Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

Oliver Matthews Collection, 1905-2013

Biographical Note:

Oliver Matthews (1892-1979), dendrologist and self-described "botanical tramp," traveled all parts of Oregon for more than 40 years in pursuit of trees, particularly the biggest of each species. Matthews graduated from Willamette University in 1913 and later received teacher training as a post-graduate at Oregon College of Education, but had no formal training as a botanist.

He served in Europe during World War I and worked as a carpenter and an extra in the silent film industry in Hollywood after the war. He returned to Oregon in 1928 and except for seasonal work as a carpenter and in a Salem cannery, devoted the rest of his life to the study of Oregon's trees. He corresponded extensively with herbariums, state and national forest services, newspapers, and individuals; collected hundreds of wood specimens; discovered a new cypress that bears his name; extended the known geographical range of several trees; contributed extensive botanical specimens to many herbariums; and located, measured, and documented the largest specimens of many trees, including Douglas Fir and Weeping Spruce.

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