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  

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Literature Cited
Original Title:
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
University of California Press

Literature Cited:
- Boerner, F., March 14, 1962.    

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 communication).
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Date and time this article was prepared: 6/7/2002 7:32:30 PM