Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition Collection
The Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition Collection occupies 31.5 linear feet, in 25 flat pamphlet boxes, one flat folio box, five photograph negative boxes, three oversized photograph negative boxes, and two document boxes. The collection consists of seven photograph albums, two scrapbooks, 16 journals, more than 900 photographs and negatives, postcards, travel brochures, greeting cards, and other ephemera. The materials recount Palemon Howard Dorsett and William Joseph Morse's 1929-1932 Asian expedition, illustrating plant varieties and uses, landscapes, and cultural practices. The major purpose of the expedition was to study the planting, cultivation, and harvest of soybean varieties, and to send samples home to the United States for further investigation. During the early twentieth century soybeans had become a crop of interest for American farmers, and the information provided by the Dorsett-Morse Expedition was invaluable to the advancement of the American soybean industry.
The photograph albums were acquired by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Library in 1944. As a result of a 2002 web exhibit, to complement the photograph albums, the Arnold Arboretum donated more than 900 photographs and negatives to Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library (NAL). In 2003, the American Soybean Association placed the Dorsett-Morse Expedition journals on permanent loan in Special Collections. William Morse's daughter Margaret donated a scrapbook and other personal effects in 2004. The collection materials are in good condition. The photograph album portion of the collection was processed and a corresponding finding aid and web exhibit were completed April 5, 2002 by Stephanie M. Boehmer, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, College of Information Studies. The loose photographs and negatives, scrapbooks, official journals and personal items were processed and a comprehensive finding aid for all parts of the collection was completed in 2005 by Kara L. Boehne, also a graduate student at the University of Maryland, College of Information Studies. Additional negatives were added in 2006 by Amber Thiele, Chesapeake Information and Research Library Alliance Fellow.
Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library (NAL) acquires, arranges, describes, preserves and makes available rare materials significant to the history of agriculture. Materials are obtained through donation or active collection in accordance with the established Special Collections collection development policy. Special Collections staff organize and describe materials according to archival principles and create descriptions and indexes to enhance access. Staff do not edit or otherwise modify the original materials. The views expressed in the collections do not necessarily reflect the policies of the National Agricultural Library or the United States Department of Agriculture.
Palemon Howard Dorsett
Born Palemon Howard Dorsett on April 21 in Carlinville, Macoupin County, Illinois.
Received Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Missouri.
Joined United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Section of Plant Pathology under the supervision of Beverly Thomas Galloway and engaged in experiments on the treatment of diseased plants with Bordeaux mixture.
Married Mary Virginia Payne on September 12
First work published, The Selection of Violets.
Dorsett jointly authored "The Use of Hydrocyanic Acid Gas for Fumigating Greenhouses and Cold Frames" with Albert Fred Woods, which was revised and published again in 1903 and 1908.
Dorsett's "Spot Disease of the Violet," published as USDA Bulletin, No. 23.
Supervised the USDA plant introduction gardens at Chico, California.
Dorsett returned to the Washington D.C. area following the death of his wife and eldest daughter. He began a commercial horticultural business in Alexandria, Virginia.
Dorsett's youngest daughter died during the winter months and he rejoined USDA Bureau of Plant Industry within the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction.
Published USDA Bulletin, No. 28, "Experiments in Bulb Growing at the United States Bulb Garden at Bellingham."
Left October 4, 1913, on his first foreign plant expedition to Brazil with Archibald Dixon Shamel and Wilson Popenoe. They published USDA Bulletin, No. 445, "The Navel Orange of Bahia with Notes on Some Little Known Brazilian Fruits," in 1917, as a report of this expedition.
Worked with David Fairchild on the development of Japanese flowering cherry trees.
Established Miami, Florida plant introduction garden with David Fairchild and Wilson Popenoe.
Published "The Plant Introduction Gardens of the Department of Agriculture" in the Yearbook of Agriculture 1916.
Traveled on plant exploration expedition to Panama with David Fairchild.
Traveled on plant exploration expeditions in Manchuria, China accompanied by his son, James (Jim) Dorsett.
Traveled on plant exploration expeditions in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Sumatra, and Java (Indonesia) with David Fairchild. The expedition was recounted in Fairchild's Exploring for Plants.
