University Archives Photograph Collection, B. W. Wells Lantern Slides 1920-1953

Creator
Wells, Bertram Whittier, 1884-1978
Size
4 linear feet
Location

For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Research Center Reference Staff.

Call number
UA 023.039

B. W. (Bertram Whittier) Wells (1884-1978) is most widely known for his study and preservation of North Carolina's natural environment. Wells headed North Carolina State College's Botany and Plant Pathology Department (later the Department of Plant Biology of North Carolina State University) from 1919 to 1949 and remained on the faculty until 1954. An early ecologist, Wells wrote on many topics: the insect galls of plants, the effects of salt on coastal vegetation, the origins of grassy balds in the Appalachian mountains, the plant communities of the Big Savannah of Pender County, North Carolina, and the possible formation by meteorites of the Carolina Bays in the eastern part of the state. However, Wells' most extensive work focused on savanna and pocosin vegetation. Wells traveled around North Carolina studying plants in their native environments. His work reached a wider audience through public lectures and the 1932 publication of his book, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina, reprinted in 1967 and 2002. Wells continued his advocacy and educational work during his retirement, and his legacy lives on in the B. W. Wells Association, formed after his death in December 1978.

The collection is comprised of glass lantern slides created by B. W. Wells with a 4 x 5-inch Graflex single-lens reflex camera for use in his research, instruction, and public presentations. The slides measure 3.25 inches by 4 inches. There are 551 slides, including 57 duplicates. Most of the slides are black-and-white, but 132 of them are color, hand-tinted by Wells himself. The slides show landscapes and plants from various regions of North Carolina, as well as maps, graphs, and diagrams that Wells reproduced from publications to illustrate points he made in his lectures and writings. At least 41 of the slides show landscapes in other parts of North America. Upon Wells' retirement in 1954, he left the slides in the Department of Botany, where they were housed in a wooden cabinet and used by the faculty and students. The slides were stored this way until they were transferred to the University Archives in 2005-2006.

Biographical/historical note

During his long and active life, B. W. (Bertram Whittier) Wells (1884-1978) pursued a deep interest in the study and preservation of North Carolina's unique landscape. He did this through his teaching and work as the head of North Carolina State College's Botany and Plant Pathology Department, his writing, and his personal involvement in botanical and environmental associations. James R. Troyer rightly entitled his book about Wells, Nature's Champion: B. W. Wells, Tar Heel Ecologist.

Born in 1884 in Troy, Ohio, Wells studied botany at Ohio State University, received his doctorate at the University of Chicago, and taught at a number of universities before he came to North Carolina State College in 1919. Wells headed the Botany and Plant Pathology Department from 1919 to 1949 and continued teaching until his retirement in 1954. During his 35 years at State College, Wells had a significant influence on scientific study. His research interests included the insect galls of plants, the effects of salt on coastal vegetation, the role of pine communities in the coastal plain environment, the plant communities of the Big Savannah of Pender County, North Carolina, and the possible formation by meteorites of the Carolina Bays in the eastern part of the state.

Wells also introduced the study of ecology to State College, and he traveled around North Carolina taking students on field trips and observing plants in their native environments. On his travels, Wells made photographs that he turned into glass lantern slides, and he used these slides in lectures to his students, as well as community groups across the state. Wells' collaboration with the Garden Club of North Carolina led to the 1932 publication of his book, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina, reprinted in 1967 and 2002. Through his talks to both scholarly and popular audiences, Wells advocated for the preservation of North Carolina habitats, but, as his biographer observed, Wells was "most effective as a popularizer of what needed to be conserved."

Wells continued his advocacy and educational efforts during his retirement at Rock Cliff Farm, now the B. W. Wells portion of the Falls Lake State Recreation Area. After Wells' death in December 1978, friends and supporters kept his memory alive through the B. W. Wells Association that maintains his former home site and conducts botanical and environmental programs. Preservation efforts have also continued in Wells' name, as in the 2002 dedication of the B. W. Wells Savannah in Pender County, a tract of land with rare plants and environmental conditions documented by Wells in his glass lantern slides and writings on the Big Savannah. Wells was not able to save the Big Savannah, but his years of research and advocacy inspired others to preserve an example of this ecosystem that had been so important to B. W. Wells in his personal and professional life.

