The Marcus E. Jones Herbarium

“Judging by it I should say without question that Prof. Jones’s herbarium must be the largest and scientifically most
important botanical collection in private possession anywhere in America” - Benjamin Lincoln Robinson, Curator of Harvard’s Gray Herbarium, in a letter to John A. Widtsoe, 1919

Until Pomona College purchased Jones’ herbarium in 1923 for $25,000 under the oversight of Philip A. Munz, Jones’ collection was the largest privately owned herbarium in the country, which Jones estimated cost him $125,000 to assemble over the course of nearly fifty years. Pomona College also purchased Jones’ library for an additional $500, and soon afterward 99 boxes and crates containing the herbarium and library—representing the majority of Jones’ lifetime botanical work—were transported from Salt Lake City, UT, to Claremont, CA. 

The financial pressures that led Jones to sell his herbarium were nothing new to him; over the course of his career, Jones sold thousands of specimens and pursued additional careers in order support his continued interest in botany. As a freelance botanist, Jones undoubtedly spent more money on his botanical work than he made from it. A young botanist, Percy Train, wrote to Jones with his concern over the matter, “Since I broke into the botany game, I found it to be about the poorest paid business in the world and I have wanted to talk to another collector about that little thing.” In spite of such difficulties, Jones found this to be a sacrifice he was willing to make for his genuine dedication to the study of western botany.

The majority of Jones' collection remains at the RSABG Herbarium, including some 560 type specimens.

These two specimens pictured below, Senecio jonesii Rydberg (left, collected in 1879) and Gilia congesta Hook var. paniculata Jones (right, collected in 1934), represent the span of Jones' botanical career, from its beginnings in 1879 to his death in 1934. (Click the images to view the digital archive.)