July 31 – Today in Hat History.
Mary Vaux Walcott
She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a wealthy Quaker family. After graduating from the Friends Select School in Philadelphia in 1879, she took an interest in watercolor painting. When she was not working on the family farm, she began painting illustrations of wildflowers that she saw on family trips to the Rocky Mountains of Canada. During the family summer trips, she and her brothers studied mineralogy and recorded the flow of glaciers in drawings and photographs. The trips to the Canadian Rockies sparked her interest in geology.
At the age of nineteen her mother died and she took the responsibility of looking after her two younger brothers and her father. After 1887, she and her brothers when back to western Canada almost every summer. During this time she became an active mountain climber, outdoors woman, and photographer. One summer a botanist ask her to paint a rare blooming arnica and she was successful with this, which encouraged her to concentrate on botanical illustration. She spent many years exploring the rugged terrain of the Canadian Rockies to find important flowering species to paint and in 1887 on her first transcontinental trip via rail wrote an important and lengthy travel journal.
Over her father’s fierce objections, Walcott married the paleontologist Charles Doolittle Walcott, who was the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in 1914, when she was 54. She played an active part in her husband’s projects, returning to the Rockies with him several times and continuing her hobby of painting the wildflowers there. In 1925, the Smithsonian published some 400 of her illustrations, accompanied by brief descriptions, in a five-volume work entitled North American Wild Flowers.