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Darwin Correspondence Project

From C. L. Brace   14 November 1867


Nov 14th | 1867

My dear Sir:

While in the mountains—the Adirondacks of New York1—this summer, I came across a “capital fact” bearing on the distribution of plants—

In that region, when the forest (of beech, birch, sugar-maple & pine) is burnt, there springs up immediately a thick grove of Wild Cherry (P. Pennsylvanica, I think).2 The foresters’ explanation is that these forests for square miles around were some thirty or forty years ago, the favorite roosting-places of the Wild Pigeon who came here by the millions. Their favorite food was the Wild Cherry, & they fed their young on it, so that the soil was thick-sown with the seeds, for miles about—

I am so much rejoiced to hear that you are taking up the anthropoid part of your great subject—3

With regard to change of type in America, the dentists say it is becoming almost universally the practice to remove some of the back-teeth in children, as the jaw does not seem large enough for the normal number of teeth,4 & the front are made projecting— Two of my children, though their mother is from the Old World,— —have had to lose sound back-teeth for this reason— The American monkeys I believe have more than the normal number of teeth—5

I hope soon to send you an article on the reception of your theory by the Germans—Haeckel, Vogt, Büchner & others—

How little they have contributed to the Science of the subject!6

Whitney showed me a skull found in California which was as low as the Neanderthal—7

We are daily expecting Dr & Mrs Gray—8

Believe me dear Sir | Yours with high respect | C. L. Brace

C. R. Darwin Esq

CD annotations

1.1 While … subject.— 3.2] crossed pencil
4.3 the normal] ‘poor denture of the’ added above and del
4.3 & the] after closing square bracket
4.5 The American … Gray— 8.1] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘Carl Vogt’ ink; ‘Teeth’, red crayon


The Adirondack mountains are in northern New York State, between Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain (Times atlas).
Brace refers to Prunus pensylvanica, the wild red cherry or fire cherry of North America (Bailey and Bailey 1976).
No letter from CD to Brace on this subject has been found. On CD’s plans to publish on the origin of humans, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1867].
CD cited this information from Brace in Descent, p. 27.
American monkeys have thirty-six teeth and Eurasian monkeys have thirty-two (Nowak 1999, pp. 538, 569). American monkeys were considered to ‘stand low in their order’ (Descent, p. 47).
Brace refers to Ludwig Büchner, Ernst Haeckel, and Carl Vogt. Brace’s review of works by Büchner, Haeckel, Fritz Müller, and Vogt, ‘Darwinism in Germany’, was published in 1870 (Brace 1870). In the review, Brace reaffirmed his belief that German science had contributed little to CD’s transmutation theory and criticised some German scientists for subscribing to the theory because of its congruence with their political and religious views. There is a presentation copy of Brace 1870 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. For more on the reception of CD’s theory in Germany, see, for example, Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Friedrich Rolle, 26 January 1863 and nn. 6–14. See also Corsi and Weindling 1985, Montgomery 1988, Junker 1989, Engels ed. 1995, and Nyhart 1995.
Brace refers to Josiah Dwight Whitney and to the ‘Calaveras skull’ found in February 1866 in a mine in Calaveras County, California. The skull was 130 feet below the surface, beneath a layer of lava. Whitney, the state geologist of California, acquired the skull and announced its discovery in July 1866 at a meeting of the California Academy of Sciences (Whitney 1866). He claimed that it was evidence of the existence of Pliocene humans in North America. For more on the discovery and the ensuing controversy about the authenticity of the skull, see Dexter 1986. On the skulls found in the Neanderthal valley in Prussia, and Thomas Henry Huxley’s view of their significance in relation to the antiquity of the human species, see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 March 1863], n. 19. For discussion of the Calaveras skull and human antiquity in relation to Origin and Descent, see Grayson 1983, pp. 210–13.
Asa and Jane Loring Gray. Brace was Jane Loring Gray’s nephew (Dupree 1959, p. 192).


Bailey, Liberty Hyde and Bailey, Ethel Zoe. 1976. Hortus third: a concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. Revised and expanded by the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium. New York: Macmillan. London: Collier Macmillan.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Dexter, Ralph W. 1986. Historical aspects of the Calaveras skull controversy. American Antiquity 51: 365–9.

Dupree, Anderson Hunter. 1959. Asa Gray, 1810–1888. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University.

Grayson, Donald K. 1983. The establishment of human antiquity. New York: Academic Press.

Junker, Thomas. 1989. Darwinismus und Botanik. Rezeption, Kritik und theoretische Alternativen im Deutschland des 19. Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag.

Montgomery, William M. 1988. Germany. In The comparative reception of Darwinism, with a new preface, edited by Thomas F. Glick. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Nowak, Ronald M. 1999. Walker’s mammals of the world. 6th edition. 2 vols. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Nyhart, Lynn K. 1995. Biology takes form. Animal morphology and the German universities, 1800–1900. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Times atlas: ‘The Times’ atlas of the world. Comprehensive edition. 9th edition. London: Times Books. 1992.

Whitney, Josiah Dwight. 1866. Notice of a human skull recently taken from a shaft near Angels, Calaveras County. [Read 16 July 1866.] Proceedings of the California Academy of Natural Sciences 3 (1867): 277–8. [Reprinted in American Journal of Science and Arts 43 (1867): 265–7.]


Distribution of plants.

Removal of posterior molars a common dental practice in America [see Descent 1: 27].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Loring Brace
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Hastings-on-Hudson N.Y.
Source of text
DAR 80: B154–5
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5679,” accessed on 28 February 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15