Heinrich “Henry” Karl Daniel Eggert

(3 March 1841 — 18 April 1904)

Special thanks to William P. Shannon, IV, Curator of the St. Clair County Historical Society

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has about 40 specimens collected by Heinrich “Henry” Karl David Eggert.  Most of the specimens at NCU are signed simply “Eggert” and are entitled “Eggert, Herbarium Americanum”.  The earliest specimen of Eggert’s in NCU’s collection, Gypsophila repens, dates from 1864 and was collected in the Harz Mountains in Germany.  Eggert’s specimens in the 1870’s are from Missouri and Illinois, while his later collections in the 1890’s are from Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Many Eggert specimens have come to NCU through acquisitions of the W. W. Ashe Herbarium and the Jesup Herbarium of Dartmouth College (HNH).  As we continue to catalog our collections it is likely that more specimens collected by Eggert will be found.

The following lengthy excerpt is from Spaulding, Perley (1909)  A biographical history of botany at St. Louis, Missouri.  IV.  Popular Science Monthly 74:  240-258.    The pages dealing with Eggert are 252-256.

Heinrich Karl Daniel Eggert was born March 3, 1841 in the town of Osterwieck, Prussia.  He was educated at a seminary in Halberstadt, and became a teacher in the public schools of the neighboring city of Magdeburg.  He early became interested in the study of plants, and before leaving Europe he had made botanical collections in the Harz Mountains and on short journeys to Kreuznach and in Bohemia.  Dissatisfied with the small salary of a German school teacher, Eggert came to America in 1873, and for a few months worked on a farm in southern New York.  From New York he went to St. Louis, where he remained for a number of years and then removed across the [Mississippi] river to East St. Louis [St. Clair County, Illinois], where he lived the rest of his lifetime.

The first work he seems to have taken up in St. Louis was that of carrying papers for the local press.  He carried papers for about twenty years, handling both a morning and an evening one.  He worked early and late, never sparing himself and always living by himself in a secluded manner.  Comparatively few persons ever saw the interior of his house, and still fewer were on really friendly terms with him, as we ordinarily use that phrase.  While he had but little to do with his neighbors he never seems to have had any enemies.

Eggert’s first start in making more money than usual was at the time of the great outbreak of the American Phylloxera in the vineyards of Europe, destroying immense numbers of the vines and threatening the entire wine and grape industry of Europe.  It was finally discovered that the American native grapes might be used as stocks upon which to graft the more susceptible European varieties, so that a vine was obtained with which had roots of the American resistant species with the top of some desirable but susceptible European species.  This work resulted in an immense demand for the seed of some of our native species of grapes.  Eggert’s knowledge of botany led to his being recommended as a suitable person from whom to get these seeds.  For at least two or three years he made a business of collecting and selling them to foreign countries.  The business was quite remunerative and in the proper season he is said to have made several hundred dollars a month in this way.  He seems to have kept up his carrying of papers at the same time.  At first he carried them on his back, taking immense loads in a bag slung over his shoulder.  As his business grew he bought a horse and wagon and still later he employed others, so that at one time he conducted a considerable business of this kind.  He never relinquished his botanical work, and in early days he collected specimens for sale to botanists and for use in colleges and schools, thus making some little money.  In later years his left arm and hand became affected with a partial paralysis which he attributed to his severe work in carrying such heavy weights of papers slung over that shoulder.

Heinrich Karl Daniel Eggert’s house in East St. Louis, ca. 1909. [According to William P. Shannon, IV, Curator of the St. Clair County Historical Society, Henry Eggert’s house at 1101 North 7th Street has been demolished ; the location in 2013 is in the midst of a maintenance yard for the Illinois Dept. of Transportation near the Exchange Avenue Exit of Interstate 64/70/55.]
His money he invested in farms and similar property, and he succeeded in amassing considerable property.  In his personal habits he was always very frugal, his only luxury seeming to have been his botanical collecting.  In 1896 he sent to Germany for his nephew, August Eggert**, and turned his greenhouses over to him to run.  This nephew lived more or less intimately with him.  Mr. Eggert was always of a peculiar disposition, apparently being constantly in fear of some attempt upon his life.  He had hallucinations in which he thought every one had designs upon his life, and these became worse as he grew older.  His mind was undoubtedly unbalanced, and on the night of April 18, 1904, he shot himself with a revolver.

