historical literature
posted Jan 2007

Frank Shipley Collins 1848-1920
W. A. Setchell
American Journal of Botany (12 (1): 54-62. Jan 1925. (Botanical Society of America.)


W. A. Setchell1

Collins    Frank Shipley Collins was born in Boston, Massachusetts, February 6, 1848, and died in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 25, 1920. He was graduated from high school in 1863 and entered on a business career in 1864, which he continued with slight interruption until retired and pensioned in 1913. Through war-time call from his old firm he resumed connection with business along the lines of his previous experience in 1918, was variously situated with them, and died in harness. In 1875 he married Anna Lendrum Holmes of Little Falls, New York, who with two sons survives him. His botanical and other scientific work occupied only his "leisure" hours. His botanical interests were wide, but he early directed his attention to the algae, particularly to the marine species at first, but later to those of the fresh water and to aerial forms as well. He began to publish notes on algae in 1880, when in his thirty-third year. From that time on he was an active factor in the advance of American phycology.

    Frank Shipley Collins was the son of Joshua Cobb Collins and Elizabeth Ann (Carter) Collins. His paternal grandparents were Michael Collins and Dorcas D. (Cobb) Collins of Eastham, Massachusetts, on the Cape Cod Peninsula, where both the Collins and the Cobb families had been long established. The old Collins house, built over two centuries ago, when hand-worked lumber only was available, is still standing and is occupied by the widow of Frank Shipley Collins with the title vested in his grandson. It is a quaint old mansion still retaining much of its early colonial character. Michael Collins held many offices of trust in Barnstable County, Massachusetts. The Carters and their relatives were Charlestown people and numbered "yeoman" manufacturers, merchants, and sea captains among their ilk. The pedigrees on all sides seem to have run back to Massachusetts colonials of the seventeenth century.

    Frank Collins, being a delicate child without desire for outdoor play, spent much of his time in his earlier years over books and listening to instructive stories told by his mother or her two sisters, Miss Sarah Putnam Carter and Mrs. Abigail (Carter) Shipley. Both his aunts taught in the Charlestown Female Seminary, where his mother had also been a teacher. Their subjects included English, Greek, Latin, French, mathematics, and botany, and these became familiar to the subject of our sketch early in life. It was through this grounding that he was able to carry on so successfully

1 In behalf of a committee of the Botanical Society of America, consisting of M. A. Howe, W. A. Setchell, and I. F. Lewis.


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his scientific work in spite of the lack of a university training. He went to a very exclusive private school in Malden at the age of three, and later, the family having removed to Malden after the death of his father, he attended the public schools of the same city, being graduated from all classes with honors and at the same time continuing his home studies in Greek, Latin, French, mathematics, and astronomy. He was graduated from high school in 1863 in his sixteenth year, but suffered so much from asthma for about two years that he could not indulge in active occupation of any kind, being unable to lie down for much of the time. During these years he was enabled to study harmony and the pianoforte, and through contact with an able teacher of music, a talented man of charming personality and one who had traveled much, his attention was directed to opera, concerts, recitals, etc.,. of the best sort. His mother and aunts desired to have him enter Harvard University and the family means were ample for that purpose, but his grandfather Carter, a practical man, decided that work was better, and he entered upon a business career. After various experiences, mostly disappointing, and the family means having been greatly depleted, he finally, having qualified as an expert bookkeeper, entered the employ of the Malden Rubber Shoe Company, as ticket clerk, with the object of learning the whole system of laying out the separate pieces of boots and shoes to be made the next day by the individual makers. It was a delight to him to study out new forms and eliminate clumsy and unnecessarily long "tickets." He remained in this office, constantly improving methods, as manager, for over thirty years, and after retirement was recalled by the exigencies of war to take up the work anew as a sort of efficiency expert.

