William Almeron Terry Collection
Auliscus caelatus J. W. Bailey
Savin Rock, near New Haven Harbor, Connecticut. Terry vial no. 175.
Provenance & Brief
For two decades commencing in 1887, when he was 58 years old, William Terry began publishing papers on diatoms he had collected from a variety of habitats in Connecticut. He published 25 papers on diatoms covering means of collecting them, their motility, their artificial culture and their spatial and temporal distributions. He focussed his work on the freshwater ponds in the vicinity of Bristol, Connecticut, along the Connecticut marine shore from Milford on the west to New Haven Harbor to Branford on the east, and in the freshwater-brackish-marine deposits composing the Quinnipiac marshes north of New Haven. Much of this marine coastal work surveyed diatom distributions in the surficial sediments and down into the peat deposits of salt marshes. Terry sent diatoms samples from many of these localities to major European workers, where they became sources of descriptions of new taxa and contributions to elucidating large-scale geographical distributions. His samples are notable in J. A. Tempère & H. Peragallo's Diatomées du Monde Entier (1888-1995 & 1907-1915), in P.T. Cleve's Synopsis of the Naviculoid Diatoms (1894-1896), in A. Schmidt's Atlas der Diatomaceenkunde (1874-1959), and in J. Brun's articles on new and poorly known diatoms in Le Diatomiste (1890-1896). He exchanged materials extensively with David Boyd Ward, C. L. Peticolas, K. M. Cunningham, William Phipps Blake, John Casper Branner, Arthur Meade Edwards, T. Chalkey Palmer, Lewis Woolman, Robert Hagelstein, W. H. Pratt, Rueben Nevius and other American collectors and experts on diatoms between 1890 and 1910.
Upon his death in 1917 William Terry left no instructions as to the disposition of his sizeable diatom collection. As a consequence, his family offered it for sale, and George A. Fisher of Reading, Massachusetts sought to purchase it. In February of 1918 Terry's son, W. B. Terry, had roughly inventoried the collection and found it to consist of "4 to 5 thousand mounted slides and somewhat over 2000 bottles of cleaned materials ... [with] some of it in small vials containing small quantities of diatoms, but most of the bottles contain[ing] large quantities of material ... [however it] is not arranged in any kind of order and there are great many duplicates among the slides" . In early May of 1918 Fisher travelled to Bristol, Connecticut, to assess the collection and puchased at that time, at least, the slide portion of the collection for $100, with the understanding that the family would retain 50 slides that would be chosen by Fisher -- preferably some of those of J. A. Tempère, D. B. Ward, W. H. Pratt and T. C. Palmer and of samples from the vicinity of Bristol and the Connecticut shore [2-5]. The slides reached Fisher in good condition by mid-May, 1918  and had been enumerated by Terry's son as consisting of 7,762 slides . By late September, 1918 Fisher had also agreed to purchase Terry's bottled samples, and for $50 he received the first shipment of 1,348 bottles of diatoms . Within about two weeks the remainder of the vials, 840 of them, had been shipped to Fisher . Fisher thus had acquired 2,188 sample vials from Terry. Terry's son noted with this apparently final shipment that "This is all the cleaned material", but that there was still much material, which was uncleaned, which he was willing to send . I have found no further references to this uncleaned material.
Between 1918 and the early 1930's Terry's collection was thus in the possession of George Fisher, who made slides from the cleaned material and had some it re-cleaned by H. C. Wheeler of Montreal, Canada . One of Fisher's friends sharing an interest in microscopy and diatoms was Clarence A. Cheever, a physician from Milton, Massachusetts. Early correspondence from Cheever to Fisher indicates Cheever visited him to discuss their mutual interests, purchased a Zeiss objective from him, was interested in purchasing Fisher's 400-species Typen-Platten by J. D. Möller, and discussed the cell wall structure of diatoms as differentially revealed in broken versus unbroken cell walls [9-11]. In a letter of 7 January 1931 Cheever indicates that "I have not yet been out to the Farlow since I saw you - when I do go I shall tell them about your collection and desire to sell it ...". Whether the Farlow was informed of the availability of the collection at this time is unknown, but no transfer was made around this time. Instead, Cheever himself purchased all of Fisher's collection, including Terry's, somewhere around 1933-1934 . In 1939 Terry's collection was still in Cheever's possession as recorded in a letter by Cheever to Terry's son inquiring about any remaining materials the family might still possess .
