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USDA Chestnut Tree Research Records

Identifier: MS0491

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

The USDA Chestnut Tree Research Records consists of a series of notecards documenting chestnut seed distribution and tree growth across the United States, England, and Canada in the early-to-mid twentieth century. The information on each notecard varies, and includes but is not limited to the geographic location of where chestnut trees were planted or seeds distributed; the species of the chestnut tree(s); the name of the person, organization, agency, and or address to which seeds were distributed or planted; dates seeds were distributed or trees observed; notes about the conditions or specific locations of the trees and whether they contain blight; as well as a Plant Inventory (PI) number. Although the collection is primarily composed of informational notecards, some items include hand drawn maps, photos, letters, newspaper articles, and other supporting documentation.

The Plant Inventory (PI) numbers that appear on many of the notecards originate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industry Inventory of Seeds and Plants Imported by the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction, published in the late nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century. In some cases, the PI number can be cross-referenced with PI numbers appearing on other cards in the collection, which can help identify the specific species and geographic origin of the trees or seedlings distributed.


  • Creation: 1876-2015
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1920-1940

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Total Size of Collection

10 boxes

3 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Content Description

The USDA Chestnut Tree Research Records documents chestnut tree seed distribution and growth across the United States, England, and Canada in the early-to-mid-twentieth century. The program served to reintroduce and monitor the progress of various species of chestnut trees following the introduction of Cryphonectria parasitica, or chestnut blight, from East Asia to North America and Europe in the early 1900s.


The USDA Chestnut Tree Research Records are primarily arranged in their original order, although some rearrangement occurred during processing.

Series I.A Chestnut Trees in the United States is divided into multiple subseries by state, and then is arranged alphabetically by geographic location such as town or city.

Series I.B Chestnut Trees in Canada in England is divided into two subseries, Canada Chestnut Trees and England Chestnut Trees. Both subseries are arranged alphabetically by geographic name.

Series I.C Chestnut Tree Plant Inventory Records are in original order, and are largely organized by Plant Inventory (PI) number, though some of the records deviate from this arrangement.

Series I.D Chestnut Seed Distribution Records Records are in original order, and are organized by Plant Inventory (PI) number.

Processing Information

Approximately 25 boxes of the collection remains unprocessed and includes blight surveys; breeding, forest pathology, oak, hybrid, and shipping records; reports; correspondence; and photographs, negatives, and lantern slides. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the National Agricultural Library Special Collections Repository

National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Avenue
Room 309
Beltsville Maryland 20705 USA