    The formal education of Frank Shipley Collins was not continued beyond the high school, as has been indicated above, but he was naturally studious and seems to have continued the self-education begun at home under his mother and aunts far beyond the ordinary limits. Even in later years he added Spanish to his linguistic acquirements of Latin, French, and German, because he desired to become acquainted with the Spanish novels of the day. Although neither an artist nor an expert musician, he took the keenest interest in the art exhibits and the work of artist friends as well as in public and private musical performances, having been a constant attendant of the concerts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra as well as the chamber concerts, recitals, etc., for which Boston and its vicinity afforded such a wealth of opportunity. His mental equipment was of the alert and progressive order and led him along many paths. He was at one time much interested in theosophy and, besides acquiring a considerable library on the subject, was very active in discussions and correspondence on the subject. It was this mental alertness, combined with indomitable energy and perseverance, that led Collins to devote his spare time to what might be called recreational work along scientific lines. We find him early (at least some years before 1880) associated with George Edward Davenport and Lorin Low Dame of

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Medford in the work and particularly the excursions of the Middlesex Scientific Field Club, which later developed into the Middlesex Institute, under whose auspices Dame and Collins published (1888) their "Flora of Middlesex County." Collins had evidently imbibed the elements of botany from his aunt, Mrs. Simon G. Shipley, but music and art absorbed at first his interests outside of business. After his marriage he was led to take up marine algae through his wife's acquaintance with a collector and merchant of "sea mosses." Mrs. Collins, who had come into contact with Mrs. Maria H. Bray at Magnolia, Massachusetts, had assisted Mrs. Bray in gathering seaweeds and preparing them for sale to her summer boarders. Mrs. Bray and her husband had previously been keepers of the lighthouse on Thatcher Island. One day Mrs. Bray read, in one of the occasional newspapers which had come her way to lighten the tedium of the isolated life at Thatcher Island, an advertisement by someone in the central western portion of the United States, offering most attractive exchanges in return for sea mosses. She answered the advertisement and received directions for collecting and mounting. The collecting and mounting provided her with a wonderful new interest. At Ptilota Cafe, whither she removed later, Mrs. Bray sold the mounted "sea moss" cards, each of which was labeled with the botanical name. Mrs. Collins called Frank Collins' attention to these cards and he became interested. He soon realized that the naming of these cards was very defective, and with his characteristic efficiency started to investigate, soon becoming immersed in what was destined to be his specialty.

    We must remember that at the time Collins began to collect and study algae but little was known of our American species, either marine or freshwater. Harvey had given us the magnificent but wofully incomplete "Nereis Boreali-Americana" (1853-1858). On marine species, D. C. Eaton and F. W. Hall, his pupil, had published some lists, as had Farlow, but there was nothing adequate in the way of local literature. Farlow's "New England Algae " did not appear until 1881. As to fresh-water forms, the more general literature applied also locally, but the works of Wood and Wolle were neither complete nor trustworthy. After 1881, however, with the "Marine Algae of New England" to guide and stimulate, Collins' reaction was definite and positive. He then began the issue of the series of "Notes," which are models of their kind. As early as 1879 he delivered an address before some club on the subject of marine algae, and then, to please his aunt, Mrs. Shipley, who could not attend the meeting, he copied out his discourse, illustrated it with specimens of algae, and presented it to her in the form of a handsomely bound copy. We find that his botanical education must have advanced sufficiently thoroughly and considerably, so that by 1882 he began the series of publications which indicated his passing from the tyro class and ranged him with the authoritative workers, adding particularly to our regional knowledge with accuracy and precision.

