Mary Agnes Chase Brazil letters, 1929-1930

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Mary Agnes Chase composes letters to A. S. Hitchcock during her 1929-1930 trip to Brazil. Correspondence discusses her work at the Jardin Botânico in Rio de Janeiro, collecting en route to Caparaó, and while at Viçosa [Minas Gerais]. Two of the letters appear to be incomplete.

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  • Botany
  • Plants
  • Grasses
  • Botanists


  • Caparaó, Serra do
  • Brazil
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Viçosa


  • Fieldbook record
  • Field notes
  • Correspondence

Accession #

SIA RU000229

Collection name

United States National Museum, Division of Grasses, Records, 1884, 1888, 1899-1965

Physical Description

1 folder

Physical Location

Smithsonian Institution Archives


Box 17

[[preprinted]] REPUBLICA DOS ESTADOS BRIDOS DO BRAZIL [[image - circular star logo with banner Ordem E Progresso]] Directoria do Jardim Botanico [[/preprinted]] [[preprinted]] MINSTERIO DA AGRICULTURA, INDUSTRIA E COMMERCIO [[/preprinted]] At Jardim Botanico, [[preprinted]] Rio de Janiero, ^[[14]] de ^[[Nov]] de 192^[[9]] [[/preprinted]] Dear Prof Hitchcock, (Waiting for Dona Maria) I've been botanizing in the herb. at Jard. Bot. yesterday and this morning. Have just finished writing our label for 200 or 300 I think, Amazon and places I shall not visit. This building is open early (8 am) by cleaner and I have been keeping U.S. hours (8:30 to 5:30) instead of Brasilian. Mrs. Mexia's boat is to arrive today "not before 1," how much later quem sabe. [[left margin, vertical line]] Please tell Mr. Maxon from Miss Bandeira that the Bolivian plants of which he wrote her have not arrived. She was worried, but she showed me the letter and I saw they are coming through Smithsonian Exchange, so I told her they were safe but usually slow. [[/left margin, vertical line]] Dr. Campos-Porto has invited us to go to Itatiaya, time not specified, but after the Pico da Bandeira trip. I would be glad to go again and spend more time on Alts da Itatiaya while the others crawl up that chimney to the peak - that is just climbing, not collecting, and I had so little time on that wonderful open grassland.
Itatiaya is Government preserve and Dr. C-P goes there rather frequently, I think. He assured me again that Pico da Itatiaya is the highest point in Brasil - I shan't dare to accept de Silveira's figures for Pico da Bandeira. 9:10 pm Mrs. Mexia is here, after one last time of anxiety, not knowing for [[underlined]] sure [[/underlined]] where Villanger passengers were to land - I was told two different places. She is very happy to be in Brazil at last and took the wretched mistake in cutting the paper good naturedly so I am greatly relieved. The boat came in too late to get baggage off today and tomorrow is a holiday. I left her passport at Embassy for Mr. Meyer to get baggage, but he may not be able to get it tomorrow. We shall probably start our Caparaó trip Monday morning. Sunday p.m. -- Still raining, so I didn't go to Corcovado as I had planned. Mrs. M's baggage came late last evening so we start Tuesday at 5:40 am. We couldn't get our baggage down today (for the morning) except by paying enormously. After getting Mrs. M's money arrangements made yesterday morning, we went out to Jard Bot and saw Dona Maria. Then it poured unexpectedly and we got soaked coming home. I sent [[strikethrough]] a [[/strikethrough]] package 2 from the Consulate yesterday. I received several letters one from
[[insertion]] Nov 14, 1929 [[/margin]] Miss Niles telling me you are back. I hope you are feeling well. She said you had cleaned off your desk - this the day after you came - so you must be feeling pretty vigorous. [[margin, vertical line]] Miss Bandeira told me that Dahlgren of Field Museum was at the Jardim about a month ago. He told them there to send any collections they had to the Field Museum, that there was no one working on tropical plants at the National Herbarium anymore! I exclaimed at that, that Mr. Killip and Leonard both were working on tropical plants and Dr. Maxon on the ferns. Dahlgren had said now Standley was at the Field there was no use to send anything to Nat Herb. I said all I could to correct that impression. [[Marginal note in two different hands]] [[in pencil]] Mr. Maxon please note. ASH [[/in pencil]] [in red]] Noted. Interesting if true! WRM 12/6/29 [[/in red]] [[/Marginal note in two different hands]] If I were at Casa Contenta I'd make a fire in the fire place. All I can do here is to put on woolen stockings, wool dress and jacket over it and shiver. Here is hoping for great things on Caparaó. With very best wishes, Sincerely, Agnes Chase.
