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Liberty Hyde Bailey Jr. (1858-1954)



Liberty Hyde Bailey was born on a fruit farm in South Haven, Michigan, on March 15, 1858. As a child he spent a great deal of time in the forests about his father's farm, "and learned early the ways of wild-life, of the plants and animals that composed it" (Lawrence 27). After receiving his early education in a small country school, he went to the Michigan State Agricultural College, entering in 1877. While at Michigan State he served as the editor of the College Speculum and was academically at the top of his class (Lawrence 27). He earned his B.S. in 1882, having taken a year off for illness (1880-1881). After graduation, he tried working as a newspaper reporter for a short while, then spent two years (1883-1884) assisting Asa Gray at Harvard University. He returned to Michigan State College as a professor of horticulture and landscape gardening in 1884 and stayed until 1888. In 1885 he was granted a master's degree by Michigan. Cornell offered him the post of professor of horticulture in 1888; Bailey accepted with the condition that Cornell sponsor a trip to Europe. This trip enabled Bailey to visit "every important herbarium west of Russia, including those at Prague, Vienna, and Uppsala" (Lawrence 300). Bailey served as horticulture professor at Cornell until 1903, when he became director of the College of Agriculture at Cornell. The year 1903 also saw the founding of the American Society for Horticultural Science by Bailey and S.A. Beach. Bailey would serve as president of that organization for its first four years of existence. In 1904, 10 years of work to make the College of Agriculture financially independent of the University succeded, and the State College of Agriculture at Cornell was founded. Bailey was appointed Dean of the faculty, Director of the College and its Experiment Station, and Professor of Rural Economy (Lawrence 31). Bailey established the Department of Experimental Plant Biology at Cornell in 1907, which would later become the Department of Plant Breeding (Lawrence 29). He retired as dean and director in 1813, but he continued to lead a very active life after official retirement. When he died, on December 25, 1954, at Ithaca, N.Y., he was described as the last living link to the Asa Gray era of American botany.

Bailey's earliest botanical specialty was the genus Carex, a choice in which he was encouraged by Asa Gray. Bailey published a series of Carex papers between 1883 and 1900 and was a major expert in the field during that period. Bailey followed his Carex work with a tremendous output of publications on horticulture and botany. His horticultural publications included a series of horticultural monographs and the various editions of his Cyclopedia of American Horticulture. His botanical publications included a number of books directed toward explaining botany to lay people, as well as taxonomic studies of palms, Brassica, Vitis, Cucurbita and Rubus. At the request of Sereno Watson, Bailey in 1894 revised Gray's Field, Forest, and Garden Botany. Other endeavors in which he was involved included promoting nature study in schools; establishing a journal Gentes Herbarum (1920-1984); and founding the Bailey Hortorium, based on a gift of his herbarium and library to Cornell in 1935. In addition to his botanical and horticultural writings, Bailey was a published poet and philosopher. His two best known works in these fields are Wind and Weather, a collection of his poems and The Holy Earth, a treatise on man's debt to the earth.

Bailey married Annette Smith on June 6, 1883, and they had two daughters, Sara and Ethel Zoe. Mrs. Bailey died in 1938, two years after Sara died. Ethel Zoe worked alongside her father and accompanied him on many collecting expeditions. She was also an editor of Gentes Herbarum, co-author of Hortus and was curator of the Bailey Hortorium from 1935 to 1957 (Banks). She died in 1983.


Banks, Harlan P. "Liberty Hyde Bailey March 15, 1858-December 25, 1954." Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences. 64: 2-32. 1994. Reprinted on the Cornell University website: http://www.plantbio.cornell.edu/Hortorium/L_H_Bailey.php
Cattell, J. McKeen and Jaques Cattell. American Men of Science, 5th ed.. New York: The Science Press, 1933.
Humphrey, Harry Baker. "Makers of North American Botany." Chronica Botanica 21: 10-15, 1961.
Lawrence, George H. "Liberty Hyde Bailey, the Botanist." Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 82: 300-305, 1955.
Lawrence, George H. M. "Liberty Hyde Bailey, 1858-1954." Baileya 3: 26-40, 1955.
Rodgers, Andrew Denny, III. Liberty Hyde Bailey: A Story of American Plant Sciences. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1949.

