Correspondence of Elizabeth Atwater and G. W. Clinton
Edited by P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
August 6, 2003
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The Correspondence of

Elizabeth Atwater (1812‑1878) and

George William Clinton (1807‑1885)


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




Vol. 2  (205) [D17]

Clifton House. Chicago. March [18]66 Hon. George W. Clinton

Dear Sir,


I take the liberty of forwarding for your acceptance, by Mr. Atwater, a few Botanical Specimens. Those not otherwise designated are from the State of Illinois. You will excuse the apparent haste in which the labels have been added as but a few moments of preparation were allowed me.


I have not the presumption to think you will find the enclosed specimens in better condition than those you already possess. I only thought to send you the Fern, which, with others, a friend recently brought me from Scotland, and, by way of packing it securely, have added a few of our Western Plants.

Of the Dodecatheon ‑ the pride of our Prairies, I could send you a specimen entire, did it occupy so much space. I will reserve it for another opportunity.


Believe me Sir,

respectfully yours,

Mrs. Samuel T. Atwater Recd. March 9


[It is possible that Mr. Atwater hand‑delivered the specimens to Clinton on a business trip to Buffalo, as Mrs. Atwater resided in Buffalo for a time (see letter of March 36, 1867).]



Vol. 2  (219) [D3]

[Stationary with small emblem at the top: a stylized "A" for Atwater.

Clifton House, Chicago, March 15th, [18]66 Hon. George W. Clinton,

Dear Sir,


You quite embarrass me by the welcome accorded to the few hastily prepared plants forwarded by Mr. Atwater. As I said in my former note, I only purposed to send the Scottish Fern, thinking from that far off land it might be acceptable. The Krigia, the Arctostaphylos, and the Dodecatheon, I could not forbear to add, our Cypripedium we think beautiful, and thus I was enticed to fill the box.


I was well aware that many of the specimens were not entire, as they should be for preservation in such a collection as that over which you have the pleasure to preside. I have to offer, by way of apology, that my little collection has been thoroughly depleted by furnishing specimens to friends at homs and Abroad. At the solicitation of the wife of our British Counsul, ‑  Mrs. G. Edward Wilkins ‑ I forwarded to England a few weeks since, my best prepared duplicates. The duties attendant on our late Sanitary [?] Fair, and illness consequent on over exertion in its behalf, forbid any additions to my plants last summer. Thus my poverty.


Relative to naming the flowers, I only intended to give the localities, but, rather mechanically, added a few of the names. I thank you, Sir, for furnishing me with the names of those with which I was less familiar. Having several specialities, if the expression be justifiable, I do not pursue Botany with the avidity which I ought, not from lack of interest, but want of time. My knowledge thereof is sadly deficient.


We always travel in summer, and my book is ever at hand to avail myself of any flower that fortune or accident [viz.] a broken rail, may perchance throw in our way. I shall be most happy to preserve specimens for you.


As I mentioned last week I have in reserve for you a fine plant of the Dodecatheon ‑ entire. The stems are ordinarily of such luxuriant growth that it is inconvenient to transport them five or six miles from our prairies unbroken.


The mosses you are at liberty to retain, should they be of any value to you. I have a fine Herbarium of an hundred specimens prepared by Dr. Lapham, which includes those varieties.


Through the courtesy of Mr. Woolworth I have received the 18th Annual Report "of the condition of the State Cabinet of Natural History" at Albany. My grateful thanks are your due for this kindness. I invariably denote the internal ... breakfast at the "Delenan" and the hour of departure at eleven o'clk for the West, to an examination of the interesting objects contained in this State Cabinet.


I take this opportunity of saying that any trifling accessions to your department which I may have it in my power to occasionally make, I shall bestow cheerfully on the conditions of no public recognition thereof, and that my notes may be regarded as confidential. Dr. Scott horrified me with a violation of this prohibition.