Traveled on plant exploration expeditions in Manchuria, China from spring (left Java mid-April) 1926 to 1927.
Death of only son, Jim, on October 8, in Washington D.C.
Wrote "Culture and Outdoor Winter Storage of Persimmons in the Vicinity of Peking, China," jointly authored with his son, published as USDA Circular, No. 49.
Traveled on Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition to Japan, Korea, and China.
Retired from the USDA.
Joined the Allison Vincent Armour agricultural expedition to the British West Indies and Guianas (Caribbean).
Awarded the 13th Frank N. Meyer Medal by the Council of the American Genetic Association for distinguished actions related to the collection, preservation, or utilization of germplasm resources.
Died in a Washington, D.C. nursing home on April 1.
Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition History, 1929-1931
On February 18, 1929, Palemon Howard (P.H.) Dorsett and William Joseph (Bill) Morse embarked upon a plant exploration trip officially known as the Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition. Initiated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in response to the growing importance of the soybean as a food crop during the first quarter of the twentieth century, the primary purpose of the expedition was to collect soybean germplasm and other crops of interest. The party, consisting of Dorsett; his widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth B. Dorsett; Morse; his wife, Edna; and their daughter, Margaret sailed for Yokohama, Japan, on February 26, 1929, from San Francisco, California, via Honolulu, Hawaii. Dorsett, the veteran plant explorer for the USDA's Section of Plant Introduction and senior expedition member, collected a variety of plant materials. Morse, a soybean specialist from the USDA's Office of Forage Crops and the junior team member was charged with the collection of soybean germplasm. The expedition arrived in Japan on March 19, 1929, and promptly established headquarters in Tokyo. N. Suyetake joined the expedition as their interpreter and assistant.
The germplasm collection activities were initiated on Honshu and Hokkaido Islands, Japan from early April to mid-October, 1929. On October 21, 1929, the expedition traveled to Korea (referred to as Chosen by the expedition). In Korea, they met noted Russian botanist Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov and traveled to the Suweon (Suigen) Agricultural Research Station together. The party returned to Tokyo on December 11, 1929. From then until the end of March 1930, studying the Japanese soybean industry was the primary focus of the expedition.
On March 29, 1930, Dorsett and Morse traveled to Luda, in northeast China, where Dorsett became ill. He was diagnosed with double pneumonia and the USDA sent orders that he was to proceed to Beijing (Peiping), China for medical treatment. Meanwhile, Morse was to continue collecting soybean germplasm and studying the soybean industry in northeast China and Korea. Dorsett, who was forbidden vigorous activity, made experiments on the preservation of the persimmon and the associated industry and collected plants in Beijing. Morse spent the period from April to October 20, 1930, in China and Korea. After a brief hiatus in Beijing from October 20 to November 9, 1930, he returned to northeast China and Korea until December 18, 1930. Morse made the acquaintance of Lene Muller, a German soybean expert and collector, and the botanist B.W. Skvortzow of the Natural History Museum in Harbin, China, also known for his work with the soybean. Morse returned to Japan on December 18, 1939, to tend to the remaining administrative details of the expedition and left for San Francisco with his family on February 17, 1931. Dorsett and his daughter-in-law left from China and arrived in San Francisco on April 15, 1931.
The Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition sent approximately 9,000 plant accessions to Washington, D.C. as recorded in the Inventories published by the USDA, Bureau of Plant Industry, Division of Foreign Plant Introduction. About 4,500 of these were soybean accessions. Many of the accessions from this expedition have been used to develop or improve crops and serve as conserved examples of species that are now extinct in their native habitat. Pressed herbarium specimens from the expedition were sent back to the United States, and many of the specimens still reside in the national herbarium which is now stored at the United States National Arboretum. Additionally, insect specimens, native publications, soybean food products, bamboo items, motion picture film, and over 3,000 photographs were collected or produced as indicated by expedition records. The location of most of these items is unknown; however, the photographs that comprise this collection account for nearly half of the total photographs of record.