Clarence Cheever, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, during the course of his career at Harvard had taken a course with William G. Farlow and fondly recalled getting his first microscope in 1879 and seeing a Pleurosigma angulatum . Following acquisition of Fisher's collection Cheever built an extensive card index to the diatom collections he had accumulated. In 1941 Cheever donated a very large portion of his collections, including the Terry materials, to the Farlow. An additional portion was received from Cheever's family in 1953 after his death.
Once the Terry materials were received by the Farlow, the primary interaction with them was by James Riley Bartholomew, a staff associate at the Farlow. Bartholomew had worked as a manager of municipal bonds for Hallgarten & Company in New York and operated a laboratory in Brooklyn which contracted work from the mining industry . Beginning in late1936 and through March of 1937 Bartholomew sought to donate samples of diatoms and "other interesting materials" derived from his business in exchange for an "empty title", i.e., an appointment at Harvard . Much of the next several months of his correspodence with then curator David H. Linder focussed on securing this appointment. His educational background was in "chemistry, mathematics, optics" , and he noted that "I have no profound knowledge of the forms I expect to donate" . An appointment was made to the Farlow sometime in 1937. By 1941 Bartholomew was remarking on his working on the vials in the Terry collection . He notes that he re-conditioned 250 vials and rebottled them "... and the bottles [were] marked with glass ink T1 to T250 and a temporary card index A to Z created" . He also noted about 500 more bottles of Terry materials needed to be processed . His effects on the Terry collection are so far as I have observed them were less-than-positive, as judged by his correspondence, the condition of the collection when I found it, and from conversations with Ruth Patrick, who worked for a period at the Farlow when Bartholomew was working on the Terry materials. I have not yet finished a complete analysis of the Bartholomew correspondence with respect to Terry materials.
When I examined the Terry collection materials in the late1990's with an intent of shaping them into readily accessible collection, the Terry slides had been assimilated into the larger Clarence A. Cheever Collection, which had them separated as to whether their focus was a taxon or a geographical locality, and they were mixed with the slides of other diatomists. The Terry vials were found in two shoe boxes in a cabinet in the Farlow basement, mixed to some degree with vials of diatom material from other collectors. About 25 of the Terry vials were broken. Two cards indexes were found also. One type-written index tabulated Terry localites and matching slide numbers in the Farlow's General Diatom Collection; however, no slides with such numbers exist in the collection, so the slides were apparently never made. Secondly, there is a pencil-written index to information about the Terry vials, apparently the "temporary" index made by Bartholomew and referred to above. It is a poorly organized, often illegible, in places heavily symbolic (with no explanation of the symbols), and replete with errors -- in total, often more problematic than elucidating with respect to the Terry's collection.
The Terry Collection at the Farlow at present consist of two distinct parts:
(1) Terry's vials
and slides made from their contents after year 2000.
(2) Terry's original slides and slides made from his materials before 1950.
Several thousand of Terry's slides, as judged by his slide labels, and locality, taxa and other information on slide labels, were found in the Clarence A. Cheever Collection intermixed with those of other professional, amateur and commerical diatomists. In addition, slides clearly made from Terry's materials, or likely made from Terry's materials by other diatomists - primarily George A. Fisher or several of Terry's correspondents - are also present in the Cheever Collection. A gallery of Terry slide labels as present in the Farlow Collections has been prepared. Those slides which I am confident are Terry's or probably derived from Terry's materials have been left in the Cheever Collection, where I found them, but a register of them will be created independently of that of the Cheever Collection at the conclusion of the analysis of the Cheever Collection. At present they are listed in the context of the Cheever Collection.
A composite index of these vial and slide materials has been prepared by R. K. E., along with references to samples that were part of either edition of Tempère and Peragallo's Diatomées du Monde Entier.
Historic Collection Documentation
The following is a list of primary
documents and resources at the Farlow which are useful in elucidating
the diatom materials in the Terry Collection.
of William A. Terry.
© Robert K. Edgar, 28 March 2003