1921 Expedition to Glacier National Park


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1921 Expedition to Glacier National Park

Susan Delano McKelvey and John George Jack, along with McKelvey’s teenage son, botanized and collected germplasm and herbarium vouchers in Montana’s Glacier National Park from August 21 to September 24, 1921. The group traveled by train from New York City, through Cleveland, St. Paul, and westward through the Dakotas, arriving in Glacier National Park after three days. McKelvey kept detailed notes of the flora she observed from the train car windows along the route.

Glacier National Park was largely unexplored from a botanical perspective and proved to be a diverse region. McKelvey and Jack were able to make seed or live plant collections from 95 woody and 244 herbaceous taxa, with the vast majority of collections also represented by herbarium vouchers. Fifteen of McKelvey’s Montana collections were accessioned and planted out in the Arboretum’s Rockery along the north side of Valley Road; unfortunately, none of her collections remain alive in the landscape today. McKelvey’s journal and collection list mention 22 distinct collection locations, all within the state of Montana and most within the boundaries of the National Park. She often associated her collecting locations with the nearest named lake, including Lake McDonald, Swiftcurrent Lake, and Iceberg Lake. McKelvey’s detailed trip journal was accompanied by photographs taken by an assistant who is only referred to as ‘Mr. Dall’ (see Arnoldia 47:4). The trip to Glacier National Park served as McKelvey’s introduction to botanical exploration. The skills she acquired from working with J.G. Jack so early in her career would serve McKelvey well in her future as a prolific plant explorer, author, and authority on the flora of the desert Southwest.

In 2005 the Arboretum acquired the complete Susan Delano McKelvey archives (see “Additional resources”).

Additional Resources

Scholfield, Edmund A. “A Life Redeemed: Susan Delano McKelvey and the Arnold Arboretum” Arnoldia 47:4 1987 [pdf].

Susan Delano McKelvey (1883-1964) papers, 1900-2005 [pdf].