Pringle sitting next to his wagon in the desert, surrounded by plant-collecting equipment

Pringle took this self-portrait by pulling a string tied to the camera.

Life and Work of Cyrus Guernsey Pringle

Helen Burns Davis

Davis wrote this biography of Pringle to accompany transcripts of his field journals and her compilation of his botanical data from Mexico, published in one volume in 1936. It remains the most complete account of his life available.

Cyrus Guernsey Pringle was born on May 6, 1838, in East Charlotte, Vermont. His ancestry on his father's side was Scotch Presbyterian; his maternal grandfather, Asa Harris, was of Puritan stock.

He was well schooled at Hinesburg and Bakersfield, Vermont, and later at Stanbridge, Quebec. He entered the University of Vermont in the year 1859, enrolling in the classical course. He liked writing and the possibility of doing articles for publication was uppermost in his mind. He "began reading old volumes of The Spectator as supplementing the style and vocabulary of the Bible." The results of these studies are reflected in his later work. Every letter or article for publication was written in an ever-pleasing style and his conversation never lacked color. However, the death of his older brother during the first semester, made it necessary for him to aid his widowed mother in the management of the farm and to give up all ideas of college.

In the early part of his life he was interested in the religious doctrine of the Friends, and it was through these meetings that he met, and later married, on February 25, 1863, Almira L. Greene of Starksboro, Vermont, a school teacher and a talented speaker of the Friends.

His first horticultural undertakings were made at midsummer on his mother's farm in 1857, at the age of nineteen, when he budded a small seedling apple tree, with a large, striped, sweet summer apple.

Perhaps no better way can be found to express Doctor Pringle's inclination toward plant culture and plant breeding than to quote the preface to a record he kept of results in this line.

"Prompted by the same taste which led my grandfather to plant a nursery of fruit-trees amid the early wilds of Vermont, and, thus, to be largely instrumental in substituting in place of the indigenous beech and maple of these green hill-sides, the apple and pear-tree which showered so abundantly upon the virgin soil at harvest-time their loads of red and yellow fruit; and by the same spirit that made my father, in later years, going over some of these orchards, change by his skill the smaller and harsher kinds of fruit for the more perfect and beautiful sorts, now, in these days of a less plentiful supply and greatly increased difficulties of fruit-culture, our admiration and joy—

"And believing Horticulture to be one of the most innocent and ennobling avocations of man; recognizing it as a task assigned him by Infinite Wisdom and Goodness in the peace and delight of Eden, as almost his only legacy from Eden, and as one of the means to aid him in his Paradise Regained, his attainment of a better country than Eden in that it offers the purest employment for his hands while his heart is employed under the Grace of God—

"I have sought to surround myself with fruits and to find in Horticulture employment for my hands, recreation for my impaired body and relaxation and diversion for my mind. Alas! Should I ever pawn for it any more sacred interests, or even allow it to absorb any undue measure of attention. June 20th, 1867."[1]

In 1858 he started his first nursery. It was very small and its chief value was in the way of experience. It contained a pear orchard, fruit yards, gardens of currants, cherries, grapes, peaches and potatoes. He made a definite plan for each orchard or garden, giving name and location of each plant, an indication of the care and accuracy with which he worked. This plan is now on file in the Pringle Herbarium.

By crossing he obtained a new variety of potato seedling "No. 6 (1870)," which was called "Snowflake." This potato was introduced to the public by the Messrs. Bliss of New York, who had entire control of the stock until July 1st, 1876, in return for which they agreed to advertise it liberally, pay freight, and to return 55 per cent of their sales. Mr. Robert Fenn, an Englishman much interested in crossing American and English varieties of potatoes, recognized Mr. Pringle as a man of great ability in this line, and worked with him to obtain varieties "which will combine high quality and fine appearance with satisfactory vigor and productiveness."[2] Their major work was on the crossing of "Snowflake" with "Rector of Woodstock" and vice versa.

Another cross-bred potato of 1870, "Ruby," was sent to England by Mr. Bliss where it gained a first-class certificate of the London Horticultural Society, and, with "Snowflake" was awarded a Silver Medal by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Mr. Bliss gave it a name and put it on the market at three dollars a pound. B. K. Bliss & Sons held Doctor Pringle's work in great esteem, especially his three potato varieties, "Snowflake," "Alpha," and "Ruby"—the last two, however, were not long-lived. Among other seedlings sold by him to this concern were those of wheat, lilies, and gladioli. His Hubbard squash seed brought a dollar a pound for a few years.

