[Book Review] Volume 41 Issue 4 - 1Skip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. Please contact email@example.com to use this work in a way not covered by the license. :
For more information, read Michigan Publishing's access and usage policy.
Page 146 ï~~146 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 41 On the New York stage, there are routinely revivals of much-loved plays and musicals. What follows below is a kind of revival; just as theater-goers have rediscovered the delights of "Oklahoma!," the writer has re-discovered the fine biography of Charles Deam, 1865-1953. The book was most favorably reviewed by the late Howard Crum in The Michigan Botanist, 29(3): 87-88, the issue for May, 1990. Here is a fresh look. The publisher keeps the book in print, though only in hardcover, and what is currently available is apparently a later printing, not a new edition, dated July, 1994. The original paperback is widely available on the used-book market. REVIEW PLAIN OL' CHARLIE DEAM, PIONEER HOOSIER BOTANIST. Robert C. Kriebel. Purdue University Press, West Lafayette, IN., July 1994. $29.95, hardcover, at amazon.com. 183 pages. Charlie Deam was, as described in the preface, an intense, irascible, opinionated, hilarious Hoosier original. The description is well supported by the biographical story that follows. Charles Clemon Dean was born in the closing days of the Civil War in Wells County, Indiana; that's near Bluffton. His upbringing was typical of the traditional country kid of the time which included hard farm work, fishing, a little church-going, and an occasional day off for squirrel hunting. He also loved books and had an insatiable desire for knowledge. When he was 16, he survived a bout of typhoid fever but his mother did not and shortly after he acquired a step-mother who made it easy for him to leave home as soon as he was out of high school. He taught in a rural school for a bit and then went to Depauw University until he ran out of money two years later. As he said, "I ran out of money, so I quit. Then, too, it took too much time. I already knew more than they could teach me." Fate stepped in and he began a job in a Bluffton drug store, learning the business as he tended the ice cream fountain. Over time and with hard work, which was a trait of Charlie's no matter what he was doing, he finally acquired his own drugstore and thereby a means of support which allowed him, in 1893, to marry Stella. When hard-working Charlie was advised by his doctor to "take life a little easier," he and Stella would take woodland walks where they gathered wildflowers and interesting medicinal plants. Well, that did it. Typically, Charlie couldn't just admire the plants and flowers but had to know everything about them. He learned to identify them, spell and pronounce their scientific names, map their ranges, learn about their anatomy and physiology, etc. Thus began his botanical education and his collection of Indiana plants. Over the years, Charlie added to his herbarium every year, often in the thousands of specimens. For example, in 1922, between May and October he added 2,865 specimens which brought the grand total in his herbarium that year to 38,173. And this was still early in his collecting years. That number would exceed 73,300 by the time he departed for those ever-blooming fields in May, 1953 at the age of 88, just a month after Stella. With his knowledge of plants he wrote a number of papers about them, which were presented at the Indiana Academy of Science, and several books, the first of which was "The Trees of Indiana" first published in 1912 as a 300+ page Bulletin of the State Board of Forestry. He was State forester at the time, splitting his time between an office in Indianapolis and his two drugstores in Bluffton. The book was written in his "spare time" using the knowledge he had gained in collecting the thousands of tree specimens in his field work. The Flora of Indiana is his monumental work. A 1200 page volume, it consists of descriptions of more than 2000 species which he verified by consulting more than 84,000 herbarium specimens from 170 collectors, in addition to his own. It came to be viewed as a landmark in the botanical literature of middle America. It still is. It was reprinted in 1984, but now is no longer routinely available. Charlie Deam was a botanist's botanist. He exemplified the attitudes and goals which so many of us appreciate. His story is a joy to read. -Donna Schumann Kalamazoo, MI 616. 349. 2900