Scope and Contents
The T. L. Mead collection documents the story of an early Florida horticulturist. Along with T. L. Mead's own inventory of papers and letters, the total collection of documents spans nearly a century from 1840 to 1936. Through his family papers and hundreds of letters, we can trace the comprehensive history of an American family for more than one hundred years.
Biographical or Historical Information
Theodore Luqueer Mead was born in 1852 in Fish Kill, New York, the son of Samuel H. Mead and Mary C. (Luqueer) Mead. Mead's education in the public school system in New York was interrupted 1862 by a family trip to Europe, where T. L. and his brother Samuel H. Mead Jr. took two years of schooling in Germany and France. After returning to New York for three more years of public schooling, Mead entered the Sub-freshman class at City College in New York.
During the Summer of 1868, Mead went to the Paris Exposition. Accompanied by his mother, he toured several areas in Italy, Russia and Sweden and Denmark. In Russia, Mead reported in an autobiographical sketch, that he saw the largest coconut palm in Europe, which was housed in a glass conservatory. In Dresden, Mead purchased a large butterfly collection. This was the beginning of a collection that Mead eventually built into one of the finest in North America. Mead eventually sold the collection to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The collection and study of butterflies became an important part of Mead's life as a young man. In his later years, he turned the focus of his intellect to the study of plants. On his farm in Oviedo, Florida, Mead grew produce items for market. His biggest cash earning crop came from his orange grove. Mead also grew a great number of other plants and trees, most of which had little commercial value. Among these were caladiums, amaryllis and orchids, all of which he worked to hybridize with some success. Mead was interested in palm trees and grew over 250 species of palms, the seeds of which he received through correspondence with horticulturists around the world. During the "Great Freeze" of 1894, Meads lost most of his orange grove and many of the tropical plants that he had collected from around the world.
T. L. Mead died from complications of a stroke, on May 4th, 1936, in Oviedo, Florida. In an autobiographical sketch he wrote: "As I look back on four score years, the retrospect seems chiefly jeweled with happy friendships for young and old in all parts of the world. The things of the heart are the permanent ones in my life and nearest to what we creatures of a day may dream of as immortality."
Note written by Blair Jackson
31 boxes of archival collections and 13 linear ft. of journals from Mead's personal library collection. other_unmapped