Many significant plant contributions resulted from this expedition. Plants from this expedition were accessioned into the U.S. germplasm collection, which is administered today by the National Plant Germplasm System to facilitate continuing research around the world. Cultivars have been improved with traits from the expedition accessions and currently are part of the world food supply. For instance, Morse developed vegetable-style cultivars for human consumption directly from the expedition's soybeans accessions or as hybrids with at least one parent from the accessions. As the popularity of the soybean grew, so did instances of plant disease in the crop. The Dorsett-Morse soybean accessions were found to be resistant to many of these diseases and were bred with the cultivars for disease resistance. Soybean breeders also find characteristics such as protein content or seed weight useful from these accessions. Accessions that represent species that are now extinct in nature preserve agricultural diversity for future generations.
Scope and Content Note
The Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition Collection spans the years 1928-1932, and is separated into four series: journals; photograph albums and scrapbooks; photographs and negatives; and personal ephemera. The bulk of the collection consists of photographs, negatives, and official accounts of travels, discoveries, and research related to the expedition. Also included in the collection are personal memories; financial records; fiber and fabric samples; and maps and diagrams. The collection, spanning 31.5 linear feet, has been rehoused using preservation materials and the majority of the items are in good condition. Several slides are irrevocably damaged, and a number of pages and photographs in the journals and albums are loose. There are no restrictions on use of the collection.
While soybean plants, cultivation, and uses are the primary focus of the collection, the expedition materials also document the landscapes, agricultural practices, and culture of Japan, Korea, and China. The collection reflects the plant and seed introduction activities of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at the beginning of the 20th century. The journal pages and photographs document the experience of plant exploration by featuring expedition members, equipment, and activities as subjects of many photographs.
The photographs contained in the albums and scrapbooks in series II are selections from the official expedition journals in series I, and are occasionally duplicated in several albums. The photographs and negatives included in series III are samples from the journals (series I) and the photograph albums and scrapbooks (series II).
Series I. Journals. 1928-1931. 18 boxes.
Series I consists of 17 bound journals and 13 folders. The journals contain photographs, travel itineraries, daily textual accounts of the expedition by both Dorsett and Morse, fiber and fabric samples, maps, charts, diagrams, pamphlets, and correspondence. Volumes are housed in boxes labeled volumes 1-17 (with Volume 2 having two parts). Journals one through six are numbered consecutively, and then beginning at what should be journal seven, the journal numbering started over with number one. Therefore, journals seven through 17 have two numbers- the one that follows chronological order and the renumbered one. All of volumes are now housed in boxes labeled volumes 1-17 (with Volume 2 having two parts). The journals are arranged by date, beginning with the planning for the expedition in 1929 and culminating with its journey home to the United States in 1932. Volumes 1 -15 are arranged chronologically and each includes photographs and narrative recollections for one or two month time period. As of August 2006, Volume 16 is not in the collection. Volume 17 is a compilation of several short articles, each pertaining to a specific plant or cultivation practice. The subjects include: the white-barked pine tree, Chinese persimmon cultivation and preservation, fruit tree support practices, chrysanthemums, the peppermint industry, Ch'ing Ma, and winter forcing of strawberries. Box 18 consists of 13 folders that contain loose materials from many of the journals including receipts, itineraries, content lists, and financial records documenting administrative information from the expedition. The folders are marked with the original location of each item.
Series II. Photograph Albums and Scrapbooks. 1929-1930. 7 boxes.
Series II consists of photograph albums and a scrapbook documenting the Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition. Most of the photographs are not individually dated, however, collecting activities of the expedition spanned April 1, 1929 through December 18, 1930, so researchers could assume that the undated photographs fall within that date range.
Photographs are arranged by subject areas devised by the album compiler. The title of each album reflects the subject. Topics include bamboo products and uses, agricultural landscapes and scenic landscapes, native people and architecture, common agricultural plants and newly collected specimens, Asian ornamental plants and styles, and ancient and modern temples and shrines. The albums are arranged in alphabetical order by album title. Also included in this series are two scrapbooks. The first, entitled "Soybeans and Soybean Products," contains 8"x11" images documenting soybean farming practices and a large assortment of soyfoods products. The second is a small, brief, commercially published volume depicting earthquake damage in Japan.
