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Frederic King Butters papers

Identifier: ua00177


Collection contains the personal and family papers of Frederic King Butters, Professor of Botany at the University of Minnesota.


  • 1840s - 1962


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Note

Frederic King Butters was born in Minneapolis on February 8, 1878. He graduated from Central High School in June of 1895 and enrolled at the University of Minnesota the following fall in the Scientific Course in the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts. As a student, he completed fieldwork for the Minnesota Geological and Natural History Survey, and contributed a paper to the survey publication Minnesota Botanical Studies titled, “Observations in Rhodymenia” (1899). Butters graduated from the University with a B.S. in 1899. (1) He continued his botanical studies with graduate work at Harvard University, where he completed an A.B. in 1900 and a Ph.D. in 1917.

In 1901, Butters was appointed Instructor in Botany and Practical Pharmacognosy at the University of Minnesota. (2) The following summer, he joined his colleagues (and former instructors) Conway MacMillan, Josephine Tilden, and C.O. Rosendahl on the first of multiple summer research trips to the Minnesota Seaside Station, a biological research station on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Butters’ interest in Canada extended to the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk Mountains, where he engaged in multiple mountaineering expeditions from 1904 through the early 1930s accompanied by Edward W.D. Holway, Howard Palmer, and Lee I. Smith. (3)

At the University, Butters was one of the instructors of the General Botany course offered by the Department of Botany. He also taught the core Botany and Pharmacognosy course sequences as well as courses in pharmaceutical botany and microscopy in the College of Pharmacy. (4) Butters was promoted to Assistant Professor of Botany in 1910, Associate Professor in 1919, and Professor in 1934. (5) (6)

For the 1916-1917 academic year, Butters took a leave of absence to return to Harvard to study at the Gray Herbarium and complete his Ph.D. His dissertation was titled, “Studies in the Geographical Relations of the Plants of the Selkirk Mountains.”

Butters collaborated with Professors Frederic Clements and Carl Otto Rosendahl to author a series of botanical guides on the native flora of Minnesota that were published in Minnesota Botanical Studies and Minnesota Plant Studies between 1908 and 1924. (7) Two of the guides were later published as books by the University of Minnesota Press: Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota, 1928 and A Guide to the Spring Flowers of Minnesota, 1931; 1937.

Frederic K. Butters died on August 1, 1945 at the age of 67. (8) Following his death, the Geographic Board of Canada named a peak in the Selkirk Mountains Mount Butters in his honor.


(1) Commencement Program, 1899; Butters is pictured in The Gopher, Volume 12, 1899 (digital page 157)
(2) Biennial Report of the Board of Regents, 1901-1902
(3) An account of their early explorations is documented in “Mountaineering and Exploration in the Selkirks: A Record of Pioneer Work among the Canadian Alps, 1908-1912,” by Howard Palmer, 1914.
(4) See the Catalogue, 1908-1909 for course descriptions.
(5) The President’s Report, 1918-1919
(6) Board of Regents Meeting Minutes, June 11, 1934; University Budgets, 1934-1935
(7) Minnesota Botanical Studies was a publication of the botanical division of the Minnesota Geological and Natural History Survey published primarily between 1894 and 1904. An index to the series was published in 1916. Minnesota Plant Studies was published from 1908-1913.
(8) Necrology, Frederic King Butters, University Senate Dockets, October 11, 1945.


5 Cubic Feet (11 boxes (1 record carton; 1 hollinger; 9 flat boxes of various sizes); 1 oversize folder)


The collection is organized into 2 series:

  • Personal Papers
  • Butters Family Papers
Select the series from the list under “Navigate the Collection” for additional description.

Related Materials in the University Archives

Frederic King Butters papers
Rebecca Toov
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • April 2021: Contents list added; Notes updated

Collecting Area Details

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