John White Chickering, Jr.


Special thanks to the following individuals for providing information on J.W. Chickering, Jr.:  Jane Rutherford, Reference & Instructional Librarian of Gallaudet University, and Scott Martin, for information on Chickering’s zoological interests and for providing a reprint of Eastman (2006)

Image courtesy of Gallaudet University 11

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) curates 24 vascular plant specimens collected by John White Chickering, Jr.  Most were collected in the vicinity of Roan Mountain, Mitchell County, North Carolina during the summer of 1880.  As we continue to catalog our collections it is possible that more specimens collected by Chickering will be found.

Specimens collected by Chickering are curated by many herbaria across North America.  The following herbaria curate vascular plants collected by Chickering unless otherwise indicated.  Academy of Natural Sciences (PH), Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT, BRIT: SMU), Brown University (BRU), Butler University (BUT), California Botanic Garden (CalBG:RSA), California State Polytechnic University (OBI), Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN:CANM), Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CM), Colorado State University (CS), Delaware State University (DOV), Field Museum (F; vascular plants & lichens), Harvard University (GH, A, AMES), Howard University (HUDC), University of Indiana (IND), Louisiana State University (LSU), University of Texas at Austin (LL), Marshall University (MUHW), Missouri Botanical Garden (MO), New York Botanical Garden (NY), North Carolina State University (NCSC), Ohio State University (OS), Oregon State University (OSC), The Pennsylvania State University (PAC), Rutgers University (CHRB), Texas A&M University (TAES), University of Kansas (KANU), University of Maryland (MARY), University of Michigan (MICH), University of Tennessee, Knoxville (TENN), University of Vermont (VT), University of Wisconsin, Madison (WIS), Miami University (MU; bryophytes), Purdue University (PUR; fungi), and Yale University (YU; lichens).13  Chickering’s specimens can also be found in European herbaria:  University of Cambridge (CGE) and Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (P).5


John White Chickering, Jr. was born in Bolton, Massachusetts in 1831.  He received an A.B. in 1852 and an A.M. from Bowdoin College in Maine.  Chickering was a founding member of the Portland Society of Natural History (PSNH) in 1843, and served as the Society’s president from 1849 to 1851.

On November 24, 1843, some 24 Portland luminaries met at Mr. Stearn’s schoolhouse on Free Street for the purpose of organizing an investigative society to study Nature. Those in attendance were already well known in Maine and in other parts of New England. They included the Hon. Ether Shepley, Rev. John White Chickering, Edward Gould, John Neal, Dr. Jesse Wedgwood Mighels (pronounced “Miles”), Henry Quincy, Dr. William Wood, and Dr. Augustus Mitchell … It was decided that evening that a natural history organization should be established in the city of Portland. Within a month, the Society found a home in the Merchants Exchange Building on Middle Street. The group was incorporated in 1850 as the Portland Society of Natural History.10

Ether Shepley was chosen as president of the newly organized PSNH from 1843 – 1848. Judge Shepley was both a former US senator and a US attorney for the state of Maine, as well as a future Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court. Shepley handed over the presidency to John W. Chickering, minister of the High Street Congregational Church. Unlike Shepley, who was considered an armchair naturalist, Chickering was very active in the field, having climbed Mount Katahdin in 1850 and again in 1858. He collected a number of alpine plant specimens from the summit of Katahdin in 1850 that are still housed in herbaria at the Smithsonian Institution, New York Botanical Garden, and the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. Chickering also climbed Mount Washington in 1862 for the purpose of collecting alpine plant specimens. 10

It is interesting that Edward S. Morse, curator of PSNH ca. 1866, went on to become the director of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, and to found The American Naturalist. Chickering published frequently in this journal.

After teaching posts that included Theological Seminary of Bangor [Maine] (1852-1856), Seneca College Institute (principal 1857-1858; pastor 1860-1870), and pastorates in Springfield, Vermont and Exeter, New Hampshire, Chickering became a professor of Natural Science and Pedagogy at Gallaudet College in 1870. In 1884 Chickering and Prof. J.C. Gordon presented papers on the education of the deaf to the Section of Economic Science and Statistics of the American Academy of Arts and Science, an organization in which he was an active member for many years:

Prof. J. W. Chickering, jun., and Prof. J.C. Gordon of the National deaf-mute college [Gallaudet College], Washington, read papers upon the condition of deaf-mutes and deaf-mute instruction. Deaf-mutes average 1 in 1,500 of the world’s population. In the United States there were 33,878 reported by the last census. Over 15,000 have received an education, and are engaged in the ordinary pursuits of life, 12,000 are of school age, and from 1,000 to 2,000 are uneducated adults. There are fifty-eight schools and one college, for this class, in this country. The usefulness of the educated and the pitiful condition of the uneducated were described by Professor Chickering.14

It is interesting to note that Chickering was a co-author with North Carolina botanist Gerald McCarthy who was deaf and an alumnus of Gallaudet College.  For more information about McCarthy, see Troyer, J. R. 1999.  Stopped ears, open mind:  Gerald McCarthy (1858-1915):  North Carolina Botanist.  J. Elisha Mitchell Sci. Soc. 115(4): 201-212.

Chickering was married to Luciana Jameson (1834-1893) and together they had two daughters, Frances E. Chickering (1851-1941) and Luciana Chickering Beadell (1869-1949). 12

Chickering spent 29 years at Gallaudet College and retired in 1899. 1, 2 He died in 1913, and is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in the District of Columbia. 12


Chickering seems to have been particularly interested in alpine plants. Eastman refers to Chickering’s expeditions to Mount Katahdin in 1850 and 1858.10 In 1880 he ventured to Roan Mountain in Mitchell County, North Carolina. This summer on Roan Mountain was a high point in Chickering’s botanical career, as he published descriptions of several new taxa he found there.

Three years ago a party of fifteen from the Nashville meeting of the American Association [American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS] made the ascent [of Roan Mountain], by invitation of Gen. Wilder, the owner of the mountain, and the writer [Chickering] collected largely at that time. During the past summer an almost continuous scientific convention has been informally assembled on the summit; Profs. Goodale and Gibbs of Harvard; Prof. T. C. Porter of Easton; Dr. Leidy and Messrs. Thos. Meehan and Joseph Wilcox of Philadelphia; Capt. J. Donnell Smith, of Baltimore; Profs. Phillips and Symonds, of Chapel Hill, and Mrs. Geo. Andrews, of Knoxville, being of the number, so that not only the plants but the minerals, the rhizopods, the mollusks and the meteorology were all looked after.15

Nabalus roanensis in Swain County, North Carolina. “Roan Mountain Rattlesnake-root” is endemic to the mountains of SW Virginia, W North Carolina, and E Tennessee. Photo by Layla Dishman.

Roan Mountain Rattlesnakeroot (Asteraceae),  Nabalus roanensis Chick., was published in 1880 in Botanical Gazette 5: 155. “Found sparingly on the summit of Roan mountain, N.C., growing in the clefts of precipices,” notes Chickering in his description of the plant. The lectotype is found in US.

Blue Ridge Three-lobed Coneflower, Rudbeckia rupestris Chick. was published in 1881 in Coult. Bot. 188. This plant is found in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, and is now known as Rudbeckia triloba L. var. rupestris (Chickering) Gray.

Roan Mountain Bluet, Houstonia purpurea L. var. montana Chick. is now considered to be a nomenclatural synonym of Houstonia montana Small. NCU has one specimen that Chickering collected on July 5, 1880, from an altitude of 6,200 feet on Roan Mountain (NCU Accession number 30114). According to Weakley, this plant grows “in crevices of rock outcrops at the summits of high elevation peaks of the Southern Blue Ridge, also in thin, frost-heaved, gravelly soils of grassy balds, near summit outcrops, from 1250-1950 m in elevation… This species is endemic to the high Blue Ridge of northwestern North Carolina and northeastern Tennessee, notably occurring on Roan Mountain, Grandfather Mountain, Bluff Mountain, and Three Top Mountain.”7 It is listed as a federally endangered plant.

Chickering wrote of his botanical explorations in several scholarly journals (see PUBLICATIONS, below), and also presented his findings to a more general audience of a meeting of the Appalachian Mountain Club, held June 14, 1882 in Boston, where he presented “Roan mountain notes.”9 In 1888 Chickering was one of four lecturers for the Amateur Botanical Club of Washington:

A WINTER course of four lectures before the Amateur Botanical Club of Washington was as follows: Prof. Miles Rock on the Guatemala forests, Prof. J.W. Chickering on the flora of Alaska, Prof. Edw. S. Burgess on the fresh-water algae of the District of Columbia, and Dr. George Vasey on some important medical plants. The club is in a prosperous condition, having forty members and a good attendance at its regular meetings.16

Chickering was listed as “Chickering, Prof. J.W., D.C. [District of Columbia]” in the Botanical Directory for North America and the West Indies of 1873.6

It seems that Chickering had wide interests, for he took note of not only botanical matters, but zoological and geological as well. In 1854 he privately printed “List of Marine, Freshwater, and Land Shells Found in the Vicinity of Portland, Maine.”3 The list contained 20 land snail taxa.4  Chickering’s collection of 1,500 shells was given to the Gallaudet College museum, but was later donated to the Smithsonian Institution.2 In 1879 “Prof. John W. Chickering, Jr. gave a description of the newly discovered cave at Luray, Page county, Va., which he said surpassed the Mammoth cave in beauty and in the size of some of its chambers, and was inferior only in total extent”.8


Chickering, J. W., Jr. (1854) List of marine, freshwater, and land shells found in the vicinity of Portland, Maine. Double sheet. Privately printed by the author. [reproduced on pp. 243-245 of Bibliography of North American conchology previous to the year 1860, by W. G. Binney (Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 5, 1864].
Chickering, J.W., Jr. (1869) The flowers of early spring. The American Naturalist 3 (3): 128-131
Chickering, J.W., Jr. (1870) Our native trees and shrubs. The American Naturalist 4(4): 214-218.
Chickering, J.W., Jr. (1871) What I found at Hampton Beach. The American Naturalist 5 (6): 356-360.
Chickering, J.W., Jr. (1872) Botany forty years ago. The American Naturalist 6 (8): 485-487.
Chickering, J.W., Jr. (1873) The flora of the Dismal Swamp. The American Naturalist 7(9): 521-524.
Chickering, J.W. (1876) Catalogue of the alpine and sub-alpine flora of the White Mountains of N.H. [New Hampshire]. Field and Forest, Vol. ii, Washington.
Chickering, J.W. (1876) Field notes in New England. Field and Forest, Washington, D.C. [September, 1876, precise citation unknown; found in Botanical Bulletin 1 (12): 51].
Chickering, J.W. (1878) Catalogue of phaenogamous and vascular cryptogamous Plants collected during the summers of 1873 and 1874 in Dakota and Montana by Dr. Elliott Coues; with which are incorporated those collected in the same region at the same times by Mr. G. M. Dawson. IN: Bull. U.S. Geol. and Geog. Surv., 1878, Vol. iv, No. 4. Washington, D.C.
Chickering, J.W. (1880) A summer on Roan Mountain. Botanical Gazette 5 (12): 144-148.
Chickering, J. W. (1880) Nabalus Roanensis, n. sp. Botanical Gazette 5 (12): 155
Chickering, J.W. (1881) Notes on Roan Mountain, North Carolina. IN: Philosophical Society of Washington, Science 2(33): 62-63.
Chickering, J.W. (1881) Prenanthes (Nabalus) Roanensis. Botanical Gazette 6(3): 191.
Chickering, J.W. (1881) Rudbeckia rupestris, n. sp. Botanical Gazette 6 (3): 188-190.
Chickering, J.W., Jr. (1882) The Canadian flora. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 9(11): 140. [Here, Chickering lists his address as “Deaf-Mute College, Washington, D.C.]
Chickering, J.W., Jr. (1888) Queries: Are bats diurnal? Science 12(290): 96.
Chickering, J.W., Jr. (1888) Some Maine plants. Botanical Gazette 13 (12): 322.
Smith, John Donnell, Isaac C. Martindale, J. W. Chickering, Jr., Chas. E. Bessey, A. W. Chapman, R. I. Cratty, J. D. Davis, Chas. F. Johnson, C. E. Smith, and Gerald McCarthy (1886) Specimens and specimen making. Botanical Gazette 11 (6): 129-134.
Chickering, J.W. (1894) The botanical landscape. Science 23 (578): 118-119.


1. Stafleu, Frans A. and Richard S. Cowan. 1978-1988. Taxonomic Literature: a selective guide to botanical publications and collections with dates, commentaries and types, 2nd edition. Utricht: Bohn, Scheltema & Holkema.
2. Gallaudet Almanac. Washington, DC: The Gallaudet College Alumni Association, 1974. page 231.
3. Chickering, J. W., Jr. 1854. List of marine, freshwaster, and land shells found in the vicinity of Portland, Maine. Double sheet. Privately printed by the author. [reproduced on pp. 243-245 of Bibliography of North American conchology previous to the year 1860, by W. G. Binney (Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 5, 1864].
4. Martin, Scott M. 2000. Terrestrial snails and slugs (Mollusca: Gastropoda) of Maine. Northeastern Naturalist [Humboldt Field Research Institute].
6. Anon. (1873) Botanical Directory for North America and the West Indies. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 4(11): 49-53.
7. Weakley, Alan S. (2007) Flora of the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and Surrounding Areas, Draft of Jan. 1007. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC.
8. Geology and Paleontology. The American Naturalist 12 (11): 719.
9. Scientific news. The American Naturalist 17(1): 116-118.
10. Eastman, L.M. (2006) The Portland Society of Natural History: The rise and fall of a venerable institution. Northeastern Naturalist 13 (Monograph 1): 1-38.
11.  John White Chickering.  Accessed on 23 November 2016.
12.  John White Chickering.  Find A Grave Memorial #38919887.  Accessed on 23 November 2106.
13.  SERNEC Data Portal. 2023. http// Accessed on February 07.
14.  Proceedings of the Section of Economic Science & Statistics.  Science 4(87): 346-348. (October, 1884)
15.  J.W. Chickering (1880) A Summer on Roan Mountain. Botanical Gazette 5 (12): 144-148.
16.  Notes and News. Botanical Gazette 12 (2): 46-48.