During the Civil War, about five months after his marriage, he, along with two other Vermont Quakers, was drafted into the Union Army on July 13th. They all shared the Quakers' disapproval of war, and when Doctor Pringle's uncle offered to pay the $300 necessary for his release, he would not allow this to be done, regarding that solution as a selfish compromise with principle. Refusing to perform all military duty, he was subjected to severe discipline. The Friends were kept for days in the guardhouse in company with thieves, gamblers, and men crazed with drink. Finally, on October 3, 1863, at Culpepper, Doctor Pringle was staked to the ground, with his arms outstretched and his legs cruelly racked; he was left in this position for hours, until "so weak he could hardly walk or perform any exertion";[3] he was even threatened with death if he would not give up, but his only reply was, "It can but give me pain to be asked or required to do anything I believe to be wrong." [4] After a day of extreme pain he wrote in his diary, "This has been the happiest day of my life—to be privileged to fight the battle for universal peace."

When Secretary of War Stanton heard of this treatment, he ordered "the three incorrigibles" sent to Washington. Isaac Newton, Commissioner of Agriculture, went to President Lincoln about their case, and the President asked the Secretary to release them. The Secretary refused, claiming that his oath of office stood in the way of giving them a discharge. In the meantime Doctor Pringle's physical strength began to give way, and he spent most of his three weeks in Washington in bed. It was only after President Lincoln had gone personally to Stanton that the parole was granted. That night, November 6th, they were started on their way home. The journal in which this was narrated by Doctor Pringle concluded with the following lines:

"Rising from my sick-bed to undertake this journey, which lasted through the night, its fatigues overcame me; and upon my arrival in New York I was seized with delirium, from which I recovered only after many weeks, through the mercy and favor of Him who in all the trial had been our guide and strength and comfort."[5]

After recovering his health he again turned his energies to plant breeding. He attempted to secure new varieties of grapes, currants, plums, tomatoes, and corn. The summer of 1868 was spent in hybridizing grapes, with the result that some of the berries, set and ripened with the rest, were only one-half the usual diameter, and invariably contained only abortive seeds. This was caused by defect in either "the quantity or quality of the pollen." In May of the following year he crossed currants—Versailles, White Grape, and Magnum Bonum—on Fertile de Pallman; White Grape and Fertile de Pallman on Versailles and White Grape; Versailles, Fertile de Pallman, and Victoria, on White Grape. He also tried cross-fertilization of gooseberries.

In plums he fertilized the Lombard variety with the following species: Green Gage, General Ham. Jefferson, Reine Claude de Ravey, River's Early Favorite, Washington, Schyler's Gage, Fellembergh, Royal Native.

Among other things not before mentioned, he crossed tomatoes, wheat and oats.

After much experimenting on crossing of fruits, he was led to believe that success in crossing fruits was not certain unless the anthers were removed from the flower at least two days before they would naturally burst.

Though some of his experiments had no lasting benefits, the American farmer and horticulturist are still profiting by his experiments.

At one time he had over one hundred species and varieties of Iris and nearly all the then known species of Lilium growing. He had also a hospital for bulbs, and people sent their sick specimens from great distance to healthy Vermont and his skillful practice.

On January 1,1869, we find recorded in Doctor Pringle's "Journal of Horticultural Practice" the following paragraph:

"My chief study for several months past has been the adaptation of our beautiful Valley of Lake Champlain to horticultural pursuits, and its capabilities as a fruit-growing region. I have sought to acquaint myself with the present condition of these interests here, and to learn what measure of success has already been attained here.

"In view of these facts it has seemed to me important that a chain of posts for making meteorological observations should be established throughout the valley. The knowledge thus gathered would doubtless afford something more than a local advantage; for, since we are in a high latitude, and duly enjoy a degree of the requisites of success that sometimes verges on insufficiency, we may perhaps add some facts to the stores of horticultural science in general; as, for instance, we might be able to determine very precisely just how much or how little heat and humidity are needed to ripen certain fruits."

He studied Spanish and French by himself. His French he needed in particular, to aid in the translating Professor Lecoq's "De la Fecondation," which he has imported as authority on this work.

He began, some time during the period previous to 1880, to collect throughout Vermont, in its deep, mossy woods, by the silent margin of some blue lake, or on the wild, lone rock of some mountain summit or vine-clad crag. He botanized alone, for the most part, but was sometimes accompanied by collectors from other states, coming to Vermont to gather what opportunity offered. Among these were Charles Faxon, Edwin Faxon, Thomas Morong and George E. Davenport.

