Popular Science Monthly/Volume 74/January 1909/A Biographical History of Botany at St Louis, Missouri II




THOMAS DRUMMOND[1] was born about 1780. He is known to have been a native of Scotland, but the exact place of his birth is unknown, as is also his early training and education. He was a brother of James Drummond, the Australian botanical explorer, and is known to have succeeded George Don in the nursery at Forfar. In 1825-6-7 he accompanied the Second Overland Arctic Expedition, led by Sir John Franklin, as assistant to Dr. Richardson, who was the naturalist of the expedition. In Canada Drummond explored very extensively, even into the Rocky Mountains and on the Mackenzie River where the main part of the expedition did most of its work. Upon the completion of the Journey he returned to England, and from 1828 to 1829 he was curator of the Belfast Botanical Garden. Soon after his return to England he published a work upon the American mosses, which was chiefly the result of his collections made in Canada. He again sailed for New York under the patronage of Drs. Hooker and Graham, for the purpose of exploring the southern and western United States. Beginning his tour at New York City in the spring of 1831, he went to Philadelphia, visited Bartram's garden, thence to Baltimore, Washington, and to Wheeling on foot. At the last-named place he embarked for St. Louis, descending the Ohio River and coming up the Mississippi by boat. It was his original intention to Join some fur-trading expedition to the far western country, but he arrived in St. Louis too late for this. He accordingly remained in St. Louis and collected in the vicinity until the next winter. He lost considerable time by sickness, but in January he sent a collection of several hundred species of phanerogams and a considerable collection of mosses and hepatics to Hooker at Kew. Hooker
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Fig. 3. Thomas Drummond[2]

From a crayon portrait at the Kew Gardens; by permission of the Kew Garden authorities, through the kindness of Mr. J. R. Drummond, grandson of Thomas.

seems to have prepared his collections for distribution, and we find him publishing a list of about two hundred and fifty species which were collected around St. Louis by Drummond.

During the next spring and summer Drummond collected in the vicinity of New Orleans, and here he obtained even more plants than he did at St. Louis. He next went to Texas, which he was one of the first to explore botanically. Here he gathered a rich harvest, in spite of a season of the most unfavorable weather. He then returned to New Orleans and went to Appalachicola in 1835 for the purpose of exploring the Florida peninsula. He soon left western Florida with the intention of reaching Key West by way of Havana, Cuba. Hooker learned that Drummond was taken sick while at Havana and died very suddenly in March, 1835.

Harvey dedicated the genus Drummondita to the two brothers.
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Fig. 4. Prince Maximilian: from his "Reise nach Brasilien."

Very appropriately Drummondia, a genus of American mosses, was named in Thomas's memory by his patron, Sir William Jackson Hooker. Numerous species of our phanerogams are also named after this most industrious and successful collector.

Even persons of royal lineage were numbered among the many naturalists who came to America for the purpose of exploring unknown sections for new plants and animals, and to make scientific observations. While Prince Alexander von Humboldt attained eminence for his travels and scientific worth, he was not the only royal person who did so, although we generally hear no other mentioned. Alexander Philip Maximilian, Prince of Wied neu-Wied, came to the New World on two different occasions. On the first tour he visited Brazil, and on the second he visited the United States and especially the northwestern or Missouri country.

Prince Maximilian[3] was born on September 23, 1782, in Wied neu-Wied, a small principality of Rhenish Prussia. He was from boyhood of a studious inclination, and early became interested in the natural sciences. In spite of this he was in the Prussian army at the battle of Jena, and was among those captured by the enemy. He returned to his studies at the end of this war, but was among the victorious army which entered Paris in 1813. In this service he earned the iron cross of Chalons and a major-generalship. During all of this time he had been planning a scientific expedition to Brazil in order to satisfy a keen desire to add to the world's knowledge, imparted to him by the celebrated Professor Johann Friederich Blmnenbach, of whom he was a favorite pupil. Early in 1815 he started for Brazil. He was joined in South America by two other German scholars, and the trio spent two years studying the flora, fauna and native races of this country. His resulting publications gave him a high rank among the scientists of the period, and his "Reise nach Brasilien in den Jahren 1815 bis 1817" was soon translated into the French, English and Dutch languages.

