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Henry Nicholas Bolander (1831-1897)



Henry Nicholas Bolander was born in Schleuchtern, Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1846, at the age of 15. At the encouragement of his uncle, he entered the Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. Bolander completed this course of study and was ordained but never became a minister. In 1851 he began teaching in the German-English schools. During this time he was introduced to the study of plants by his neighbor, Leo Lesquereux, a paleobotanist and bryologist.

Bolander suffered ill health for a number of years, prompting his physician recommended a change of climate (Jepson 100). Based on this advice, Bolander decided in 1861 to move to California, where he became acquainted with many members of the California Academy of Sciences and the State Geological Survey. In 1864 he succeeded W. H. Brewer as the State Botanist of California and began making collections for the Survey. Bolander collected cryptogams and flowering plants, and became a specialist on grasses. He would continue this connection with the State Geological Survey until it was discontinued (Jepson 102). His published works include A Catalogue of Plants Growing in the Vicinity of San Francisco, 1870, as well as papers on California grasses that were published in the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences.

In 1871, Bolander's career took a turn away from botany and back towards his previous vocation, education. He was elected as of State Superintendent of Schools, an office which he held until December 1875 (Jepson 102). He was also the editor of a monthly magazine, California Teacher. In 1878 Bolander left California and traveled for several years. It is known that he went Guatemala, Chile and Peru; it is likely that he was also in South Africa, Madagascar and Europe (Jepson 107). Bolander returned to the Pacific Coast in 1883 and settled in Portland, Oregon. He once again returned to education, teaching modern languages and botany in St. Helen's Hall and Bishop Scott Academy until his death in 1897.


Jepson, Willis L. "Dr. Henry N. Bolander, Botanical Explorer." Erythea. 6(10): 100-107.
Purdy, Carl. "Bolander's Red Mountain ad Eureka Trail." Madrono. 2: 33-40.
Thomas. "Henry Nicholas Bolander." Contributions from the Dudley Herbarium. 5(6): 149.
Botany of California I: vii; II: 558

Scope and Content:

Bolander's papers consist of field notes on plants he collected (ca. 1865-67) and notes by George Thurber on Bolander's grasses. Notes on grasses in W.H. Brewer's handwriting were also found with Bolander's papers; see W.H. Brewer inventory for a description.


The Bolander papers were probably used by Sereno Watson while he was preparing volume 2 of Botany of California, and most likely they remained at the Gray Herbarium with Watson's papers.

Container Listing: BOX Z

Folder 1: Bolander's field notes

"Grasses collected in the vicinity of San Fr." -- 1 sheet (4 pages); specimens were originally numbered 1-51; these numbers were crossed out and replaced by 1503-1555

"Grasses" -- 2 sheets (6 pages); includes plant numbers, names and some notes about, but not in numerical order

"Plants collected this spring (Ap. 65) in the foot-hills of the Sierra Nevada from Sacramento to Forest Hill" -- 1 sheet (4 pages); plants numbered 4500-4632

"Spring 1866" -- 39 pages; plants numbered 4633-6462

"Plants collected June 1867" -- 8 pages; p;antes numbered 6463-6575

Folder 2: Thurber notes on Bolander grasses

"Bolander Grasses" -- 7 pages

"2nd Set of Grasses from California State Survey" -- 8 pages

See Also:

Historic Letter Collection
Semi-Historic Letter Collection
Gray Archives Photograph Collection: #0037, #0632, #0764
Jane Gray Autograph Collection


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Last Updated June 2002
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