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William Henry Brewer (1828-1910)



William Henry Brewer was born on September 14, 1828, in Poughkeepsie, New York. He spent his childhood on a farm near Ithaca, in Endfield, New York. He was educated in local schools, including a private academy in Ithaca, but intended to remain a farmer after he was finished with his education. After reading the letters of J. P. Norton and Prof. Horsford, Brewer became interested in chemistry and how it could be applied to agriculture. He went to Yale in 1848 to study soil analysis with Prof. Norton. He left to teach for two years, then returned and got a Ph.D. degree from the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale in 1852. After Yale, Brewer went to study in Heidelberg, Munich and Paris. In 1858 he was made professor of chemistry and geology at Washington College in Pennsylvania, and he married Angelina Jameson (who died in 1860). From 1860-1864 Brewer was first assistant on the Geological Survey of California and undertook extensive botanical surveys of areas that were still largely unexplored. During his last year with the Geological Survey, he also taught chemistry at the University of California. In 1864 he became professor of agriculture at the Sheffield Scientific School, a position he held until 1903, when he was made professor emeritus. He married Georgina Robinson in 1868. Brewer received a Ph.D. from Washington and Jefferson College in 1880, an LL.D from Yale in 1903, and an LL.D. from the University of California in 1910.

Brewer was known for his work in public service. He was chairman of the Commission that managed the state topographical survey in Connecticut, from 1889-1895. He was a member of the board of health in New Haven for 17 years, and served as its president for 12 years. He also served on the State Board of Health for 31 years, serving as president for 16 years. Along with S. W. Johnson, Brewer campaigned for the establishment of a state agricultural experiment station in Connecticut. This experiment station was the first to be established in the United States. Brewer served on its Board of Control from 1877 until his death on November 2, 1910.


Jenkins, Edward H. "William Henry Brewer." American Journal of Science and Arts Series IV. 31: 71-74.
Who was Who in America, 1897-1942. Chicago : A. N. Marquis Co., 1942.

Scope and Content:

The Brewer papers have three main parts: 2 manuscripts containing field notes on grasses; 13 small notebooks containing field notes pertaining to collections made during the California Geological Survey; and 2 larger bound books which contain copies of the 13 notebooks and of other documents. The manuscripts are in Brewer's handwriting; the 13 notebooks are mostly in someone else's handwriting, with page headings and plant names and occasional descriptions added by Brewer; and the 2 notebooks are not in Brewer's hand at all. The items in the Brewer collection are closely related to the H.N. Bolander papers, q.v.


Like the Bolander papers, the Brewer papers were probably used by Sereno Watson while he was working on Botany of California and were probably left at the Gray Herbarium with Watson's papers.

Container Listing: BOX Z

These notebooks have been microfilmed

Field Notebooks:

1. "Botanical Notes" 1860-61; 1-161; Nov.25-Feb. 3
2. "Botanical Notes" 1861; 162-312; Feb.3-March 25
3. "Botanical Notes" 1861; 313-558; March 25-May 3
4. "Botanical Notes" 1861; 559-841; May 3-Sept. 25
5. "Botanical Notes" 1861-62; 842-1035; Sept. 25-May 1
6. "Botanical Notes" 1862; 1036-1198; May 1-June 2
7. "Botanical Notes" 1862; 1199-1402; June 2-Sept. 13
8. "Botanical Notes" 1862; 1403- ; Sept. 16-
9. "Botanical Notes -- Brewer" 1863; 1585-1754; March 5 - June 29
10. "Botanical Notes -- Brewer" 1863; 1755-1934; July 9 - July 23
11. _____________1863; 1940-2160; July 24-Aug. 25
12. _____________1863; 2161-2387; Aug. 27-Oct. 28 starting with 2217, plants of Hiram G. Bloomer, H.N. Bolander, James Graham Cooper and Wilhelm Hillebrand
13. "Botanical Notes -- Brewer" 1863-64; 2388-2698 mostly plants of Bolander; 2575-2608 were collected by William Holder and 2686-? by Brewer

Large notebooks:

14. Title page labeled "Wm. H. Brewer - Botanical Notes 1860-61" in S. Watson's hand; pp. 1-344 constitute a copy of notebooks 1-13; pp. 345-351 is a copy of H.N. Bolander list, 1503-1560 (see Bolander papers for original)
15. pp. 1-83 are copies of Bolander lists, 4500-6575 (cf. Bolander papers); pp. 84-97 is a copy of notes by Thurber on Bolander's grasses (cf. Bolander papers); pp. 98-106 are copies of three letters form Bolander to Gray, 1866 and 1867; pp. 107-116 is a copy of "List of the Grasses -- as named by G. Thurber" in S. Watson's hand

Folder (16):

Manuscript headed "Grasses"; covers selected numbers from 8-1560; descriptions in Brewer's hand, names added in other hands; 16 pages
Manuscript headed "Grasses collected in California in 1863 by W.H. Brewer, H.N. Bolander, and Dr. Wm. Hillebrand"; descriptions in Brewer's hand, names added in other hands; 14 pages

See Also:

Historic Letter Collection
Semi-Historic Letter Collection
Gray Archives Photograph Collection: #0043 - #0047
Jane Gray Autograph Collection


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Last Updated June 2002
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