Most of these records are the official files of George Vasey as botanist of the United States Department of Agriculture and curator of the United States National Herbarium from 1872 to 1893. They include incoming and occasional outgoing correspondence, mostly to Vasey, but sometimes to Jeremiah M. Rusk, secretary of Agriculture; Edwin Willits, assistant secretary of Agriculture; Frederick Watts and George B. Loring, commissioners of the Department of Agriculture; and C. A. Cammon, assistant commissioner of the Department. All correspondence was referred to Vasey for response; and he either answered it himself or referred it to one of the assistant botanists, Joseph Nelson Rose, Frederick Vernon Coville, or Lyster Hoxie Dewey. Correspondents include leading United States and foreign botanists; colleagues; directors and curators of United States and foreign herbaria; custodians of botanical nurseries; naturalists; plant collectors; dealers in patent medicines; feed companies; seed growers; ranchers; farmers; geological surveys of the United States and Canada; Department of Agriculture staff members and administrative officers; Smithsonian Institution administrators; newspaper publishers and editors; scientific societies; the United States Experimental Grass and Forage Station at Garden City, Kansas; and in particular, botanists from the agricultural and mining colleges and their agricultural experiment stations.
Records concern requests for botanical specimens and seeds; determination, identification, and description of plants, grasses, and seeds; requests for plants to protect embankments; purchase of specimens; transfer of specimens to the National Herbarium; exchange of plant collections; lists of specimens in herbaria; information on plant collection methods; collecting in the field; botanical experiments; publishing taxonomies and other articles on botanical collections; requests for Department of Agriculture publications on American grasses; requests for Smithsonian publications; requests by Vasey for botanical publications; Smithsonian requests for material regarding the National Herbarium for its annual report; requests for jobs with the Department of Agriculture; staff salary increases and transfers of staff members; activities of colleagues and their collections; personal matters; and drafts of manuscripts.
Also included are outgoing letterpress correspondence from Vasey, administrative officers of the Department of Agriculture, and assistant botanists regarding the above subjects.