Guide to the Francis Marion Ownbey Papers 1934-1974
Cage 320

Summary Information

Repository
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
Creator
Ownbey, Francis Marion
Title
Francis Marion Ownbey Papers
ID
Cage 320
Date [inclusive]
1934-1974
Extent
35.0 containers.
General Physical Description note
17.5 linear feet of shelf space. 11,000 items.
Language
English
Abstract
18 ft. Summary Correspondence, research notes and drafts relative to taxonomic and genetic research, especially of the genera Allium, Calochortus and Tragopogon. A large portion of the papers are concerned with Ownbey's observations of the genetic behavior of the species of Tragopogon, and his discovery of the apparent evolution of new species under natural conditions through the mechanism of chromosomal doubling. Significant correspondents include: Edgar Anderson, Lincoln Constance, Arthur Cronquist, Charles Heisen, C. Leo Hitchcock, Phillip Munz, Gerald Ownbey, and G. Ledyard Stebbins, Jr.

Preferred Citation note

[Item Description]. Cage 320, Francis Marion Ownbey Papers. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

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Biographical/Historical note

A native of Missouri, Marion Ownbey was one of three twentieth century Ownbeys associated with plant taxonomy, the others being his brother Gerald Ownbey and his wife Ruth Peck Ownbey. His botanical education began at the University of Wyoming and its Rocky Mountain Herbarium and continued at Washington University in St. Louis and the associated Missouri Botanical Garden. Major influences on the early parts of his education were Aven Nelson and J. M. Greenman, two older taxonomists whose methods stressed close study of the details of plants, especially of dried specimens, and careful and precise organization of the knowledge of those plants. Their approach had been especially useful in criticising and revising the original description of North American flora, a development in which both had also participated. Though their approach was similar to that long used by botanists, it tried the patience of many, who could see no relation between modern science and the dried plant collections of the "haymaker" botanists, as they were derisively called. Moreover, their field had been much vexed by a troublesome and perhaps needless debate over the rules of botanical nomenclature. Nevertheless, by the 1920s and 1930s American taxonomists had essentially completed a catalog of North American plants and were well into a cycle of critical revision. This revisionary cycle consisted largely of a long sequence of "monographed genera." By the 1920s, this expression had come to mean the extensive and comprehensive examination of all literature and herbarium specimens of particular genera, resulting in lengthy and exhaustive monographic publications, then considered the mark of competence as a plant taxonomist. In this milieu, Ownbey began his career as a botanist. Not surprisingly he began with an attempt to study and revise Castellija, an extensive and complex genus which other taxonomists had worked with for years without producing a definitive statement.

Ownbey encountered difficulties with his effort to become the authoritative specialist on Castellija, and not until much later in his life did he complete his Castellija project. Yet it was not simply problems with this genus which marked his early career, but problems with the whole approach of plant taxonomy, and the influence of a newer means for approaching this science. This influence had come into the Missouri Botanical Garden in the person of Edgar Anderson, a geneticist who had, as he put it, invaded the field of plant taxonomy in search of an explanation of the mechanisms of the evolution of species. Anderson appeared to offer a newer philosophy for taxonomy, a field which seemed to be in need of such. He called for a combination of genetics, cytology and taxonomy, with a considerable influence of such diverse fields as paleontology, archaeology, anthropology and history also represented in his approach. Anderson's approach tended to stress common weeds and agronomic plants typified by the common road-side plants of the genus Tradeseantia. (See Edgar Anderson, Plants, Men and Life (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1952) 16-30.) Ownbey may even have assisted briefly in the famous Tradeseantia project.

Anderson's influence also appeared in Ownbey's adoption of the genus Calochortus as his primary field of investigation, for this genus featured many examples of the hybridizations and combinations of genetic materials which Anderson stressed. Calochortus, accordingly, became a life-long interest. A similar generic revision was added to Ownbey investigations in the early 1940s, shortly after he had become a botany instructor and herbarium curator at Washington State University. The second project concerned the genus Allium, a diverse genus containing both natural and domestic species and again much characterized by various hybridizations. Done in conjunction with a WSU cytologist, Hannah Aase, the Allium project combined traditional methods of plant description with root-tip chromosome counts and garden experiments. It resulted in a number of papers which constituted definitive revision of the North American species of this genus. In addition to these two projects, Ownbey began work on a general Flora of the Pacific Northwest with another Missouri Botanical Garden alumnus, C. Leo Hitchcock, who by the 1940s was at the University of Washington. Ownbey also participated briefly in a war-time botanical expedition seeking pharmaceutical plants in Ecuador.

