satisfactory. x J. S. Brandegee of Canyon City, Colorado, is an indefatigable collector & a good fellow. x Dr. T. C. Porter of Easton, Pa., has a great many western plants & might supply you with a good many you need. He has all but a set or two of my collections on the Yellowstone & in Colorado. If you wish plants nearer the Mississippi, x H. Eggert of St. Louis, Mo., has some very fine ones. Dr. Engelmann is his reference.         I remain

                        very respectfully yours

                           John M. Coulter.

Would be pleased to hear from you through the pages of the Gazette.

[no note of receipt]

[Note this appears to be an invitation by Coulter to Clinton to submit articles to the Gazette for publication.]




Vol. 11 no. 172 [J 83]

    [printed stationery:]

Office of Botanical Gazette.

J. M. Coulter, Hanover;    ]  Editors

M. S. Coulter, Logansport, ]

                                Hanover, Ind. March 21, 1877

Hon. G. W. Clinton:

    Dear Sir:

        Dr. C. C. Parry has been collecting in the west (especially in California) ever since he left the Agricultural Dep't. His address now is now [sic] Davenport, Iowa, & I see by the Am. Naturalist that he still has some sets for sale. Elihu Hall, I think, has almost quit botanical work & has gone to shells. I have an occasional letter from him. He is in Athens, Menard Co., Ill. I hope your examination of the Gazette will show you that you can help us.

                                very respectfully yrs-

                                  John M. Coulter -

Thanks for the copies of your lecture.




There is one more note to Coulter from Clinton. It was sent in September of 1878 and, although it does not seem relevant to the subject of this paper, it is included in the interest of completion, as the last letter by Clinton to this distinguished botanist:




  Vol 12 no. 61 [K 67]

    [printed stationery:]

Hanover College.

Geo. C. Heckman, D. D., President;  J. M. Coulter, A. M., Secretary; D. N.

Reid, Esq., Treasurer.

                                Hanover, Ind., Sept. 25, 1878

Hon. G. W. Clinton:

    My Dear Sir:

        I received this evening a postal card that you had written to my brother at Logansport & I am very much perplexed by it. I have been here all the time except a few short botanical jaunts & why I have failed to receive letters from you I can't understand. The only way I can imagine the mistake to have occurred is that the Naturalists' Directory has my address Hanover, Md., instead of Hanover, Ind. But that is ruled out of my mind from the fact that you have Gazettes with my address & have also written letters that I have received. You are right about your last no. Oct. 1877 is the last no. on our books which you received. The Gazette has been in a very flourishing condition ever since, having arrived at the dignity of a cover. I am very sorry at the thought of our losing $5 in a letter to me. We have not yet $5 worth to sell. There are Vols. I & II bound up together with index for $2.00 & Vol. III (the current Vol. now in its 9th no.) $1.00, making $3.00 the sum total of our merchandise for single individuals. Of course we have no objection to being paid two years in advance, but that is not best.

    If you desire it I will send you all you have missed.

                                I remain

                                  very respectfully yr.

                                        John M. Coulter

[no note of receipt]



The final individual named in Williamson’s letter was Prof. Hussey.


Clinton had written to Hussey during the month of July and received the following reply:



  Vol 12 no. 45 [K 86]

    [U.S. Post Card, one cent postage to Clinton, Buffalo, general delivery

"care of Buf. Soc'y Nat. Hist'y"]

                                Purdue University, LaFayette, Ind.

                                29 July 1878

Dear Sir,

    Yours of 29th inst. is before me. I am here & there during vacation & have over looked yr letter till now. I am anxious to increase our collection of dried plants, but we are not fully prepared to make general exchanges yet. We are just commencing our herbarium. Contributions will be thankfully received & acknowledged in Catalogue. As to Asplenium Bradleyi, I thoughtlessly gave some hundreds of fronds to Dr. A. H. Curtiss then of Liberty Va., now of Jacksonville Fla. all to a few dozen that I collected. I did not even ask the equivalent (I was generous) now & for 2 years I have not had a frond to spare. I suppose Curtiss has. Have you seen "Ferns of Kentucky" by Williamson? Hope to correspond with you further,



                                  John Hussey




Allen Hiram Curtiss (1845-1907, son of F. A. Curtiss) collected extensively in the United States in Florida, Georgia, Virginia (1884-1899), Texas and Arkansas (1881-1886) and the West Indies (Cuba, Bahamas) (1902-1905) with specimens deposited in many herbaria. He collected Phanerogams, but also Algae, Fungi and Lichens. In 1881 he published with David Starr Jordan “Notes on a collection of fishes from Saint John’s River, Florida.”  He was the sole author or publications on the Forests of Florida (1886), the Trees of Florida (1889) and a 32-page paper, the Second Distribution of Plants of the Southern United States (1898).


