Correspondence of Paul von Kühlewein and G. W. Clinton
Edited by P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
December 4, 2005
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The Correspondence of

Paul von Kühlewein (1798-1870) and

George William Clinton (1807‑1885)





The initial contact by Kuhlewein is in the following three sheets of paper, non of which include the date of sending or receipt. Clinton filed this letter, as number 68 of volume 1, of the letters of 1865 for July 7:


Vol.  1. 68. I 155, 156, 157  [1865]


I 156


[Clinton's handwriting] Handed to me, by young Mr. Jewett (Son of Sherman [Sq.?]) at the Society meeting, July 7 & wrote to Mr. Von Kühlewein, the same evening. 


I 157


Mr. de Witt Clinton in Buffalo is respectfully asked by Mr. von Kühlewein, formerly physician at St. Petersburg, now in Rostock, if it would be convenient to enter into a correspondence with the latter, with the view of eventually exchanging specimens of their collections of plants. Mr. v K. possesses particularly a rich collection of Caucasian, and Siberian plants.


[in pencil] Care Herrn General Consul Von Reinecke, Rostock, Mecklenberg [sic]


I 155


Mr. Von Kühlewein care Herrn General Consul Von Reinecke, Rostock, Mecklenburg



DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828) was George's father, famous for his long and distinguished political career in New York State, and for the successful promotion and completion of the Erie Canal. DeWitt was a noted naturalist while his son George's renewed interest in natural history only began to flourish in the 1860's.



The second of Kuhlewein's letters is as follows:


Vol. 1. No. 180 [I 28 & 27]


[two sheets: Kuehlewein's letter in German and Mr. Reineke's translation]


Worthy Sir


If I have addressed the son instead the, in the Botanical World so highly esteemed father, it will not prevent me to arrange an exchange of Plants with you, which I hope will be to both parties acceptable and useful. I have rec'd your lines and in reply have enclosed my last list of duplicates. I have refused in the list the exchange of other, but european plants, with the exception of the Algae, Filices and Carices, but will except the following. I would request you for one American Local flora, Phanerogamen and Cryptogamen as complete as you possible could get them. The flora of Buffalo is welcome. I perfectly understand, that all this can't be done at once. I can assume that your species are correctly determined. All other species peculiar to America which you can send me, will be welcome if you can possibly obtain Sullivant's in Ohio for me, whose Cryptogamen are rare in Europe.


The enclosed list of duplicates only contains Russian plants, please select of them. I have a great many other Eur. Dupl. particular French. I can make a collection of near 500 specie immediately for you, wherein Swiss plants and localite Montpellier are contained, the correspondent, for whom the collection was intended, died a short time before. I will wait until I have your opinion, as it may contain specimens which occur in America, and your desire for sibirian, caucassian and other general kinds will be fulfilled. If you could propose a safe and reasonable way by which we can effect our exchange, also whether it is necessary to have a special address for New York etc. you would oblige me. It is my first transmarine mission from here. (The distribution of Duplicates of my printed list will give work for the coming winter).


In case that in America the Mania for Collections of Postage stamps exists, my son takes the liberty of sending some stamps to you, in hope that this exchange might be useful to him. Here mostly the American Envelope stamps, Confederate and Private Postage stamps are looked for. My son has a large number of duplicates, which he offers expressly    With the highest esteem


your most


Dr. v. Kuehlewein


Rostock, Sept. [7], 1865


P. S. If I have not expressed myself plainly, I will try to do so, I would be glad to obtain


1) an American Local Flora, as perfect as possible.

2) American Carices, Filices and Algae

3) American specie which only occur there.


[written on the German copy by Clinton] "Recd. Sept. 26"


William Starling Sullivant (1803 - 1873) of Columbus, Ohio was the earliest prominent American bryologist. He collaborated with Asa Gray on a series of exsiccata of mosses and hepatics entitled The Musci alleghanienses, dated 1844, one set of which is reported to be in Leningrad (LE). Perhaps it was Kuhlewein who obtained the set, hence his knowledge of Sullivant's existence. He seems at this point to be unaware of the collaboration by 1865 with Sullivant by the Swiss paleontologist and bryologist Leo Lesquereux, also now of Columbus, Ohio. kuhlewein seems unaware of the 1857 exsiccat with Starling and Lesquereux as authors, the Musci Boreali-americani, specimens number 1-355. In 1866 Lesquereux would issue the Editio Secunda with 536 numbers.