Believe me, Sir,

Very respectfully yours

Elizabeth E. Atwater

Recd March 17


[The quality of rail manufactures varied in the quality of iron used. Patents were developed in the iron industry and railroad engineers developing technical specifications for the producers to improve the quality of the iron rails and the wheel castings for the locomotives and cars. Still, rails broke under the load of the engines and the cars ‑ a problem still demanding solution ‑ probably not solved until the use of steel in both wheels and rails. One can imagine the frequency and expectancy of travelers disembarking in out of the way places while the rails were being repaired and botanizing in the vicinity.]


[Lapham, Increase Allen (1811‑1875): the following is the only letter from I. A. Lapham in the Clinton correspondence:


Vol. 1. 40. I 186

Milwaukee June 13th 1865

Dear Sir


I have your kind favor of the 10th with the new Scirpus Clintonii. Please acept my thanks for the same ‑ and for specimens in fruit which you promise in a few days. With this are the two species of Poa you desire. 


Dr. D. Cooley died several years ago, and his extensive herbarium has been donated by his widow, now Mrs. Babbett, to the Michigan Agricultural College. I once had the pleasure of seeing it. Of course I looked for duplicates of Gnaphephorum ‑ but there were none! Dr. Cooley lived in Washington County, Michigan.


It is one of my chief sources of regret that I am not able to devote more time to the pursuits of Natural Science, and to respond in a proper manner to all who desire information and specimens from this part of the world. Whether it will ever be different seems doubtful. During the present season I have not been able to get into the woods once!


I am glad you are pursuing the subject with so much success.

Yours truly


I. A. Lapham

Hon. G. W. Clinton

Recd. June 16. Wrote 17th, incg Sc. C'ii & Naias major]




Vol.3 No. 161 [M 63]

[stationary with an emblazoned "A" at the top for "Atwater"]

Clifton House. Chicago. Octr 19th 1866

Hon. George W. Clinton,

Dear Sir.


Ere this note reaches Buffalo, you may have received a box of plants which I have called by the way‑side in our travels the past summer. You are aware of the difficulties attending this kind of employment en‑route and will therefore make all due allowances for imperfect specimens.


I think you will be pleased with the Sabattia ‑ especially the white variety. It is exceedingly rare. Amid the various patches of the pink var. ‑ I only found in one locality the white ‑ and but few specimens. We were four weeks at the seaside, Greenport, L. I., and I watched almost daily for a fresh supply, but they came not.


I have forwarded a few plants from the highest point ‑ "the Chin" of Mansfield Mountain, Vermont. There are several rare varieties of ferns found in a locality pertaining to this Mt. called "Smugglers Notch" ‑ which we had not time to visit, but I have promise of the ferns at some future day.


The Monotropa I found on this mountain, and regret having inadvertently omitted sending you a specimen. If being of their particular locality renders it of additional interest I will forward it at a future time.


Believe me, Sir,

Very respectfully yours

Elisabeth E. Atwater

Recd Oct. 21 ansd 29th


[Greenport is a village in Suffolk County in southeastern New York State, on the northern extension of Long Island between Long Island Sound and Gardiners Bay. It had a population in 1949 when Webster's published its geographical dictionary of 2608. It is a summer resort with oyster and fishing industries, some shipbuilding.]




Vol. 3 No. 194 [M 28]

Clifton House Decr, 8th, 1866 Hon. George W. Clinton

Dear Sir,


By the Courtesy of Miss. Harvey I forward one variety of fern from the vicinity of Ascutney [sp.?] Mountain, which I have an indistinct recollection of neglecting to enclose in the recent parcel addressed to your care.


Relative to procuring plants, as you suggest, with long stems, roots & c, I am especially careful to do so, when I cull them myself, but I cannot sufficiently impress upon the minds of friends to whom I am often indebted for specimens, the necessity of such appendages!


At some convenient opportunity, ere another summer is ushered in, if you will please signify to me what plants, or family of plants would be acceptable. I can avoid encumbering you with duplicates of which you are not desirous.


With many thanks for your kindness in naming my specimens, believe me,


Sir, very respectfully yours

Elisabeth E. Atwater

[no acknowledgement]