In 1872 Mrs. Pringle separated from her husband. She wished to engage in "evangelistic work," and wanted her husband to join with her, going from place to place. He persistently refused, believing he had neither taste nor talent for this work. She, moreover, being in ill health, was persuaded that it would be easier to live with her own mother than with her husband's. Formal divorce was consummated on October 16, 1877, and by settlement Mrs. Pringle received $2,000 and custody of the only child, later Mrs. Annie Wright.

It was at this time that Doctor Pringle really turned to collecting and left off plant breeding almost entirely. To say that he would not have done this under other circumstances would be folly, for he believed that his love of plants was inborn, and that it was his happy fortune all his life to have had appointments to botanical work, which he accepted as in the way of destiny.[6] Opportunities for such work arose and led to wider and wider fields. He was "fitted by possession of leisure and strength and taste or absorbing passion,"[7] to follow out tasks set him. But plants, whether in breeding or collecting, occupied the rest of his life and were certainly his main interest and whatever he undertook was done with a will and determination not easily excelled.

On March 9, 1871, Doctor Pringle was elected corresponding secretary of the Champlain Valley Horticultural Society, at Burlington.

On October 31, 1872, he received his first letter from George E. Davenport, of Medford, who desired, among other ferns, Woodsia glabella. Doctor Pringle had hitherto done no collecting in this line, but he took his manual and went out into the woods and collected all known species of ferns in Vermont, with the exception of four. It was through Mr. Davenport and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, of which he became a member, that he became acquainted with, and gradually began collecting for, Doctors Gray and Tuckerman. Through Doctor Gray he became interested also in exchanges at home and abroad.

On December 13, 1874, he was appointed to the Vermont Board of Agriculture, which meant, in this state, an itinerant agricultural professorship.

Charles James Sprague, of the Boston Natural History Society, set Doctor Pringle to collecting lichens, and Doctor Peck desired him to obtain fungi.

During three successive years he took boat trips up the lower St. Lawrence, to the Saguenay, a river in Canada, and the St. Francis and St. John Rivers of northern Maine.

Doctor Pringle first attempted the exploration of Camel's Hump, a mountain in northern Vermont, in 1874-75. Woodsia glabella was known to be found at Willoughby Lake, but it was also found at Camel's Hump in 1876. His first visit to Mount Mansfield was made in 1876, and this proved to be so much richer a field that soon Camel's Hump was abandoned as a hunting ground.

At Willoughby Lake, farther north, in 1876, he collected, with Woodsia glabella, another form—which, having been sent to Doctor Gray and Prof. D. C. Eaton, was pronounced Woodsia hyperborea R Br.—another addition to the knowledge of the flora of the United States.

In January, 1875, he was re-appointed a member of the Vermont board of Agriculture, and prepared a paper on "Grasses of Vermont," illustrated with some sixty herbarium specimens.

It was in 1878 that he exhibited with great success many Vermont specimens at the Paris Exposition.

In 1880 Doctor Pringle made his first trip to the Pacific Slope. He was charged with three commissions: (1) as botanical collector for the American Museum of Natural History, to secure wood specimens to complete the famous Jesup collection; (2) to make general collections under the direction of Dr. Asa Gray; and (3) as an agent for the United States Census Department, to explore the forests of that region and to collect data for a final report.

This census work was done under the direction of the late Prof. Charles Sprague Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum. Professor Sargent was also instrumental in obtaining passes for Doctor Pringle throughout the United States.

He continued this general work for four years. The two latter years he went into Lower California and Sonora, respectively. On the Lower California trip, in company with Dr. C. C. Parry and Mr. Marcus E. Jones, he found a dwarf horse-chestnut which was named by Doctor Gray, Aesculus parryi.

In 1881 a proposed trip to Japan for a year of study was considered and abandoned.

As Doctor Gray's "Synoptical Flora of North America" seemed to contain almost nothing concerning the arid region of Arizona it was in this region that he kept Doctor Pringle collecting at first; but from the high hills and peaks of the southern border he could gaze down upon the vast unexplored regions to the south of him, and his desire to travel this "land of mystery and fear" [8] became overpowering. He was to ascertain especially the southern limit of distribution of species found in the United States and also what related species might be indigenous in the adjacent region of Mexico.