[[stamped]] HITCHCOCK AND CHASE LIBRARY Smithsonian Institution [[/stamped]] [[underlined]] Nov. 14 [[/underlined]] [[stamped, inverted]] HITCHCOCK AND CHASE LIBRARY Smithsonian Institution [[/stamped, inverted]]
[[date stamped]] [[box outline]] A. S. H. Jan 9 1930 [[x outline]] [[/date stamped]] Viçosa, Dec 17, 1929 (Tuesday) Dear Prof Hitchcock, We reached here Saturday night - heavenly place and most cordial welcome. Dr. Rolfs was pretty much exhausted by the doings of "commencement," which were Friday to Sunday. We, with the Rolfs, were guests at almoçar at the dormitories Sunday at 11:30 - a great spread, with speeches by everybody. Sunday night the diplomas were given, medals pinned on, speeches, music by a band, and very good music by a violinist, ending with a dance and buffet supper. I'd been botanizing all afternoon (got quite a lot) but stayed looking on at the dance with Miss Rolfs - who was longing to go to bed as much as I was. I
could understand quite a bit of Dr. Rolfs' address but precious little of the others. The students orated most gorgeously. Great changes have been made since I was here. I have a number of [[strikethrough]] picture [[/strikethrough]] photo-postals showing the buildings, [[insertion]] few [[/insertion]] humans and other animals. It is a wonderful piece of work that is being done here. As [[margin, vertical blue line]] Ambassador Morgan said, speaking of the Rolfs family, it is the most important work done by any American in Brasil. [[/margin, vertical blue line]] Yesterday Miss Rolfs, Mrs. Mexia [[margin, vertical blue line]] and I, two of the new young profs. from Cornell and four young Brasilians [[/margin, vertical blue line]]went mule back to São Geraldo, about 15 miles off, up hill and [[end page]] [[start page]] down, collecting on the way. I got several grasses I did not get here before (different season) and Mrs. M. got a lot. It is still cloudy or drizzly and if it wasn't for the Rolfs' kitchen stove my collections would suffer badly. They are drying very slowly as it is. I had a mule with a most agonizing trot and am stiff and sore today. Prof. Muller (phytopath - one of the 3 from Cornell) is even less used to horseback than I am and feels the same way about it. We walked quite a bit, letting the Brasilians bring our mules. We came back on the train, the animals to be brought back today by two of the Brasilians. I enjoyed
it immensely. ¶ I am getting a lot of forage grass notes from Dr. Rolfs for Grasses of Brazil. Ponte Nova, Friday morning I left Viçosa last night and go west this morning, having to stay overnight here. I got a very good harvest of Viçosa - Panicum trichidiachne Doell for the first time, for one. It is such a heavenly place to stay it is hard to tear ones self away. Mrs. Mexia is staying on, to my distress, for I fear I've shifted my white elephant to the Rolfs, who are already overburdened. The Rolfs are going to Bello Horizonte for Christmas but Mrs. Mx said nothing about going on and they told her she
[[insertion]] Dec 17, 1929 [[/insertion]] might just as well remain during their absence, the housekeeper and cook will be there. She keeps one or two workmen - students busy changing and putting plants in press. She knows a good thing she she sees it, and she certainly appreciates the "eats" - I'm afraid she will be there a long time. At the Sunday almoça at the dormitorio, the Rolfs and [[insertion]] their [[/insertion]] company [[insertion]] being [[/insertion]] guests, we were late, waiting for Mrs. M to black her shoes. Dr. R has lectured students and faculty
