Charles Alfred Weatherby (1875-1949) Papers


Biographical Note:

Charles Alfred Weatherby was born in Hartford, Connecticut on December 25, 1875, the son of Charles Nathaniel and Grace Weld (Young) Weatherby. His father's family had been prosperous, but moved to Colorado to try to establish a new business. Charles lived with his parents in Colorado until he reached school age, then was sent back to Hartford to be educated at a small private academy. He entered Harvard in 1893 and concentrated on the study of literature. He graduated summa cum laude in 1897 and stayed at Harvard another year to earn an A.M. in literature. Shortly after he finished college, his parents separated and his mother moved back to East Hartford; he went to live with her. For a period of about five years between 1899-1905, Weatherby was ill and thus unable to continue formal academic studies or to work. He did manage to further develop an amateur interest in botany, joining the Connecticut Botanical Society and working on a committee that was compiling a flora of Connecticut. His work on the Connecticut flora led him to spend time at the Gray Herbarium, and this in turn led to his working there as a voluntary assistant in the summers of 1908, 1909 and 1911.

In 1910 Weatherby accompanied his mother to Europe. While there, he met Una Lenora Foster, with whom he began a correspondence. Una was an artist, was interested in botany, and worked with Weatherby on some of his projects, becoming a botanical illustrator in the process. They were married on May 16, 1917, and settled in East Hartford. Weatherby continued his pattern of living in East Hartford and doing some part-time work at the Gray Herbarium. In 1928 Weatherby's mother died, and the next year the couple moved to Cambridge. Weatherby became a full-time assistant curator, and from 1937 to 1940 he was senior curator. On his retirement in 1940 he was made a research associate of the Gray Herbarium, and he continued doing work there until his death on June 21, 1949.

In his early days at the Gray Herbarium, Weatherby worked with Fernald on Puccinellia. He thought about continuing to work on grasses but decided to concentrate on ferns instead. He joined the American Fern Society in 1912, was an editor of the American Fern Journal from 1915 to 1940, and was president of the Society from 1943 to 1944. Weatherby is probably best known as a fern specialist, but he worked in other areas as well. He became very involved in working out issues of botanical nomenclature: at the 1935 International Botanical Congress in Amsterdam, he and Alfred Rehder were appointed the two American members of the International Committee on the Nomenclature of Vascular Plants; he was selected by W.H. Camp to be on the nomenclature committee of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists in 1946; and he was scheduled to be vice president of the Section on Nomenclature at the 1950 International Botanical Congress at Stockholm. He made several trips with Una to gather information on type specimens in European herbaria and on the Elliott types in Charleston, where Una drew or photographed the specimens. Other activities included helping with the Gray Herbarium Index and doing editorial work for Rhodora and Brittonia. A lengthy list of his publications from Rhodora (volume 51, pages 179-191) gives an idea of the breadth of his interests.


M. L. Fernald. "Charles Alfred Weatherby, Botanist and Helper of Botanists." Rhodora 51 (1949).
W.H. Camp. "Charles Alfred Weatherby." Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 77 (1950).
Alice F. Tryon. "Una Foster Weatherby." American Fern Journal 48 (1958).
Una F. Weatherby. Charles Alfred Weatherby: A Man of Many Interests. (Cambridge: Self-published, 1951).

Scope & Content:

The Weatherby papers consist primarily of personal correspondence, biographical materials, and a scrapbook, as well as professional papers, botanical notebooks, and oversize manuscript materials. Personal materials are mainly correspondence, photographs, school notebooks, and diary extracts, and cover from Weatherby's ancestry through the publication of Una's biography two years after his death. Some later letters to Una interweave somewhat with professional materials in that they mention work and colleagues at the Gray Herbarium, but only in a casual manner. Professional materials consist of manuscripts of published works such as contributions to journals and floras, nomenclature committee work, professional correspondence, herbarium lists, and field notebooks. The scope and content of each of the eighteen series is described in greater detail below.


Most materials in the Weatherby file were probably given by Una Weatherby, although no record exists of their provenance. Some plant record books were found among the un-catalogued field notes in the library and were combined with those already in the file. The manuscript "New World Species of Notholaena" was apparently given by Rolla Tryon, probably after 1956. (It was originally stored in the manuscript case of the library.) A letter from CAW to Lily May Perry (July 7, 1937) was given to the Gray Herbarium by Miss Perry on July 3, 1952. A preliminary finding aid was created for the collection in 1981. In 2004 the collection was re-examined and organized into boxes, in effort to identify individual items within each series, to put items into more appropriate containers, and to separate personal materials from professional ones.

The collection was originally arranged by Una Weatherby. Folders were numbered and named to correspond to sections of the biography she wrote about her husband, and contain both original materials and biographical manuscript. The original order has been preserved as often as possible; although it remains intact for the most part, to provide ease of storage and better access a few folders and items have been relocated to more appropriate containers, but in all cases the contents within the folders remains unchanged.

Container List

Series Descriptions:

Personal Materials:

Series I: Youth
Series II: College Years
Series III: Interim Years
Series IV: Early Herbarium Work
Series V: Full-time Herbarium Work
Series VI: Personal Correspondence
Series VII: Diary Extracts
Series VIII: Biographical Materials
Series IX: Scrapbook


Professional Materials:

Series X: Notes on Various Topics
Series XI: New England Notes
Series XII: Species Notes
Series XIII: Nomenclature
Series XIV: Professional Correspondence A-Z
Series XV: Certificates
Series XVI: Herbarium Lists
Series XVII: Field Notes/Gray's Manuals
Series XVIII: Manuscript Notes


See Also:

Administrative correspondence of the Gray Herbarium and Harvard University Herbaria finding aid, under Weatherby, Charles Alfred (approximately 640 letters).
Botany Libraries photograph collection under Weatherby, Charles Alfred (approximately 15 photographs).