In 1884 he was chosen to take Prof. H. H. Rusby's position in a botanical survey of the north and northwestern portions of Arizona, under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution.

It was not until 1885, when he had spent five years in southwestern United States, collecting many valuable plants for Doctor Gray, and for sets, that it was deemed advisable for him to enter into a botanical conquest of Mexico. This was the beginning of twenty-six years of collecting, engaging almost the entire remainder of his life; these years saw the fulfillment of his long cherished desire to explore in more or less virgin territory, and travel unheralded through these states, accepting and rejecting as seemed best, the always more than polite Mexican hospitality.

He was able to make these sojourns in Mexico through an appointment as botanical collector for the Gray Herbarium with a maximum salary of $800 from the Herbarium, and $200 from the Harvard Botanical Museum, but this remuneration was necessarily made conditioned on the available resources of these establishments and had to be discontinued at the time of Doctor Watson's death in 1892. It was at this time that Doctor Pringle had thought of selling his herbarium to the American Museum of Natural History to obtain money for further exploration, but in October a loan of $1,026.11 at 6 per cent, by Mrs. Gray on unsecured notes, made it possible for him to keep his own specimens. The notes for this loan were burned by Mrs. Gray in his presence, before her death, since she felt that she could easily give this money for science, in memory of her husband.

In 1893, under Doctor Robinson, he was again made collector on the botanical staff of Harvard University, and although his salary was cut in 1896 to $300, and finally completely withdrawn, he stayed on in that capacity, in name only, for some time. Later, when the finances of the Herbarium rendered it possible, his stipend was restored, and he held the position until his death. Doctor Gray had also, earlier in his lifetime, aided him in securing subscriptions for his sets from European herbaria, and by advancing money for necessary expenditures.

When collecting in Mexico, although a man always inclined toward personal cleanliness and neatness, with clothes made of excellent quality, he was not an altogether imposing figure to those of the elite, in his old, wrinkled suit, with a soft hat crushed down heedlessly upon his head, but by botany lovers he was truly held in reverence for his exact scientific attainments, amounting almost to genius, and he was fully admired by the brown inhabitants of his chosen sun-soaked country for his natural courage in undertaking the exploration of dark caverns and almost inaccessible places in the hope of rare discovery, an expectation often rewarded.

The Mexican Herald referred to him as one of the most brilliant and scholarly men ever to grace Mexico with his presence. He was neither afraid nor too proud to work side by side with Mexican Indians or the humblest peon, and was equally happy in collecting whether in rain or shine.

At first he began to collect insects, especially beetles and butterflies, in addition to the flowering plants and ferns, but shortly abandoned the former pursuit.

On his earlier trips he hired mules and "burros" from the Mexicans. He brought his assistants to Mexico from Vermont and Maine— sturdy young farmhands, whom he would naturally believe capable of such an undertaking; but in that climate, they were subject to fever, and often had to be sent back to the States and east to Vermont, sometimes accompanied by Doctor Pringle himself. In later years he obtained assistants in Mexico—natives who were sufficiently intelligent and capable to aid in collecting and pressing. Dr. O. W. Barrett adds, "Usually, one Mexican helper would be left at the 'base' to guard the property and to 'change dryers,' while the American assistant and perhaps a peon or two would 'fare afield.' The 'base' might be a hacienda, a village inn, or a way station or water-tank on some railway. Changing the dryers two to four times a day, for 500 to 1,000 specimens, was a tedious, though not difficult task in the 'Mesa' regions during the 'dry season'; but in the 'Tierra Caliente' valuable plant material sometimes 'sweat' and blackened when hot dyers were insufficient. Nearly all the field work was done between nine and noon; rains were liable to come on suddenly in the afternoon, and hail, terrific lightning, and blinding dust storms were not rare from the R’o Grande to Oaxaca, during most of the year. To tramp an hour, often, over rough Indian trails carrying three to four quarts of water (in the largest canteen he could obtain), a plant press full of paper, and the lunch, was just a prelude to the three hours or more of active collecting over the chosen ground. Usually fifty to seventy specimens of each of the two to five species were taken each field day.

"Although frequently meeting potential petty robbers in the wilder regions, he seldom carried arms, still, on one occasion, when collecting certain orchids, he had to shoot the branches off the trees that could not be climbed.

