The Papers of Dent Smith 1897-1985

The Papers of Dent Smith 1897-1985

Creator: Dent Smith, 1897-1985

Extent: 2 file drawers, 6 cubic feet, approximately 4,600 letters, 60 reports and manuscripts, 14 photographs.

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

Abstract: The papers of Dent Smith include copies of the correspondence between Dent Smith and over 200 internationally prominent palm botanists and horticulturists. Almost all the materials deal with the establishment and operation of the Palm Society. Dent Smith started the Palm Society in 1956. He conceived, developed, and supported the society throughout its first 30 years. The collection includes letters, manuscripts of Dent Smith’s writings, Palm Society minutes, planning documents, and financial records. While the dates include 1955-1986, most of the records are from 1955 through the mid-1960s.

Administrative Information: Arranged, for the most part, in folders by correspondent (either individual or organization), then by date, with copies of Dent Smith’s letters interfiled.

Acquisition information: The papers were donated to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden by Dent Smith.

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

Usage Restrictions: Most of the photographs have previously been published and are covered by copyright restrictions of the Palm Society.

Preferred Citation: Courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Archive. Dent Smith Collection.

Biography: Dent Smith was born in Staunton, Virginia in 1897. During his early years he moved frequently, and according to his own recollections, received a brief and what Smith called a “thoroughly useless formal education.” At 16 he left college in his junior year to take a number of jobs until he enlisted in the army at age 18. He served several years, mostly on the Mexican border, before he was discharged in 1919. He took various jobs and eventually made his way to Mexico where he worked as an oilfield scout and married his first wife, Guadalupe Hopper y Martinez in 1921. After several more jobs, he moved to southern California.

Up to this point, Dent Smith had led a rather itinerant life, seeking little formal education, job stability, or financial reward. But in 1925 he made another move that seems to have signaled a change in his life. He worked for five years as a bond salesman on Wall Street in New York City. Eventually, he started his own investment securities firm (Dent Smith and Company). In spite of the failing economy, he realized considerable success, and was able to retire at the age of 42. For a brief period, he founded and ran the magazine Encore (1942-1945). In 1949 he moved to Daytona Beach, Florida where he began his involvement with palms, and founded the International Palm Society.

For the first several years Dent Smith was the primary figure in the society’s development, serving as president, editor of Principes , and in other capacities. Even to his death in 1985, he served as an active member of the society and was consulted for advise on its operations.

Dent Smith received numerous honors for his involvement and support of palm culture, including an honorary Doctorate of Science from Florida Institute of Technology and the Founders Medal from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. His published writings are extensive, including total authorship of the six issues of the Palm Society Bulletin, and more than 70 articles, most published in Principes.

Dent Smith died in 1985 after a long battle with cancer. He was preceeded in death by his first wife and their two children: Garrard Leonard Dent Smith, who was killed in action in the Korean War in 1950 and a daugher, Jesse Dent Smith Clark who died of multiple myeloma. He was succeeded by his second wife, Doris. 

Processing: Collection and finding aid developed by Nancy Korber, 2008. Biographical details supplied by Mary Jane Ray, daughter-in-law (September 2009).

Collection Scope and Content Note: The collection of Dent Smith includes correspondence between Smith and dozens of internationally prominent palm biologists. Although dates encompass 1955-1986, most of the correspondence dates between 1956 and 1975. In addition to over 4,600 letters, the collection includes about 60 reports and manuscripts, and 14 photographs. Almost all the materials concern the business of the Palm Society and palm culture in general. The collection includes extensive correspondence between Dent Smith and David Barry, Jr., Mardy E. Darian, Kenneth C. Foster, Walter Henricks Hodge, Jerome P. Keuper, Margaret and Arthur Langlois, William D. Manley, Otto Martens, Harold E. Moore, Jr., Nixon Smiley, and Lucita Wait.


