The Papers of Arthur Charles Langlois, 1902-1977

The Papers of Arthur Charles Langlois, 1902-1977

Arthur Langlois with Iriartea gigantic

Creator: Arthur C. Langlois, 1902-1977


Extent: 2 file drawers, 6 cubic feet, 40 folders with 2958 pages, 2420 photos, 1910 pictures and 36 drawings.

Repository: The Bertram Zuckerman Garden Archive, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Center for Tropical Plant Research, 11935 Old Cutler Road, Miami, FL 33156-4296.

Abstract: The papers of Arthur C. Langlois include records he kept on all known palm genera with photographs, pictures and drawings dating from the late 1930’s until his death in 1977 with miscellaneous notes and sidebars added by his wife, Margaret A. Langlois.

Administrative Information: Arranged in folders by palm family.

Acquisition Information: The papers were donated to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden by Mrs. Margaret A. Langlois in 1980 in fulfillment of her husband’s wishes that the information and photographs he collected on the palm be given to the Archive for safekeeping and to be available for reference.

Access: The Collection is open for research. Please consult the Librarian/Archivist for access: Nancy Korber, 305-667-1651 x3424 or

Usage Restrictions: Photos were taken by the Langlois unless otherwise noted.

Preferred Citation: Courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Archive. Arthur C. Langlois Collection.

Biography: Arthur Charles Langlois was born in Jersey, Channel Islands on June 13, 1902. At the age of 20 he adopted Nassau, Bahamas as his lifelong home. He joined the Bahama civil service in 1922 as a wireless operator in the Out Islands. He later joined the Water Department and would work there until his retirement in 1965. He was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for his valuable work in supplying water to Nassau during World War II.

Margaret Langlois

 Margaret “Wumpsie” Langolis at the Retreat in 1983, photo by Georgia Tasker

In 1925, Langlois married Margaret Alice and they bought The Retreat-a 120 year old Bahamian plantation house with 11 acres. After five hurricanes ravaged the garden from 1926 through 1929 they set about restoring it by planting palms. This restoration work led to a shared passion for palms which was the beginning of their lifelong commitment to its study. Their garden would become one of the  best known private collections of palms in the world and two palms would be named for them: Areca langloisiana (now Areca vestaria) and Euterpe langloisii.

At the time Langlois begain studying palms, likenesses of them were hard to come by. So they set about collecting photographs themselves as well as from an impressive array of friends and acquaintances, among whom were Dr. David Fairchild, famed botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey, palm botanist Harold E. Moore, Jr., Anne Archbold, sponsor of some of Dr. Fairchild’s collecting trips, and Dent Smith, founder of the International Palm Society. The Langlois were also charter members of the International Palm Society and Margaret sat on the Board. Seeds from their collection at The Retreat helped start IPS’s Seed Bank. They were the only private individuals to receive seeds and materials from Dr. Fairchild’s Cheng Ho expedition in the early 1940’s.

In 1941 the Langlois went to British Honduras (now Belize) to see the Reinhardtia latisecta and then in 1945 to the Sarbiquii Valley in Costa Rica. These were the first of several other trips they would make, at their own expense, to study and photograph rare palms in such locations as Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, and Panama, In 1961 they went to Kew and Kensington to visit their living collections and herbaria and then in 1962 they made a trip to Madagascar. The result of these two trips was over 500 pictures of palm genera not very well known at that time in the Western Hemisphere. After Arthur’s retirement they made an extensive trip to the South Pacific with the goal of seeing and photographing as many of the native palms as possible.

Some of the photos collected by the Langlois were used by James McCurrach in his 1959 Palms of the World. Others went into Langlois’ own volume Supplement to the Palms of the World which was published at the time of his death in 1977.

The couple never had children and were determined to protect their garden from developers. So in the early 1980’s, Margaret donated half the property to the Bahamas National Trust. The remaining half was purchased by a friend who also donated it to the Trust. The Retreat Garden is now Headquarters of the Bahamas National Trust and site of the Trust’s extensive library as well as being a botanic garden open to the public.

Processing: Collection arranged and processed by Janet Mosely, April 15, 2008; finding aid developed by Janet Mosely April 30, 2008.

Collection Scope and Content Note: Contents collection records date from approximately 1937 to approximately 1980.