Albion Reed Hodgdon

(1909 – 1976)2

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hebarium (NCU) has cataloged about 50 specimens collected throughout eastern North America by Albion Reed Hodgdon, who usually signed his labels as “A. R. Hodgdon”.  As more of our collection is cataloged, it is likely that more specimens collected by Dr. Hodgdon will be found.

The herbarium at the University of New Hampshire (NHA) is named in his honor.  ” The Albion R. Hodgdon Herbarium (NHA) of was founded in 1892 when the University of New Hampshire, then known as the New Hampshire College of Agricultural and the Mechanic Arts, moved from its Dartmouth College campus in Hanover to its present location in Durham with 1500 specimens. The collection expanded slowly until 1936 when Dr. Albion Reed Hodgdon became the director of the herbarium. An alumnus of UNH, Dr. Hodgdon contributed numerous specimens to the herbarium for his master’s thesis on the Flora of Strafford County, NH. He continued to contribute specimens throughout his career from field work in New England, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Galapagos Islands. He had a particular interest in the taxonomy of Rubus and the floristics and phytogeography of coastal Maine and eastern Canada. Dr. Hodgdon oversaw the integration of several “orphan” collections from other herbarium including the permanent loans of 9400 specimens of the Parker Cleaveland Herbarium of Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine and 15,447 specimens from the Portland Society of Natural History, Portland, Maine (now dissolved). Through these loans, NHA acquired 97 invaluable type specimens collected in the 1800’s and early 1900’s by Augustus Fendler, Ferdinand Lindheimer, and Merritt L. Fernald. By the time of Dr. Hodgdon’s death in 1976, the herbarium amassed approximately 82,000 vascular plant specimens and 36,000 specimens of marine algae. In 1978, NHA was officially dedicated in his honor, and its accompanying botanical library was dedicated to Sumner T. Pike, a patron and friend of the herbarium. “1

“Albion Reed Hodgdon was born to Lewis and Laura on Sawyer’s Island, Boothbay, on November 1, 1909.  His older brother, Melville Stuart Hodgdon, had been born in Boothbay, July 26, 1907. The family moved to a small farm on 32 acres in Dover, New Hampshire, when the boys were in their early youth.  The first documentation of Albion’s interest in plant life is found in excerpts from a note dated May 21, 1924, provided by Madge Hersey, his niece (daughter of Melville).  The 17-year-old Melville describes the “Forestry Club” that he, Albion, and other boyhood friends had established with the goal of cutting and clearing the timber on a section of their father’s lot.  The idea was not to make money, but to increase the value of the stand.  Soon after, they changed the name to “Twin Rivers Agricultural Club.”  Albion later expressed interest in pursuing a career in horticulture…

[Albion Hodgdon’s] first two university degrees were in botany from the University of New Hampshire: (1) a Bachelor of Science in 1930 and (2) a Master’s degree with his thesis, The Flora of Strafford County (Hodgdon 1932), the geographical area with which he was most familiar.  He then earned a doctorate at Harvard University in 1936 with his dissertation, A Monographic Study of the Genus Lechea (Hodgdon 1936)…

It became Hodgdon’s life work to record the flora of New Hampshire… In early training for his life work, Hodgdon traveled extensively: to Tennessee and Michigan while pursuing his doctoral dissertation; to Cuba in 1936, prodigiously collecting for the Gray Herbarium in a post-doctoral assignment at Harvard; to Kentucky in 1937; to Mexico and California in 1938; and to Alaska in 1952…

The Cuban expedition of 1936 provided essential experience and helped to hone Hodgdon’s observational skills.  Fresh with his new doctorate in botany at the age of twenty-seven, he set out for Cuba by way of Virginia and the southern states in an early 1930s For Model A car.  Dr. Lyman B. Smith, also a young Harvard Ph.D. and a curator of the Gray Herbarium at Harvard, accompanied him.  The purpose of the trip was to collect plants for the Gray Herbarium, although Hodgdon’s diary reads more like a travelogue than a log of collecting activity…

Albion Hodgdon in Alaska, 1952. Image from McGrath, W. E. 2012. Albion Reed Hodgdon: A life in botany. Rhodora 114 (858): 163-201.

Hodgdon had not finished his life work [when he died on 31 December 1976]. “It was a pity that he died,” David Conant said, “because he would have finished the flora of New Hampshire.  He seemed to know every species of vascular plant and its distribution in New Hampshire.”  Hodgdon’s first published paper, a one-age note, was on the large, white-flowered Trillium that had caught his eye from an automobile excursion with ohter students and Professor Fernald, of Harvard, in the town of Bethlehem, New Hampshire (Hodgdon 1934).  His last paper, with co-authors, was on hte grasses of New Hampsire, published posthumously (Hodgdon et al. 1979).  At fifty-three pages, it was one of the longest of his papers.

Of his 137 published papers, mostly short pieces, 62 were in Rhodora where, as Editor, he enlarged the coverage to include South America.  He had one more manuscript, which he never got around to publishing: “The Flora of Durham, New Hampshire.” … It exists in typescript only and is in the Sumner Pike Library in the Hodgdon Herbarium.”2

Many of Hodgdon’s specimens at NCU are from the work he did with Lyman B. Smith in Virginia for the Plantae exsiccatae Grayanae.

Albion Hodgdon married Audrey McKown (1908-1988) and together they had three children:  Ariel, Alan, and Anthony. 3




1. The History of the Albion R. Hodgdon Herbarium.  accessed on 25 July 2023.

2.  McGrath, William E. 2012.  Albion Reed Hodgdon:  A life in botany.  Rhodora 114(958): 163-201.

3.  Find a Grave, database and images ( accessed 25 July 2023), memorial page for Mabel Audrey McKown Hodgdon (23 Apr 1908–Mar 1988), Find a Grave Memorial ID 147950284, citing New North Cemetery, Nottingham, Rockingham County, New Hampshire, USA; Maintained by Robert J. Hodsdon, Sr. (contributor 47094022).