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    Collins was a collector of the very best type. No trip was too long or too venturesome, no locality too remote or too disagreeable; in winter he pierced the ice, and in summer he braved the most trying heat. He followed the phenologic activity of his plants in particular localities, in many of them season by season and year after year, obtaining at first hand knowledge and experience of the stages and life histories of the species he was interested in. His exploration of the New England coast began early; just how early is not apparent, but his collection book begins with the enumeration of algae collected on a trip to Lynn Beach in October, 1878. The entries from that time on indicate how much he was able to get about, and from Falmouth, Massachusetts, to Mt. Desert, Maine, he explored the New England coast, making complete collections whenever possible and preparing his specimens with great care. Later he extended his territory to Newport, Rhode Island, and later still, after the beginning of his acquaintance with another enthusiast in his line, Isaac Holden of Bridgeport, Connecticut, an amateur phycologist of his own aggressive type, he made himself personally familiar with the algae of various localities in the region of Long Island Sound. His knowledge of the marine flora of New England was unrivaled, and in his later years he spent his summer vacations at the Tufts Marine Biological Laboratory at South Harpswell on the Maine coast or at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. No one had a better knowledge of the marine flora of the coast of New England than Collins possessed, and he had himself observed living and personally collected nearly every species recorded. His additions alone increased our regional knowledge of the marine algae of this coast over 100 percent.

    Not only was he an untiring and extensive collector, but he was able to utilize other collectors, both amateur and professional botanists, on the New England coast and on other coasts as well. As early as the nineties, he received collections of rough-dried algae of the Pacific Coast from Miss M. M. Miles, from Mrs. A. E. Bush, from Mrs. J. M. Weeks, from G. W. Lichtenthaler, and later from Mrs. M. S. Snyder and others. These were soaked out, mounted, studied, and exchanged or issued in various "Algae Exsiccatae." Dr. Christ of Basel and Miss Julia Houegger sent very considerable collections from the Canary Islands; Mrs. Cora E. Pease and Miss Eloise Butler collected for him in Jamaica, as did also Dr. J. E. Duerden; Miss C. Messina and Mrs. G. A. Hall at Key West and on the Florida Coast, Miss Eloise Butler and Miss Polley in Minnesota and on Vancouver Island, as well as others. In soaking out and working over these collections, Collins obtained experience of a very considerable portion of the coast of the United States in a much more effective way than could possibly have been gained from individual herbarium specimens, and he used the duplicates in exchange to enrich his constantly growing herbarium.

    Frank Collins was fond not only of local botanical excursions, but also of longer trips. "At twenty-five and out of a job," writes Mrs. Collins, "he

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borrowed a thousand dollars of his reluctant and scandalized grandfather Carter and took a seven months' trip to Europe." His interests in botany at this time (1873) were not sufficient to be a feature in inducing his visit, but he devoted himself to music and art. He made several trips to Bermuda, collecting not only algae but other plants, particularly flowering plants for different herbaria, as well. He put into order in his later years the algae of the Farlow herbarium, those of the Boston Society of Natural History, and those of the Missouri Botanical Garden. His own algal herbarium was, after his death, purchased by Dr. N. L. Britton and presented to the New York Botanical Garden.

    Collins' work was largely regional, at first confined to New England but later extending along the Atlantic coast to Bermuda and to Jamaica, westward to Vancouver Island, and northward to the American Arctic. At the time of his death he was at work on two projects, an account of the marine algae of the Philippines and a manual of the marine algae of New England. His earlier publications were in the form of notes on additions to the marine flora of New England and critical determinations of its species. In 1888 he issued, in connection with L. L. Dame, "A Flora of Middlesex County," and in the same year he contributed an account of the marine algae to Maria L. Owen's " Catalogue of Plants of the County of Nantucket." In 1894 he prepared the account of the marine algae for Rand and Redfield's "Flora of Mount Desert;" in 1901, his "Algae of Jamaica;" in 1913, his "Marine Algae of Vancouver Island;" and in 1917, in connection with Rev. A. B. Hervey, his "Algae of Bermuda." These and other projects led him to critical work on various genera and families, particularly of the Chlorophyceae, culminating in his most considerable publication, "The Green Algae of North America," and its supplements. He prepared at different times accounts of various families of North American algae, a few of which are in definite manuscript form, but found the task of such extended work impossible of completion because of the incomplete state of our knowledge of certain coasts.

