WIS Adopts Collection of Historic Specimens from Carthage College

Nearly 15,000 vascular plant specimens were accessioned into our collection this year as a gift from the Department of Biology at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI.  Many of these specimens were collected in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries throughout the upper Midwest, but especially in Illinois.  Specifically, the bulk of the collection was made in Hancock County, IL by Dr. Alice L. Kibbe (1881 – 1969), who served as a botanist at Carthage College from 1920 to 1956. She was noted in the region as a natural historian, philanthropist, and traveler, and for her role as an early female academic leader.  Alice Kibbe was born in Bridgewater, SD, and later attended Cornell University where she earned a MS degree in 1920.   In the fall of that year she reported to Carthage College as a teacher in the Biology department and immediately began work on her doctoral theses, a botanical survey of Hancock County, which was published later, in 1952, as A botanical study and survey of a typical mid-western county: Hancock, Illinois; Covering a period of 199 years, from 1833-1952.   The research brought her in contact with the work of other botanists, including Drs. Meade, Kellogg, Tandy, Ehinger, and others whose work had been forgotten by local residents.  Correspondence preserved by families of these men, from Asa Gray, and other famous American botanists was the basis for her second book, Afield with Plant Lovers, published in 1953.

Carthage College was founded in 1847 by Lutheran pioneers who settled in Hillsboro, IL.   In 1852, the College relocated to Springfield, Ill., and assumed the name of Illinois State University.  Just a few decades later, in 1870, the College moved again, this time to the rural, west-central city of Carthage, Ill.  By 1927, enrollment in the College had reached nearly 300 students, but the Great Depression and World War II lowered enrollment to 131 students in 1943, and the college struggled to recover. Ten years later, the Board of Trustees agreed to consider relocating Carthage once again. By 1962, Carthage had established its lakeshore campus in Kenosha, WI, where it has prospered and become recognized as nationally ranked liberal arts college.  In exchange for its historical herbarium collection, WIS has assembled a small, but representative, collection of common Midwest plant species that will serve the student body of Carthage College as a botanical teaching resource.

We are especially grateful to Dr. Deanna Byrnes, Assistant Professor of Biology at Carthage College and UW-Madison alumna (Zoology Ph.D., 2005), for coordinating the adoption of the CART herbarium.