Mary's Flowers: A Selection of Flora from the Canadian Rocky Mountains

Mary's Flowers

 A Selection of Flora from the Canadian Rocky Mountains

Part I

[Jonas Pass?], [ca.1900 - 192-], Mary Schäffer fonds (V527/PS/1/390)

Mary Schäffer's fascination with natural history was ingrained in her from a young age, through her Quaker education. Her father was an avid mineralogist and took her on many trips. The stories told by family members of the west, its landscape, and Indigenous Peoples sparked a keen interest in her to see it for herself. 

Family trips to California and to Alaska reaffirmed her interest in Indigenous Peoples and their way of life. In 1889, she boarded the Canadian Pacific Railway from Montreal to Vancouver. The stop at Glacier House, in the Selkirk Mountains would forever change her life. Here she was introduced to Dr. Charles Schäffer, who was extremely interested in the botany of the region. After they had returned to Philadelphia, Mary would become his bride.

833. The Glacier House, Selkirks from S.E., [ca. 1890],
Boorne & May fonds (V10/PA-05)

In 1891, Dr. Schäffer suggested that they return to the Rocky Mountains and its plethora of botanical specimens. Mary was able to accompany her husband on outings to locate these specimens. She was then responsible for drying and pressing the specimens that were gathered. 

The realization by her husband that Mary was actually a very talented artist came slowly. Once this realization was made, her talents were put to use. Her interest in photography allowed her to take pictures of the specimens. This enabled her to document shape, colour, and size of the specimens they had found. 

Mary would then use the negatives from the pictures for prints or for lantern slides. She would then carefully hand-colour them. This allowed her to capture the original shades and hues of the subjects. 

[Hiker picking flowers beneath Vice President and President], [ca.1902 - 192-], Mary Schäffer fonds (V527/PS/1/343)

Please note the majority of botanical examples given here were taken after the death of Mary's husband in 1903. Mary would return to Banff in 1904. A local guide and outfitter, Tom Wilson would assign her a young twenty-four year old guide, William "Billy" Warren. This man would accompany her on many future trips and become her husband in 1915.  

Stay tuned for Part II of this story! 

Primula McCallian MacCalla's Primula, [b/t 1907 - 1911],
Mary Schäffer fonds (V527/PS/1/203)

Saxifragia oppositifolio, [b/t 1907 - 1911], Mary Schäffer fonds

Lithospermum Linearifolium
Narrow leaved Puccoon,
Mary Schäffer fonds (V527/PS/1/542) 

Further Reading:

Schäffer, Mary T.S. A Hunter of Peace, Second Edition. Banff: Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, 2014. 

Beck, Janice Sanford. No Ordinary Woman: the story of Mary Schäffer Warren. Calgary: Rocky Mountain Books, 2001. 


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