    His collecting, exchanging, and general handling of specimens led him to take a great interest in published sets of algae, or algae exsiccatae. He contributed to the classic distribution of Wittrock and Nordstedt and to Hauck and Richter's "Phykotheka Universalis," and finally undertook, in connection with Isaac Holden and W. A. Setchell, the onerous task of issuing the "Phycotheca Boreali-Americana." The successful issue of the numerous fascicles, including the handling of over 200,000 specimens, is due to the energy and perseverance of Collins, his co-workers assisting, but the detail of assembling, sorting, preparing labels, title pages, covers, and makeup as well as attending to the necessary financial details, all fell upon him. It was his ambition to have issued fifty of the ordinary fascicles and at least six of the larger size. Through his care, this published set is more fully representative of North American species than it otherwise could possibly

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have been. He was most successful in enlisting students of algae in various portions of the country towards making the distribution more complete.

    Although Collins, as has already been mentioned, was compelled to occupy himself during the greatest portion of his lifetime with business pursuits quite apart from his hobby of marine algae, yet his accomplishments in the lines of botany and particularly in the realm of phycology brought him the respect and esteem of the highest authorities in his line. His correspondence with Dr. Ed. Bornet of Paris began in 1888 and continued until Bornet's death. His correspondence with Hauck, Richter, Nordstedt, Traill, Holmes, Weber-van Bosse, Gomont, Sauvageau, and other European workers helped him to render his work more accurate and effective as well as to assist in the preparation of many important monographs. His relation to Farlow, especially, and to other American botanists was of the friendliest and of mutual helpfulness. He was a member of the Middlesex Institute, of the Boston Society of Natural History, of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, of the New England Botanical Society (president for three years), corresponding member of the Torrey Botanical Club, and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the degree of M. A. {honoris causa) from Tufts College in 1910, and was appointed an associate in the University Museum of Harvard University. Altogether he was of the rare type of conscientious business man who achieves in his amateur connection with science those accomplishments of which a professional may well be proud. A thorough gentleman, kindly and generous indisposition, a loyal friend, a most helpful co-worker, ardent in the pursuit of knowledge of the most satisfying type, Frank Shipley Collins has presented to the scientific world an example of what the amateur may accomplish and has left behind him a host of sorrowing friends and comrades in the work who feel his loss most deeply and who testify to his sterling worth and accomplishments. His memory is perpetuated among the algae by several namesakes, of which Phaeosaccion Collinsii Farlow, a most interesting species of the brown algae, and Collinsiella tuberculata Setchell and Gardner of the green algae may especially be mentioned.

    I am deeply indebted to Mrs. Frank S. Collins for information on many important matters included in the foregoing account.


A Laminaria new to the United States. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 7: 117, 118. 1880.

Marine algae. In John Robinson, Flora of Essex County, Massachusetts. 157-168. 1880.

Algae. In Edward K. Godfrey, The island of Nantucket. 46, 47. 1882.

Notes on New England algae. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 9: 69-71. 1882.

Notes on New England marine algae—II. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 10: 55, 56. 1883.

Notes on New England algae—III. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 11: 29, 30. 1884.

Notes on New England marine algae—IV. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 11: 130-132. 1884.

Flora of Middlesex County, Massachusetts (with L. L. Dame). 1-201. 1888.

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Marine algae of Nantucket. In Maria L. Owen, A catalogue of plants growing in Nantucket, Mass. 76-87. 1888.

Algae from Atlantic City, N. J. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 15: 309-314. 1888.

Brachytrichia Quoyi (Ag.) Bornet and Flahault. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 17: 175, 176. 1890.

Notes on New England marine algae—V. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 18: 335-341. 1891.

Thallophyta. In E. L. Rand and J. H. Redfield, Flora of Mt. Desert Island, Maine. 227-249. 1894.

Notes on New England marine algae—VI. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 23: 1-6. 1896.

