Wright, Charles, 1811-1885. Charles Wright papers, 1853-1871: A Guide.
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Call No.: gra00058
Repository: Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Creator: Wright, Charles, 1811-1885
Title: Charles Wright papers
Quantity: 1 linear feet (3 boxes)
Language of materials: English
Wright's manuscripts were likely left at the Gray Herbarium by Wright or given to
the Herbarium after his death.
Processed by Lynn McWhood
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Charles Wright papers, Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University.
Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria:
Asa Gray correspondence files, 1832-1892; Administrative correspondence of the Gray
Herbarium and Harvard University Herbaria, 1890-1965; Botany Libraries photograph
collection; Jane Gray autograph collection, 1563-1908.
Charles Wright was born on October 29, 1811 in Wethersfield, Connecticut, to James
and Mary Wright (née Goodrich). He entered Yale University in 1831 and graduated in
1835. On the recommendation of Yale president Jeremiah Day, Wright spent the year
following graduation as a private tutor to a family in Natchez, Mississippi. His employer's
business failed in the financial crisis of 1837 and Wright moved to Texas, supporting
himself by surveying and teaching.
Wright botanized in his spare time and began sending specimens to Asa Gray in 1844.
Gray eventually invited Wright to go to Cambridge to assist in sorting his collections.
Wright spent several months in Cambridge and with his family in Wethersfield during
the winter of 1848-1849. He left Cambridge in April 1949 to join the U.S. War Department
survey of the border between the United States and Mexico and spent the next three
years collecting specimens for Gray in Texas and Arizona.
Wright left Texas in the summer of 1852. The following spring he joined the U.S. North
Pacific Exploring Expedition. From June 1853 to October 1855, Wright was the botanist
for the expedition, which sailed from Virginia across the Atlantic, then down to the
Cape of Good Hope, to Sydney, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and islands of the Bering
Strait before arriving in San Francisco. Wright left the expedition in early 1856
and traveled to Nicaragua, where he collected for a few weeks before returning to
New England for the summer.
From 1856 to 1867 Wright undertook a series of explorations in Cuba, and made a short
collecting trip to Santo Domingo in 1871. Between collecting trips, he spent time
at his home in Connecticut and at the Gray Herbarium in Cambridge. From October 1875
to April 1876 he also served as librarian of the Bussey Institution. Wright spent
the last years of his life in Wethersfield and died there on August 11, 1885.
Gray A. 1885. Botanical necrology of 1885. Am. J. Sci. Arts. 3(31):12-17.
Geiser SW. 1948. Naturalists of the frontier, 2nd ed. Dallas (TX): University Press.
The Wright papers consist primarily of papers pertaining to collections he made while
on the U.S. Commission in Santo Domingo.
The North Pacific papers include Wright's journal of the expedition and descriptive
notes on plants collected in Madeira, St. Jago, Cape of Good Hope, Sydney, Hong Kong,
Loo Choo and Bonin Islands, Japan, Bering Straits, and California. There are also
notes on plants collected by Wright in Nicaragua. Notes appear to be plant identification
records; some are in Asa Gray's handwriting. There is a 400-page unpublished manuscript
on the plants of Japan in Asa Gray's handwriting. There are also notes on Cape of
Good Hope plants by William Henry Harvey and descriptions of grasses by William Munro.
The Santo Domingo papers consist of a draft of an unpublished "Flora Domingensis"
with a letter from Daniel Cady Eaton dated 1871 and notes by Daniel Oliver.
- 1. Box 1, Folder 1, Journal of the North Pacific Exploring Expedition
Date: 1853 June 11-1854 March 17 North Pacific, 1853-1854
- 2. Box 1, Folder 2, Journal of the North Pacific Exploring Expedition
Date: 1854 March 18-1855 October 13 North Pacific, 1854-1855
- 3. Box 1, Folder 3, Itinerary of U.S. North Pacific Exploring Expedition
Date:  March 26-September 9 North Pacific, 1855
- 4. Box 1, Folder 4, Madeira and St. Jago plants collected in the vicinity of Funchal, Madeira, and during
a few hours in Porto Praya, St. Jago
Date: 1853 July 8-9 Madeira, 1853
- 5. Box 1, Folder 5, Cape of Good Hope Good Hope
- "Cape plants collected by C. Wright, named by WHH" (William Henry Harvey), with 2
letters from Harvey to Gray, August 17, 1858, and October 28, 1858, and of "Mems.
