|Carl Purpus, Plant Collector in Western America||The Botanical Collections of C. A. Purpus in Mexico: The Years 1893 - 1925 (Continued)|
by Mario Sousa
Sanchez English translation by Lauramay T. Dempster
English translation by Lauramay T. Dempster
Topics in this Article:
Sousa, M., Las colecciones botanicas de C. A. Purpus en Mexico,
Univ. Calif. Publ. Bot., 51: 1-36, 1969.
Republished on the World Wide Web by Permission of
| The personality of
C.A. Purpus is one of the most interesting. Boerner (1962) tells us something of this: "He was a difficult man (we are told by Mr. Otto Nagel, depending on the class of person he was treating with) almost puritannical, he did not take alcohol in any form, he did not smoke and apparently because of an unhappy love in his youth he was very reserved in his feminine
relationships." On this last point he became so extreme that he would not accept any woman in his
house; even the one who laundered his clothes was left outside of his house.
|| His cats supplied the
human warmth for which he lacked; in the beginning it was necessary to keep
the feral animals away from his herbarium specimens, but later the number of cats was so excessive,
more than 60, that undoubtedly they went from being their initial guardians, to destroying the plants.
|| His communication
with the people of the village was little, only when needed in connection with
the plants; his Spanish was poor, despite his ample knowledge of English and Latin.
|| He was closer to the
coffee planters of German origin, with whom he expanded a little more.
|| Purpus was a man of
artistic sensitivity, which he satisfied by playing the guitar during his long solitudes.
|| His generosity was
very great, which was the reason that he was often the object of loans without
return, and fictitious purchase of plants in which it was known beforehand that when the seller left,
Purpus would throw away the specimens as having little value.
|| One of the most
resounding episodes of his life in Mexico, consisted in the finding of an
archeological piece during the year 1917-1918; from that day until he sold it, Purpus slept uneasily
and was always in a state of fear of losing it. Even though it is not clear of what object he treats;
some think it was a dish; Boermer believes that it was a metal plaque, insignia of rank or some such
thing, used by the Emperor Moctezuma, and finally Purpus, on referring to this piece, speaks of a
collection of mosaics.
|| He began a series of
offers to different museums; the one that offered the most was the American
Indian Museum in New York, which sent an expert to evaluate the piece. Whether or not they
concluded the contract, months passed during which Purpus carried the precious object under his
shirt; they were months of worry, given the conditions that prevailed in the country. Finally in the
middle of 1921, the contract was closed, and a neighbor of his undertook to take the piece to the
United States inside a pastry. The sale brought him $40,000, which was paid to him in installments.
|| But the money soon
escaped him, owing to his great generosity, with loans to unscrupulous
persons. Besides, this coincided with the evacuation of the German colonies in Africa, he having to
pay the cost of the trip to Germany of various relatives of his (Sr. Otto Nagel; personal
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Date and time this article was prepared: 6/7/2002 7:32:30 PM