Series III. Official Photographs and Negatives. 1929-1931. 7 boxes.
Series III consists of seven boxes containing more than 900 photographs and negatives. Boxes 27-31 contain negatives and photographs donated by the Arnold Arboretum. They are arranged by negative number and therefore chronologically. Several negatives are permanently and irrevocably damaged, but have been kept with the collection. Box 32 contains the original, labeled envelopes created during the expedition. Box 33 contains loose photographs that were donated by Morse's family. These are numbered and identified in a different manner than those in boxes 27-31. Most of the photographs in this series are included in either the journals in series I, the photograph albums and scrapbooks in series II, or in some cases, both. Many of the photographs in series I and II, however, are not included here.
The photographs and negatives contained in this series are listed in a database detailing their subjects and quality. For assistance in locating and using this database, please contact a staff member of Special Collections.
Series IV. Personal Ephemera. 1928-1932. 3 boxes.
Series IV contains postcards, travel and tourism pamphlets, holiday cards, invitations and other personal ephemera collected by William Morse's family during the expedition.
- Subseries IV.A. Postcards and Packets. 1928-1932. 1 Box.
This subseries contains postcards collected during the 1928-1931 expedition by Morse's family. Items are maintained in original order.
- Subseries IV.B. Pamphlets and Stationery. 1928-1932. 1 Box.
This subseries contains travel and tourism pamphlets from Japan and Korea, including information on Japanese tea ceremonies and Japanese industry. Items are maintained in original order.
- Subseries IV.C. Holiday Cards and Ephemera. 1928-1932. 1 Box.
This subseries contains a variety of holiday cards, invitations, and other personal effects from Morse's travels throughout East Asia. Items are maintained in original order.
Information for the Biographical Sketches, Expedition History, and the Scope and Content Note was taken from the following sources:
American Men of Science, a Biographical Directory, 6th ed. S.v. "Palemon Howard Dorsett."
Fairchild, David. "Award of Meyer Medal to P.H. Dorsett." Journal of Heredity 27 (1936): 307-310.
Fairchild, David. Exploring for Plants: From Notes of the Allison Vincent Armour Expeditions for the United States Department of Agriculture, 1925, 1926, and 1927. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1930.
Fairchild, David. The World Was My Garden. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1939.
Hymowitz, Theodore. "Dorsett-Morse Soybean Collection Trip to East Asia: 50 Year Retrospective." Economic Botany 38, no. 4 (1984): 378-388.
Who's Who in America, 1928 ed. S.v. "Palemon Howard Dorsett."
Appendix: Related Collections and Resources
Selected References from the National Agricultural Library and USDA:
Dorsett, P.H. and James H. Dorsett. "Culture and Outdoor Winter Storage of Persimmons in the Vicinity of Peking, China." USDA Circular, No. 49. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1928.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.C No. 49
Dorsett, P.H. "Experiments in Bulb Growing at the United States Bulb Garden at Bellingham." USDA Bulletin, No. 28. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1913.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.B No. 28
Dorsett, P.H., A.D. Shamel, and Wilson Popenoe. "The Navel Orange of Bahia: With Notes on Some Little-known Brazilian Fruits." USDA Bulletin, No. 445. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1917.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.B No. 445
Dorsett, P.H. "The Plant-Introduction Gardens of the Department of Agriculture." In U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Yearbook 1916. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1917.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.Y 1916
Dorsett, P.H. The Selection of Violets. Washington, D.C.: 
NAL Call Number: Pam.Coll. 97D
Dorsett, P.H. "Spot Disease of the Violet (Alternaria violae n. sp.)." U.S.Department of Agriculture, Division of Vegetable Physiology and Pathology, Bulletin, No. 23. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1917.
NAL Call Number: 1V52B No. 23
Dorsett, P.H. and Albert F. Woods. "The Use of Hydrocyanic Acid Gas for Fumigating Greenhouses and Cold Frames." U.S. Department of Agriculture, Division of Entomology, Circular, No. 37. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1899.
NAL Call Number: 1En82C No. 37
NAL Call Number: 1En82C No. 37 rev.
