Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/857

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"Transactions of the State Agricultural Society," was the forerunner of a suggestion which he made to the Commissioner of Patents (the Hon. Charles Mason), that the agricultural department of his office might appropriately undertake a descriptive catalogue of all the native, naturalized, and cultivated grasses of the United States. An appropriation was obtained from Congress for this object, and Mr. Lapham was invited by the Commissioner of Patents to undertake the work. It was to include the collection of specimens and their ai-rangement in books for distribution among State societies and agricultural colleges; drawings and enlarged illustrations of the flowers of each species; the collection and distribution of seeds; the preparation of an exhaustive report on each species, and all facts relating to its economic value; and an expedition to the West Indies or South America for the collection of improved varieties of sugar-cane. Several months were spent in the preliminary arrangements for this work; but when the first quarter's account for salary was presented to the Secretary of the Interior, whose indorsement of it was required by law, that officer, who had not recognized Mr. Lapham's appointment, refused to allow it, saying that so useful and responsible a trust should not be conferred upon one whose political sentiments were not, in all respects, in accord with those of the party in power. Mr. Lapham, though disappointed and a thousand dollars poorer for what he had done, went on with his catalogue and completed it so as to include all the grasses of the United States and Territories, so far as they had been previously described and named, with their localities, geographical distribution, time of flowering, etc., which still remains in manuscript. The subject of authorizing this investigation was again favorably considered by President Lincoln's Administration, but any action upon it was prevented by the war.

In 1867 Mr. Lapham, as chairman of a committee appointed under an act of the Legislature of Wisconsin "to ascertain and report upon the injurious effect of clearing land of forests, and the duty of the State in relation to the matter," made a report covering the whole ground of the subject, which was published as a legislative document.

Though particularly interested in botany, Mr. Lapham was active in many other departments of scientific work. In 1847, writing in one of the city papers on the fluctuations in the level of Lake Michigan, he suggested a method for determining whether it had a tide. His observations on the phenomena of the level, begun as early as 1836, were found to be of great practical value in the preparation of plans for river and harbor improvements, and for all works of the cities of Milwaukee and Chicago in any way connected with the lake and rivers emptying into it, and their importance was recognized in Captain (afterward General) Meade's "Report on the Lake Survey" for 1861. On the 3d of September, 1849, he announced, in a paper of the