New Cyanophyceae. Erythea 4: 119-121. 1896.

Algae, in Flora of Metropolitan Parks. 1896. (not seen).

Notes on New England Marine algae—VII. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 23: 458-462. PI. 278. 1896.

Some perforating and other algae on freshwater shells. Erythea 5: 95-97. PI. 4. 1897.

Notes on algae—I. Rhodora 1: 9-11. 1899.

A case of Boletus poisoning. Rhodora 1: 21-23. 1899.

A seaweed colony. Rhodora 1: 69-71. 1899.

To seaweed collectors. Rhodora 1: 121-127. 1899.

Notes on algae—II. Rhodora 2: 11-14. 1900.

Preliminary lists of New England plants—V. Marine algae. Rhodora 2: 41-52. 1900.

Seaweeds in winter. Rhodora 2: 130-132. 1900.

The New England species of Dictyosiphon. Rhodora 2: 162-166. 1900.

The marine flora of Great Duck Island, Me. Rhodora 2: 209-211. 1900.

Collecting seaweeds in the tropics. Rhodora 3: 90, 91. 1901.

Notes on algae—III. Rhodora 3: 132-137. 1901.

The algae of Jamaica. Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts Sci. 37: 231-270. 1901.

Notes on algae—IV. Rhodora 3: 289-293. 1901.

Chlorophyceae, in De Alton Saunders, Algae. (Harriman Expedition.) Proc. Wash. Acad. Sci. 3: 409-416. 1901.

The marine Cladophoras of New England. Rhodora 4: 111-127. PI. 36. 1902.

An algologist's vacation in eastern Maine. Rhodora 4: 174-179. 1902.

The Ulvaceae of North America. Rhodora 5: 1-31. Pis. 41-43. 1903.

Lorin Low Dame. Rhodora 5: 121-123. Portrait. 1903.

Notes on algae—V. Rhodora 5: 204-212. 1903.

Isaac Holden. Rhodora 5: 219, 220. 1903.

Notes on algae—VI. Rhodora 5: 231-234. 1903.

A sailor's collection of algae. Rhodora 6: 181, 182. 1904.

Algae of the flume. Rhodora 6: 229-231. 1904.

Chlorochytrium Lemnae in America. Rhodora 7: 97-99. 1905.

Phycological notes of the late Isaac Holden—I. Rhodora 7: 168-172. 1905.

Phycological notes of the late Isaac Holden—II. Rhodora 7: 222-243. 1905.

Intuition as a substitute for reference. Rhodora 8: 77-79. 1906.

New species, etc., issued in the Phycotheca Boreali-Americana. Rhodora 8: 104-113. 1906.

Notes on algae—VII. Rhodora 8: 122-126. 1906.

Notes on algae—VIII. Rhodora 8: 157-161. 1906.

Acrochaetium and Chantransia in North America. Rhodora 8: 189-196. 1906.

Is Rhinanthus Crista-galli an introduced plant? Rhodora 9: 26. 1907.

The basis of nomenclature for algae. Rhodora 9: 77-80. 1907.

Some new green algae. Rhodora 9: 197-202. PI. 76. 1907.

George Edward Davenport. Rhodora 10: 1-9. Portrait. 1908.

Oedogonium Huntii rediscovered? Rhodora 10: 57, 58. 1908.

Some algae from Hudson Bay (with W. A. Setchell). Rhodora 10: 114-116. 1908,

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The genus Pilinia. Rhodora 10: 122-127. PI. 77. 1908.

Two new species of Acrochaetium. Rhodora 10: 133-135. 1908.

Notes on algae—IX. Rhodora 10: 155-164. 1908.

New species of Cladophora. Rhodora 11: 17-20. PI. 78. 1909.

Notes on Monostroma. Rhodora 11: 23-26. 1909.

Notes on the flora of lower Cape Cod. Rhodora 11: 125-133. 1909.

The green algae of North America. Tufts Coll. Studies 2: 79-480. Pis. 1-18. 1909.

