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Mushroom Muse in the Midwest: Lisbeth Glatfelter

Mushroom Muse in the Midwest

by Patrick Harvey

Lisbeth Glatfelter: A portrait

Lisbeth Glatfelter: A portrait

I recently wrote an article on Dr. Noah Miller Glatfelter, which was published in the Summer 2013 issue of “Fungi” magazine.  He collected fungi between 1890 and 1911 in Saint Louis, and contributed hundreds of samples to many of the leading mycologists of the day, including Charles Peck and Curtis Gates Lloyd.  It turns out that his daughter, Lisbeth Glatfelter Fish, was a major influence in changing his major interest from botany (he was an expert on hybrid willows, among other things) to mycology.

Lisbeth went to school briefly at Harvard University, where she joined the Boston Mycological Club, the first mushroom club organized in the United States.  She was serious enough to consider acquiring a microscope:

Lisbeth's father, Dr. Noah Glatfelter, was introduced to mycology by through his daughter's avid interest.

Lisbeth’s father, Dr. Noah Glatfelter, was introduced to mycology by through his daughter’s avid interest.

Harvard Cambridge, Mass
Aug 4 1898

“Dear Papa
I have decided not to buy the microscope.  I was helped to that decision by a friend here who told me it was too high a price for the instrument. This friend went over the instrument with me & showed me how to select a microscope, what points were important & which not important & I have learned a thing or two about them.

I learned that Bausch and Lomb give teachers 40% off discount & a selection from their stock would give more satisfaction in every way than a single chance to make a choice. The trouble is I want too use it early in the fall, to “make an impression” on the School authorities over my rival. So I expect to get one some how before then.”


This next extract from one of her letters shows her growing interest in mushrooms:

Harvard, Cambridge, Mass.
Aug. 16 1898

” . . . Tell Papa I could not get any light on his mushroom.  Tell him to send the specimen in a box to Hollis Webster, 18 Cloverly Hall, Cambridge Mass.  Mr. Webster told me he could not identify it under those conditions, but it certainly was not Agaricus maximus. He looked in Massee & Stevenson & found the description of Maximus not agreeing at all with your specimen.  He thought as before it was a Cantharellus infun.”

This eventually led to her writing C. G. Lloyd, and putting Dr. Glatfelter in contact with him:

St. Louis, December 3rd, 1898
Mr. C.G. Loyd
Cincinnati, Ohio

“Dear Sir:

I am in receipt of your valuable paper on the volvae of the United States, and wish to express my very great thanks for the book.  We have lately in St. Louis become very much interested in fungi although few know much about them.  I had a talk before the Englemann Botanical club here recently, and my father has been preparing a paper for some time which he expects to deliver before the same club next week.

“During the summer and fall until very recently we had mushrooms of some sort on the table every day.  Personally I am very fond of Armillaria, and as it grew in great abundance here, we canned a quantity of it for winter use.  During my Summer studies at Harvard, it is my great pleasure to attend the sessions of the Boston club. Thanking you again for the book,

“I am, yours truly,
Lisbeth M. Glatfelter

Dr. Noah Glatfelter went on to produce a catalogue of over 500 mushrooms from the St. Louis area, and compiled a genealogy of his family which included more than 1400 individuals, all while practicing medicine in St. Louis.

Lisbeth created the first Domestic Economy classes in Saint Louis, and later married Albert Goodrich Fish, president of a steel company, and moved to Denver. She followed in her father’s footsteps in the sense that she had so many and varied achievements. She went on to become the mother of five children, organized virtually all of the women’s and garden clubs in the Denver area, did charitable work during both World Wars, promoted locally owned business in Colorado, and was a published poet*.  In a newspaper article, it was said that she was not an individual, but an institution. One can only imagine what she would have accomplished had she pursued science instead!

*”Wild Iris: Odes and Lyrics” (E. J. Hurd & Co., Denver, Colorado), and
“Chinook: A Welcome Wind” (The World Press, Denver, Colorado, 1941(2nd ed.)

About Patrick Harvey:  Patrick Harvey is a member of the St. Louis chapter of the Missouri Mycological society.  When not in the woods hunting mushrooms, he works in the I. T. department of Saint Louis University.

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