As mentioned above, Eggert early learned botany and collected extensively all of his life.  He collected assiduously all around St. Louis for a considerable distance, and his collection probably represented the flora of this district better and more completely than any other ever made.  He also went on collecting trips to various parts of Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas, and the southeastern states.  He seemed to possess a genuine love for botany, and his determinations seem to have been, as a rule, correct beyond ordinary.  He was a charter member of the Engelmann Botanical Club, and was its first vice-president.  He was also a member of the International Associations of Botanists, and was made one of its vice-presidents.

Personally, he seems to have had no enemies; he always remembered an injury, either real or fancied, and was unstinting in his dislike for those who had in any way incurred his displeasure.  His love of botany and his fine herbarium made him well known to the local botanists, yet he never seems to have been on really intimate terms with many of them.  He was always ready to exchange specimens of rare plants or local species, and his herbarium was thus greatly enlarged by exchange from other countries as well as from all parts of the United States.  During early days he collected specimens for the purpose of selling them, but as he grew older he could rarely be induced to sell his specimens, preferring to exchange.

His herbarium at this death was estimated to contain about 60,000 specimens, and was considered very valuable.  It was acquired by the Missouri Botanical Garden, and is at present [1909] being incorporated with the herbarium of that institution as rapidly as possible.  His herbarium is especially valuable for the reason that it was the basis of a local flora published by Eggert in 1891 under the title “Catalogue of the Phaenogamous and Vascular Cryptogamous Plants of the Vicinity of St. Louis, Mo.”  His preface is characteristic and self-explanatory, so that it may well be given:

Since the publication of Mr. Geyer’s catalogue of the Plants of Illinois and Missouri, about 1842, no other effort has been made to publish a list of plants growing in the vicinity of St. Louis but my own partial lists of species found in former years.  I hope my present catalogue of Plants growing in a radius of about 40 miles around St. Louis will be welcome to botanists until a local flora is published. Since 1874 I have systematically looked over the ground in all directions, so that very few plants will have escaped my observation; but as I could only go out one day at a time, in places too far off from railroads, there still may be found something new.  Railroads also will bring new immigrants from other regions when some of our own plants have vanished, so that it will be a very important matter for later botanists to know what in former years was growing here.  This idea mostly led me to have this catalogue printed. With the exception of a few plants reported to me by Mr. Letterman, of Allenton, Mo., all plants are collected by myself.  The catalogue contains nearly 1,100 different species and varieties, so that St. Louis need not be ashamed of her flora.

This catalogue of Mr. Eggert’s is by far the best and most nearly complete list of our plants which has yet appeared.  Besides the above mentioned catalogue, a number of small lists of desiderata were distributed to Eggert’s correspondents for a number of years.  Aside from these he published absolutely nothing, so far as now known.  Exact localities were not given either in his lists or upon the labels accompanying specimens, but he is known to have kept a note-book in which all such data were given.  This note-book disappeared during the changes following his death, and thus much valuable and intimate knowledge of our flora was lost.  As mentioned above, his entire herbarium is now in the possession of the Missouri Botanical Garden, where it will receive the best of care and will be accessible to all botanists desiring to use it.


Helianthus eggertii Small  was named in Henry Eggert’s honor.  MO holds the holotype, collected by Eggert on 19 August, 1897, from “Dry ground n. White Bluff” Dickson County, Tennessee.

NCU has specimens of Helianthus eggertii from :
Alabama:  Cleburne County:  ca. 7 mi. sseof Oxford; Cheaha Mountain around n. central T188S, R8E, section 9 Cheaha Lake.  M.G. Bussey #501.  2 October 1982.  NCU526553  Note:  Originally id as H. strumosus; annotated to H. eggertii ? anonymously, undated.
Arkansas:  Washington County:  near West Fork, west fork of White River.  G.E. Tucker #6347.  29 August 1967.  NCU317915.  Note:  Originally id as Silphium; annotated to H. strumosus by M.E. Medley in 1984; annotated to H. eggertii by anonymous, undated.
Illinois:  Johnson County
:  Roadside, Scout Cave, SE of Goreville, Johnson Co., Illinois.  R.A. Evers #96252.  9 August 1967.  NCU359278.  Note:  Originally id as H. strumosus; annotated to H. eggertii by JNN Campbell in 2005.
Mississippi:  Franklin County: Roadside slope on U.S. Highway 84-98, 5.0 mi. W of Meadville, Homochitto National Forest. L.C. Temple #3842.  4 August 1966.  NCU439001  Note: Originally id as H. divaricatus by Temple; annotated to H. strumosus by McDearman in 1982; annotated to H. eggertii by JNN Campbell in 2005.
Mississippi:  Holmes County:  Holmes County State Park.  T. M. Pullen #64719.  28 June 1964.  NCU291061  Note:  Originally id as H. strumosus by Pullen; annotated to H. strumosus in 1982 by McDearman; annotated to H. eggertii by JNN Campbell in 2005.