An algological prophecy fulfilled. Rhodora 11: 196, 197. 1909.

Flora of lower Cape Cod; supplementary note. Rhodora 12: 8-10. 1910.

A variety of Solanum new to America. Rhodora 12: 40. 1910.

The marine algae of Casco Bay. Proc. Portland Soc. Nat. Hist. 2: 257-282. 1911.

Flora of lower Cape Cod; third note. Rhodora 13: 17-22. 1911,

Notes on algae—X. Rhodora 13: 184-187. 1911.

The botanical and other papers of the Wilkes Exploring Expedition. Rhodora 14: 57-68.1912.

The green algae of North America; supplementary paper. Tufts Coll. Studies 3: 69-109. Pis. 1, 2. 1912.

Three plants with extension of range. Rhodora 15: 169, 170. 1913.

The marine algae of Vancouver Island. Victoria Memorial Museum Bull. 1:99-137. 1913.

Drifting algae. Rhodora 16: 1-5. 1914. Two species new to Cape Cod. Rhodora 16: 78. 1914.

Opuntia vulgaris on Cape Cod. Rhodora 16: 101-104. 1914.

November flowers. Rhodora 17: 33-38. 1915.

Some algae from the Chincha Islands. Rhodora 17: 89-96. 1915.

Notes from the Woods Hole Laboratory 1915. I. Prasiola stipitata Suhr.; II. Chamaesiphon incrustans Grun.; III. Compsopogon coeruleus (Balbis) Mont. Rhodora 18: 90-92.

1916. Notes on species of Halymenia (with M. A. Howe). Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 43: 169-182. 1916.

The Sargasso Sea. Rhodora 19: 77-84. 1917. The algae of Bermuda (with A. B. Hervey.) Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts Sci. 53: 1-195.

1917. Notes from the Woods Hole laboratory 1917. I. Species new to science or to the region.

Rhodora 20: 141-145. PI. 124. 1918. The green algae of North America (2nd suppl.) Tufts Coll. Studies 47: 1-106. Pis. 1-3. 1918.

A working key to the genera of North American algae. Tufts Coll. Studies 48: 1-50. 1918. Chinese marine algae. Rhodora 21: 203-207. 1919.

Myxophyceae. In N. L. Britton and C. F. Millspaugh, The Bahama Flora, 618-626.

1920. Phycotheca Boreali-Americana. Fascicles 1 to 46 and A, B, C, D, E (with Isaac Holden and W. A. Setchell). 1895-1919.


 A monograph of the genus Caulerpa. A new volume of De Toni's Sylloge. Studies on Phytoplankton. The cryptogams of the River Elbe. Amer. Nat. 33: 959-962. 1898.

Agardh's algae. Greenland algae. Amer. Nat. 33: 543-545. 1899. Review and criticism on "Phycological Memoirs," by De Alton Saunders. Erythea 7: 40-43.

1899. Comere, Les Desmidées de France. Kjellman, Om Floride-Slägtet Galaxaura dess Organografi och Systematik. Svedelius, Studier öfver Ŏstersjöns Hafsalgflora. Börgesen, Freshwater algae of the Faeröes. Hirn, Monographic und Iconographie der Oedogoniaceen. Amer. Nat. 35: 687-693. 1901.

1 Probably far from complete.

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The Rhodomelaceae. Amer. Nat. 36: 408-411. 1902. Alaskan algae. Amer. Nat. 36: 412, 413. 1902. Agardh's algae. Amer. Nat. 36: 413, 414. 1902. Californian Nitophylla. Amer. Nat. 36: 411, 412. 1902.

The Ulothricaceae and Chaetophoraceae of the United States. Rhodora 5: 72, 73. 1903. An important publication on the biology of Woods Hole. Rhodora 15: 152. 1913. A biological survey of the waters of Woods Hole and vicinity. Science, n. ser, 38: 595-597-1913.