The "Mania" for collecting postage stamps seems to be part of a general mania for the collection of ephemera, such as letters, autographs, various types of photographic images taking hold of the world at this time. Some have indicated that people were suddenly seized with a nostalgia for the past, of recent ancestors (grandparents), founding relatives. However, it is probable that these interests are less for sentiment than for their suddenly discovered cash value. In the United States just at the end of the Civil War (1865) the American economy had transformed from a credit economy to a cash economy and the beginning of the boom times, the Guilded Age, was just beginning. The cash value of memorabilia, of which Confederate ephemera, including printed Confederate currency and postage stamps, was of interest in both North America and Europe. Cabinets of curiosities and public and private collections of objects of the natural world, the natural history museums of the world, would soon become cabinets of very valuable artefacts, natural or cultural. A new market sense was emerging out of the Civil War in America, and people who could assemble authenticated collections could make money selling them, people and institutions could enhance their prestige by buying them. Hoaxes, fraud, theft and a black market of these objects would soon follow.




Vol. 2. No. 190 [D 32]


Translation.                        Rostock, 21 January 1866


 [in bizarre and beautiful script, perhaps translated from one of the   German community at this time, or a German officer of the B.S.N.S.]


My dear Sir,


Both your esteemed favors of the 1st & 8th instant I have duly received and beg to return you my best wishes at the beginning of the new year.


I am informed by your last favor that you have already sent me a considerable number of plants for which I feel much obliged as a proof of your kind intentions towards me. I have not the least doubt that the scientific value of what you have sent me will be an excellent one, and in due time I shall take myself the liberty of availing myself of your permission to give you my opinion about it freely.


The distribution of my doublettes [= duplicates] according to my printer Pfangentausch [sp.?] has taken up my time of late but as the number of my correspondents is large it is possible that I shall not be able to satisfy them during winter more than by half. Now as I am aware of your wishes in a general point of view by your first favor the package which I am collecting for you increases daily in quantity tho I must confess slowly. I sincerely wish my collections may find your approval and satisfaction. I am looking about for the best manner in which I can send you my package and I hope I shall soon succeed in finding a safe way of transmission.


I now beg to add the following questions


1.  Would it suit you to receive a collection of about 500 specimens of plants from Southern France (in particular from Montpelier and Helveticae variae)? [=Switzerland]


2. I shall be very glad to receive the Western American and Rocky Mountain Plants you allude to but what will please me most will be to get a set as complete as possible of any American locality for instance from Buffalo.    In a general point of view I take a lively interest in American Filices, Algae et Carices?


Are you perhaps in connexion with Mr. Sullivant of Ohio? I should wish to get some of Mr. Sullivants interesting Cryptogames. In return I would be happy to forward him any of my Russian plants which he might desire.    Finally I beg to return my best thanks for the letter post stamps. In future I trust Mr. Stewart will be kind enough to take upon himself the trouble of exchanging with me.


As soon as I am in possession of your package I shall acknowledge receipt.


Believe me, my dear Sir,

yours most respectfully

Dr. v. Kuehlewein


Please address your answers

Dr. von Kuehlewein




Perhaps "Mr. Stewart" who is interested in the postage stamp exchange is Mr.William W. Stewart of Buffalo (? - 1923), one of the original members of the Buffalo Scientific Society of 1858, and later of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences (BSNS). He was Curator of Crustacea and Radiata from 1863, and general "custodian" of the collections between January 1865 and July 1866. Stewart was, with Coleman Robinson and David Gray, an associate of the department of conchology of the BSNS, and was a donor of shells to that collection.



Vol.3 No. 173 [M 51]


Rostock [date torn off: pre Nov. 27 1866]


Dear Sir,


I have been prevented in writing to you on account of 2 voyages of some duration, of a great deal of business on my hands and in particular on account of the German war.


In the first instance I beg to express my sincerest thanks for my nomination as member of your respected Society of Natural Sciences. I wish to express my thankfulness in such a direct way that I request you to give as a present from me to your Society those plants which I shall be able to send you in future and which you do not wish to make use of yourself.