Curtiss was a correspondent of Asa Gray. In 1875 “he began to sell sets of specimens from southern United States,” selling many of them to overseas herbaria. His best known set is the Algae Floridanae. “Floretta Curtiss, whose name appears as collector on some labels, was the mother of A. H. Curtiss, and an algologist in her own right” (Sayre 1975).


Curtiss’ name occurs frequently in publications by John K. Small in the years leading up to Small’s Flora of the Southeastern United States, described as a masterpiece, such as:


Small, John K. 1894. Studies in the Botany of the Southeastern United   States II Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. Vol. 21(7) 300-307.


Small, John K. Studies in the Botany of the Southeastern United States V  Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. Vol. 23(4)  125-130.


John Hussey was born in Hillsboro, Ohio in 1831, later graduating from Oxford University, Ohio, and the Lane Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1859 into the Presbyterian Ministry, hence his title of “Reverend.” During the Civil War, Hussey served as chaplain and “was captured by the Confederates while caring for the wounded at the Battle of Chickmauga” (Sego, viewed 2011). Hussey became Professor of Botany and Natural Science when Purdue University was established. Purdue, named after the benefactor who donated funds for its establishment, John Purdue, opened September 7, 1874, with a staff that included its President, a Professor of physics and industrial mechanics, a Professor of mathematics and engineering, a Professor of chemistry, a Professor of English literature and drawing, and John Hussey, Professor of botany and horticulture. In comparison, Cornell University, in New York State, had opened to its first freshman class in 1869.


While Hussey was on the faculty during the struggling early years of the University, Hussey served as Botanical Assistant to the Kentucky Geological Survey, submitting the following report:


Hussey, J. 1876. Report on the Botany of Barren and Edmonson Counties. Geol. Sur. Ky. Part. II. Vol. 1 (second series) pp:27-58.


In his list of species, he included the rare Crucifer Leavenworthia michauxii (= L. uniflora (Michx.) Britton). On page 12 of his report, Hussey made the following statement, “The Leavenworthia michauxii was collected by me near the town of Glasgow Junction, just northwest of town, growing in a nearly filled-up sinkhole. This is quite a rare plant, and but few specimens were found.” Thus, this specimen was collected sometime prior to or during 1876 (Baskin & Baskin 1978).


In the intervening years leading up to Clinton’s first 1878 letter, Hussey served on the Geological Survey of his home state, Ohio, producing the following three reports:


John Hussey. 1878.  Report on the Geology of Clinton and Fayette Counties. Chapter 74, in Report on the Geological Survey of Ohio  Vol. 3 Geology and Paleontology: Part I:  Geology. Columbus. pp. 429-447.


John Hussey. 1878. Report on the Geology of Shelby County. Chapter 75,  in Report on the Geological Survey of Ohio  Vol. 3 Geology and Paleontology: Part I: Geology. Columbus. pp: 448-467.


John Hussey. 1878. Report on the Geology of Miami County. Chapter 76, in Report on the Geological Survey of Ohio  Vol. 3 Geology and Paleontology: Part I: Geology. Columbus.  pp: 468-481


About the time of the opening of the fall semester of 1878, Hussey wrote:



Vol. 12 no. 71 [K 57]

                                Purdue University

                                  La Fayette Ind.

                                    Oct. 17th, 1878

Mr. G. W. Clinton

    Dear Sir:

                        I am now working on plants and am reminded of your remark that you might make a contribution to our herbarium some time. Be assured any contribution you may be pleased to make us will be highly appreciated and duly accredited in our annual catalogue and on the labels of our collection. I am particularly desirous of getting all duplicates of grasses which I can; but we are making a general collection of N. Am. plants, have a great many ferns & sedges, as well as grasses. In comparing our grasses as identified by myself as well as others, I am convinced many of the genera need revision.

