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Sargent, Charles Sprague, 1841-1927. Records of the Director Charles Sprague Sargent, 1893-1927 (inclusive): A Finding Aid.

Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University


Harvard University

© 1999 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Last update 2016 June 14

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.
Call No.: IB CSS
Creator: Charles Sprague Sargent, 1841-1927.
Title: Records of the Director Charles Sprague Sargent, 1893-1927 (inclusive).
Quantity: 20 Boxes.
Abstract: The archival collection consists of administrative files of Charles Sprague Sargent as director of the Arnold Arboretum, including both letterpress copybooks and incoming correspondence. Material pertains to fund raising for collecting expeditions to China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet in the 1910s and 1920s, and to horticulture at the Arboretum. Considerable correspondence exists with John Muir, 1897-1912; Ernest H. Wilson and Joseph Rock concerning their botanical collecting in Asia; and botanists in Europe and the United States.


Access to Finding Aid record in Hollis Classic or Hollis.

Other descriptions of this material

Additional Charles Sprague Sargent correspondence can be found by searching the Arnold Arboretum Correspondence Database. Please contact Arboretum Library staff for assistance. Current version of this finding aid is available at the Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.

Processing Information:

Processed: September 1997.

Acquisition Information:

The Charles Sprague Sargent papers were acquired during his 54 year tenure as the first Arnold Arboretum Director. The Papers were originally housed at the first administrative offices of the Arnold Arboretum, located at the Sargent estate, Holm Lea, in a large vacant house. For 12 years the "Dwight house" was the headquarters for Sargent's library and herbarium. In 1892 a permanent building to house the library, herbarium, and administrative offices of the Arboretum was constructed. The final move of the Sargent papers, library and herbarium from the Sargent estate to "the museum," as the building was called for several years, took place late in 1892. They have remained in the Arnold Arboretum Archives since then and were later accessioned into HOLLIS # ACZ8061.


Researchers seeking to examine archival materials are strongly encouraged to make an appointment. The Director, or an office of origin, may place restrictions on the use of some or all of its records. The extent and length of the restriction will be determined by the Director, office of origin, and the Archivist and will be enforced equally for all researchers.


The copyright is held by The President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Arnold Arboretum Archives of Harvard University. The copyright on some materials in the collection may be held by the original author or the author's heirs or assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining written permission from the holder(s) of copyright and the Arnold Arboretum Archives prior to publishing any quotations or images from materials in this collection.
Photocopies may be made at the discretion of the Arnold Arboretum Archives staff. Permission to make photocopies does not constitute permission to reproduce or publish materials outside the bounds of the fair use guidelines.

Historical Note

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927) was the Arnold Arboretum's first director and served the institution for over 54 years. The child of Henrietta Gray and Ignatius Sargent, a successful Boston merchant, banker, and railroad financier, Sargent had the opportunity to pursue a career in science and horticulture. After graduating from Harvard College and serving in the Union army, Sargent spent his first horticultural years abroad touring the gardens of Europe and then at home managing the family estate and gardens of Holm Lea. As a prominent member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and an elected trustee of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, Sargent's activities continued to expand. Sargent was appointed director of Harvard's Botanic Garden in 1872. Although the Arnold Arboretum was established in 1872 with Sargent as the first director, his official appointment occurred in 1873.

Scope and Content

The Sargent papers include biographical material,correspondence, collection notes, published works, and photographs of Sargent, family, Holm Lea, the Sargent Estate, and colleagues. The correspondence consists of nine volumes of handwritten and typed copies of letters from1882-1923. Arranged by subject, the volumes do not follow in chronological order. The collected works reflect the activities and development of the Arnold Arboretum from the collaboration of Olmsted and Sargent in the landscape design of the Arboretum, to the exploration, identification, cultivation, and introduction of plant material by the Arnold to other arboreta, nurseries, and the public. Sargent expanded the scope of the Arboretum's influence to include the preservation of the natural landscape, and American forests. Included in the collection are numerous articles on forestry reports, forest fires, and protection of forests, and Sargent's Tenth Census of the United States Forestry, 1880-1883.
The collection is organized into the following series:
I. Biographical Material
II. Correspondence 1882-1923
III. Collection Notes
IV. Sargent Publications
V. Books
VI. Sargent Photographs

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