Drawer Folder Contents / Dates
V-2 1 Correspondence with Paul Hamilton Allen 1911-1963, from Honduras. 11 letters, Dated: 1955-1956
  2 American Horticultural Society, primarily from James R. Harlow, Executive Secretary. 18 letters, dated: 1956-1960
  3 Miscellaneous A correspondents, including Mrs. George F. Adams, Senor Harmano Alain, Alexander, All Florida, Donald Alvord, Edgar Anderson, Norman L. Anderson, William Aplin, John D. Archbold, Margaret G. Ashe. 22 letters, dated: 1955-1965
  4 F. Cecil Baker, Santa Lucea Grove, Stuart, FL. 14 letters, dated: 1956-1960
  5 David Barry, Jr., 1897-1978. 224 letters, dated: 1955-1964
  6 David Barry, Jr., 1897-1978. 182 letters, dated: 1965-1969
  7 David Barry, Jr., 1897-1978. 141 letters, dated: 1970-1973
  8 David Barry, Jr., 1897-1978. 92 letters, dated: 1974-1977
  9 David Besst, David’s Nurseries, Maitland, FL. 12 letters, dated: 1981-1982
  10 Mrs. Theodora B. Buhler (Teddie C. Buhler). 65 letters, dated: 1956-1980
  11 Miscellaneous B correspondence, including Gene Barnes, Ethel Z. Bailey, Bruce Bartholomew, H. H. Bartlett, David M. Bates, H. E. auernschmidt, Mrs. T. R. Baumgartner, Mrs. Richard H. (Jacqueline) Baxter, Elwood Bear, Jeanne Bellamy, Mrs. Byron E. (Libby) Besse, W. L. Bidlingmayer, Robert L. Bishop, Walter Braun, Ben L. Brown, Kyle E. Brown, Sam J. Brown, Thomas R. Bullers, Brent Burris, Charles S. Bush, Eileen  H. Butts. 80 letters, dated: 1955-1983
  12 I. D. Clement, 28 letters, dated: 1955-1961
  13 Cook, John R. “Jack” 14 letters, dated: 1971
  14 Miscellaneous C correspondence, including Meredith F. Campbell, Peter Caulkin, Betty Chalk, Chicago Natural History Museum, Lloyd Cochrane, Gertrude W. Cole, Charles C. Cole, Alan D. Conger, J. Francis Cooper, Carl F. Cowgill, Malcolm N. Crabtree, Mrs. Francis V. Crane, Florida Cypress Gardens. 35 letters, dated: 1956-1977  
  15 Mardy E. Darian, 200 letters, dated 1964-1983
  16 Nat J. DeLeon, Parrot Jungle,  54 letters, dated 1956-1972
  17 Warren J. Dolby, Richmond, CA, 36 letters, dated 1956-1976
  18 Paul A. Drummond, 6 letters, dated 1974-1982
  19 Miscellaneous D correspondence, including B. E. Dahlgren, Richard M. Dash, T. Antony Davis, H. A. Delap, Richard Douglas, Armando Dugand, William F. Dunbar, William M. Dunson. 31 letters, dated: 1956-1983 
  20 Miscellaneous E correspondence, including Sulema Jones Etchison, A. Morgan Evans. 11 letters, dated: 1955-1974
  21 Florida Institute of Technology: copy of Principes featuring “A Major Florida Palm Collection” by Nixon Smiley, 1975; letter listing all palms dated June 20, 1977
  22 Kenneth C. Foster, 103 letters, dated: 1956-1978
  23 Miscellaneous F correspondence, including R. H. Fackelman, Marian Bell Fairchild, R. G. Follis, Carl O. Foster, Jr., Mulford B. Foster, Racine Foster, Mrs. Walter P. (Roberta C.) Fuller, C. X. Furtado. 29 letters, dated: 1956-1980
  24 Miscellaneous G correspondence, including: Donald Galli, E. Getchell, Eric V. Golby, Michael and Susan Graham, Celia Grant,  Jane Gray, Ruth Greene, Burt Greenberg, James F. Griffin, Jr. G. L. Guy. 45 letters, dated: 1956-1981
  25 Walter Henricks Hodge 1912- . 227 letters, dated: 1956-1984
  26 Miscellaneous H correspondence, including Claire Hargert, Walter J. Harman, Clyde Harris, Reba F. Harris, C. W. S. Hartley, Alex D. Hawkes, Randall Henderson, Gunter F. Herman, Betty Herman, Efraim Hernandez X., William Hertrich, Arthur M. Hill, Jr., Gordon D. Hintz, Roy Hirth, Harold F. Hollis, Richard A. Howard, DeArmond Hull, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. 70 letters, dated 1956-1982
  27 Internal Revenue Service: 10 letters, dated: 1956-1957
  28 Miscellaneous I correspondence, including C. E. Ingalls, Internal Revenue Service. 5 letters, dated: 1955-1956
  29 Edwin Johnston. 18 letters, dated: 1955-1956
  30 Miscellaneous J correspondence, including Nell Montgomery Jennings, Father Ferome, Franklin Pitcher Johnson, Adolph C. Jordahn, 27 letters, dated: 1956-1985
  31 Jerome P. Keuper. 122 letters, dated 1967-1984
  32 Stanley C. Kiem, Fairchild Tropical Garden. 72 letters, dated: 1955-1981
  33 Eugene D. Kitzke, S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. 26 letters, dated: 1956-1962
  34 Miscellaneous K correspondence, including M. P. Keister, Ward Kendall, Nolan W. Kiner, Girard E. Kinzie, Douglas M. Knapp, Isabelle B. Krome, Russell B. Kurtz. 26 letters, dated: 1956-1983
  35 Margaret and Arthur Langlois. 82 letters, dated: 1955-1983
  36 George H. M. Lawrence, Director, Bailey Hortorium. 36 letters, dated: 1955-1963
  37 R. Bruce Ledin, University of Florida. 41 letters, dated: 1956-1958
  38 Miscellaneous L correspondence, including C. H. Lankester, Alexis V. Lapteff, Wilbur LeGardeur, Walter R. Lindsay, H. R. Loomis, Elmer J. Lorenz, T. R. N. Lothian, Jerome F. Lowenstein, Joel F. Lubar, Irwine Lyle. 47 letters, dated: 1955-1984
  39 William D. Manley, Atlanta, GA: 119 letters, dated: 1961-1969
  40 William D. Manley, Atlanta, GA: 84 letters, dated: 1970-1981
  41 Manuscripts, many with no dates or titles. 25 manuscripts, including:

  • In and Out of the Palm Garden, July 17, 1959
  • Palms in the Halifax area, 1955
  • Lists of palms to Stan, March 3, 1958
  • Temperature at Daytona Beach, winter 1957-1958
  • The California habitat of Washingtonia filifera: recollections of the desert and its native palms, January 24, 1958
  • Notes of a Palmophile, January 1959
  • Effect of recent freezes on a palm collection at Daytona Beach, post 1958
  • Untitled: Not all palms grow at the same rate.
  • Palm nomenclature from Nehrling, November 11, 1959
  • In and out of the palm garden: when the garden club&, December 1, 1959
  • The Serpent palm
  • Review of Palms and Cycads, their culture in Southern California by William Hertrich. 1960.
  • The Palm Society,
  • In and out of the palm garden “In recent years&”
  • On the trail of the lonesome palms – a Jeep trip in Northwestern Mexico by Robert H. Nelson, ~1961
  • Growth rates of certain palms
  • Untitled: Your favorite palm? 2 copies
  • Baja California – Nayarit – Sinaloa – Sonora: Timetable, 1961
  • Palmographs
  • Forward [to Supplement to Palms of the World by Arthur Langlois]
  • Diary? From August 3-August 6.
  • Palms are where you find them. June 26, 1970, 2 copies
  • Palmographs: Cold tolerance, a subject of endless fascination&
  • [Column} Written for Principes, January 1972
  • Fruiting in the Saw Palmetto
  42 Otto Martens, Monrovia, CA: 104 letters, dated: 1964-1974
  43 Edwin W. Moore, San Diego, CA:  49 letters, dated: 1956-1965
  44 Harold E. Moore, Jr., Cornell University: 123 letters, dated: 1955-1959
  45 Harold E. Moore, Jr., Cornell University: 110 letters, dated: 1960-1964
  46 Harold E. Moore, Jr., Cornell University: 117 letters, dated: 1968-1973
  47 Harold E. Moore, Jr., Cornell University: 105 letters, dated: 1974-1980
  48 Robert Nelson: 77 letters, dated: 1960-1964
  49 Miscellaneous M correspondence, including J. Marnier-Lapostolle, H. O. Martin, Stewart Mathews, Frank R. May, Mrs. C. R. (Fay M.) Mayes, ,Jim Menge, Edwin A. Menninger, Joe W. Michael, Les H. Miller, Mrs. Albert J. (Peggy) Mills, Jim Mintken, David R. Moomaw, William M. Morton, Russell C. Mott, Walter J. Murray, Tamar Myers.  42 letters, dated: 1956-1984
  50 Billings M. McArthur: 18 letters, dated: 1963-1976
  51 James C. McCurrach, 56 letters, dated: 1957-1961
  52 Miscellaneous Mc correspondence, including Lynn McKamey, E. J. McCallum. 4 letters, dated: 1956-1983
  53 Bob Nelson: 77 letters, dated: 1960-1964
  54 Miscellaneous N correspondence, including William Nachtrab, Raymond Neck, Don Nichols, H. L. Buster Nies. 15 letters, dated: 1956-1972
  55 Palm Society Bulletin: 6 issues, dated: 1956. Originals are in bound volume in Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Library.
  56 Palm Society: 72 letters and reports related to the work of the palm society, dated: 1955-1982
  57 Palm Society Bylaws: 17 versions, with notes and amendments, dated: 1955-1976
  58 Palm Society Rosters: 5 rosters, dated: 1955 & 1956
  59 Palmologue (column in Principes written by Dent Smith): file contains letters, drafts and manuscripts of column. 9 letters, 12 manuscripts