NAL Call Number: 1En82C No. 37 2nd rev.
Hymowitz, T. "Dorsett-Morse Soybean Collection Trip to East Asia: 50 Year Retrospective." Economic Botany 38, No. 4 (Oct/Dec 1984): 378-388.
NAL Call Number: 450.EC7
Jones, Charles H., Arthur W. Edson, and William J. Morse. "The Maple Sap Flow." In Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin, No. 103. Burlington, Vermont Agricultural Experiment Station, 1903.
NAL Call Number: 100.V59 No. 103
Morse, William J. "Cowpeas: Culture and Varieties." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 1148. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1920.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1148
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1148 1947
Morse, William J. Cowpeas in the Cotton Belt. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1915.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag863 Co
Morse, William J. "Cowpeas: Utilization." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 1153. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1920.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1153
Morse, William J. Hokubei Gasshiu-goki ni okeru daizu no seisan narabini riyo no genkyo (The Present Situation of the Soy-bean in the United States). Translated into Japanese by Yoshi Takamori. [Tokyo?]: Soybean Research Institute, 1930.
NAL Call Number: 60.3 M83
Morse, William J. "Soybean Hay and Seed Production." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 1605. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1929.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1605
Morse, William J. "The Soy Bean: its Culture and Uses." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 973. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1918.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 973
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F no 973 1922
Morse, William J., Jackson L. Cartter, and E. E. Hartwig. "Soybean Production for Hay and Beans." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 2024. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1950.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 2024
Morse, William J. "Soybean Utilization." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 1617. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1930.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1617
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1617 1932
Morse, William J. "Soybeans: Culture and Varieties." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 1520. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1927.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1520
Morse, William J., Jackson L. Cartter, and L.F. Williams. "Soybeans: Culture and Varieties." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 1520. Rev. Ed. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1949.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1520 1949
Morse, William J., and Jackson L. Cartter. "Soybeans for Feed, Food, and Indutrial Products." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 2038. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1952.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 2038
Morse, William J. Sot Beans in the Cotton Belt. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1915.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag 863 Sy
Piper, Charles V., and William J. Morse. "The Bonavist, Lablab, or Hyacinth Bean." USDA Bulletin, No. 318. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1914.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.B No. 318
Piper, Charles V., and William J. Morse. "Five Oriental Species of Beans." USDA Bulletin, No. 119. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1914.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.B No. 119
Piper, Charles V., and William J. Morse. The Soybean. 1st ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1923.
NAL Call Number: 60.3 P66
Piper, Charles V., and William J. Morse. "The Soy Bean, with Special Reference to its Utilization for Oil, Cake, and Other Products." USDA Bulletin, No. 439. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1916.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.B No. 439
Piper, Charles V., and William J. Morse. "The Velvet Bean." USDA Farmers' Bulletin, No. 1276. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1922.
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1276
NAL Call Number: 1Ag84.F No. 1276 1938
U.S. Department of Agriculture. [Plant] Inventory...[1899-].
NAL Call Number: 1P698I
U.S. Department of Agriculture, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. "Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN)." [Online Database] National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Accessed May 3, 2002 from http://www.ars-grin.gov/.
Collections at the National Agricultural Library:
The USDA Plant Exploration Collection: This collection contains photographs and negatives from a variety of plant exploration expeditions which took place in the early part of the twentieth century. The images from these expeditions document the cultivation, harvesting, and usage of many plants from many areas around the world, including Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.
The Isabel Shipley Cunningham Collection on Frank Nicholas Meyer: Frank Nicholas Meyer was an important contributor to plant introduction in the United States. This collection includes materials about Meyer's life, especially his four plant gathering expeditions in Asia, and his surviving plant introductions (plants Meyer brought back from his travels and planted by various people in the United States).
Links to Further Investigations on Plant Exploration:
The United States National Arboretum: http://www.usna.usda.gov
The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University: http://www.arboretum.harvard.edu
The New York Botanical Garden: http://www.nybg.org
The Missouri Botanical Garden: http://www.mobot.org
The Museum of Systematics and Ecology at The University of California-Santa Barbara
The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation: http://huntbotanical.org/