The Creation of Icones Farlowianae

Lilian Horsford Farlow


I am enclosing my cheque- three thousand dollars ($3,000) on the Old Colony Trust Co. as a reservation for the publication of Icones Farlowianae, consisting of a large collection of lithographic prints of New England Fungi with descriptions written by William G. Farlow. It may be years before this is needed but I should like to have it kept separate from the Farlow Library Fund and to know that the financial part of this publication is hereby established.

Letter from Lilian Horsford Farlow
to Charles F. Adams
Treasurer of Harvard College
June 24, 1925

"The heart of Radcliffe College has gone," wrote one of the Alumnae on hearing of Mrs. Farlow's death, "for that is what she has always been."

Lilian Horsford was born in Massachusetts in 1848. Her father, Harvard Professor Eben Horsford, the discoverer of baking powder, was a major influence in her life. "My father used to say that it was best to concentrate one's efforts on one or two things rather than to dissipate them over many" she once said, "and education is what I care the most about." Beginning in the late 1870's Lilian became affiliated with Radcliffe College, at that point it was only a small experimental program providing women with access to Harvard teaching, and until her death in 1927 gave much of her time and money to help the college and its students succeed.

Lilian was a member of the original Corporation for the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women (Radcliffe was not to be incorporated as such until 1894) and of the first Executive Committee. She served as Treasurer during 1883/84 year, as acting treasurer for part of 1886, and was elected Treasurer in 1891, 1892 and 1893. She was also elected as a member of the Council to serve from June 1901 to 1908, but resigned in June 1905.

Lilian married Dr. William Gilson Farlow in 1900. They became well known for opening their home to visiting botanists and students alike. "I always thought my life a very beautiful and happy one," she wrote after the tenth anniversary of her wedding, "but the last ten years have been filled with a joy and contentment of which I never dreamed."

After Farlow's death in 1919 Lilian continued to foster students by giving time and financial assistance to Radcliffe and Wellesley College. Farlow left his collections and library to Harvard provided they provided an adequate facility. Lilian worked closely with Roland Thaxter, a close colleague and friend of Farlow's, to help Harvard purchase an appropriate space for Farlow's collections. Harvard was able to meet Farlow's stipulations but would not provide additional funds for a companion library. Lilian again worked closely with Thaxter to raise money and donated approximately $50,000 to this project herself. After the library was opened at 20 Divinity Ave, Lilian wrote to Roland Thaxter.

I have had a very great pleasure. One which lingers and returns to me again and again, for I have gone into the Farlow building and have seen the changed and wonderful aspect thereof. And I am very much pleased with it all, and I am so confident that it would have pleased Dr. Farlow that I must let you know that after I came home I felt as if I had seen and talked with him.

Lilian was also instrumental in completing Farlow's great work, Icones Farlowianae. In 1923 she contact Roland Thaxter to assist her in finishing work on the partially completed book. She provided much support, time and financial assistance to this project. Shortly after her death in 1927, Roland Thaxter, in a letter to Edward A. Burt stated "I feel as if the bottom had fallen out of things now that Mrs. Farlow has gone. I do miss her dreadfully and her friendship and help and sympathetic interest."

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