Charles Vancouver Piper Papers, 1888-1926  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Piper, Charles Vancouver
Charles Vancouver Piper Papers
1888-1926 (inclusive)
5 containers., (2.5 linear feet of shelf space.), (3650 items.)
Collection Number
Cage 317
Correspondence and notes regarding taxonomic investigations of plants of the state of Washington, the collection of botanical specimens, the preparation of regional floras, the history of botanical study of the Pacific Northwest, and the identification of plants for the public. Siginificant correspondents include: R.K. Beattie, F.V. Coville, F.A. Golder, Edmond S. Meany, B.L. Robinson, W.N. Suksdorf.
Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library Suite 12
Pullman WA
Telephone: 509-335-6691
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Additional Reference Guides

Northwest Botanical Manuscripts: An Indexed Register of the Papers, 1867-1957, of William Nikolaus Suksdorf, William Conklin Cusick, Charles Vancouver Piper, Rolla Kent Beattie, and Harold St. John. Pullman: Washington State University, 1976. This guide includes a detailed correspondence index. A PDF version is available in the WSU Research Exchange.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Charles V. Piper was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1867. He grew up in Seattle, and attended the Territorial University of Washington until about 1892, although he had received his bachelor’s degree in 1885 at the age of 18.

Piper’s career as a botanist had two almost distinct, although overlapping, phases, first as a regional taxonomist in the Northwest and later as an agronomist with the United States Department of Agriculture at Washington, D.C. His activity as a student of Northwest flora began in the mid-1880s, associated with his mountaineering hobby and supported by the Young Naturalists, a Seattle scientific society. Piper joined the staff of the newly opened Washington Agricultural College and School of Science, now Washington State University, in late 1892, and spent the next decade at Pullman, except for one year while a fellow at the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University. At Pullman, he and his collaborator, R. Kent Beattie, composed the first reasonably complete and authoritative regional Flora, beginning with a survey of the Palouse area of Southeastern Washington and expanding into the 1906 Flora of Washington. The investigations Piper conducted at Pullman also served as the basis for two later publications, Flora of Southeast Washington and Adjacent Idaho (1941) and Flora of the Northwest Coast (1915).

Piper’s career as a USDA researcher began in 1903 and continued to his death in 1926. His primary work consisted of the location, domestication or development and introduction of grasses. His most notable success during these years involved his discovery of Sudan grass, a plant he found in Africa and introduced to North America as a forage plant.

As a plant scientist Piper often attempted to take positions which placed him simultaneously in several of the various schools of thought which characterized the bitterly divided field of botany of his day. Throughout his career he consistently emphasized attention to economic and agricultural plants, much to the criticism of the purists of the profession. He also attempted to combine various positions in the nomenclature dispute: while arguing for the necessity of historical research to establish the validity of original names, his Flora adhered to the names proposed by the International Rule school. He himself undertook a great deal of the historical research inspired by the American Rule school. He was greatly involved in the re-discovery of Meriwether Lewis’ lost herbarium and encouraged the publications of journals of earlier plant explorers of the Northwest, such as Archibald Menzies and David Douglas. On one occasion, Piper even traveled to England to make a copy of Douglas’ journal, which was not then available in the United States. Piper also took a mixed position of matters of "splitting" and "lumping." While criticized as a "splitter" and "too anxious for new species," he expressed opinions which tended to encourage "lumping."

Poor health began to restrict Piper’s activities in his early 50s and he died at Washington, D. C. in 1926.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Those of Charles V. Piper’s papers which are located at Washington State University consist primarily of correspondence and notes relative to taxonomic studies of Northwest flora, and to the history of Northwest botany. Piper’s letterbooks contain considerable correspondence relative to the identification of plants sent to Washington State University by the public.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item Description]. Cage 317, Charles Vancouver Piper Papers . Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series 1: CorrespondenceReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 / 1
125 items.
1 / 2
150 items.
1 / 3
200 items.
1 / 4
225 items.
2 / 5
155 items.
2 / 6
200 items.
2 / 7
175 items.
2 / 8
130 items.
2 / 9
130 items.
3 / 10
100 items.
3 / 11
90 items.
3 / 12
185 items.
3 / 13
170 items.
3 / 14
120 items.
4 / 15
130 items.
4 / 16
85 items.
4 / 17
95 items.
4 / 18
65 items.
4 / 19
60 items.
4 / 20
15 items.
4 / 21
10 items.
4 / 22
380 (1 volume.)
Feb. 1902-Aug. 1902
4 / 23
370 (1 volume.)
Sept. 1902-June 1903

Series 2: Notes and Working PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
5 / 24
20 items.
5 / 25
20 items.
5 / 26
45 items.
5 / 27
40 items.
5 / 28
20 items.
5 / 29
5 items.
5 / 30
10 items.
5 / 31
10 items.
5 / 32
25 items.
5 / 33
40 items.
5 / 34
50 items.
5 / 35
10 items.
5 / 36
20 items.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Personal Names :
  • Piper, Charles V. (Charles Vancouver), 1867-1926 --Archives (creator)
  • Beattie, R. Kent (Rolla Kent), b. 1875
  • Coville, Frederick V. (Frederick Vernon), 1867-1937
  • Golder, Frank Alfred, 1877-1929
  • Meany, Edmond S. (Edmond Stephen), 1862-1935
  • Robinson, Benjamin Lincoln, 1864-1935
  • Suksdorf, Wilhelm, 1850-1932
  • Occupations :
  • Botanists--United States--Correspondence