"There are two important factors affecting the field work of collecting plants or insects in Mexico: first, Central Mexico is the consortium or common meeting ground of four or five florae and faunae—the Rocky Mountain and Plains regional biotae from the north, the Central American from the south, the Caribbean (or virtually the 'tierra caliente') from the east, and, often, a pronounced local quota—this, of course, tending to greatly augment the total number of species inhabiting this region (as compared with any area of similar size northward or southward); and, second, the major part of northern and central Mexico, aside from the mountains themselves, is characterized by rather dry rolling plains and rather humid narrow sunken valleys, called 'barrancas.' Thus, for example, the collector may confidently expect to find in any area of, say, twenty-five square miles two 'sets' of species, one from the dry 'mesa' and the other from the moist 'barrancas,' and in each 'set' he may note a sprinkling of species more or less closely representing two or three neighboring biotal zones. Central Mexico, therefore, compares very favorably, as a rich collecting field, even with India, Colombia, or Papua; and when all the species of the entire Republic (particularly including those of Chiapas, Tabasco, and Vera Cruz) are recorded, it may well be that no other country—not even Brazil or the Philippines—has a greater number of species of plants (or insects) than has Mexico.

"Doctor Pringle, unlike his rivals in the Mexican field, was wont to 'make a clean sweep'—taking specimens of all the species of trees, shrubs, and herbs in each region he 'worked,' not merely 'skimming' the area for likely 'cream' of new species. He easily could have gleaned a much greater percentage of new species in the same regions in half the time he did spend; but he conscientiously adhered to his principles, from his deep love and respect for his chosen work—hence the world today has what might be called true Pringle photographic records of Mexican florae instead of incomplete and personally biased sketches of scattered areas. By grouping the Pringle herbarium sheets from a given locality, we have an accurate panorama of the plant population thereof. Probably no other plant collector has ever followed this plan so well over such a vast territory."

One of his co-workers said of him: "I consider that Doctor Pringle, whether as plant breeder or collector showed in combination, the keenest powers of observation, the most abiding memory-picture of things seen and the best comparative judgment based on these, of any botanist I have known."

Doctor Pringle has also written of his hardships, as in a letter to Mr. Davenport he said: "My own troubles, during my first years here and the several failures of healthy young men coming here with me, may give you a hint—a slight hint—of the difficulty of living and traveling in this country and carrying on the work which I have undertaken. The long marches under a tropical sun (one burdened with his necessary outfit of food water, etc. and with his increasing collections), the laborious climbing and clambering over terrific, often perilous mountains, the patient undefatigable gleaning after rare plants growing scattered, the obstacles interposed by the storms, peculiar to these regions, sometimes by wild beasts and rarely by the inhabitants of the country—all these difficulties are forgotten, when the collector gets home at the end of the year with his stores of booty, but they rise in his way as he enters his field again."

It is interesting to note, in reading his correspondence the deserved praise given Doctor Pringle on his fine specimens, beautifully mounted. They were a pleasure to observe and work over, and any aspirant was assured beforehand of receiving some specimens well worthy of an exchange. His plants were dried in strap-rack presses, holding 5 to 200 specimens (depending on their bulkiness). Felting paper was used as the absorbent between the specimen double-sheets. From one to three or more days. according to texture, was the time required to make bright, crisp specimens. Succulent plants were first scalded to "kill" the cells so that the sap would evaporate rapidly. Usually the unmounted material was brought in trunks and boxes to his Charlotte farmhouse where they were rapidly mounted, sorted, and sent on for determination. Orders and exchanges soon followed. He shipped his plants in boxes to Doctor Rose at the Smithsonian, who determined the Polypetalae, and to the Gray Herbarium, where Doctors Watson and Robinson, and later Mr. Greenman determined the remaining material, with the exception of the Pteridophytes, which usually were sent to Mr. Davenport.

Those who worked or traveled with Mr. Pringle in the fields or on the high Mexican plains, have only the pleasantest recollections of him as a kindly and sympathetic employer or a good-natured companion. As he collected in out-of-the-way places, he always carried with him his own medicine chest for the treatment of malarial fever, and was endlessly sympathetic and careful if any of his assistants fell ill. He always spoke of his helpers as assistants. Nothing was considered too good for his subordinates, and they were continually given the utmost consideration.

Epicurean pleasures had no appeal for him, and his good, healthy appetite never needed the stimulus of tea, coffee, or alcoholic beverages. Bread, eggs, and cheese were the pièces-de-resistance of the field lunch, day after day.