                                I am very truly yours

                                  John Hussey




According to Porter and Porter (1930): “The herbarium was considered to be such a necessary adjunct to the teaching of science that the Purdue herbarium originated simultaneously with the establishment of the University in 1874.  The first issue of the Purdue University Register for the years 1874-75 makes mention under “equipment” that an herbarium and cabinet of woods is available for students in botany.  Also, this same Register states that herbarium work is required of all students in Botany.

As Professor of Botany, Hussey worked to develop a herbarium for his department. The Register for 1876-77, the year before the exchange between Clinton and Hussey, stated that “The herbarium contains about 1,000 species of mounted plants and the collection is constantly increased by field work and exchanges. It is specially full in ferns, grasses and sedges; the sets of each being nearly complete” (Porter & Porter, 1930). The first year Purdue started having students and classes was in 1874. There were only six professors. The only professor teaching a subject in the life sciences was John Hussey, and he taught botany. If you were one of the first students at Purdue, you would go to botany class. The material that would be studied would be Hussey’s own collection of plants. The Hussey collection today is still available and accessible on the shelves of the herbarium.

By the end of October, Clinton had replied, and Hussey prepared the following letter:



Vol. 12 no. 74 [K 54]

    [U. S. postal card, one cent postage. Clinton, Buffalo, "Botanist",

General delivery.]

                                Purdue University, La Fayette Ind. Oct. 31,


 Dear Sir:

    Your card of a recent date is before me. I thank you for your generous offer of specimens for our herbarium. I am building up a general herbarium, tho' of course, we make a specialty of U.S. plants. Am particularly desirous of duplicates from all localities, such as fairly represent the character of plants in such places, this makes all duplicates, even of most common occurrence desirable, grasses, sedges, ferns, mosses are specialties, the three former more than the latter. Also I desire water & alpine plants, Colorado, California plants.  I have a lot of unnamed plants from the Alps & have not the necessary literature to determine them - can you tell what they are if I send them to you; if not, tell me who can & oblige me. Shall look forward to your contribution to our young herbarium with great interest.

    Yes African European plants will be particularly acceptable.


                                  John Hussey





Vol. 12 no. 86 [K 42]

    Purdue University, La Fayette, Ind.

                Jan. 1st 1879

Dear Sir:

    With my wishes for you a happy new year, let me acknowledge the receipt of your letter of date of 24 ult. I am getting very anxious to see your contribution to our herbarium, as it must embrace a number of plants which I have never seen. But I shall be no less gratified to receive the various sedges & grasses of our own country, and the other plants you will include for I put much value on specimens of same kind from different parts of the country, as well as from other countries. We have received a donation of 7000 specimens, embracing 2000 & more species of Coleoptera, Hemiptera, Lepidoptera from  U.S. consul at Barcelona Spain, a collection made by the donor himself in 4 yrs (& by exchanges) in Southern Europe including Austro-Hungary & in N. Africa - in 27 cedar cases 16 x 16 inches square x 3 1/2 in. deep. By gift, collection and exchange we are augmenting our collection very rapidly in botany, geology & zoology. We shall be very glad to recognize your kindness in donating valuable plants to our collection.

    I am now setting up a sea-lion skeleton (6 1/2 ft long) prepared by myself here (obtained from a menageria) we are constantly receiving birds, which we have set up on the best manner by Chas. D...y, Taxidermist of Cincinnati. Are you acquainted with an old & valued friend of mine in Buffalo, Dr. D. B. Wiggins? if you are not, if you ever get time to make his acquaintance, you will find him an excellent man in all the walks of life.

    Wising you again a Happy New Year

                        I remain yours

                                John Hussey.




There is no evidence of Dr. D. B. Wiggins in Clinton’s correspondence or his collecting diary.


Note should be made that Clinton made a donation and there was no expectation of an exchange.

Perhaps tragically, the Register of 1878 mentions the other natural history collections at Purdue of that year.  Conchology, Ornithology, mammal skeletons, the fish and reptile collection, the set of native woods and seeds, the microscope slides. To the knowledge of the second author, these are all gone.  Perhaps they were given to some museum somewhere else in the world, but this is doubtful. As in many early natural history collections, it was probably thrown away years ago.