In April I forwarded you a parcel with plants by the German ship "Henseitte" [sp.?], free of postage at New York. Have you received the same and has the selection met your approval? I beg to say that your numerous collections of plants has duly reached me via England and as you wish to have my opinion of the same I take the liberty of sending the ...[page torn] faithfully as follows: [words missing] your collection with many plants which are cultivated in our botanical and other gardens and I find that your collection altogether gives a fair idea of your rich vegetation.


Respecting the quality allow me to observe that I would prefer to have some species more abundant and complete as according to my view the principal value of our herbarium hinges on comparison. Some species in which I take a particular interest I beg you will send me in another set viz.: Abies canadensis c. fol. & ... [with leaves and fruit?], Baptisia tinctoria, Blephilia hirsuta; Carya amara, Cerastium ..., Chimaphila maculata, Chiogenes hispidulus, Chrysosplenium americanum , .... Erica palustris, Erigeron... varia, Gal..., ...; Helianthemum canadense, Hieracium longifolium, Jeffersonia diphylla, ... ., Nemopanthus canadensis, Nyssa multiflora; Oxycoccus ..., G... c. fr! Pontederia cordata, Ranunculus abortivus,  Silene. Val... torct... Triosteum perfoliatum, Trillium grandifloum etc.


I shall likewise thank you to complete your Flora of Buffalo as soon as convenient and also wish much you would send me the cryptogames of Mr. Lesquereux. I shall thank you to give the annexed catalogue to Mr. Asa Grey [English spelling].


I trust I shall have the pleasure of sending ... annually a parcel of plants which I beg you will make use of to your liking.


Believe me, Dear Sir

yours most sincerely,



Mr. George W. Clinton


(New York)

(U. S. America)

(via Hamburg vel Bremen)  - franco.


a red wax seal. a footstamp Rostock Bahnhof  27 over 10 [Oct. 27].


Recd Nov. 27 & ansd Dec. 1. Another, incomplete, for Hamburg on the next

day, also [18]66. 8-9 V.



The Bahnhof refers to a railway station. The package probably went overland by rail from Rostock to Hamburg. It could have left Europe through the port of Hamburg or of Bremen into the North Sea and on into the Atlantic through the Strait of Dover into the English Channel. London could easily serve as a transhipment or port of transfer from New York on to northern Germany. The next stop would be the port of New York and thence by rail to Buffalo on Lake Erie.


On December 28, 1866 Leo Lesquereux wrote to Clinton " As Rostoc is a seaport, the Bremen packet ships take packages very nearby. There is an express office in New York for Germany. I will inquire about the cost of the package and if it is not too high will send the Musci free to New York, to that express office. We got lately from Hampe a pretty big package which did cost $3.00 per this express. How if the package should cost about $2.00 from New York? is this too much, shall I send it? To and from Swizerland there are two lines of Custom houses where all packages are opened and I am afraid that the musci might be spoiled by rough usage. If your friend is not a poor man, he will gladly pay these expenses which would be moreover as large from Switzerland."


Nemopanthus canadensis DC. = N. mucronata (L.) Trel.; Nyssa multiflora Wang. = N. sylvatica Marsh.; Oxycoccus vulgaris Pursh. is Viburnum oxycoccus L.; Oxycoccus macrocarpus Pers, is Viburnum macrocarpon Ait.; Silene virginica L.


The "German War" in 1866 alluded to in the letter refers to "Bismark ... accuses Austria of violating the Treaty of Gastein. Prussia invades Holstein and declares the German Confederation at an end. Austro-Prussian War, or Seven Weeks' War, begins." In this year the "Prussians defeat the Hanoverians at Langensalza and the Austrians at Koeniggraetz (Sadowa). Preliminary peace at Nikolsburg is followed by the Treaty of Prague." "Prussia annexes Hanover, Hesse, Nassau, Frankfurt, and Schleswig-Holstein." (Grun, 1979). The Webster's Geographical Dictionary , 1949, indicated that Mecklengurg, which existed just to the north of the Prussian province of Berlin, joined the German Confederation a year later, in 1867.


Gray did exchange with the "Hortus Petropolis", according to duplicates sent to Clinton from Gray's herbarium, specimens by von Schrenk, but not via Kuhlewein.