Helianthus eggertii Small named in honor of Heinrich Karl David Eggert by John Kunkel Small. Photo by Thomas Barnes, from the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Mississippi:  Holmes County:  County roadside, 2.0 mi. N of Coxburg.  L.C. Temple #3868.  6 August 1966.  NCU440035  Note:  Originally id as H. divaricatus by Temple; annotated to H. strumosus by McDearman in 1982; annotated to H. eggertii by JNN Campbell in 2005.
Mississippi:  Marion County:  ca. 6 miles E of Columbia.  S.B. Jones #6525, J. Carter, C. Hudson.  15 June 1955.  NCU 289314.  Note:  Originally id as Helianthus; annotated to H. strumosus by McDearman in 1982; annotated to H. eggertii by JNN Campbell in 2005.
South Carolina:  York County:  On far side of ditch at edge of woods on north side of Albright Rd (SC 72 Bypass),ca. 125 feet SW of mailbox numbers 1361 and 1397 in vicinity of Rock Hill utility pole no. 5149.  Site is also NE of intersection of Albright Rd. with SC 901 / SC 5 truck.  Approximately 47 flowering stems observed.  Mafic soil present.  Site may be impacted by ongoing improvements to bypass.  J.F. Matthews s.n.  21 October 2011.  NCU595975.
Tennessee:  Coffee County
:  Occurring in an old power line clearing in an “oak barren” along Tenn. Rte. 55, 5.4 m. N. of jct. with US. Rte 41.  HF Rock #943.  16 September 1957.  NCU192205.
Tennessee:  Coffee County:  Quad:  Manchester  Arnold Air Force Base, AEDC Airfield grass/herb dominated mowed/burned open areas.  West side of airfield ca. 35degrees23’20″E [sic]; 086degrees05’10″W.  Milo Pyne #03-010 & T. Whitsell.  4 September 2003.  NCU579383.

** August Eggert (b. November, 1870) immigrated to the United States in 1894 and rented a home at 1125 North 7TH Street/Bowman Avenue, just a few blocks away from his uncle, Heinrich “Henry” Eggert who owned a home at 1101 North 7th Street/Bowman Avenue in East St. Louis.1  Henry Eggert’s florist business was at 1025 North 7th Street. 4  The neighborhood was working-class, with most men on the street being day laborers, though a blacksmith, railroad laborer and teamster were enumerated as well.  Several of the women are listed as “washwomen” in the 1900 census.  While most people in the immediate vicinity of the Eggerts were born in Illinois, others were born in Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Bohemia and Austria.1  By 1910, Henry had died, and August continued in the florist trade and owned a home at 1021 North 9th Street/Bowman Avenue.  Though unmarried, August did not live alone:  his sister, Elizabeth (20 years old) had joined him, and widowed housekeeper, Mary George, and 16 year old James George lived in the house as well.2  By the 1940 census, August had married Bilta Eggert and had two daughters, Hilda, 22 years old, and Emma, 23 years old.  The family still resided at 1021 North 7th Street in East St. Louis.  Another family of Eggerts, Harold (69, born in Germany, “property owner”) and Hilda (67, born in Germany) lived nearby, at 1000 North 7th Street, but it is unclear what relation they were to Henry or August Eggert.3



1.       Year: 1900; Census Place: East St Louis Ward 7, St Clair, Illinois; Roll: 341; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0107; FHL microfilm: 1240341.  Ancestry.com1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2004.  Original data:  United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900.  Washington, D.C.:  National Archives and Records Administration, 1900.  T623, 1854 rolls.  Accessed on 1 January, 2013.

2.       Year: 1910; Census Place: East St Louis Ward 8, Saint Clair, Illinois; Roll: T624_322; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 0136; ; FHL microfilm: 1374335. Ancestry.com.  1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2006.  Original data:  Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910 (NARA microfilm publication T624, 1, 178 rolls).  Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29.  National Archives, Washington, D.C.  Accessed on 1 January, 2013.

3.      Year: 1940; Census Place: East St Louis, St Clair,Illinois; Roll: T627_880; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 82-41.  Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls. Accessed on 1 January, 2013.

4.      Personal Communication, email between McCormick and William P. Shannon, IV, Curator, St. Clair County Historical Society citing East St. Louis city directory, 1900.