In four consecutive years fifty-six thousand miles were traveled, an average of a little over forty-nine miles a day. This includes, naturally the trips to and from Charlotte. He would choose different routes to Mexico in order to cover as much as possible of the country on these journeys. On one trip he went by water and landed at Tampico but he usually entered Mexico at El Paso. Occasionally, however, he used Eagle Pass as an entrance.

H. N. Patterson of Oquawka, Illinois, printed the labels and species lists for publication up until 1891. Mr. Davenport developed and printed the pictures which were taken during the first years in the West. We do not know what has become of these pictures, other than that some were sent out to different people in return for favors they had done Doctor Pringle, while some were used in published articles. The Mexicans, especially, were more than willing to accept photographs of the family groups, or their homes, which he would take as he went through the country.

Doctor Goodale persuaded him to write a description of Mexico for Garden and Forest in the hope of influencing railroad officials to grant him a pass. These articles were so beautifully written that we have rendered them verbatim in another part of this publication.

After his eleventh trip he had botanized more or less thoroughly in twenty-one out of the twenty-seven states of the Mexican Union, having covered particularly Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Jalisco, Michoacán and Oaxaca.

About 1888 the Mexican Medical Institute engaged him for work in northern Mexico, in connection with his regular profession. He was also a correspondent with some fifty or sixty important museums. His plants went, outside of North America, to the British Museum, Kew Gardens, Edinburgh; to German, Swiss, South African and Austrian museums and universities; and to distant Melbourne, Calcutta, and museums in South America.

Parke, Davis and Co., of Detroit, sent a botanist to South America in 1890 to attempt to locate the Bocconia plant, from which a drug similar to opium might be obtained. Doctor Pringle found this in Mexico, in "the vicinity of Lake Chapala, and eastward towards Cuernavaca, in mountain ranges and "pedrigals" of lava where it grows to considerable size "with plenty of bark." He also found at this time a form of prickly ash, whose fruit carried a volatile oil with strong camphor-like properties, which he sent to Parke, Davis and Co.

During thirty-five years of field work in the United States, Canada and Mexico, he distributed to various herbaria over 500,000 specimens, embracing some 20,000 species, about 12 per cent of which were new to science, though the value of these discoveries was not then fully realized. His work was superior in quality, as well as quantity, producing carefully and judiciously selected specimens, always neatly prepared. In his favorite collecting areas, such as the "barrancas" and deep valleys of Michoacán, he confidently expected that 20 per cent of his "number" would prove to be "n.sp."

His marvelous memory for plant names and their visual specific characters was the key factor to his very low amount of "number duplication"; he remembered the "where and when" of practically every one of his many thousands of species, and gave a new number to a plant only to register a variation or a new habitat. "He liked to boast—his only jest of this sort—that he could call over 10,000 plant acquaintances, and a few botanical friends, by their proper names—though he was not certain as to who the president in Washington might happen to be."[9]

He probably discovered more new species of plants (with possibly one exception) than any other collector anywhere. He collected approximately 1,200 new species, 100 new varieties, twenty-nine new genera, and four new combinations.

The collection of such vast numbers of new species and the well-known thoroughness of his methods, together gave him the title of "facile princeps" among botanical collectors by Doctor Gray, which title meant very much to Doctor Pringle, even more perhaps than his honorary degrees of M.A. from Middlebury College and Sc.D. from the University of Vermont.

In April, 1896, he was elected a member of the New England Botanical Club, within the first year of its existence and when in Boston from time to time enjoyed attending the meetings. He became, also, vice-president and charter member of the Vermont Botanical Club.

In 1890, the Chihuahuan government sent a collection of about one thousand specimens to the Exposition in Paris, where it attracted much attention. The director of the Mexican Medical Institute, who was in Paris at the time, had the exhibit removed to Mexico City, and the efforts of the officials of Chihuahua to retrieve it were in vain.

He himself collected all but thirty-six of 165 species of North American ferns; in this group he collected specimens of sixteen new species which he sent home from various parts of the continent.

In 1902, through the efforts of Dr. L. R. Jones, then professor of botany, Doctor Pringle's herbarium was removed to Williams Science Hall at the University of Vermont, where the entire top floor was given over to him, and arrangements were made whereby it became the property of this University, under his charge and control during the remainder of his life. Ten thousand dollars was subscribed for the Pringle Herbarium by cash gifts or promissory pledges. He received $600 a year salary from the University, in quarterly payments, beginning July 1, 1902, and continuing until his death, and the sum of $150 was given yearly for maintenance of the herbarium, which was to consist of forty thousand or more sheets. The total number at his death was said to be about 155,000 specimens—probably the largest private herbarium ever assembled. However, as the store room has been gone over in recent | years, some 2,200 plants have been found there, about 900 of which were not, as far as could be determined, in any of the three herbaria with which we have been dealing, namely, Pringle, Gray and National. Every effort has been made to have such specimens placed in these herbaria, so that their representation of Doctor Pringle's work may be as complete as possible.

