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Royal Palm Nurseries Papers

Identifier: MSS 0444

Scope and Content

Most of the collection concerns the creation and development of Royal Palm Nurseries in Florida. Pliny Reasoner’s correspondence with his family is extensive. An engaging writer, he describes living conditions, setting up the business, early endeavors and setbacks, and horticulture. An 1882 letter describes plagues of mosquitoes. Other letters written from Florida include one by his mother, during a family visit, and several by his brother Egbert after he moved to Florida in 1885. Printed versions of some letters, which appeared in newspapers, are included. Other items related to the nursery are a price and order list from 1886, two ledgers, and a journal Pliny kept during 1881-1882. Finally, the collection contains a near complete run of the catalogs of the nursery from 1890 to 1929 (see list of years below). With the catalogs are three price lists (1925-1927) and a small notebook of landscaping renderings for various Florida locations by Carroll Towne dated 1923-1926. Pliny’s journal and letters recount in great detail his daily experiences in Florida. He describes his train trip from Chicago to Florida and his stops at Jacksonville, Palatka, San Mateo, St. Augustine, Cedar Key, and Bradenton. There is a hand-drawn map of the Gulf Coast of Florida including Long Key, Clearwater Harbor, and other places he saw when he took the steamship from Cedar Key to Bradenton. He settled near Bradenton, bought 40 acres of pineland for $250, and began his nursery business.

Also included are daily logbooks from Henry C. Reasoner concerning his activities and weather in Illinois from 1859 to 1881.


  • Creation: 1846 - 1980
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1857 - 1930



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Pliny Reasoner was born May 6, 1863, in Princeton, Illinois, to Henry and Mary Ellen Reasoner, and grew up with three younger siblings, his brother Egbert and sisters Julia and Edith. In 1881, he decided to draw on his experience with farming and knowledge of botany to forge a living for himself in sub-tropical Florida. He settled near modern-day Bradenton and began setting up a nursery business. Throughout his time in Florida, Pliny kept up a regular and detailed correspondence with his family in Princeton. His letters give detailed descriptions of his experiences in Florida in the 1880s. In 1885 Pliny’s younger brother Egbert Reasoner (1869-1926) joined him in the nursery business, which specialized in citrus trees and tropical plants. Egbert continued expanding the nursery after Pliny’s death from yellow fever in 1888.

Sources: Pinardi, Norman J., The Plant Pioneers: The Story of the Reasoner Family, Pioneer Florida Horticulturalists, and Their Nursery (Torrington, Conn.: Rainbow Press, 1980).


2.19 Linear Feet (7 Boxes and 3 Volumes)

Language of Materials



In 1881 Pliny Reasoner, just turned eighteen years of age, arrived in Manatee County, Florida, from his home in the Midwest. Over the next seven years, he built Royal Palm Nurseries, an enterprise that would become Florida’s longest established nursery business. This collection documents the founding and early history of Royal Palm Nurseries and contains a run of the nursery catalogs that provide information on early horticulture and the introduction of new plants to Florida.


University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

Donated by Andy Reasoner in March 2014.

Alternative Format Available

Digital reproductions of selected items in the Royal Palm Nurseries Papers are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

A Guide to the Royal Palm Nurseries Papers
Finding aid created by Dept. Staff.
July 2018
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.
Materials from this collection were digitized through support and funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) at the National Archives.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America