A Guide to the Theodore L. Mead Collection

Archives and Special Collections, Rollins College, Winter Park Florida



Descriptive cataloging funded by a grant from the State Historical Records Advisory Board of the State Library and Archives of Florida.

Finding Aid encoded by Blair Jackson, 2006

Latest revision 2006-9-1

Descriptive Summary

ID Number:  Mss 00-TLM

Date(s)  Papers, 1840-1936. 
Extent: 31 boxes totaling  33 linear ft. of archival collections and 13 linear ft. of journals from Mead's personal library collection.  
Language(s):  English. 
Administrative Summary
Portions of collection available online?  Yes.
Provenance:  Theodore L. Mead  1852-1936.
Acquisition Information:   T. L. Mead left instructions in his will to leave the contents of his personal library to Rollins College. 
Access Conditions:  Unlimited.
Use Conditions:  Collection is open for research.
Processing History:   Sorting and preliminary organization of the Mead collection began in the 1970's.    
Copyright Status:  The status of copyright on the materials of the Theodore L. Mead collection is governed by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U. S. C.).
Preferred Citation:  Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: container number, the Theodore L. Mead Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.
Biographical/Historical Note  
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."


1852  Born February 23rd to Samuel H. Mead and Mary Camilia Luqueer Mead in Fishkill, N. Y.
1862  Sent to France and Germany for two years of study.  
1867  Enters sub-freshman class at the City College in New York.  Mead visited the Paris Exposition 
1868  Elected to the American Entomological Society.  Mead spent the summer with William H. Edwards, a leading authority on butterflies and author of  The Butterflies of America.  At this time he met his future wife, Edith Edwards, daughter of William H. Edwards.
1869  Mead visited Florida.
1871  With the help of W. H. Edwards, Mead went to Colorado as a paying member of the Wheeler surveying expedition to collect butterflies.  Mead's brother, Samuel, joined him in Colorado where they collected butterflies and traveled west to California, and on to Panama in Central America, and home via steamship.
1872  Samuel H. Mead Jr., T. L. Mead's Brother, patented the Meigs-Mead Explosive Bullet.
1874  Entered Cornell University.
1875  On May 20, Samuel H. Mead Jr., T. L Mead's brother, died of an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
1877  Received a degree in civil engineering from Cornell University.  In this year Mead sold his collection of butterflies to the Carnegie Museum at Pittsburgh.
1878  Mead took a trip to California and on to Acapulco, Mexico.  During this trip and his return journey, Mead collected butterflies  and toured several areas of California including Los Angeles, Yosemite Valley, the Mojave Desert and Lake Tahoe.  Mead also collected butterflies at Virginia City, Nevada, Cottonwood Canyon, Salt Lake City, Utah, and at Green River, Wyoming. 
1879  Attended Columbia Law School.
1880  Conducted postgraduate studies in biology with collecting trips to California and Newfoundland.
1881-1884  Editor of Papilio which was later replaced by Entomologica Americana.
1882  Mead married Edith Edwards, daughter of W. H Edwards, a leading authority on butterflies. The newlyweds honeymooned in England.
1886  Bought orange grove and moved to Oviedo, Florida
1890  Completed of graduate studies, and earned the full status of "Civil Engineer" from Cornell University.
1891  Mead began to work with the hybridization of orchids.
1892  Mead's only child, Dorothy, died in February.
1927  Mead's wife Edith died October 20th at age 75 in Oviedo, Florida.
1936 Theodore L Mead suffered a paralytic stroke on April 22nd and died from complications on May 4th in Oviedo, Florida.

Mead Family Biographical Notes:
1823  Mary C. Luqueer ( T. L. Mead's mother), was born on Oct. 25. 
1848  Samuel Jr. was born.
Scope and Content Note
The personal papers, correspondence and library in the T.  L. Mead Collection at Rollins College contain manuscripts, photographs, memorabilia, periodicals, and pamphlets from Mead's personal library.  As the last remaining survivor of his immediate family, Mead received the collected correspondence and papers which belonged to his mother, father, and to his brother.  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.  With his family papers, and hundreds of letters, we can trace the comprehensive history of an American family for more than one-hundred years.     
Index Terms
Personal Names:
        Mead, Theodore Luqueer, 1852-1936.
        Nehrling, Henry, 1853-1929.
Geographic Names:
        Florida--Seminole County--History.
Subject Terms:
        Agriculture--Florida--Seminole County--History.
        Orchid Culture.
        Tropical Plants.

The Theodore L. Mead Collection 
Mead Photo Gallery

Series Description

Detailed Container List