Scope and Content:

The L. H. Bailey papers consist of papers pertaining to Bailey's Carex work. Essentially they consist of annotated separates of two large papers by Bailey, with small papers and other notes interleaved. The two large papers are "Studies of the Types of various Species of the Genus Carex" from the Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club, Vol. 1 (1889) and "A Preliminary Synopsis of North America Carices, including those of Mexico, Central America, and Greenland, with the American Bibliography of the Genus" from the Proceedings of the American Academy 22 (1886).

In addition to the above, there are three large sets of Bailey correspondence in the archives. The Historic Letters file has over 200 letters from Bailey, 1886-1913; the Gray Herbarium, Administrative correspondence file has over 400 letters, 1914-1948, plus 34 letters to C. A. Weatherby, 1875-1949; and the Walter Deane collection has over 850 letters from Bailey to Deane, 1883-1929. There are also 25 letters from Bailey to Thomas Morong, 1882-1888, in the Morong papers.


There was no record with the Carex papers of how they came to the Gray Herbarium. They might have been given directly by Bailey or they might have been acquired by Walter Deane and given by him. There may be some record of provenance in Bailey's voluminous correspondence.

Container Listing: BOX AJ

Note: The following are all loosely bound together within one cover, with the exception of one loose insert which has been placed after the cover.

Cover reads: "Studies in the Types of the various species of the Genus Carex. L.H. Bailey. May 25, 1889. also A preliminary synopsis of North American Carices including those of Mexico, Central America and Greenland with the American Bibliogogy [sic] of the Genus. L.H. Bailey. April 14, 1886." This appears to be in Bailey's handwriting.


1. Ms list "Literature of Cyperaceae"
2. Pages from Oswald Weigel Katalog -- Gramineae, Cyperaceae, Juncaceae
3. "Carex Notes from the British Museum" by L.H. Bailey
4. Letter from Georg Kükenthal, June 12, 1900
5. "Studies in the Types of the various species of the Genus Carex" found loosely inserted between pp. 26 & 27, moved to back:
-letter from L.H. Bailey to [Charles Fay?] Wheeler, Stockholm, Oct. 19, 1888
-exerpt from Am. J. Sci., Feb. 1900, pp. 230-232
6. "Notes on Carex - I" by L.H. Bailey. Botanical Gazette 9 (1884)
7. Ms. list of duplicate Carices on hand
8. "A Preliminary Synopsis of North American Carices, including those of Mexico, Central America, and Greenland, with the American Bibliography of the Genus" by L.H. Bailey. Proc. Am. Acad. 22 (1886). [Also Contribution from the Herbarium of Harvard University]
-pasted between pp. 72 & 73: "Carex Notes from the British Museum
-pasted between pp. 88 & 89: handwritten copy of New Californian Carices" by L.H. Bailey
-pasted between pp. 106 & 107: "The Carices of the Upper Half of the Keweenaw Peninsula" by L.H. Bailey
-pasted between pp. 118 & 119: "Notes on certain Plants of our Eastern Flora" by Thos. C. Porter; "Carex Umbellata, Schkuhr." by L.H. Bailey.
-pressed plants between pp. 136 & 137, 144 & 145
9. "A Catalogue of North American Carices" by L.H. Bailey
10."Index to the Genus Carex of Gray's Manual" by Jos. F. James.

See Also:

Historic Letter Collection
Semi-Historic Letter Collection
Gray Archives Photograph Collection: #0005, #0006, #0113, #0639, #0837, #0851, #0896, #1185, #1543
Jane Gray Autograph Collection


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