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Liberty Hyde Bailey papers

 Record Group
Identifier: UA-10.3.1

Scope and Contents

The papers of Liberty Hyde Bailey span the years 1855-1958. The majority of the materials were received from the Liberty Hyde Birthsite Bailey Museum in South Haven, Michigan. The collection contains correspondence, writings by Bailey, newspaper and magazine clippings and photographs. The collection also includes reproductions of botanical drawings.

The correspondence includes three Christmas cards from Bailey to his wife; a collection of business letters; a letter from China in 1924; a letter from his niece; and two letters to his father, which were published in the South Haven Sentinel about his trip to Kentucky in 1882. There is also some correspondence regarding the Liberty Hyde Bailey School in East Lansing, Michigan.

The writings are arranged alphabetically and include the story “How I went to Chicago,” written by Bailey when he was 13 years old. Bailey wrote the speech, “Let us look backward in order that we may look ahead,” on the occasion of New York Governor Odell’s signing of the bill establishing the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University in 1904. Included are a number of agriculture books written by Bailey. Also in this collection are several poems written by Bailey and an 1888 record of the ornamental plants on Michigan Agricultural College’s (now Michigan State University) campus that he compiled while he was a professor here.

The various newspaper and magazine clippings include information about Bailey’s later life, including his 90th and 93rd birthdays and death.

The photographs include pictures of agriculture and lumbering taken around the state of Michigan in 1888. These pictures come from various counties as well as the M.A.C. campus. There is also a photograph of the Liberty Hyde Bailey School in East Lansing.


  • Creation: 1852 - 1958


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

Liberty Hyde Bailey was born March 15, 1858 in South Haven, Michigan. Although he never earned a high school diploma, he entered Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) in the fall of 1877 and graduated in 1882 . While at M.A.C., he was the president of the Natural History Society, editor-in-chief of The College Speculum and worked as a collecting assistant for professors Beal and Cook. Duing this time, he also met his future wife, Annette Smith, a fellow student.

After graduation, he worked in the Harvard Herbarium under Asa Grey as an assistant in the botanical gardens. He returned to M.A.C. as a horticulture professor in 1885 and earned his MS in 1886. Bailey was an innovative teacher. He introduced lab work in his horticulture classes and planned the first horticultural lab building in the nation. This building still exists and is now Eustace Hall. Bailey left M.A.C. for a professorship at Cornell in 1888. While at Cornell, he continued to introduce new ideas in the teaching of horticulture such as establishing a plant pathology program. He became Dean and Director of Cornell’s College of Agriculture in 1903 and remained so until his retirement in 1913. During his time as Dean, he also headed President Theodore Roosevelt’s Commission on Country Life.

After his retirement from Cornell and into his nineties, Bailey remained an active plant collector and traveled to China, South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and New Zealand on scientific expeditions. He became the world’s leading expert on palm plants. Bailey died at the age of 96 on Christmas Eve, 1954. Bailey Hall, a residence hall in the Brody Complex, was built a year after his death, in 1955.


1.5 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Legal Status

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to Michigan State University but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Copyright restrictions may apply.

Property Rights: Michigan State University.

General Note

See Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum in South Haven, Michigan.

Liberty Hyde Bailey Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US