  60 Palmologue – Photos: 14 pictures published in Principes, v.19, 1975.
  61 Miscellaneous P correspondence, including H. A. Paden, Francis H. Greer, Heriberto Parra E., Mrs. H. J. Peacock, Jr., Roy J. Pence, Gayland M. Penny, Rodolfo E. G. Pichi-Sermolli, Frank Piers, Mrs. E. G. (Ann) Piper, Robert E. Pomeranz, Patricio Ponce de Leon, John Popenoe, O. J. Priebe, George R. Proctor. 66 letters, dated: 1955-1985.
  62 F. C. Quintana: 5 letters, dated: 1956
  63 Miscellaneous R correspondence, including Frank J. Radosta, R. S. Rao, Mike Rayburn, Robert W. Read, William Rheinfelder, William J. Robbins, F. W. Roewekamp, J. D. Rowell, Walter Ford Rogers, Jr., Rood Landscape Co., F. J. Routon, Hartley Rowe, Velva E. Rudd, Jerzy Rzedowski,: 43 letters, dated: 1956-1983
  64 Toshihiko Satake, Hiroshimaken, Japan: 18 letters, dated: 1956-1966
  65 Robert Schnabel, 38 letters, dated: 1959-1969
  66 Nixon Smiley: chapter of unpublished Dent Smith autobiography entitled “Gringo,” 182 letters, dated: 1956-1985
  67 Dent Smith: 2 manuscripts of articles, bonds from State of Arkansas
  68 Jim Smith, Smith’s Nursery, Oakland Park, FL: 58 letters, dated: 1956-1975
  69 R. N. Smith: 35 letters, dated: 1965-1971
  70 Melvin W. Sneed: 19 letters, dated: 1972-1980
  71 Watana Sumawong, Bankok, Thailand: 17 letters, dated: 1971-1974
  72 Miscellaneous S correspondence, including: Stuart Sarjeant, Ruth Schatz, Sharon Scheer, Bill Seaborn, R. J. Seibert, Michael Shapiro, T. J. Sheehan, Marion R. Sheehan, Shenandoah Publishing House, Alan H. Shoemaker, Vincent Sims, Arch Smith, Robert N. Smith, Jr.,  Betty Smith, Gordon S. Smith, Phoebe Snow, Jim Specht, Betty Stevenson, William S. Stewart, Wesley W. Stout, V. T. Stoutemyer, Pauleen Sullivan, 87 letters, dated: 1956-1985
  73 P. B. (Philip Barry) Tomlinson, 1932-  : 31 letters, dated: 1956-1966
  74 Miscellaneous T correspondence, including: James A. Talley, Hank Taylor, F. A. Tetley, Jr. H. Teuscher, Loren C. Thompson, Jack Tomsky, Tropical Homemaker, John Turner, Mrs. Leslie Turner: 21 letters, dated: 1956-1982
  75 Lucita Wait, 1903-1995: 226 letters, dated 1953-1959
  76 Lucita Wait, 1903-1995: 155 letters, dated 1960-1962
  77 Lucita Wait, 1903-1995: 231 letters, dated: 1963-1983
  78 Miscellaneous W correspondence, including: William “Ted” Waas, Egbert H. Walker, Mrs. Cecil S. Waugh, Paul R. Weissich, Erdman West, Bert Wheeler, Beverly Wheelock, Lawrence F. White, Hein Wicht, Henry Wick, Merrill Wilcox, Albert A. Will, Jr., Ken Willeford, Allen Williams, Robert G. Wilson, Karl W. Braun, Harold F. Winters, Harold Wright. 43 letters, dated: 1955-1983
  79 Miscellaneous XYZ correspondence, including Kan Yashiroda, Harrison G. Yocum, U. A. Young, Ing. Mario Zamora C.  39 letters, dated: 1956-1976

Unless otherwise stated, all photographs on this page property of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Please contact the Archivist for permission to use or reproduce photographs.

Please contact:

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Center for Tropical Plant Conservation
11935 Old Cutler Road
Miami, Florida 33156 USA
tel. 305/667-1651, ext. 3424
fax 305/665-8032