Scope/content

The collection is comprised of glass lantern slides created by Bertram Whittier Wells with a 4 by 5-inch Graflex single-lens reflex camera for use in his research and instruction. The slides measure 3.25 inches by 4 inches. There are 551 slides, including 57 duplicates. Most of the slides are black-and-white, but 132 of them are color, hand-tinted by Wells himself.

The slides reflect Wells' research and teaching interests after he arrived at North Carolina State College in 1919. Most of these slides show landscapes and plants from various regions of North Carolina. Also included are maps, graphs, and diagrams that Wells reproduced from publications to illustrate points he made in his lectures and writings about these plants and environments. At least 41 of the slides show landscapes in other parts of North America, including the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Arctic tundra.

Wells used the slides in his classroom teaching and in lectures given to garden clubs and other public groups. Some of the topics for these public lectures included, The Patch Work of North Carolina's Great Green Quilt,The Most Remarkable Plant Community in North Carolina: The Big Savannah, and The Wild Flowers of North Carolina. Upon his retirement, Wells left the slides with the Department of Botany, where they were housed in a wooden cabinet and used by the faculty and students. The slides were stored this way until they were transferred to the University Archives in 2005-2006.

A number of these slides are very similar to images used in some of Wells' publications. The major publication in which these images appear is Wells' book, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina with Keys and Descriptions of the Herbaceous Wild Flowers Found Therein. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1932, 1967. Other monographs with these images include: Wells, B. W. Major Plant Communities of North Carolina, North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 25 (1924).Wells, B. W. Vegetation of Holly Shelter Wildlife Management Area, North Carolina Department of Conservation and Development, Division of Game and Inland Fisheries Bulletin 2 (1946).Wells, B. W., and I. V. Shunk. A Southern Upland Grass-Sedge Bog: An Ecological Study, North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 32 (1928). Images were also included in several journal articles, including the following: Wells, B. W. Carolina Bays: Additional Data on Their Origin, Age, and History, Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 69 (1953), 119-41.Wells, B. W. A New Pyxie From North Carolina, Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 44 (1929), 238-39.Wells, B. W. Origin and Development of the Lower Cape Fear Peninsula, Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 60 (1944), 129-34.Wells, B. W. Plant Communities of the Coastal Plain of North Carolina and Their Successional Relations, Ecology 9 (1928), 230-42.Wells, B. W. Southern Appalachian Grass Balds, Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 53 (1937), 1-26.Wells, B. W. The Vegetation and Habitat Factors of the Coarser Sands of the North Carolina Coastal Plain: An Ecological Study, Ecological Monographs 1 (1931), 465-520.

In 2006, all of the slides except the duplicates were digitized, and item-level metadata was created for each.

Physical description

551 slides, 10 card boxes

Arrangement

The collection is divided into 29 categories, based on the organization of the original group of slides transferred from the Department of Botany to the University Archives during the summer of 2005. The different groups of slides were separated from each other by notecards on which were written the different environments, ecological zones, or other classifications. These correspond somewhat with the chapters in The Natural Gardens of North Carolina. Wells' handwriting appears on some of the cards but not all of them. Therefore, while some of the organization of this collection can be attributed to Wells, it is probable that later faculty members and students influenced some of the arrangement. Some of the lantern slides have handwritten numbers on them. These numbers may have been used to order the slides for a presentation, but their original purpose is not clear. The University Archives has assigned each slide a new number (0021001, for example), for organizational purposes.

