Frank Meyer with Castanea mollissima, China 1913

April 13, 2017

Frank Meyer with Castanea mollissima, China 1913

Frank Meyer with Castanea mollissima, China 1913

Tree trunk and bark with Frank Meyer

Castanea mollissima. The body of a large Chinese chestnut tree, showing how high up the branches have been scraped clean. Near San tun ying, Chili Prov., China. June 1, 1913. [Information from label on verso of photo mount.] 9.5 x 12.5 cm. Gelatin silver process.

Castanea mollissima China

[Title from recto of mount.] Photograph by Frank Nicholas Meyer (1875-1918, Dutch, American)
Santunying, Hebei Sheng, China
June 01, 1913

A larger version of this image is available in HOLLIS, the online catalog of Harvard Library.

Frank Nicholas Meyer was born in Amsterdam, began his career at the Amsterdam Botanical Garden where he worked his way up to the position of head gardener. After moving to The United States in 1901, he worked United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the tutelage of David Fairchild of the USDA Bureau of Plant Industry.

In 1904, Fairchild hired Meyer to make a collecting trip to China. When Meyer sailed for China in 1905, he began a 13-year odyssey that led to the introduction of more than 2,000 species of plants. In an arrangement between Charles S. Sargent and Fairchild, Meyer sent the Arnold Arboretum trees and shrubs of ornamental value along with his photographs of plants and landscapes.

In late 1912, chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica, formerly Endothia parasitica) began to decimate the American chestnut tree population on a massive scale. Theories circulated that the disease might have originated from Asian timber imports. In 1913, Fairchild sent Meyer to China where he would observe and document Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) which might have been infected with the disease. Meyer reported a number of trees exhibiting evidence of infection, but that they had mostly resisted the blight. We have copies in the Archives of the photographs Meyer took in China for the USDA at the time, as well as further field observations in 1914 and in 1915 in Japan.

For American views of the blight, our Archival holdings also include the Pennsylvania Chestnut Tree Blight Commission Photographs collection, 1913 [pdf].

Copyright © 2004, President and Fellows of Harvard College, Arnold Arboretum Archives; all rights reserved.

Contact the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain for permissions and fees.

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