In 1833 Prince Maximilian started on a second enterprise—a trip to the trans-Mississippi region. He arrived in Boston on the fourth of July. He brought with him a very capable artist, for the express purpose of obtaining portraits of famous Indians. He made more or less brief visits to Boston, New York and Philadelphia, and then went to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and thence through the coal region, reaching Pittsburg in the autumn. The journey was then continued overland to Wheeling, where they embarked for the voyage down the Ohio River. They turned aside for the purpose of visiting New Harmony, Indiana, where then was located the best library of American and natural history west of the Atlantic seaboard. Here the winter was spent studying and preparing for the journey on the Missouri River. On March 16, 1833, the journey was resumed and they arrived in St. Louis before the fur-trading expeditions had left on their annual trip to the northwest. Following the advice of several St. Louis men, the journey was made by boat up the Missouri River, instead of by land, as was at first planned. On April 10 the journey was commenced, and by the twenty-second they had reached Fort Leavenworth. The expedition was continued to Fort McKenzie, on a branch of the Yellowstone River, among the Blackfeet Indians, where they remained for two months. The return trip was begun on September 14, and the succeeding winter was spent at Fort Clark, near the present town of Bismarck, North Dakota. The next spring Prince Maximilian returned to St Louis and journeyed eastward by way of the Ohio canal and Lake Erie to New York, where he embarked for the Old World on July 16, 1834. Upon returning from the upper Missouri country the collections which had been made were left behind to be sent down the river in another steamer which was soon to follow the one carrying the party. A fire broke out on this steamer and many of the collections were destroyed because they were not deemed of as much value as other things which were on board.

After his return to his native city Prince Maximilian worked over his collections and other material with the aid of a number of experts, and published several papers upon his results. In 1843 he published his "Systematic View of Plants Collected on a Tour on the Missouri River." His collections are preserved in the museum of his native city, where he died in 1867.

Martius honored him by naming a genus of Brazilian and West Indian palms, Maximiliana, thus very appropriately connecting him with the botany of that country, of which he was one of the pioneer explorers.

Hardly had Prince Maximilian started for home before another explorer was at work on the Missouri. This person was none other than Thomas Nuttall, the greatest botanist of this country in his time. As has been already mentioned, he had visited this section in company with John Bradbury in 1811.

Thomas Nuttall[4] was born in the town of Settle, England, in the year 1786. His parents were in very moderate circumstances, and the boy was early apprenticed to a printer. After several years he had a disagreement with his employer and went to London seeking for work. Here he came very near total destitution. When about twenty-two years of age he emigrated to America, landing in Philadelphia. During his youth he so improved his spare moments that he acquired an intimate knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages, and he seems to have studied other branches, as he was described at the time of his landing as "a well-informed young man, knowing the history of his country, and somewhat familiar with some branches of natural history, and even with Latin and Greek." Nuttall knew nothing of botany at this time, but very soon after he became interested in the "amiable science," and also began an acquaintance with Dr. Benjamin Smith Barton. His studies of plants naturally led him into making short excursions which soon lengthened as his interest deepened, until he had visited the lower part of the Delaware peninsula and the coast region of Virginia and North Carolina.

At about this time Nuttall became acquainted with John Bradbury, and he eagerly proposed to accompany him on his trip up the Missouri River. Accordingly, Nuttall joined Bradbury at St. Louis, and early
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Fig. 5. Thomas Nuttall; from The Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 46, 1895.
in the spring of 1811 the two made the journey up the river to the Mandan villages, as previously described in this paper. Both naturalists were more than once in extreme danger, but Nuttall brought back with him many treasures of seeds, plants and other objects of interest. The next eight years he remained at Philadelphia, studying in the winter the collections which he made during his summer excursions to various parts of the country east of the Mississippi, from the Great Lakes to Florida. At about this time he was preparing the manuscript
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Fig. 6. Entrance of the Linnæan Greenhouse at the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri; showing the three busts of Linnæus, Gray and Nuttall.
for his "Genera of the North American Plants," which did not appear until 1818. Nuttall himself set most of the type for this work. In 1818 he started from Philadelphia for Arkansas, reaching Fort Bellepoint on April 24, 1819. He made this his center of operations, exploring in various directions and making large collections. He was taken sick with fever and on recovering made one more excursion and then set out for home, reaching New Orleans February 18, 1820. At this time he had made a journey of over five thousand miles through a country still in the undisputed possession of the Indians, and almost wholly unexplored by scientific men. Immediately upon his return to Philadelphia in 1820 he began to study his collections and to write his
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Fig. 7. Bust of Thomas Nuttall, over the entrance of the Linnæan Greenhouse at the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Mo.

"Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory During the Year 1819," which was published the following year.

