The Amos Eaton Herbarium
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The Division of Botany’s Yale Herbarium also holds the herbarium of Amos Eaton.

 

The First and Second Herbaria

Amos Eaton began his herbarium soon after his release from prison, in 1815 or 1816. His collection included plants from New York State and New England. In his lifetime he described about 20 new species belonging to several plant families, and published over 20 species described by others, including Torrey, Hall, Aikin, Beck, Tracy and Le Conte.

Prof. E.D. Merrill looked for Eaton’s collections in the hope of locating type material related to these new species. Thanks to his effort, the Amos Eaton Herbarium was located at Yale University. Merrill had the opportunity to study these collections and authenticating them as belonging to Amos Eaton.

The First Herbarium comprises 4 books (9 inches x 11 inches x 2 inches; 22.9 cm x 27.9 cm x 5 cm), each with about 90 sheets. The inscription “A. Eaton Herbarium” can be found on the back of each. In addition, one of the books contains the signature of Sara C. Eaton, daughter of Amos Eaton, with the additional statement “From Rens. Institute, Troy, N.Y.” The First Herbarium is the repository of only 5 type specimens. Additionally, 2 specimens collected by Rafinesque at Fishkill, New York, are included. Rafinesque thought these represented new species, but Eaton disregarded them as new. Later examination by Merrill revealed that these specimens indeed represent new taxa.

The Second Herbarium is thought to have comprised 2 books, however only one still exists. Larger than the others, it contains about 225 specimens. The front of the book has a specimen list in Amos Eaton’s handwriting; the specimen labels were handwritten by John Wright, Eaton’s student and co-author of the last edition of the Manual of Botany, published in 1840, 2 years before Eaton’s death. No type material has been found in the Second Herbarium. All 5 volumes represent one of the earliest plant collections in the United States, and remain of high historical importance.