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Palmer, Ernest Jesse, 1875-1962. Papers of Ernest Jesse Palmer, 1911-1959: Guide.

Archives of the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University


The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Archives
Call No.: III EJP
Repository: Archives of the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University
Creator: Palmer, Ernest Jesse, 1875-1962.
Title: Papers of Ernest Jesse Palmer, 1875-1962
Date(s): 1911-1959.
Quantity: 1 linear feet
Abstract: Originally from England, the Palmer family settled in Missouri when E. J. Palmer was 14 years old. Largely self-taught, Palmer began collecting plants for the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Palmer continued work as a plant collector for Charles Sprague Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum, beginning in 1921. Palmer's relationship with the arboretum continued and he published several works and proved instrumental in the arboretums collection of early Native American artifacts. Palmer's collection includes more than 250 photographic images.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

This collection was transferred from the Arnold Arboretum's departmental holdings to the Arboretum's Archives in 1986 when the Archive was established.

Processing Information:

Processed: 2006. Updated 2007, Joshua Lascell. Updated 2009, Larissa Glasser.

Terms of Access:

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.

Terms of Use:

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.

Biographical / Historical

Ernest Jesse Palmer was born in Leiscester, England on April 8, 1875, the son of Amos and Annie Palmer. The Palmers immigrated to the United States in 1878, eventually settling in Webb City, Missouri when Ernest Jesse Palmer was fourteen years old.
Much of Palmer's extensive knowledge of the natural sciences, Latin, English literature, mathematics, economics, and poetry was self taught. In 1913,Palmer began collecting plants for the Missouri Botanical Garden. Two years later, he began his lengthy association with Charles Sprague Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum(1921-1948), also as a collector. Sargent offered him a formal position assisting at the Arboretum's herbarium in 1921. During his career at the Arboretum, Palmer produced several publications including The Spontaneous Flora of the Arnold Arboretum (1930), which describes flora which appeared in the Arboretum naturally and without cultivation, and Food Plants in the Arnold Arboretum (1944).
Palmer was also instrumental in the Arnold Arboretum's collection of early Native American artifacts, which he found searching areas of the Arboretum that were being prepared for shrub or tree planting. In 1930,Palmer married Elizabeth McDougal, a bacteriologist at the Massachusetts State Laboratory. The couple lived in Arboretum housing at 1090 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.Palmer retired in 1947, and in 1948, he returned to Webb City, Missouri. He died on February 25, 1962 at 87 years of age.The University of Missouri awards an annual scholarship in Palmer's name, which is rotated between the Department of Geology and the Division of Biological Sciences for students in the fields of paleontology and systematic biology.


The Ernest Jesse Palmer collection is arranged in 5 series:

Scope and Contents

The Palmer collection contains correspondence,field notes,drawings, and photographs. The correspondence ranges from 1911 to 1957, with the 1911 to 1919 correspondence comprised almost entirely of letters between Palmer and Charles S. Sargent. A complete list of correspondence between Palmer and Sargent from the years 1907-1920 is available online at the Arnold Arboretum Correspondence Index. Over 250 photographs document trips to the western United States as well as the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, MA.


Access to Finding Aid record in Hollis Classic or Hollis.

Other Finding Aids

Current version of this finding aid is available at the Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Additional Ernest Jesse Palmer correspondence can be found by searching the Arnold Arboretum Correspondence Index.

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