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I A-3

Arnold Arboretum. Records of the Arnold Arboretum Controversy, 1945-1998 : A Finding Aid

Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University


Harvard University
July 2003

© 2003 President and Fellows of Harvard College

Last update 2016 June 14

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: I A-3
Repository: Arnold Arboretum Archives of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.
Creator: Arnold Arboretum
Title: Records of the Arnold Arboretum Controversy, 1945-1998
Quantity: 2.7 Linear Feet (10 boxes)


Access to Finding Aid record in Hollis Classic or Hollis.

Other descriptions of this material

Current version of this finding aid is available at the Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.

Processing Information:

Processed: December 1998
By: Carol David

Acquisition Information:

The Arnold Arboretum Controversy papers and court documents reflect over 15 years of struggle and debate by the staff, friends, and the Arnold Arboretum Associates to protect the resources and funding of the Arnold Arboretum from the Harvard Corporation Bailey Plan, which sought to remove herbarium specimens and library materials, and re-direct Arboretum funds to the Botany Departments in Cambridge. The bulk of materials were compiled during the course of the Controversy by Arboretum staff. The HOLLIS # for this collection is 009137843 and the file name is ajp00019.

Access Restrictions:

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.

Use Restrictions:

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

The "Bailey Plan" was a proposal for reorganization of the botanical agencies at Harvard University developed for the Harvard Corporation by Professor of Plant Anatomy Irving W. Bailey in 1945. The Bailey Plan, an effort to avoid duplication of effort and waste of financial resources, sought to create two broad budgetary and administrative areas. The area of General Morphology was to be the herbaria and libraries of the Gray Herbarium, Farlow Library,Arnold Arboretum, and the Botanical Museum. The area of Experimental and Applied Botany was to include the Arnold Arboretum, Atkins Institution,Harvard Forest, Botanic Garden, Bussey Institution, and the Cabot Foundation. Duplicate books and library resources were to be sold and proceeds applied to funds for a new botanical building. The Harvard Corporation approved the Bailey Plan in the winter of 1946, along with plans to raise one million dollars for a central botanical building. The Botanic Garden was turned into apartment buildings, and the paper proceeds transferred to general funds for the Botany Department.
In 1949 dissent arose. Professor Oakes Ames, former supervisor of the Arnold Arboretum who had originally accepted the plan, now raised questions about the legality of the Bailey Plan. The Harvard Overseers Committee to Visit the Arboretum charged that the transfer of resources from Jamaica Plain violated the terms of the James Arnold Trust that endowed the Arboretum from its inception. These concerns were addressed by the Overseers Coordinating Committee on Biological Sciences chaired by Walter Edmonds. A legal opinion was requested, and Alfred Lowell delivered a report upholding the Plan. Members of the Visiting Committee retained another attorney, J. W. Farley, whose report rejected the Plan as a "breach of trust." Grenville Clark, who had just resigned from the Harvard Corporation, called in a third lawyer, Robert Dodge, whose report concurred with Farley's. The President and Fellows of Harvard requested a fourth report. Oscar Shaw of Ropes & Gray wrote an endorsement, though with reservations about some details. Action under the Plan was suspended. In late 1952, the Overseers Coordinating Committee, now chaired by Laird Bell, recommended dropping the Bailey Plan regarding the Arnold Arboretum, but favoring moving library and herbarium materials to the new Cambridge building. The Corporation approved the recommendation in January 1953.
Opponents were not mollified by the concessions made. They felt such withdrawals of materials were "milking" the Arboretum and turning it into a "park" (Harvard Crimson, October 21, 1954). The Association for the Arnold Arboretum, an independent group of prominent citizens and scholars with about 600 members, asked the Massachusetts Attorney General (the only one with legal standing to sue a charitable trust) to sue Harvard. When Attorney General George Fingold declined, the Association brought suit in John S. Ames et al. v. Attorney General to compel him to rehear their application.
In February of 1955, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court refused to compel the attorney general to enter a test suit over the legality of the move. Most books and herbaria specimens were transferred to the new building in Cambridge, later named the Harvard University Herbaria. The Association for the Arnold Arboretum continued its fight and convinced the new Attorney General, Edward J. McCormack, Jr. to allow members of the Association to sue Harvard in his name. Suit was filed in 1958. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 1966 to uphold the removal of most books and herbarium specimens from Jamacia Plain to the Harvard Botany Department in Cambridge by a 3-2 vote. The minority argued that Harvard had violated Arnold's trust. "It was not Arnold's intention," Justices Speigel and Kirk said, to make the Arboretum 'just another of the many departments of Harvard. We think there was a breach of trust." The majority ruled that Harvard did not "violate the duty of loyalty" imposed upon them by the trust established in 1872 by James Arnold when he donated the funds that led to the founding of the Arboretum. (Boston Globe, [January 1966]).

Scope and Content

The Arnold Arboretum Controversy records span the years 1945-1968. The most active years of the controversy, 1949-1958, produced numerous published and unpublished documents from both the Harvard University Corporation and The Association for the Arnold Arboretum, articles, brochures, correspondence, reports, and pamphlets. These documents were detailed, cogent arguments that presented their cases and rebutted their opponents. Papers for and against the Bailey Plan were directed to the Harvard community, supporters, and the general public. It was a war of words that was adjudicated in the courts and from March 7 1962-September 20, 1962 alone produced 27 volumes of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court trial transcripts and legal briefs.
The media coverage at large included Harvard publications such as The Harvard Crimson,Harvard Alumni Bulletin, and Harvard University President's Report. Coverage in major newspapers included The New York Times, The Boston Globe,The Boston Herald,and The Christian Science Monitor. Articles also appeared in horticultural and scientific journals such as Science, Horticulture, and The American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta Bulletin.
The records are arranged into the following series:
I. The Bailey Plan
II. Arnold Arboretum Visiting Committee
III. The Association for the Arnold Arboretum
IV. Opponents to The Bailey Plan
V. Journal Articles and Newspaper Clippings
VI. Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Documents.

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