An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Charles C. Plitt Collection


The Charles C. Plitt Collection, 1897-1994, occupies 10.25 linear feet, or 6 manuscript boxes and 3 document boxes. The collection was donated to the National Agricultural Library by Martha Heard Ray in 1984. Mrs. Ray made subsequent additions to the collection in 1987 and 1994. The copybooks and ledgers are in fragile condition. The collection was arranged and described by Ellen Landon Mann in 2004.



Biographical Sketch

1869: Born on May 6 in Baltimore, Maryland

1886: Graduated from Baltimore City College with high honors.

1891: Earned degree of Graduate in Pharmacognosy (Ph. G.) from the Maryland College of Pharmacy. Received Simon Gold Medal for excellence in analytical work and Gold Medal for general excellence.

1891: In September, entered the teaching profession; continued till 1933. For more than 36 years taught in Baltimore public schools.

[nd]: Began teaching botany and general science in Baltimore City College. Held a part-time position as associate professor of botany and material medica at the Maryland College of Pharmacy, which merged with the University of Maryland in 1904.

1920: Appointed full professor of botany at University of Maryland College of Pharmacy.

1921: Awarded degree of Doctor of Science by International Academy of Science for meritorious work in biology.

1932: Led Johns Hopkins University students on botany field trip to Jamaica.

1933: Died on October 13 in Baltimore, Maryland. Survived by wife Nellie Hennighausen Plitt and three sons: Walter, George, and Allen.

Scope and Content Note

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Charles Christian Plitt (1869-1933) was a botanist who became an international expert in lichenology. By the time of his death in 1933, he had amassed one of the three largest collections of mosses and lichens in the world. However, Plitt was also an avid field botanist in Maryland. For decades, he and companions made weekly field trips into the Maryland countryside around Glen Burnie, Towson, Loch Raven, Curtis Bay, and Ellicott City. Plitt's field notes were kept in journals he titled "Tramps." These journals, dated 1899 to 1922, are a priceless record of the varied species of plants which once grew in habitats now buried beneath urban landscapes.

Series I consists of one ledger and four copybooks containing botany data from 1897 to 1898. Series II consist of the "Tramps," which begin in 29 numbered and dated copybooks and are continued in two ledgers. Series III contains photographs, series IV personal papers, and series V published works. Series VI contains published excerpts from "Tramps."

Though Plitt died in 1933, it was more than half a century before the journals and other materials were donated to Special Collections. The donor was Martha Heard Ray. Her father, Osborne Heard, had been a companion of Plitt=s on those weekly "Tramps." Series VII includes Heard's personal papers--primarily correspondence. In the early 1980s, Heard was corresponding with former associates of Plitt to gather biographical material for an article on Plitt. Series VIII includes Ray's papers concerning the donation of the collection.

Series Description

Series I. Botany field notes. 1897 to 1898. 2 boxes.

Consists of one ledger and four copybooks, containing general information on plants. Two of the copybooks list plants found near Baltimore, Maryland. A third copybook lists mosses; the fourth one lists plants, with no particular geographic area described.

Series II. Botany field notes with numbered Tramps. 1899-1922. 4 boxes.

Contains twenty-nine numbered, dated copybooks, with numbered Tramps, botany field trips taken in the Baltimore area from 1899 to 1905. Tramps are continued in two ledgers, which cover the dates from 1905 to 1922.

Series III. Photographs. [1915-1933]. 1 box.

Contains photographs pertaining to botany field trips. The images are of people, plants, and places. A number of the images are attributed to Osborne Heard.

Series IV. Personal Papers. [1902-1934]. .5 box.

Includes biography of Plitt plus items signed by him and other items known or presumed to have been owned by him.

Series V. Published works. 1909-1934. .25 box.

Contains some of Plitt's published articles from journals.

Series VI. Published excerpts from Tramps. [1954-1958]. .25 box.

Consists of excerpts from Tramps published after Plitt's death.

Series VII. Correspondence of Osborne O. Heard. 1933-1982. .75 box.

Consists primarily of Heard's correspondence from 1980 to 1982, when he was collecting information to write a reminiscence of Plitt. However, it also includes earlier correspondence, as well as notes that Heard took when he was the secretary of the Botanical Section of the Maryland Academy of Science. Included is a photograph which is presumed to be of him and his spouse.

Series VIII. Correspondence of Martha Heard Ray. 1984-1994. .25 box.

Consists mainly of correspondence of the donor with the former head of Special Collections regarding three donations which now constitute the Plitt Collection. Additionally, it includes correspondence to Ray from Plitt's granddaughter.


Cattell, James McKeen. American Men of Science. 5th edition, 1933. Call no. 119 C29 Ed. 5.

"Charles C. Plitt: Biography." Bryologist: XXXVII, November-December 1934. Call no. 450 B84.

"Dr. Charles Plitt dies at his home." The Sun: Baltimore, Maryland. October 14, 1933.

Fessenden, G. R. (editor). "Extracts from the Journal of Charles C. Plitt." Wild Flower 30 (4) 1954. Call no. 451 W642.

Fusonie, Alan. "Botanist's Tramp Journals Donated to NAL." ALIN (Agricultural Libraries Information Notes. USDA, National Agricultural Library): v.10, no.7, p. 6. July 1984. Call no. aZ733.N3A542.

Goldberg, Edna. "Botanist's 'tramp' journal is called a unique find." The Sun: Baltimore, Maryland. Tuesday, May 1, 1984.

Appendix A: Osborne O. Heard

Osborne O. Heard, 1890-1983

1890: Born on November 21 in Frederick, Maryland.

1913: Became a modeler for Department of Embryology at the Carnegie Institution, Washington, DC, before the department was officially formed. His job was to make embryological constructions, which he did for 42 years. A graduate of the Maryland Institute of Art and Design, Heard had studied both sculpture and pattern making.

1915: Began accompanying Plitt on botany field trips called "tramps." As child, Heard's daughter Martha sometimes accompanied them.

1956: Moved to Idaho.

[1980]: Began canvassing friends, family, acquaintances for biographical material on Plitt in order to write an "I Remember" column for The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland).

1983: Sent Plitt's journals and biographical materials to daughter Martha Heard Ray in Maryland.

1984: On May 30, Ray donated the collection to Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library.

Page Content Curated By