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Home / Frank N. Meyer Typescript of South China Explorations

Frank N. Meyer Typescript of South China Explorations

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Frank N. Meyer South China Exploration Proposal

Bureau No. _______

Bureau: Plant Industry.

Type of Activity: Research.

Project Group: Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction

Sub-group: Foreign Explorations.

Name: South China Explorations.

Leaders: David Fairchild and Frank N. Meyer.

Object: The exploration of the provinces of China lying southeast of Shanghai and south of the Yangtse River, which are practically unknown form the standpoint of American agriculture, for the purpose of securing collections of southern peaches, the edible and timber bamboos, the tung or wood-oil tree, and improved varieties of tallow trees, the litchi, a promising new southern fruit, the longan, an edible nut-producing oak, root crops for wet lands, varieties of rices, soy beans, remarkable southern raspberries, black berries and pears, rare and promising ornamental shrubs and timber trees, and new varieties of species of chestnuts.

Procedure: The experienced agricultural explorer, Frank N. Meyer, who has spent six years in northern China and Manchuria and is familiar with the methods of exploration in that country, will travel mostly on foot through the region, searching for new varieties of our cultivated plants and their wild relatives and studying the systems of agriculture employed there, and will write reports on such practices, and prepare descriptions, with photographs, of such varieties and species of plants which he finds there and sends in, as in his opinion may be valuable for introduction into this country.

Location: South China and en route, Japan.

Legal Authority: Appropriations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry, 1916-1917.

Cost Data: Proposed expenditures, 1916-1917, $6,000.

Date Submitted: July 25, 1916. (See attached argument.)

History: See attached argument, with enclosures, to the Chief of the Bureau, and yearly project reports.

July 25, 1916.

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Frank N. Meyer South China Exploration Images

The following image and captions are drawn from Meyer's South China Exploration typescript. Please click on the small images to view a larger version.

Pyrus calleyana, natural size. Neg. No. 13262.

Pyrus calleryana, natural size. A somewhat small-flowering type of a wild Calleryana pear, with rather tomentose foliage, which isn't full grown yet. Three fruits of last year's crop has persisted on the tree during the whole winter and spring. Note the very small size, on which account the Chinese call it the "T'ang li" or crab-apple pear, as these small fruits, with deciduous calyx, resemble the tiny apples of Malus spectabilis and M. baccata to a surprising degree. (Meyer.)

Neg. No. 13262. King men, Hupeh, China, April 7, 1917.
Pyrus calleryana.  Neg. No. 13264.

Pyrus calleryana. A fairly large specimen of a Calleryana pear, found growing brotherly together with a pine tree, Pinus massoniana. Very few trees find pine trees congenial mates, but this remarkable Calleryana pear occurs at times quite plentiful in open pine forests, on sterile mountain slopes. (Meyer.)

Neg. No. 13264, near Nan chang yen, Hupeh, China, March 31, 1917
Pyrus calleryana. Dwarf wild Calleryana pears. neg. No. 13267.

Pyrus calleryana. Dwarf wild Calleryana pears, only a few feet high, growing in sterile, decomposed porphyrious rock on a badly eroded mountain top, elevation c.a. 2,000 ft. a.s. This photo certainly illustrates the marvellous drought-resisting capacities of this wonderful Chinese pear.

Neg. No. 13267, near Nan chang yen, Hupeh, China, March 31, 1917
Phyllostachys sp. Drying bamboo paper. Neg No. 13296.

Phyllostachys sp. Drying bamboo paper of the dry sandy and pebbly part of a mountain stream. These oblong squares of paper measure 6 x 8 inches and sell locally at the ridiculously low price of fifty for one cent (Mex.). They are rolled up and used instead of matches to light the tobacco in the water pipes of the Chinese. (Meyer.)

Neg. No. 13296, Hui ma po, Hupeh, China, April 2, 1917
Paeonia suffruticosa. A very large specimen of tree peony. Neg. no. 13300.

Paeonia suffruticosa. A very large specimen of tree peony, having 75 flowers of a beautiful blush-rosy color. The plant is between fifty and sixty years of age and tho an old stalk dies off at times, new ones come up again every year. The Chinese hold these old "Mootan", as they call them, in very high esteem. (Meyer.)

Neg. No. 13300, Yu chuan temple, near Tang yang, Hupeh, China, April 12, 1917
Soya Max. Five pots are filled with broken soy bean cake from which a cheap sauce is made. neg. no. 13284.

Soya Max. The five pots are filled with broken soy bean cake from which a cheap sauce is made; the pots wholly contain vinegar which is made here from wheat and millet bran. Great heat and great cold are both detrimental to the good quality of both sauce and vinegar, there for the best products are obtained in both spring and fall. (Meyer.)

Neg. No. 13284, Ichang, near Tang yang, Hupeh, China, May 5, 1917

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South China Exploration Quotes

The following are quotes drawn from correspondance from Frank N. Meyer's South China expedition.

The loneliness of life; the great amount of work I have to do, which I can never finish; the paralyzing effects of this never-ending horrible war; and so many another thing, these often rob me of my sleep and make me feel like a ship adrift.

Frank Meyer
February 3, 1917

Beancurd and beanmilk always taste beany! - The cheese, however, has lost this unpleasant characteristic. If soft beancurd is beaten up, with sugar, it also improves much in flavor.

Frank Meyer
September 8, 1917

…you probably know that poppy cultivation has been totally prohibited in all China and that poppy seed is absolute contraband for which farmers have been beheaded who had it in their possession.

Frank Meyer in his reply to a
U.S. request for opium seed
April 17, 1917

Do not forget that we consider the knowledge which you have accumulated a most valuable asset. You have begun a great work, and it would be a tremendous pity not to carry it further, particularly during these strenuous times.

David Fairchild in his reply to a letter from Meyer
in which he reported suffering a nervous breakdown
June 29, 1917

You speak in one of your recent letters of wishing you had some one to advise you. My dear Meyer, these are times when we all need advice, but unfortunately there are times when those who try to advise feel peculiarly incompetent to do so. I might easily advise you to come back to this country and take up the breeding of plants, but I do not feel sure that a man of your restless disposition will be contented with the necessarily quiet life of a plant breeder.

David Fairchild
July 27, 1917

We were held up by soldiers a few times and some unpleasantries were indulged in, but on the whole we could have fared far worse.-Of course we passed thru villages that had been looted and burned and food was hard to obtain, but to an old hand out here, like myself, these things have so often been encountered that one is used to them.

Frank Meyer in his final letter
Hankow, May 18, 1918

Yes, Mr. Fairchild, it often seems that we do not live ourselves any longer but that we are being lived. Uncontrollable forces seem to be at work among humanity and final results, or possibly purposes, are not being revealed as yet, that is, for so far as I can look into this whole titanic cataclysm.

Frank Meyer in his final letter
Hankow, May 18, 1918

Concerning Dr. McCollum's idea that leafy green vegetables are essential in the human diet, well, this is a mooted question. The Russians at large use but few leafy herbs, and thousands of cowboys, especially in the Argentine, live on an almost pure meat diet. Of all of the leafy greens the Chinese love especially those belonging to the cabbage and mustard group; it seems that the race has found out that they supply some essential factors.

Frank Meyer in his final letter
Hankow, May 18, 1918

It appears that Mr. Meyer while traveling down the Yangtze from Hankow to Shanghai on the S.S. "Feng Yang Maru" of the Nisshin Kisen Kaisha, was drowned near Wuhu. Whether he fell off the ship accidentally or committed suicide in a fit of depression will probably never be known.

Excerpt from the report received from the American Consul in Charge
Shanghai, China
June 14, 1918

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