Between 1799 and 1814, “botanizer” John Lyon traveled the southern Appalachian Mountains in search of rare botanical specimens. Lyon conducted his work in order to sell exotic plants on European markets, and sometimes worked on private commissions. Lyon was one in a long line of collecting botanists in Appalachia, including the more famous John Fraser, André Michaux, and Asa Gray. This presentation examines late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Appalachian plant collecting through the lens of Lyon’s field journals, exploring the regular collecting circuit, botanizers’ techniques, and Appalachian residents who specialized in serving as collectors’ guides. I argue that botanical collecting in the southern highlands was an early example of natural resource extraction for external consumption, and that botanists’ attitudes toward regional landscapes and people foreshadowed perceptions and actions that came with the much larger coal and timber extraction boom of the late nineteenth century. As in later regional economic development, botanizers glowingly wrote of the abundance of Appalachian nature, while simultaneously describing the influence of that nature on local people in much more ambiguous terms.
Drew Swanson is an assistant professor of history at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. His scholarship has received awards from the Southern Historical Association, the Forest History Society, the Georgia Historical Society, and the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/drew_swanson/39/