Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 223
Creators:
United States National Museum. Division of Plants
Dates:
1899-1947
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
15.12 cu. ft. (14 document boxes) (14 tall document boxes)
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
These records, for the most part, document the history of the collection of the United States National Herbarium (USNH), United States National Museum, Division of Plants, while William Ralph Maxon was aid, assistant curator, associate curator, and curator of the USNH, Division of Plants (1899-1946). This material includes loose incoming and outgoing correspondence between Maxon and U.S. and foreign botanists; colleagues; directors of museums and herbaria; Smithsonian administrative staff officers; botanical collectors and friends. It covers identification, examination, and reports concerning botanical specimens; botanical gifts, loans, or exchanges with other herbaria and collectors; information concerning ferns; carbon copies of Frederick Vernon Coville correspondence regarding recommendations made by Maxon and Joseph Nelson Rose to have leading botanists receive honorary research positions with the USNH; activities of staff members; salaries and annual leave; explorations and collecting expeditions; Maxon's expedition to Cuba (1907) as well as other parts of the West Indies, Mexico, Central America, South America, and Asia; professional potentiality of colleagues and information concerning the affairs of other botanical institutions; manuscripts; requests for publications and reprints; editing and review of scientific articles; scientific society meetings; outgoing letterpress correspondence concerning the above; and material concerning the American Fern Society and its publication, the American Fern Journal (1924-1931).

Historical Note
Historical Note
William Ralph Maxon, botanist, was born in Oneida, New York, on February 27, 1877, where he received an early interest in the natural sciences from his father, a newspaper editor, who would take him on long walks through the countryside on Sundays when he was a small boy. Maxon entered Syracuse University in 1894 and received a Ph.B. in 1898. While at Syracuse he developed an interest in ferns, and in the summer of 1898 Maxon left for Columbia University to do postgraduate study on ferns under Lucien Marcus Underwood.
In November 1899, Maxon received an appointment as an aid in the United States National Museum, Division of Plants. Working his way up the professional ladder, Maxon became assistant curator in 1905, associate curator in 1914, and the second curator of that Division (Frederick Vernon Coville held the title of honorary curator, without remuneration, 1894-1937) from February 1, 1937, until May 31, 1946. Retiring in 1946, Maxon became an associate in botany, a position he held until his death on February 25, 1948.
Maxon specialized in the taxonomic study of Pteridophyta, especially those of tropical America, and was considered to be one of the leading systematic pteridologists of his time. He built up the fern collection in the United States National Herbarium from one of relative insignificance to one of the finest in quantity and quality in the western hemisphere. Between 1903 and 1926 he undertook nine major expeditions to tropical America. A heart attack in 1931 put a stop to any further explorations. In 1928, and again in 1930, Maxon worked overseas in European herbaria, including those in London, Copenhagen, and Berlin. Among his scientific papers, one of his most important series of writings was his "Studies of Tropical American Ferns," which was published in Contributions from the United States National Herbarium.
Maxon belonged to numerous scientific societies and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was an original member and president of the Biologists' Field Club of Washington, and he was president of the American Fern Society, 1898-1899, 1919-1933, and editor and editor-in-chief of its Journal from 1933 until his death. Maxon was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from Syracuse University in 1922.

Notes
SI Records

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 223, United States National Museum. Division of Plants, Records

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Maxon, William R. (William Ralph), 1877-1948 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Coville, Frederick V. (Frederick Vernon), 1867-1937 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rose, J. N. (Joseph Nelson), 1862-1928 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Fern Society Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States National Herbarium Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Fern Journal Title Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Botanists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Botany Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scientific expeditions Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cuba Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
West Indies Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mexico Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Central America Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
South America Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Asia Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Letterpress copybooks Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Washington, D.C.
Contact us at osiaref@si.edu