on necessity of promptness and when we all came in late they joyously clapped and clapped. Well, I've said good by to Mrs. M - I shall feel relieved when I hear the Rolfs have. They are so very kind and hospitable it is a shame to impose on them. [[line across page]] Dr. Lisboa, the director, showed me through the school and dormitorio and shops yesterday and at the end told me the school was "mine." I'm certainly proud of "my" school. Dr. L is only 34 so he has a lifetime [[end of page]] [[start of page]] before him to go on with this work. I wish I had time to write of it, but I'm only using up time before train leaves. I understand [[margin, vertical blue line]] Ambassador Morgan's statement and I think of what a vast change there will be in a generation in Brasil because of this school. The plans and work are so advanced [[/margin, vertical blue line]] they remind me of Soviet Russian "literature" (though Dr. Rolfs would be aghast if I'd said such a thing). There is even a night school for the laborers, most of whom were wholly illiterate. Th whole is a joy to behold.
Dr. Rolfs does not seem well - rather he seems old and tired out. It is too bad. I must quit. I hope you are nearly as good as new - better than new - by this time. Dr. Rolfs was most sympathetic. It is too bad the AAAs had to miss a talk on Africa from you. ¶ I left pkgs 4 and 5 ^[[insertion]] at Viçosa [[/insertion]] to go to Rio sometime, and I left some tags for Dr. [[margin, in blue]] X [[/margin, in blue]] Rolfs to send [[underlined, in blue]] chaulmoogra [[/underlined, in blue]] oil seeds to chemist in Dept Agr. These will be marked to pass on to Chemistry. Love and best wishes to Miss Niles and Mr. Swallen. Very best wishes for your health. Sincerely, AC
Alegre, Espirito Santo Nov 21, 1929 5:30 am waiting for caminão Dear Prof Hitchcock, Yesterday afternoon I found your [[underlined]] Olyra Sampaiana [[/underlined]] near here and it has [[underlined]] tubers, [[/underlined]] regular little potatos on its roots. The only grass heretofore known with such is that East Indian Lepho (?) gracile. Isn't that great. I got 8 or 9 specimens, all I could find in bloom in a [[2 words covered by stamp]] [[stamped]] HITCHCOCK AND CHASE LIBRARY Smithsonian Institution [[/stamped]] all immature, but good. I also got a Pasp which I can't make
(in my mental key) anything but that species of Doell [[underlined]] Panicum [[/underlined]] sesquiglume if I recall it correctly, based on a Spruce collection, I only found 2, everything else was P. nutans. Being a state I had not been in before I am collecting one or two of everything and have put up a dozen or so ^[[insertion]] species [[/insertion]] - wiped them off. We are told the projected excursion has [[underlined]] muito [[/underlined]] difficuldade, but the señorhas can't be dissuaded. - Eating cafe (black) and pão. and answering questions, one astonishing one was [[end page]] [[start page]] "Esse senorha e sua m[[?]] [[corner of page is missing]] [That lady is your mother?] Mrs. Mexia didn't understand and I translated "What relation are you?" She is 49 and I am as you know extremely aged. The above joke is NOT to be passed on ^[[insertion]] beyond Grass Hb [[/insertion]] but it was too funny to keep entirely to myself. - Waiting for caminão 6:30, it was to be here at 6, but this is Brasil and with [[underlined]] Olyra sampaioana[[/underlined]] found and hopes of good things ahead I, as well as this town, are alegre. The potatoes on root of [[underlined]] O. samp [[/underlined]] are [[underlined]] much [[underlined]] more
( white-potato like than those of L. gracile, they are so [[underlined]] Gorgeous [[/underlined]] species. [[image: sketch of small tubers growing on fine roots]] [[line across page]] We go to Sta. Barbara ^[[insertion]] da Caparas [[/insertion]] by caminhão (150$) stay 5 days ^[[insertion, written vertically in right margin]] it was 9 or 10 [[/insertion]] and caminhão comes for us. We can go then by horses with guide a day's journey, then afoot [[underlined]] 2 days [[/underlined]] to Pico. If we get above forest (matta) to open grass land I don't care whether we make the summit or not and neither does Mrs. M. It is plants not mountain climbing we are after.
[[corner of page is missing]] [[insertion]] Nov 21, 1929 [[/insertion]] M's baggage is so over [[whe?]]lmingly enormous, 4 [[ti?]]mes mine. I'm hoping she [[w?]]ill be willing to leave most of it at Sta Barbara - it would take forever to get packhorses enough. The matta is being cleared here and there are great hillsides of young coffee trees. The clearing is done by burning the forest then hacking down what is left and dragging off the bulk of it. We see [[right margin, written vertically top to bottom]] [[underlined]] Nov. 21 [[/underlined]] [[/right margin]]