At the end of 1822 he was called to Harvard College as curator of the botanical garden, there not being enough money to support a professorship. He soon became dissatisfied with this and took up the study of ornithology, producing a two-volume manual of this science. About the beginning of 1833 Nuttall went to Philadelphia with the collection of plants made by Captain Wyeth during an overland journey to the Pacific Ocean. A second journey was to be made and Nuttall resigned his position and spent the interval before the departure of the expedition studying the Wyeth collection and his own Arkansas plants.

Mr, Nuttall went in company with John K. Townsend, the two
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Fig. 8. Granite Obelisk in the Missouri Botanical, Garden near the Museum—in honor of Thomas Nuttall.

being sent by the American Philosophical Society. The two arrived at St. Louis on March 24, 1834, on the steamboat Boston, from Pittsburg. They started from St. Louis, going on foot to the point of rendezvous at Boonville, Mo., where they joined the Wyeth party. The brief period while they went on foot from St. Louis to Boonville is the one which concerns us at present. Unfortunately the season was so early that Nuttall found but few plants in bloom.

The expedition ascended the Missouri River to the headwaters of the Columbia, and then followed that to its mouth. When winter came on with our travelers on the Pacific coast they took passage for the Sandwich Islands, where they arrived January 5, 1835. Here Nuttall remained for two months collecting plants and sea shells upon the different islands. He then separated from his companion and sailed for California. He spent most of the spring and summer upon the Pacific coast and then returned to the Sandwich Islands, where he embarked upon the same vessel that Dana was serving his "Two Years Before the Mast," to come home by way of Cape Horn. He arrived at Philadelphia in October, 1835, and settled down to study his treasures. For several years he worked thus and published two important memoirs. At Christmas, 1841, Nuttall went back to England, where he resided the last seventeen years of his life. This was not from choice, but because of the conditions under which an estate was left to him by his uncle, requiring him to live in England nine months of the year. He used his ample grounds for growing rare plants. Just previously to leaving the United States he wrote a supplement to Michaux's "Sylva." In the preface his wanderings were outlined. He returned to America but once, when he took the last three months of 1847 and the first three months of 1848. At this time he studied the plants brought by Gamble from the Eocky Mountains and Upper California, and published a paper upon them. His death occurred on September 10, 1859, resulting from overstraining himself in opening a box of plants.

Torrey and Gray dedicated a genus of the Rosaceæ Nuttallia, to this prince of scientists.

Henry Shaw has honored him by placing a small obelisk of granite near the north end of the museum building in the Missouri Botanical Garden, with the following inscriptions: on the north side, "In Honour of American Science," and on the south side, "To the Memory of Thomas Nuttall, born in England 1786 and died September, 1859. Honour to him the zealous and successful naturalist, the father of western American botany, the worthy compeer of Barton, Michaux, Hooker, Torrey, Gray and Engelmann." He also placed over the entrance of the main greenhouse in the Garden three busts: that of Linnaeus in the middle, and those of Nuttall and Gray on either side.

Although Nuttall explored the Missouri country on two different occasions and worked in Arkansas, he seems never to have published any considerable list of plants found by himself near St. Louis.

(To be continued)

  1. Date of birth and photograph supplied by Mr. J. R. Drummond, grandson of Thomas.
    Hooker, Wm. J., Companion to the Jour. of Bot., 1: 21-26, 39-49, 95-101, 170-177, 1835; 2: 60-64, 1836. Journal of Botany, 1: 50-60, 183-202, 1834. Botanical Miscellany, 1: 178, 1849.
    Lasègue, A., "Musée Bot. de M. Benj. Delessert," 196-198, 1845.
    Sargent, C. S., "Silva of North America," 2: 25, 1891.
  2. By an unfortunate error, this portrait of Thomas Drummond was in the last issue of the Monthly printed as a portrait of William Baldwin, and the portrait of William Baldwin was printed as the portrait of Meriwether Lewis.
  3. Thwaites, R. G., "Early Western Travels," Vols. 22, 23 and 24.
    Maximilian, Prince, "Reise nach Brasilien," 1820-1.
    Sargent, C. S., "Silva of North America," 9: 138, 1896.
  4. Short, C. W., Transylvania Jour, of Med., etc., 34: 14-16, 1836.
    Meehan, Thos., Gardeners' Monthly, 2: 21-23, 1863.
    Durand, Elias, Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc., 7: 297-315, 1860.
    Sargent, C. S., "Silva of North America," 2: 34, 1891.
    Britten, Jas., and Boulger, G. S., "Biographical Index of British and Irish Botanists," 129, 1893.
    Anonymous, Pop. Sci. Monthly, 46: 689-696, 1895.
    Harshberger, J. W., "Botanists of Philadelphia," 151-159, 1899.