Had Ownbey continued as he started he would have been known principally as someone who had revised hybridization-prone genera and as a contributor to a regional Flora. However, an almost accidental observation in the late 1940s took his career into a considerably different direction and into the project with which he became identified in his profession. This project concerned the genus Tragopogon, an introduced plant of the American West, some varieties of which had been used as a garden vegetable. This genus was prone to hybridization and Ownbey observed it informally for several years. He first commented on it in 1946 in a letter to geneticist Charles Hieser. But not until early June of 1949 did he make the discovery that he had observed the natural evolution of new species of Tragopogon occurring in his back yard. The first known observation of a species evolving in nature, Ownbey's Tragopogon study indicated that a chromosomal doubling had occurred without human intervention and an apparently stable species had appeared. His description to a colleague carried his sense of excitement about the discovery of the polyploid Tragopogon species:

" I have been having an exciting time this spring studying the origins of species in Tragopogon through natural hybridization and amphiploidy. We have three introduced species in the Palouse area which hybridize readily whenever any two grow together. The three Fl hybrids are highly sterile but give rise on occasion to three possible amphiploid. I have been observing the Fl hybrids between the two species for several years. This spring I found their amphidiploid and with this lead worked out the rest of the story. It is easily the most spectacular case that has yet been discovered. This would apply to the first case let alone its triplication." (Ownbey to Phillip Munz, June 28, 1949)

An informal paper on the genetic behavior of Tragopogon presented these observations in the spring of 1949. The following year a more formal presentation appeared in the American journal of Botany, at which time Ownbey assigned names and published description of the two newly-evolved species of Tragopogon. Despite the publication of the species, Ownbey felt a degree of reservation about his findings. In later publications he expressed caution about the validity of the new species, although he continued to list them. Such, for example, was his practice in Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest, the regional Flora produced in cooperation with his associate Hitchcock and another collaborator, Arthur Cronquist, who joined in the project in the late 1940s.

Tragopogon tended to dominate the rest of Ownbey's botanical career. His initial article of the subject quickly proved to be a classic. More writing on the subject followed closely. Then in 1954, the investigation of further phases of Tragopogon won Ownbey a Guggenheim fellowship. The fellowship enabled Ownbey to spend a year in Europe examining historical Tragopogon specimens, as well as affording time to observe some species in their native area of the Balkan peninsula. It also enabled him to establish contact with Russian, Bulgarian and Turkish botanists, who offered to find specimens of the varieties of Tragopogon found in remote areas, principally within the Soviet Union.

Ownbey returned to the United States with much information about Tragopogon, though not enough to complete a global generic survey. For several years he sought to acquire the Asian species necessary to the task, but only over a long period of time did some material become available. Even the Russian correspondents had difficulty acquiring materials, as many of the species existed in remote areas of the Caucasus and Asiatic Russia, and, possibly, they had been discouraged from cooperation with a western geneticist. Consequently Ownbey's work with Tragopogon tended to take a more specialized approach. His greenhouse and garden plantings, accordingly, came to be used by himself and a succession of graduate students as materials for examination of very specific questions about genetic mechanisms.

In the later 1950s, Ownbey partly turned his attention from the Tragopogon project to production of Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Although this five-volume work came to be more the project of Hitchcock and Cronquist, two more traditional taxonomists, Ownbey's genetic insights had an influence. Working in close association with Cronquist, who was located in New York City, Ownbey proved he could also work in traditional manners. This approach also appeared in his contribution of the section on the genus Castellija, in which he "monographed" the genus with Greenmanian thoroughness.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, a constant series of small matters concerning Allium and Calochortus had been in the background of the more spectacular Tragopogon project and the regional flora. Also, Ownbey had been administering the University herbarium during all this time, as well as teaching classes in botany. By the later 1960s the herbarium and his teaching duties began to occupy greater portions of his time, and his research activity slackened. He died in December 1974 at the age of 64. Shortly afterward, the University herbarium was named the Marion Ownbey Herbarium as a tribute to him.

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Scope and Contents note

Marion Ownbey's papers consist of correspondence, research materials, drafts of writings, and field notes, all relating to his activities as a plant taxonomist and geneticist. The correspondence contains many extensive personal reflections on problems of plant taxonomy, on the revision of the genera Allium, Calochortus and Castellija, and on his classic observations of the genetic behavior of the genus Tragopogon. Research notes on all of these projects provide complementary documentation. Ownbey's papers also contain materials relative to herbarium administration, composition of Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest, and matters involving teaching and research at Washington State University.

