Late last year, a small uncatalogued archive of Oliver A. Farwell’s collections was transferred to the Archives from the Institute of Science. The collection includes many of Farwell’s published works, reference journals, a small sampling of correspondence related to his career as a botanist and druggist, a copy of Farwelliana: An Account Of The Life And Botanical Work Of Oliver Atkins Farwell, 1867-1944 by Rogers McVaugh, Stanley A. Cain, and Dale J. Hagenah, and a portrait of Farwell.
Farwell, a botanist (by hobby), drug inspector (by trade), and librarian (after my own heart) was born December 13, 1867, in Boston Massachusetts to Oliver A. Farwell and Charlotte (Brockway) Farwell. Spending his formative years in the Copper Harbor area of Michigan, Farwell developed a lifelong affinity and commitment to the study of Michigan’s flora as both a hobby and occupation. A career employee (1892-1933) of the Parke, Davis and Company (Detroit, MI), Farwell was responsible for the pharmacognosy of raw botanical products. He was also a long standing member of a multiplicity of scholarly clubs with branches pertaining to botanical interests, including the Michigan Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic. Farwell’s large personal collections of herbarium specimens are housed at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.
After a long and prolific career (serially numbered and unnumbered collections potentially totaling 15,000), Farwell passed away in Lake Linden, Michigan in 1944.
Upon first inspection of the transferred material it was noted that a large portion of the contents were duplicative and non-original works. This discovery begged the question: is this content relevant and worthy of archival preservation? And if so, here? We determined the answer to be yes to both questions, as the collection represents the contributions and scholarly process of an individual whose botanical collections and samplings are part of the Cranbrook narrative. Although they represent an accumulation of thought and process in a period of pharmacological unearthing now well surpassed by modern scientific process and procedure, the collection of materials represents a long commitment at Cranbrook to exploration and discovery. We determined: it was a keeper.
The Cranbrook Archives looks forward to sharing this unique collection with our researchers in the coming months. Be sure to check back for more updates on newly acquired collections and material.
-Belinda Krencicki, Associate Archivist
Author’s Note: The Oliver A. Farwell Papers are located at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. For more detail, see the finding aid here.