Plants in the Archives?

Posted on: April 14, 2020

By Cheryl Miller, Head, Library Metadata and Discovery Services; Liza Posas, Head, Research Services and Archives; Christina Hummel-Colla, Library Collections Assistant

While a museum Library and Archives might seem like the last place to find native California plants and trees, there actually is a virtual garden in the stacks. First, there is the manuscript collection of Frank A. Schilling, a member of the Conservation Association of Los Angeles County, founded in 1924 after a summer of devastating mountain wildfires. Schilling gave a series of lectures at the Southwest Museum, and the advertising posters were painted by local artist Herbert Arden Edwards.

On the bookshelves, are dozens of books highlighting local flora, including one by Elizabeth Hallowell Saunders, an author, illustrator and photographer whose work is also held by the Huntington Library. Her husband, Charles Francis Saunders was equally fascinated by California flora, he tucked packets of seeds into special pockets into his book.

In the Photo Archives, there is a large collection of lantern slides (paintings or photographs on glass slides, projected by a magic lantern, the forerunner to the slide projector). Frederic Hamer Maude gave several magic lantern lectures, and his manuscript collection includes handwritten notes, with the appropriate lantern slide listed in the margin.  One of his images even capture the official native plant of the Los Angeles city (designated in 2012)-- the Toyon shrub.

From the Art on Paper section of the Archives, the watercolors of Eva Scott Fenyes offer a somewhat romantic view of native plants and trees of California.

And just in case you were wondering where all the palm trees are, only one palm, the California Fan Palm, is native to the region. All others, including the iconic tall Kentia Palm, are imports.

Image Captions

Hand painted poster by Herbert Arden Edwards, advertising a Southwest Museum lecture by Frank A. Schilling, “Folklore and Legends of Southern California Wild Flowers,” 1938. Autry Museum; 14.C.1100

Hand painted poster by Herbert Arden Edwards, advertising a Southwest Museum lecture by Frank A. Schilling, “Folklore of the Native Trees of California,” 1933. Autry Museum; 14.C.1095

Photograph by Frank A. Schilling, “Flowers of the Fouquieria Splendens,” Southern California, early 1900s. Autry Museum; LS.4415.

Book written and illustrated by Elizabeth Hallowell Saunders, California Wild Flowers: 12 Reproductions in Natural Colors From Water Color Drawings. Published in 1905. Autry Museum; 3145 James Braun.

Book written by Charles Francis Saunders, The Wild Gardens of Old California: A Presentation of Padre Juan Crespi and How He Went on a Journey; of David Douglas, the Scot, and How He Introduced the Wild Flowers of Old California into England; and Seeds of Hope for the Dim and Distant Future. Published in Los Angeles in 1936. This book featured a hollowed out rear portion of book containing five unopened seed packets. Autry Museum; 13451 BRAUN

Book written by Emory Evans Smith, The Golden Poppy, published in Palo Alto, California in 1902. Autry Museum; 891 Lummis BRAUN

Lantern slide by Frederic Hamer Maude of “A Ceanothus, aka California Lilac,” in Carmel, California, early 1900s. Autry Museum; LS.13451

Lantern slide by Frederic Hamer Maude of “A Toyon in Southern California,” early 1900s. Autry Museum; LS.12442

Lantern slide by Frederic Hamer Maude of “The ‘Witch Tree’ along the coast of Monterey, California,” early 1900s. Autry Museum; LS.13127

Lantern slide by Frederic Hamer Maude of a “Grove of redwoods in Northern California,” early 1900s. Autry Museum; LS.13856.

Lantern slide by Frederic Hamer Maude of “Wildflowers in the Mojave Desert, California,” April 1938. Autry Museum; LS.12812

Watercolor by Eva Scott Fenyes, “The Courtyard Garden at Rancho Camolus,” California, September 18, 1908. Autry Museum; FEN.219

Photograph by C.E. Lawson, a “Flowering Joshua tree in the Mojave Desert, California, early to mid-1900s. Autry Museum; P.15207

Photograph by Frederic Hamer Maude, “A Fan Palm, Pampas Grass and an Orange Tree,” in Los Angeles, California, early 1900s. Autry Museum; P.15000

Photograph of a car decorated with plants, California, circa 1900. Image looks to be decorated with Yucca whipplei (Our Lord’s Candle) and a version of Opuntia (Prickly Pear). Autry Museum; P.13315

Photograph of Harry Vroman next to wildflowers, Los Angeles County, California, Harry Vroman, 1911-1914. Autry Museum; A.184.168