Joseph Rothrock collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence to Spencer Fullerton Bird regarding the Western Union Telegraph Expedition, 1865-1867

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Trimble Rothrock was born on 9 April 1839 in McVeytown, Pennsylvania, United States. He studied botany at Harvard University, graduating in 1862. From 1862 to 1864, he served with the Union Army, seeing action at Antietam and Fredericksburg where he was seriously wounded. He was appointed botanist on the US Western Union Telegraph Expedition (Alaskan Division), 1865-1867 (leader Robert Kennicott), sent by the Western Union Telegraph Company to survey a route for, and to construct, a telegraph line through Alaska by way of Yukon River and Seward Peninsula, in connection with plans to establish a telegraph link between the United States and Europe across the Bering Strait.

On his return in 1867, Rothrock was appointed professor of botany at Pennsylvania State Agricultural College and the following year received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, later holding the chair of botany at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1895, Rothrock became Pennsylvania's first commissioner of forestry, founding the Pennsylvania State Forestry Academy at Mont Alto in 1903. Resigning as a commissioner in 1904 and from the State Forestry Commission in 1914, he died on 2 June 1922 in West Chester, Pennsylvania.


The correspondence is arranged chronologically

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and Pennsylvania State and Darwin college and Pennsylvania University Archive

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible