The Roland Maurice Jefferson Collection spans the years 1961-2006. Part of the collection was donated by Roland Maurice Jefferson in April 2006 and October 2006. In April 2006, Isabel Shipley Cunningham also donated materials she collected to write a series of articles on Jefferson's work as a plant explorer. Elizabeth L. Ley, former head of the Gardens Unit and former plant records keeper at the United States National Arboretum, served as an intermediary for both donors. The materials are in good condition and do not have any restrictions. The collection was arranged and described by Amber Thiele, Chesapeake Information and Research Library Alliance (CIRLA) fellow, in 2006, and updated by Sara B. Lee, Special Collections Librarian, in 2008.
September 3, 1923: Born in Washington, D.C., to Edward Wilson Jefferson and Bernice Cornelia Bond
1946-1950: Attended college under the G.I. Bill of Rights (World War II veteran)
1950: Earned a bachelor of science in botany from Howard University
1956: Began working at the United States National Arboretum making plant labels
1956-1980: In charge of the plant records at the United States National Arboretum
1957: Promoted to botanist at the United States National Arboretum
1960s: Studied crabapples at the United States National Arboretum
1970: Published "History, Progeny, and Locations of Crabapples of Document Authenticate Origin" National Arboretum Contribution no. 2
1973: Began compiling historical and scientific data about the Japanese cherry trees planted in Washington D.C.'s Potomac Park
1976-1979: Took cuttings from the existing cherry trees from the Japanese gift of 1912
1977: Published "The Japanese flowering cherry trees of Washington, D.C." National Arboretum Contribution no. 4
1978-1979: Went on a plant expedition in Holland, England, and Germany to study cherry and crabapple trees
1981: Nancy Reagan presented the President Reagan Cherry Tree to Japan with Roland Maurice Jefferson. Jefferson propagated the tree from a cutting of the 1912 Japanese cherry tree that First Lady Taft planted.
1981: Traveled to Japan at expense of Adachi ward government to study cherry trees and lecture about these trees
1982-1983: Located, evaluated, and collected budwood from 174 ornamental cherry trees in Japan
1982-1983: Began the dogwood seed exchange program: Japanese school children collected over half a million cherry seeds in exchange for American dogwood seeds
1984: Visited the Normandale Japanese Garden at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota and sent 50 cherry seedlings from the United States National Arboretum, which came from Hokkaido, Japan
1986: Led expeditions into Japan, Korea, and Taiwan
1987: Retired from the United States National Arboretum
1989-1998: Lectured on cherry trees in Japan
Scope and Content Note
Roland Maurice Jefferson was the first black botanist and plant explorer to work at the United States National Arboretum. He is known for his work with cherry trees. The collection is two linear feet and spans the years 1961-2006, with bulk dates of 1979-1989. The collection contains articles, correspondence, e-mail, telegrams, documents, lectures, photographs, programs, and other notes. Some of the articles, correspondence, and programs are in Japanese or Mandarin Chinese. The majority of the collection highlights Jefferson's work, including plant expeditions for cherry trees for the United States National Arboretum and his post-retirement lectures. The collection also examines Jefferson's work with plant labels, crabapples, the dogwood seed exchange program, the Normandale Japanese Garden, and the President Reagan Cherry Tree. The documents are arranged into six series: Correspondence; Expeditions; Projects; Documents and Notes; Photographs; and Articles and Lectures. The materials are in good condition and may be used without any restrictions.
Series I. Correspondence. 1972-2005. 30 folders.
This series contains the correspondence of and about Roland Maurice Jefferson. Most of the correspondence refers to Jefferson's plant expeditions or cherry trees. A few of the letters contain biographical information about Jefferson. See Series II. Expeditions and Series III. Projects for more correspondence. The series is arranged chronologically within two subseries: Roland Maurice Jefferson Correspondence and Letters about Roland Maurice Jefferson.
- Subseries I.A. Roland Maurice Jefferson Correspondence. 1972-2005.
- Subseries I.B. Letters about Roland Maurice Jefferson. 1975-2004.
The correspondence in this subseries is between Jefferson and the following main correspondents: Isabel Shipley Cunningham (author); John L. Creech (Director of the United States National Arboretum); Yoshiyuki Takishima (The Flower Association of Japan); and Tadashi Furusho (Mayor of Adachi-ward, Tokyo, Japan). The letters concern Jefferson's work with cherry trees, plant labels, and crabapples. The correspondents also refer to Jefferson's publications, his work in the United States, and his expeditions in Europe and Asia. The letter from Mary Byrne includes a print out of the condition of the plants from Jefferson's 1982 and 1986 Prunus expeditions. A few of the letters contain articles that are noted in the container list. Some correspondence is written in Japanese. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
The letters in Subseries I.B. refer to Jefferson's work with cherry trees, expeditions, publications, and lectures. Letters from Elizabeth C. Rea, the President of the Friends of the United States National Arboretum, refer to funding Jefferson's expeditions to Japan. Many of the letters are often requests or responses to proposals to work with Jefferson on different projects. Some of the projects include requests for being a speaker at events or working on a collaborative publication. The correspondence from Cunningham refers to expanding public knowledge about the condition of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. and for crediting Jefferson with the other Asian plant explorers on the United States National Arboretum website. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Series II. Expeditions. 1978-1996. 61 folders.