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Arrangement note

The papers are arranged in three series, following Ownbey's original order with slight modification. The first, correspondence is arranged in a chronological sequence. The second series, research materials, is arranged according to projects, while the third, materials relating to teaching and faculty matters, is arranged by subjects.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries © 1976

http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/masc
Terrell Library
P.O. Box 645610
Pullman, WA, 99164-5610
509-335-6691
mascref@wsu.edu

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The papers of Francis Marion Ownbey, Jr. (1910-1974) were transferred from the Washington State University Ownbey Herbarium to the Washington State University Library in 1975.

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Controlled Access Headings

Occupation(s)

  • Botanists--United States--Correspondence

Personal Name(s)

  • Anderson, Edgar, 1897-
  • Constance, Lincoln, 1909-
  • Cronquist, Arthur
  • Heiser, Charles Bixler, 1920-
  • Hitchcock, Charles Leo, 1902-
  • Munz, Philip A. (Philip Alexander), 1892-
  • Ownbey, Francis Marion, 1910- --Archives
  • Ownbey, Gerald B., 1916-

Subject(s)

  • Agriculture
  • Botany -- Classification
  • Genetics -- Research
  • Science
  • Washington (State)

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Other Finding Aids note

A print index to the correspondence in Series one exists as WSU MASC.

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Collection Inventory

Series 1: General Correspondence 1935-1974   8000 items.

Box Folder

 1935-1938 

1 1

 1939 

1 2

 Jan-May 1940 

1 3

 June-Dec 1940 

1 4

 Jan-Mar 1941 

1 5

 Apr-Aug 1941 

1 6

 Sept-Dec 1941 

1 7

 Jan-Mar 1942 

2 8

 Apr-July 1942 

2 9

 Aug-Dec 1942 

2 10

 Jan-Mar 1943 

2 11

 Apr-July 1943 

2 12

 Aug-Dec 1943 

2 13

 July-Sept 1944 

2 14

 Oct-Dec 1944 

2 16

 Jan-Mar 1945 

3 17

 Apr-June 1945 

3 18

 July-Oct 1945 

3 19

 Nov-Dec 1945 

3 20

 Jan-Mar 1946 

3 21

 Apr-Aug 1946 

3 22

 Sept-Dec 1946 

3 23

 Jan-Apr 1947 

4 24

 May-July 1947 

4 25

 Aug-Dec 1947 

4 26

 Jan-Mar 1948 

4 27

 Apr-June 1948 

4 28

 July-Sept 1948 

4 29

 Oct-Dec 1948 

4 30

 Jan-Mar 1949 

4 31

 Apr-June 1949 

4 32

 July-Sept 1949 

5 33

 Oct-Dec 1949 

5 34

 Jan-Mar 1950 

5 35

 Apr-June 1950 

5 36

 July-Sept 1950 

5 37

 Oct-Dec 1950 

5 38

 Jan-Apr 1951 

5 39

 May-June 1951 

5 40

 July-Sept 1951 

6 41

 Oct-Dec 1951 

6 42

 Jan-June 1952 

6 43

 July-Dec 1952 

6 44

 Jan-Mar 1953 

6 45

 Apr-June 1953 

6 46

 July-Sept 1953 

6 47

 Oct-Dec 1953 

6 48

 Jan-Apr 1954 

7 49

 May-Dec 1954 

7 50

 Jan-Sept 1955 

7 51

 Oct-Dec 1955 

7 52

 Jan-Mar 1956 

7 53

 Apr-June 1956 

7 54

 July-Sept 1956 

7 55

 Oct-Dec 1956 

7 56

 Jan-Mar 1957 

8 57

 Apr-Sept 1957 

8 58

 Oct-Dec 1957 

8 59

 Jan-Mar 1958 

8 60

 Apr-May 1958 

8 61

 June-Sept 1958 

8 62

 Oct-Dec 1958 

8 63

 Jan-Mar 1959 

8 64

 Apr-Sept 1959 

8 65

 Oct-Dec 1959 

8 66

 Jan-May 1960 

9 67

 June-Dec 1960 

9 68

 Jan-June 1961 

9 69

 July-Dec 1961 

9 70

 Jan-June 1962 

9 71

 July-Dec 1962 

9 72

 Jan-June 1963 

9 73

 July-Dec 1963 

9 74

 Jan-June 1964 

10 75

 July-Dec 1964 

10 76

 Jan-Aug 1965 

10 77

 Sept-Dec 1965 

10 78

 Jan-June 1966 

10 79

 July-Dec 1966 

10 80

 Jan-June 1967 

10 81

 July-Dec 1967 

10 82

 1968 

11 83

 1969 

11 84

 1970 

11 85

 1971 

11 86

 1972 

11 87

 1973 

11 88

 1974 

11 89

enclosures undated 

11 90

Herbarium correspondence of Sherman Preece and Gwendolyn Wild 1954-1955   175.0 items.