Vol.4 no. 173 [G 47]


[on blue paper, edges eroded]


Rostock 5 May 1867


Dear Sir,


On the 22d of April I have received from Neufchatel your excellent collection of American musci. The same exceeds all my expectations and I have to express you my sincerest thanks, for I take for granted that Mr. Lesquereux has been willing to give you a mark of his friendship tho I get the benefit of it. I take the liberty nevertheless of sending enclosed  fine lin[es] for him which I shall feel obliged by your forwarding to him.


My leisure has of late been employed in communicating to my friends the doublettes [[=duplicates]] of Western Europe and I beg to advise that I have sent you in March a portion of the same by the ... Wilibald [sp?, a steam or sailing ship] from Hamburg which I trust will come safely to hand. I wish you would deliver that part of this collection to your Society of Natural Science which you do not want to keep for yourself. Please to observe that I have done my best to satisfy as much as possible the wishes which you have expressed in your favor of ...ember




There is still one of your questions left which I have to answer viz to prevent the leaves of the pines to drop off on drying. This is rather difficult to manage. At the time when I made my botanical excursions at St. Petersburg I found it expedient to employ the following method which seemed to me the best I could find out:


I placed the ramuli in water which was nearly hot where they remained a few minutes. Please to accept the assurance that I shall be most happy if I can have an opportunity to fulfil any special wishes you may express me.


Very respectfully and truly

your most obedt. servt.

Paul der Kuehlewein [Dr.?]


[in a different hand]

Does it matter to you whether I write to you in French or German or would you prefer my writing to you in English?


Recd May 28


There is no note in Clinton's Botanical Journal of his having written to Kuehlewein at the end of the previous year (1866).



Vol.5 no. 118 [B 110]


Rostock, 11 April 1868




My dear Sir,


I much regret that I am not favored with your valued letters for a length of time. I should say this must be a proof that you have not received my parcel of plants which I forwarded to you in April 1867 from Hamburg with a sailing vessel. Tho' my parcel did not contain any botanical rarities still it was pretty numerous and did contain some of those plants which you wished to receive from me in preference.


Allow me first of all to repeat that I am very conscious to be always in a great botanical debt towards you for the beautiful Lesquereux collection.


I may be permitted to state that many circumstances - first of all an illness of three months duration - prevented me in making a greater distribution than I should have wished. Nevertheless I have laid aside something for you tho' it will be hardly sufficient to form a parcel.


It is my earnest desire to express you my thanks by a more valuable collection than I have been able to send you in the first instance in case I should be permitted to remain yet for some time among the living. I cannot help laying the blame of your not receiving my parcel to my having sent it by sailing vessel and I shall take care next time that it does come safely to your hands.


I shall be happy to hear from you.

Believe me, my dear Sir,

yours faithfully

Dr. Paul de Kuhlewein.

[signature in his own hand]


 Recd May 3


The regret to have used a sailing vessel is probably in reference to using a steamship. The latter were probably more professionally operated, and probably more expensive. One might imagine that steam was replacing sail at this time, and that goods shipped by sail might receive a discount. Shipping conditions on a sailing ship might conceivably be more primitive that the holds of steamers.



Vol.6 no. 89 [L 124]


 [On blue paper]             Rostock 10 September



Dear Sir,


Owing to the assistance of a friend of mine I received the following information about the lost parcel of plants.


Captain ...zell of the vessel Witibald [?] stated on his arrival at Stettin that he himself personally delivered in 1867 the parcel to Messrs. French Edge & C. [sp.?]


Box 1722 P. O.

New York


to be forwarded to you.


We then wrote to these parties at New york and got their reply that they did not especially recollect having received this parcel but there could be no doubt that if they had received the same they would have directly forwarded it to its address. I must now leave it to you whether an enquiry at New York with the above named firm may lead to a more favorable result.


I regret to say that during the last two winters ill health prevented my proceeding with my distribution of Russian double the plants. I trust I shall be able to accomplish this fully in the coming winter and I shall be most happy if I then can make amends in some measure for what you have kindly sent me but to be sure I shall take good care not to employ again a sailing vessel.


Pray accept this as a token of my existence. I beg to be kindly remembered to you and shall be most happy to have our friendly intercourse continued.


With sincere regard I am

Dear Sir,

yours respectfully

 [in his own handwriting]  Dr. de Kuehlewein


Recd Sept. 30

wrote him Feb. 28, 1870


Dr. von Kuhlewein died in 1870, perhaps from the illness that was afflicting him.


Labels of Kühlewein Herbarium Specimens in BUF