The materials cover Jefferson's expeditions to Europe and Asia to study cherry and crabapple trees. The expedition to Europe covers Holland, England, and Germany, while his three expeditions to Asia were to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Correspondence, articles, photographs, programs, maps, charts, and other notes detailing the expeditions comprise this series and are arranged into two subseries: Europe Expedition and Asian Expeditions. See Series III. Projects and Series V. Photographs for further photographs of Jefferson's work and see Series I. Correspondence and Series III. Projects for additional correspondence. The correspondence and photographs in this series were separated from these other series to maintain original order.
- Subseries II.A. Europe Expedition. 1978-1979.
- Subseries II.B. Asian Expeditions. 1981-1996.
During this expedition to Europe, Jefferson studied cherries and crabapples and arranged for bud wood of some these trees, in addition to plants of Abelia, to be brought into the United States. He traveled to Holland, England, and Germany. This subseries contains correspondence, shipping material forms, and a photograph documenting his travels. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
The focus of the subseries is on the articles, correspondence, photographs, maps, charts, and other papers from Jefferson's expeditions to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. These cover Jefferson's expedition to Japan from 1981-1983, where he collected bud wood from cherry trees and started the dogwood seed exchange program. His 1986 expedition took him to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan to study Prunus (cherry trees). The photographs show Jefferson in the field, various cherry trees, and the dogwood seed exchange program with Japanese children collecting cherry seeds. The information from the Americans collecting dogwood seeds is in the subseries III.A. Dogwood Seed Exchange. The maps and charts cover the locations of the collected cherry seeds and budwood from Japan that was planted on the South Farm Plant Industry Station in Beltsville, Maryland. The other papers focus on his travel proposals, proposal reviews, his final report, accession lists, distribution lists, location lists, and photographs of his expedition. Also included are color-coded envelopes which show how Jefferson organized some of his expedition papers. Each envelope has a color sticker and title that relates to various papers, with matching color stickers, throughout the collection. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Series III. Projects. 1918-2007. 71 folders.
This series concerns some of the projects that Jefferson worked on during his time at the United States National Arboretum and continued after his retirement. The series contains correspondence, email, photographs, articles, information kits, telegrams, press releases, memorandum, and other papers related to the background of the projects. One project covered is the dogwood exchange program, where Japanese school children and adults collected over a half million cherry seeds and bud wood in exchange for dogwood seeds collected by Americans. The documents also contain information on the cherry tress in Potomac Park (Washington, D.C.) and the Normandale Japanese Garden in Normandale Community College (Bloomington, Minnesota). The series is arranged into three subseries: Dogwood Seed Exchange, Potomac Park Cherry Trees, and Normandale Japanese Garden Cherry Trees.
- Subseries III.A. Dogwood Seed Exchange. 1961-1998.
- Subseries III.B. Potomac Park Cherry Trees. 1918-2007.
- Subseries III.C. Normandale Japanese Garden Cherry Trees. 1981-2004.
This subseries focuses on the dogwood/cherry seed exchange program in which American children collected dogwood seeds to exchange with the cherry seeds that Japanese children collected. During a program held at the Embassy of Japan, over one million seeds were exchanged. The information covers the media attention in addition to the process of collecting and sending the seeds to Japan. To see photographs and other information about the Japanese collecting cherry seeds during his expedition to Japan, see Subseries II.B. Asian Expeditions. Photographs, correspondence, telegrams, press releases, memorandum, articles, and an informational kit are included in this series. Some of the articles were published in elementary school magazines with teacher and student editions. Some letters and articles are in Japanese with a few English translations. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
The Tidal Basin, which is surrounded by the 1912 Japanese gift of cherry trees, is located in Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. This series contains background information on the history of the cherry trees in Potomac Park, correspondence, news releases, and articles. The documents cover the planting, gathering, and inspecting of budwood from the cherry trees in Potomac Park by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States National Arboretum. A few of the photographs show cherry trees planted in a nursery near Tokyo, Japan that were grown from budwood from the Potomac Park cherry trees. Series I. Correspondence, Series IV. Documents and Notes, Series V. Photographs, and Series VI. Articles also make references to these cherry trees. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
This subseries covers the request by Takao Watanabe, the Normandale Japanese Garden's (Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota) architect, for Jefferson to visit and determine if the United States National Arboretum would donate cherry trees. The papers further document the 1984 donation of two varieties from Hokkaido, Japan that would survive in the Minnesota climate and Jefferson's correspondence with the garden keepers on their progress. The papers also cover the history of the cherry trees in Normandale Community College, Jefferson's assistance, the Sargent cherry, patents, and the 1990 celebration for planting Japanese cherry trees. The subseries contains correspondence, photographs, minutes, programs, and published articles. Most of the photographs are of the cherry trees in the garden. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Series IV. Documents and Notes. 1975-2004. 5 folders.