12 91

University of Washington Press, business forms and related documents 1962-1973   30.0 items.

12 92

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Series 2: Research Activities 

Box Folder

Research Reports to University Research Committee 1951-1966   150.0 items.

12 93

Notes and fragments relative to research projects 1940-ca. 1960   60.0 items.

12 94

Reprints of Ownbey's articles.   25.0 items.

12 95

Early, unpublished and preliminary papers, oral presentations 1938-1965   15.0 items.

12 96

Field Notebooks 

Specimen Numbers 

Box Folder

28-227 1934 

13 97

228-403 1934 

13 98

404-494 1934 

13 99

494-1012 1935 

13 100

1013-1181 1936 

13 101

1251-1578 1937 

13 102

1601-1939 1938-1940 

13 103

2001-2377 1940 

13 104

2378-2518 1941 

13 105

2520-3091 1942 

13 106

3092-3367 1947-1952 

13 107

3368-3503 1953-1969 

13 108

Ecuadorian Journal and Collection Notes 1943-1944   

13 109

Chelan County, 1-153 1947   

13 110

Journal 1940   

13 111

Garden Books-Heald/Science Gardens 

Box Folder

 1948 

14 112

 1949 

14 113

 1958 

14 114

 1959 

14 115

Garden 1964 

14 115b

Minor Studies 

Box Folder

Dicentra.   12.0 items.

14 116

Balsomorhiza.   10.0 items.

14 117

Liliaceae of Washington.   5.0 items.

14 118

Disporum maculatum.   5.0 items.

14 119

Gaillardia.   5.0 items.

15 120

Castellija of Idaho.   3.0 items.

15 121

Castellija of the Pacific Northwest.   7.0 items.

15 122-23

Survey of Genus Castellija.   125.0 items.

15 124

Polygonatum and Fritillaria.   10.0 items.

15 125

Calochortus 

Box Folder

Collection record book 

16 126

Planting record book 

16 127-29

Planting record book 

17 130-34

Hybrids 

17 135

Calochortus of the Pacific Northwest.   52.0 items.

17 136

Cytological notes and drawings 

17 137

Miscellaneous notes on Calochortus.   10.0 items.

17 138

Allium 

Box Folder

Collection and accession record book.   5.0 items.

18 139-40

Garden record books.   4.0 items.

18 141-44

Record of crosses.   1.0 item.

18 145

Allium keys 

19 146

A. aaseae 

19 147

A. acuminatum 

19 148

A. amplectens 

19 149

A. anceps 

19 150

A. brevistylum 

19 151

A. brandegei 

19 152

A. cernum 

19 153

A. crenulatum 

19 154

A. douglasii 

19 155

A. elmendorfii 

19 156

A. glandorum 

19 157

A. gooddingii 

19 158

A. fibrillum 

19 159

A. hyalinum 

19 160

A. kunthi 

19 161

A. lemmoni 

19 162

A. madidum 

19 163

A. parvum 

19 164

A. peninsularare 

19 165

A. platycanle 

19 166

A. schoenoprasm 

19 167

A. simillimum 

19 168

A. stellatum 

19 169

A. tricoccum 

19 170

A. tolmiei 

19 171

A. validum 

19 172

Miscellaneous 

19 173

Allium chromosomes 

19 174

Aeuminatum alliance 

20 175

Campanulatum (bisceptrum) alliance 

20 176

Canadense alliance 

20 177-79

Sanbornii alliance 

20 180

Obtusum alliance 

20 181

Allium of the Pacific Northwest 

21 182

Allium of Arizona 

21 183

Allium of Idaho 

21 184

Allium of Texas 

21 185-86

Tragopogon 

Box Folder

Tragopogon accessions list 

22 187

Notes on the genus Tragopogon 

22 188-89

Record book of specimens observed at Kew, Vienna, Firenze and Paris 

22 190

Record book of specimens observed at De Candolle Herbarium, Bossier Herbarium and the British Museum 