His promise to look after his mother and younger brother was held by him as something in the way of a simple duty. It was never questioned by him no matter how great a sacrifice might be involved. Even to the sacrifice in later years of his old homestead for
his brother's sake, which never caused him to waver in the least from that accepted duty.

He was a man with the strength of his convictions as shown by his ability to stick to anything which he might start with a determination one would suppose beyond him. He was a very shy man, which was often shown in his actions and in his dress.

In 1894 Doctor Pringle's mother died, and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Estey lived with him, keeping house while he was away on the Mexican trips.

Although he had lost his strength and youth, his spirit was undaunted, and during the last year of his life he was planning a trip to South America. He died on May 25, 1911, having nothing of his own but his quarters in Science Hall and his plants. These had been his interest and diversion the latter half of his life. During his last delirious hours he was talking of Mexico and of his happiness there.

He was always very well thought of in Mexico. To illustrate, one time when he and his assistant (Frank Estey at that time) met a train at one of the filling stations, and boarded it, as they were wont to do any time, they were about to be put off despite Doctor Pringle's pleadings, when it was learned that he and his assistant carried passes from President Diaz. When his identity was thus made known, this coach full of notables, on a special train, was more than cordial to both of them.

He had passes on the Mexican Central R. R. and, while collecting wood for the Museo Nacional of Mexico City, on nearly all other railways in Mexico. On the other hand, he often paid over $400 for each of several trips to and from El Paso, including the shipment of the plants.

It might be well at this time to mention some of Doctor Pringle's acquaintances and associates in Mexico. The Rev. Lucius C. Smith, who lived in Oaxaca, always made Doctor Pringle's stay there more than pleasant and Doctor Pringle stimulated the work of the Reverend, and Mr. Conzatti, an Italian, with whom he became quite well acquainted in the botanical field, was a trusted friend.

Although his work was not extensive in Guanajuato, he came in contact there with a French consular agent named Prof. Alfredo Duges, who was of great help to him. Worthy of mention for their services to him were also Doctor Alcocer, prominent in the direction of one of the large Mexican institutions, Doctor Urbina of the Museo Nacional, and Doctor Ramires, head of the Medical Institute, who sent him health reports from which he was able to determine fever-infested localities, and thereby avoided sickness and much unpleasantness.

He generally, and preferably, botanized only with his assistant, or alone, but sometimes he would accompany other botanists from the United States, among whom were Dr. Edward Palmer, Mr. E. W. Nelson, and Major E. A. Goldman, working under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institute.

At a meeting of the Botanical Club in the later years of his life, Doctor Pringle closed a report he made with the following words: "But year by year I have learned with joy and pride of the achievements since made in this field of my youthful love by you, my associates, who began better prepared than I did (for I was only the first available man). Yet share the secret of success of an old collector, quit the broad plains of dull sameness, seek out every possible situation of exceptional character, and look to find amidst peculiar conditions rare and localized plants."


Note from the Author:

For many years there has been a demand for more definite information concerning the life and work of Cyrus Guernsey Pringle. We are attempting to show as accurately as possible his early leaning toward plant work, beginning with plant breeding, and continuing with collecting in Vermont, western United States, and finally Mexico, where he did his most extensive and valuable collecting.

Every effort has been made to give these data accurately, and it is hoped this information about the Mexican plants, and the ecological data that we have included concerning their habitats, will be of use to botanists interested in the flora of Central America and Mexico. These data were gleaned from Doctor Pringle's diaries, from his correspondence, from talks with relatives, personal friends, and men who accompanied him to Mexico, from articles written by him in Garden and Forest, and from a pamphlet "In Memoriam" written by the late Dr. Ezra Brainerd in Rhodora.

In this manuscript we include distribution lists, classified and numerical, of Mexican plants of three herbaria, National, Gray, and Pringle. It was considered advisable wherever possible to use the newer classification. The new nomenclature is used only in the Graminaceae, which Prof. A. S. Hitchcock of the National Herbarium very kindly checked.

