Collins, Zaccheus, 1764-1831

Alternative names
Birth 1764
Death 1831

Biographical notes:

Zaccheus Collins was a merchant and botanist.

From the description of Botanical correspondence of Zaccheus Collins of Philadelphia, 1805-1827. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 86165422

From the guide to the Zaccheus Collins botanical correspondence, 1805-1827, 1805-1827, (American Philosophical Society)

Zaccheus Collins (1764-1831) was a plant collector and herbarium owner from Philadelphia. Collins was an esteemed botanist and was often consulted by a majority of botanical writers, though he never published anything himself. He was also an avid collector and his herbarium contained a nearly complete collection of the plants from the vicinity of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. His correspondents also sent him various specimens from their research in the southern states, particularly South Carolina and Georgia.

Collins, born in 1764, was a Quaker merchant and an active philanthropist. He was particularly interested in botany, and especially cryptogamic plants (organisms that do not produce seeds and include algae, fungi, mosses, and ferns). Throughout his career, he “accumulated a large herbarium primarily through his own collecting in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, by exchange and as gifts from other leading botanists of the day,” (Stuckey). Through his extensive network of prominent botanists, gifts of specimens arrived from South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, the Mississippi River and westward.

His professional relationships with other collectors and botanists included William Baldwin, W. P. C. Barton, Jacob Bigelow, Isaac Cleaver, Caspar Wister Eddy, Stephen Elliot, Eli Ives, Henry Muhlenberg, Thomas Nutall, Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, H. Steinhauer, and John Torrey. Both Dr. William Baldwin and Henry Muhlenberg accumulated herbariums (collections of preserved plant specimens) and their shared interests resulted in a great deal of correspondence between them and Collins.

He was highly esteemed by his contemporaries, and, according to [], “the letters of the most eminent botanists of that time show how highly they valued his knowledge and how eagerly they sought his advice upon all doubtful questions in their science,” (Redfield). Thomas Nutall honored him by naming Collinsia for him and is described “to have been a sort of lifetime achievement award,” (Yosemite National Park).

During his lifetime, Collins was a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society and the Philadelphia Linnean Society. Collins die on June 12, 1831 after spending more than six months incapacitated by paralysis. At the time of his death, he was serving as a vice-president of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.


Redfield, Mr. “Botanical Correspondence of Zaccheus Collins.” Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Vol. 28 (1876), pp. 81-82.

Stuckey, Ronald L. “The First Public Auction of an American Herbarium including an Account of the Fate of the Baldwin, Collins, and Rafinesque Herbaria.” Taxon, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Aug., 1971), pp. 443-459.

Yosemite National Park. “Tincture Plant ( Collinsia tinctoria ),” (accessed November 30, 2011).

From the guide to the Zaccheus Collins correspondence, 1805-1827, (Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia)


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  • Decedents' estates
  • Herbaria
  • Botanists
  • Botany
  • Real property
  • Natural history


  • Executors and administrators--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
  • Botany


  • Pennsylvania--Philadelphia (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania (as recorded)