22 191

Record book of specimens observed at Geneva 

22 192

Observation Notebooks 

Box Folder

notes 1949 

22 193

Fl 1950-1951 

23 194

F2 1952 

23 195

Garden Books 

Box Folder

 1950-1951 

23 196

 1951-1952 

23 197

I 1953 

23 198

II 1953 

23 199

 1954 

23 200

 1955-1956 

23 201

 1957 

23 202

 1958 

23 203

 1959 

23 204

 1960 

23 205

 1961 

23 206

 1962 

23 207

 1963 

24 208

 1964 

24 209

 1965 

24 210

 1966 

24 211

 1968 

24 212

 1969 

24 213

 1972 

24 214

Greenhouse Books 

Box Folder

 1953 

24 215

 1955 

24 216

 1956-1957 

24 217

 1958-1959 

24 218

 1960-1961 

24 219

 1962-1967 

24 220

 1967-1972 

24 221

Seed Record Book 1956-1965 

25 222

Seed Fertility Count Books 

Box Folder

 1952-1953 

25 223

 1953 

25 224

 1954 

25 225

 1956-1958 

25 226

 1959-1960 

25 227

 1962-1963 

25 228

 1964-1965 

25 229
Box Folder

Fertility Summary Data Book 

25 230-31

Pollen Count Book 1957 

25 232

Pollen Count Book 1958-1959 

25 233

Laboratory Record Book 1953 

25 234

Fixing, Sectioning, Staining Record Book 1955 

25 235

Summary and Analysis Book 1953-1954 

25 236

"14" (see No. 215) 

25 237-38

T. dubius hybrids, notebook 

26 239

T. porrifolius, notebook 

26 240

T. orientalis, notebook 

26 241

T. pratensis hybrids I, notebooks 

26 242-43

S-I species, notebooks 1963-1964 

26 244-47

Sinnatus Complex, notebooks 1960 

26 248-50

Meiosis 

27 251

Mitosis, notebook 1951 

27 252

Mitosis, Tragopogon hybrids, notebook 1951 

27 253

Mitosis, notebook 1951-1952 

27 254

Mitosis, notebook 1965 

27 255

Miscellaneous notes on Tragopogon 1950-1960   200.0 items.

27 256-57

Tragopogon Summary Sheets.   50.0 items.

28 258

Tragopogon Summary Sheets.   50.0 items.

29 259

Drafts of Tragopogon Articles 1950-1963   10.0 items.

30 260-61

Photographs 1949-1960   12.0 items.

30 262

Research support 1950-1965   50.0 items.

30 263

Tragopogon materials of Bert Brehm 1965-1968   30.0 items.

30 264

Tragopogon material of Ray Hoff 

30 264b

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Series 3: University Faculty and Teaching Materials 

Box Folder

Botany 541, Evolution. Course notes 1968-1973   300.0 items.

31 265-76

Evolutionary Mechanisms, Seminar Papers 1973   6.0 items.

32 277-82

Entomology/Zoology 511, Principles of Systematic Biology. Syllabus and Notes 1972   3.0 items.

32 283

Cytogenetics. Notes 1950-1954   50.0 items.

32 284

Graduate Student Recruitment; Financial Aid 1955-1970   100.0 items.

32 285

Field Trip 1941   3.0 items.

32 286

Botany Department Staff, memoranda and minutes 1967-1974   150.0 items.

32 287

Botany Facilities: Buildings, Greenhouse, Arboretum 1962-1972   125.0 items.

33 288

Field Area (Smoot Hill) Memoranda and Minutes of Planning Committee 1967-1971   125.0 items.

33 289

Library Matters 1951-1969   150.0 items.

33 290

Search Committee for Botany Department Chairman, Correspondence, Memoranda, Minutes 1958-1969   200.0 items.

34 291-292

Grant Funding 1969-1973   6.0 items.

34 293

National Science Foundation. Research Proposals 

Box Folder

 1958-1974   75.0 items.

34 294-295

 1958-1974   75.0 items.

35 296-297

Addenda: Drafts of Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest Vol. II., by A. Cronquist and C. L. Hitchcock 

Box

Salicaceae 

36

Polygonaceae 

36

Chenopodiaceae 

36

Amaranthaceae 

36

Portulacaceae 

36

Caryophyllaceae 

36

Ranunculaceae 

36
Box

Misc. correspondence 

36

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