on Cape Plants of C.Wright"
- List of plants collected in the immediate vicinity of Simon's Town
Date:  September 22-November 2
- 6. Box 1, Folder 6, Sydney list of plants collected in Sydney and vicinity
Date: 1853 December 25-1854 January 4 Sydney
- 7. Box 1, Folder 7, Hong Kong Hong Kong
- Introductory note explaining that expedition was based in Hong Kong from 1854 March
20 September 12
Scope and Contents: Excursion to islands east of Hong Kong, 1854 May 3-6; excursions to Whampoa, June
12-16 and June 24 - July 26; then to Macao; to Cum-sing-moon, August 2-8; returned
to Hong Kong, 1855 January 29-1855 April 6
- List of plant names with bibliographic citations and additional notes, arranged by
- 9. Box 1, Folder 9, Loo Choo, Bonin, etc. Loo Choo
- Four pages noted in Gray's hand
- Explanatory note giving the following locations: Bonin Islands, 1854 October 19-1854
November 3; Loo Choo, 1854 November 17-1854 December 13; Harbor Island, 1855 January
19; Agenhu,  April 20; Loo Choo,  April 22-25; Katonashima,  April
29-  May 4. Mr. Small collected on Amakarina islands and other locations.
- List of plants, names only
- List of plants, including cites and additional notes, arranged by family
- 11. Box 2, Folder 11, Japan Loo Choo
- List of plant names in Gray's handwriting containing descriptions of Japanese plants,
- 12. Box 2, Folder 12, Arctic Asia Arctic Asia
- Explanatory note indicates the list is mostly plants from [Arakamtschetshene] off
Date:  August 14-September 13
- Mr. Small collecting on shore of Ckhotsk Sea
- Detailed descriptions of plants, arranged systematically
- 13. Box 2, Folder 13, California California
- Explanatory note, "The following is the fruit of a few short winter excursions in
the immediate neighborhood of San Francisco and Mare Island"
Date: winter 1855-1856
- List of plants, including some descriptive notes
- 14. Box 2, Folder 14, Nicaragua Nicaragua
- List of plant names with cites and additional notes
- 15. Box 2, Folder 15Flora Domingensis unpublished manuscript in Wright's handwriting, attributed to both
Gray and Wright
Scope and Contents: Based on Wright's 1871 collections in Santo Domingo. A thorough explanation of the
circumstances surrounding this manuscript and its publication in Richard Alden Howard's
"The Botanical Results of the U.S. Commission of Inquiry to Santo Domingo in 1871,"
J. Arnold Arbor. 42:115-143.
- 16. Box 1, Folder 16Letter from D.C. Eaton to Wright, dated October 22, 1871, and "Notes on some plants,
collected in S. Domingo by the U.S. Commission, Received in Kew. November 1971." 3
pages, attributed to Daniel Oliver by a pencil notation in Mary A. Day's handwriting.
Plants of Cuba. Lists of specimens, "much of this book is in Asa Gray's handwriting."
- Box 1, Folder 17, Texas
Date: 1849 Texas, 1849
Scope and Contents: One list of primarily Texas prairie plants collected by Wright during several months
in 1849; localities include Galveston Island, and the prairies in and around El Paso,
Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, as well as Pecos and Val Verde Counties.
- Box 3, Folder 17A, Texas
Date: 1851 Texas, 1851
Scope and Contents: 21 unnumbered pages. Plant list prepared by Wright in his capacity as Assistant Computer
to Colonel J. D. (James Duncan) Graham, Head of the Scientific Corps of the United
States Boundary Commission. Localities are all in Texas and include Medina, Uvalde,
Kinney, Val Verde, Crockett, Pecos, Jeff Davis, Hudspeth, and El Paso Counties. Includes
a cover letter from Wright to Colonel Graham.
- Box 3, Folder 20, Plantae Wrightianae, Cuba
Date: 1865 Cuba