Barely more than a week after Hussey sent his first letter, Clinton had mailed his specimens to Purdue. The second package may have been of fungi.



Vol. 12 no. 89 [K 39]

    [printed stationery:]

Office of the Purdue University.

LaFayette, Ind. Jan 13th, 1879

G. W. Clinton, Esq.

    Dear Sir,

    I have just opened your package and find it most acceptable indeed. The College has not been in session during the last three weeks until within a few days, so that I did not open the package until to-day. We are making a general collection of U.S. plants, and desire specimens of the same species from all parts of the country; and foreign plants are also extremely acceptable.

    We shall proceed at once to mount them on fine white paper and put on them in all cases the same labels which came with them - with the addition, on each label, in colored ink, of your name as the donor.

    The President unites with me in returning thanks for your generous donation. We are fortunate lately in receiving donations, one of our citizens, now U. S. Consul at Barcelona Spain, has just donated to the University 27 cases of fine European and N. African insects, mostly Lepidopteran & Coleopteran. We shall be glad to be the recipient of your other package to which you referred.

                                I am respectfully yours

                                  John Hussey



According to the Fifth Annual Register of Purdue University for 1878-1879, it was noted that “the herbarium contains over 2,000 specimens of mounted plants.  The botany collection has recently been increased by a valuable donation of about 1,200 species of plants, many of them foreign, by G. W. Clinton, Esq., of Buffalo, N.Y., a collector and botanist of wide reputation.”  It is to be noted in these quotations from the earlier records that “species” and “specimens” are words used loosely and interchangeably.

This is the last of the letters of correspondence between Clinton and Hussey. “In 1880 illness forced the retirement of Professor Hussey.  A young instructor from the Lafayette High School was drafted to fill the vacancy at Purdue.  Thus, Charles R. Barnes, the great botanist became instructor in Botany, Zoology, and Geology.  Under his direction, and by means of his industry, the herbarium prospered” (Porter & Porter 1930).


Hussey died in Lafayette, Indiana, eight years later in December, 1888.


Literature Cited


Anderson, M. B., Prof. 1894. Sketch of David Starr Jordan. Popular Science   Monthly. February 546-551.


Baskin, J. M. & C. C. Baskin. 1978. The rarity of Leavenworthia uniflora, with special reference to its occurrence in Kentucky.  Castanea. The Southern Appalachian Botanical Society 43(1): 54-57.


Clarke, J. M.  1921. James Hall of Albany. Geologist and Palaeontologist 1811-1898. Albany (New York).


Goodyear, G. F. 1994. Society and Museum. A History of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences 1861-1993 and the Buffalo Museum of Science 1929-1993. Bull. Buffalo Soc. Nat. Sci. 34. Buffalo, New York.


Porter, C. L. and J. N. Porter. 1930. The Stanley Coulter Herbarium at Purdue University. Proc. Ind. Acad. Sci. 40: 115-117.


Purdue University Register, a perhaps irregularly issued publication of the University without author citations. The archives has copies of the following: Purdue University Register 1874-75, Lafayette, Indiana 1875; the archives has no copy of a register for 1875-1876; Annual Register Purdue University Lafayette, Ind. 1876-77 Indianapolis: Sentinel Company, Printers, 1877; Annual Register of Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, 1877-78, Indianapolis: Indianapolis Journal Company, State Printers 1878; Fifth Annual Register of Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana 1878-79 Indianapolis: Indianapolis Journal Company, State Printers 1879. It was the Fifth Annual Register that contained the reference to Purdue's acquisition of the G.W. Clinton collection.


Sayre, Geneva. 1975. Cryptogamae Exsiccatae and annotated bibliography of exsiccatae of algae, lichenes, hepaticae, and musci. V. Unpublished exsicctae. 1. Collectors. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 19(3): 277-423.


Sego, Mary A.  Finding Aids, the John Hussey papers, 1860-1970 [MSF 186], Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections] (viewed on-line 2011).


(For Part 2, click here.)


The proper citation of this electronic publication is:


"Eckel, P. M. & N. Harby. 2011. Correspondence of John Hussey (1831–1888) and George William Clinton (1807–1885). Notes on the early herbarium of Purdue University. Res Botanica, Missouri Botanical Garden Web site.

[and lastly cite the date you actually read the publication as ‘Accessed: (date)’]."