Dr. O. W. Barrett, who was at one time collector with Doctor Pringle in Mexico and often in Vermont, checked the distribution lists as to spelling, and wrote some of this account of the life of this great collector, including valuable information on the technique of traveling, collecting and drying of specimens. Major E. A. Goldman, now of Washington, D. C., for many years a collector in Mexico, with Mr. E. W. Nelson, very kindly checked the diaries for the spelling of the Mexican towns.

I would like to acknowledge the kind assistance of the late Dr. B. L. Robinson of the Gray Herbarium and Dr. L. R. Jones of the University of Wisconsin, in checking the data concerning Doctor Pringle's life; the former for his facts concerning Doctor Pringle's connections with Harvard University. I wish to thank, also, Dr. William R. Maxon of the National Herbarium and Mr. C. A. Weatherby and other officers of the Gray Herbarium for allowing me the use of these herbaria to go through the Pringle material, and Prof. George P. Burns, of the University of Vermont, for giving me the opportunity to do this work, and for his untiring advice and counsel.

Citation: Davis, Helen Burns, 1936. Life and Work of Cyrus Guernsey Pringle, Free Press Printing Co., Burlington, Vermont. USA.
This work also contains a complete transcript of all the known field notebooks of Pringle, from 1881 onward.

  [1] Letter to Doctor Pringle from Mr. Robert Fenn, January 27, 1876.
  [2] Unpublished, "Record of Horticulture," June 20, 1867.
  [3] "In memoriam," in Rhodora, vol. 13 (1911), p. 225.
  [4] Atlantic Monthly, February, 1913.
  [5] Unpublished Journal.
  [6] Torrey Bulletin, 1909.
  [7] Ibid.
  [8] In memoriam, Doctor Brainard, p. 226.
  [9] Doctor Barrett.


Pringle's publications were chiefly found in The Country Gentleman:

Apr. 15, 1869. A Simple Cutter for Farms.
Apr. 15, 1869. Lice on Fowls—Caution.
June 24, 1869. Weather, Crops and Times.
Jan. 6, 1870. Potato Culture—A Word of Caution.
Jan. 13, 1870. Hybridization.
Jan. 20, 1870. The Weather, Crops and Prices.
Jan. 27, 1870. On Crossing Corn.
Feb. 17, 1870. The Weather, Crops and Prices.
Mar. 3, 1870. Fertilization of the Flowers of Wheat.
Mar. 17, 1870. Weather, Crops and Prices.
Mar. 24, 1870. Graft Hybrids.
Apr. 14, 1870. Weather, Crops and Prices.
May 12, 1870. Weather, Crops and Prices.
June 2, 1870. Experiment with Potatoes.
June 16, 1870. Weather, Crops and Prices.
July 28, 1870. Weather, Crops and Prices.
Aug. 11, 1870. Crops and Market Report.
Sept. 8, 1870. Weather, Crops and Prices.
Oct. 20, 1870. Castor Oil Beans.
Oct. 20, 1870. Record of the Times.
Nov. 10, 1870. Weather, Crops and Prices.
Dec. 15, 1870. Weather, Crops and Prices.
Feb. 9, 1871. Snow a Protection Against Cold.
Mar. 2, 1871. Report on a Few Trial Crops.
Mar. 23, 1871. Champlain Valley.
May 4, 1871. The New vs. the Old
June 9, 1871. "The Breeding of Plants by Means of Hybridization, Selection, etc."
Aug. 17, 1871. Arnold's Cross-Bred Wheat.
Jan. 18, 1872. Cherries in Vermont.
Feb. 1, 1872. Mr. Haskell's Hybrid Grapes.
Feb. 8, 1872. "The Methods and Aims of Fruit-Growing in the Champlain Valley."
July 11, 1872. Saving Lily Seeds.
Oct. 17, 1872. Facts in Hybridization.
Jan. 1, 1874. Hybrid and Cross-Bred Apples.
Jan. 8, 1874. Hybrid Grapes Again.
Jan. 27, 1874. How Do Potatoes Sport?
Dec. 25, 1879. Potatoes in Vennollt.
Dec. 18, 1880. Origin of the Snowflake Potato.
1884. Pringle's Reports on Forests of Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in Dr. C. S. Sargent's "Report on the Forests of North America," Census Office, 1884. Also Sargent's list of Pringle's trees collected for the "Jesup Collection" in the above states and Arizona.