The classification numbers include the following:

  • UA 023.039.001 Savanna
  • UA 023.039.002 Dune/Strand
  • UA 023.039.003 Coastal spray and Bald Head
  • UA 023.039.004 Salt marsh
  • UA 023.039.005 Aquatic
  • UA 023.039.006 Freshwater marsh and swamp forest
  • UA 023.039.007 Wet woodland
  • UA 023.039.008 Copper Hill
  • UA 023.039.009 Carolina bays
  • UA 023.039.010 Pond pine pocosin
  • UA 023.039.011 Holly Shelter
  • UA 023.039.012 Shrub bog
  • UA 023.039.013 Sandhill
  • UA 023.039.014 Old field
  • UA 023.039.015 Dry woodland
  • UA 023.039.016 Deciduous forest
  • UA 023.039.017 Mesic oaks (mountain)
  • UA 023.039.018 Yellow birch - hemlock
  • UA 023.039.019 Balsam spruce
  • UA 023.039.020 Fire cherry
  • UA 023.039.021 Shrub bald
  • UA 023.039.022 Grass bald
  • UA 023.039.023 Maps, North American climaxes
  • UA 023.039.024 Prairie
  • UA 023.039.025 Montane
  • UA 023.039.026 Subalpine
  • UA 023.039.027 Arctic
  • UA 023.039.028 Rock association
  • UA 023.039.029 Mushrooms

Use of these materials

The nature of the NCSU Libraries' Special Collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NCSU Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

This collection may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which North Carolina State University assumes no responsibility.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], University Archives Photograph Collection, B. W. Wells Lantern Slides, UA 023.039, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Alternative form available

Related material

Source of acquisition

Transferred from the North Carolina State University Department of Botany, 2005-2006.

Processing information

Processed by: Todd Kosmerick, Jennifer McElroy, and Amanda Franklin, 2006

Encoded by: Todd Kosmerick and Karen Paar, 2007 February

The entire collection, including materials not available online, may be viewed in the Special Collections reading room in D.H. Hill Library.
Slides 0021001-0021057
Box 1
Slides 0021058-0021085
Box 2
Slides 0021101-0021130
Box 2
Slides 0021131-0021193
Box 3
Slides 0021194-0021253
Box 4
Slides 0021254-0021315
Box 5
Slides 0021316-0021377
Box 6
Slides 0021378-0021437
Box 7
Slides 0021438-0021499
Box 8
Slides 0021500-0021557
Box 9
Slides 0021086-0021094
Box 10
UA 023.039.001 Savanna
UA 023.039.002 Dune/Strand
UA 023.039.003 Coastal spray and Bald Head
UA 023.039.004 Salt marsh
UA 023.039.005 Aquatic
UA 023.039.006 Freshwater marsh and swamp forest
UA 023.039.007 Wet woodland
UA 023.039.008 Copper Hill
UA 023.039.009 Carolina bays
UA 023.039.010 Pond pine pocosin
UA 023.039.011 Holly Shelter
UA 023.039.012 Shrub bog
UA 023.039.013 Sandhill
UA 023.039.014 Old field
UA 023.039.015 Dry woodland
UA 023.039.016 Deciduous forest
UA 023.039.017 Mesic oaks (mountain)
UA 023.039.018 Yellow birch - hemlock
UA 023.039.019 Balsam spruce
UA 023.039.020 Fire cherry
UA 023.039.021 Shrub bald
UA 023.039.022 Grass bald
UA 023.039.023 Maps, North American climaxes
UA 023.039.024 Prairie
UA 023.039.025 Montane
UA 023.039.026 Subalpine
UA 023.039.027 Arctic
UA 023.039.028 Rock association
UA 023.039.029 Mushrooms

Access to the collection

This collection is open for research; access requires at least 48 hours advance notice.

For more information contact us via mail, phone, or our web form.

Mailing address:
Special Collections Research Center
Box 7111
Raleigh, NC, 27695-7111

Phone: (919) 515-2273

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], University Archives Photograph Collection, B. W. Wells Lantern Slides, UA 023.039, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Use of these materials

The nature of the NCSU Libraries' Special Collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NCSU Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

This collection may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which North Carolina State University assumes no responsibility.