This series contains a work evaluation, biographical notes, programs, and a questionnaire. The items document Jefferson's work at the United States National Arboretum and the programs related to cherry trees. The series is arranged into two subseries: Biographical Documents and Special Presentations.
- Subseries IV.A. Biographical Documents. 1975.
- Subseries IV.B. Special Presentations. 2004.
This series includes Jefferson's 1975 work evaluation and Cunningham's biographical notes on Jefferson. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
This subseries includes programs and a questionnaire. The programs, which do not mention Jefferson, are for the 2004 National Cherry Blossom Festival and for a special lecture at a Tree Planting Ceremony. The questionnaire was part of the bicentennial activities and the answers were used for the publication, The Tidal Basin flowering cherry trees, which the latter is not included. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Series V. Photographs. 1912-2005. 20 folders.
Photographs include the President Reagan Cherry Tree (which Jefferson propagated from the 1912 Japanese cherry tree that First Lady Taft planted), its presentation to Japan by First Lady Nancy Reagan, its planting in Japan, and its growth. Other photographs are of the cherry trees in New York City's Central Park, plant signs from the United States National Arboretum that Jefferson designed, and the first three United States National Arboretum botanists in charge of plant records. The headshots of Jefferson included in this series were collected by Cunningham. Additional photographs are found within the Series II. Expeditions and Series III. Projects to preserve the original order of those series. This series is arranged chronologically.
Series VI. Articles and Lectures. 1962-2006. 51 folders.
The series contains published articles and lectures written by Jefferson, Cunningham, and others. A few drafts of Cunningham's articles on Jefferson and programs that include Jefferson's lectures are included. The series is arranged into two subseries: Articles Written by Roland Maurice Jefferson and Articles about Roland Maurice Jefferson.
- Subseries VI.A. Articles Written by Roland Maurice Jefferson. 1962-1999.
- Subseries VI.B. Articles about Roland Maurice Jefferson. 1975-2006.
This subseries contains articles and lectures written by Jefferson concerning cherry trees, crabapples, boxwoods, plant labels, Ligustram japonicum, and Ligustram lucidum. Most of the articles are photocopies with the exception of Jefferson's "History, progeny, and locations of crabapples of documented authentic origin," Jefferson's "The Japanese flowering cherry trees of Washington, D.C.," and Jefferson and Kay Kazue Wain's "The nomenclature of cultivated flowering cherries (Prunus)." The lecture programs are originals, except for the Asia Symposium. A few of the articles and lecture programs are in Japanese or Mandarin Chinese. The post-retirement lectures with corresponding programs were presented in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
The articles about Jefferson incorporate either biographical information or relate to his work with cherry trees in Japan and the United States. Cunningham wrote some of the articles and drafts featuring Jefferson. Lists of citations from various databases are included. All of the articles are photocopies except Diversity, "The National Arboretum and a gift to Japan"; Charlie Walker's "The story of the cherry blossom trees"; ARBOR friends, Jill Lee's "Cherry blossoms: restoring a national treasure"; and Adrian Higgins's "Beyond the Tidal Basin, there's a cherry jubilee." A few of the articles are in Japanese or Mandarin Chinese. The subseries is arranged chronologically.
Cunningham, Isabel S. "The U.S. National Arboretum: Leader in ornamental plant germplasm collection." Diversity No. 14 (1988): 28-29.
Jefferson, Roland M. "Fuji--a new crabapple-and other doubles." American Horticultural Society (Winter 1968): 22-25.
Normandale Japanese Garden. "Cherry Trees." Accessed August 23, 2006 from http://www.normandale.edu/community/japanese-garden?choice=cherryTrees.
Appendix A: Related Collections
Listed below are related plant exploration collections housed in Special Collections, National Agricultural Library as of September 2006.
Collection of Expedition Photographs from the Office of Plant Exploration. Manuscript Collection 280.
Cunningham, Isabel Shipley Collection on Frank Nicholas Meyer. Manuscript Collection 240.
Cunningham, Isabel Shipley Collection on Howard Scott Gentry. Manuscript Collection 346.
Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition Collection. Manuscript Collection 51.
Galloway, Beverly Thomas, Papers. Manuscript Collection 66.
Harlan, Harry V., Manuscript. Manuscript Collection 87.
Meyer, Frank N., Collection. Manuscript Collection 295. [Typescript contains excerpts from letters between Frank N. Meyer and his superior, David Fairchild 1916-1918].
Meyer, Frank N. and David Fairchild. South China explorations: typescript, July 25, 1916-September 21, 1918.
"Soybean Utilization in Japan," Manuscript. Manuscript Collection 84.
Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library. "Frank N. Meyer (1875-1918) [exhibit]." Accessed September 6, 2006 from https://www.nal.usda.gov/exhibits/speccoll/exhibits/show/frank-meyer.
USDA and National Cancer Institute (NCI) Plant Collections, Records. Manuscript Collection 183.
USDA Bureau of Plant Industry, Records. Manuscript Collection 242.
USDA Forage Crop Investigations, Records. Manuscript Collection 325.