Mary Lee Ware (1858 – 1937)


(Article from Wkipedia)

Mary Lee Ware (Jan. 7, 1858 – Jan. 15, 1937)[1] – daughter of Elizabeth C. Ware and Dr. Charles Eliot Ware – was born to a wealthy Bostonian family and, alongside her mother, was the principle sponsor of the Harvard Museum of Natural History‘s famous Glass Flowers exhibit; indeed, the wondrous collection’s official name is The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants.[2] She is credited as an avid student of botany, namely of Harvard/Radcliffe Professor George Lincoln Goodale, and as a close friend as well as sponsor of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka — the makers of the Glass Flowers — as well as a being leading philanthropist and farmer of West Rindge, NH.

Early life

Born into a respected family in New Hampshire town of Rindge, specifically to naturalist and Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Charles Eliot Ware and his wife Elizabeth in 1858, Mary Lee Ware was an avid nature-lover and lived according to the precept “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”[3] Taken to Italy as a young girl, Mary was dazzled by the many sights (such as Rome and Florence) there, which served to enhance her love of beautiful things. Beauty that ranged from the picturesque landscape to the language which she quickly excelled, to the art for which the country is famous. This is no surprise given that her father, Dr. Charles Ware (Harvard class of 1834), while not a botanist himself raised his daughter to love botany with a passion. A love which was fostered by the family farm in Rindge New Hampshire, a place which stood out happily among her childhood memories.[3] Mary eventually (exactly when is unclear given source ambiguity) settled with her parents and possibly brother, Charles Jr. (reports/sources vary regarding his existence, with the majority suggesting it) in Boston, 41 Brimmer Street (Back Bay), around 1870; at that time, Mary was 13 years old. She was also, at some point, a student of Radcliffe College and learned under Dr. Goodale[4][5] – who would become the first director of the Harvard Botanical Museum. In fact, “Mary Ware, an especially fascinating character, became in many respects a professional naturalist,” a role which she was later able to utilize by being the patron sponsor of the Glass Flowers, her purpose being to advance the education of women.[6]

The Glass Flowers

Professor George Lincoln Goodale

The “ever-loyal and ever-generous”[5] Mary Lee Ware and her mother were drawn into the Glass Flowers enterprise in 1886 when her former teacher, Professor George Goodale, approached them with his idea to populate the new Botanical Museum (of which he was the first director) with Blaschka glass specimens. Being independently wealthy and (already) liberal benefactors of Harvard’s botany department,[7] Mary convinced her mother to agree to underwrite the consignment,[8] but this was done anonymously at first. The uncannily lifelike models enchanted the Wares. A year later, 1887, Dr. Charles Ware died, thus when the official contract was signed between the Mary and her mother, Leopold and Rudolf, and Harvard, the agreement was that the collection would be a memorial to the now deceased Doctor: “The first Blaschka glass flowers are formally presented to the Botanical Museum as a memorial to Dr. Charles Eliot Ware, Class of 1834, by his widow Elizabeth C. Ware and daughter Mary L. Ware.”[9][10] Today, there is a large bronze plaque in the exhibit’s center formally dedicating it to the nature-loving Doctor, father, and husband. The initial contract signed dictated that the Blaschkas need only work half-time on the models, thus allowing them to continue their work making models of marine invertebrates. However, in 1890, they and Goodale – acting on behalf of the Wares – signed an updated version that allowed Leopold and Rudolf to work on them (the Glass Flowers) full-time;[11][12] some sources detail the agreement as a shift from a 3-year contract to a 10-year one, agreed to once Goodale convinced Mary and her mother of the wisdom in doing so.[4]

Early in the making of the Glass Flowers, Mary Lee Ware engaged in correspondence with Professor Goodale regarding the making of the collection, one of which contained a remark of Leopold’s regarding the false rumor that secret methods were used in the making of the Glass Flowers: “Many people think that we have some secret apparatus by which we can squeeze glass suddenly into these forms, but it is not so. We have tact. My son Rudolf has more than I have, because he is my son, and tact increases in every generation.” Miss Ware is also known to have visited the Blaschka home/studio three times, the first in 1899 along with Prof Goodale, Mrs Goodale and their son Francis. By this time Mary was the sole benefactress of the Blaschkas, as her mother, Elizabeth C. Ware, had died the previous year (1898). The second visit was around 1908 and the third on October 3, 1928. This second visit, made after Leopold’s death, was related via a letter from Miss Ware to the second director of the Botanical Museum, Professor Oakes Ames.[11] This letter appears to confirm the previous statement of Leopold’s regarding his son; Miss Ware writes, “One change in the character of his work and, consequently in the time necessary to accomplish results since I was last here, is very noteworthy. At that time…he bought most of his glass and was just beginning to make some, and his finish was in paint. Now he himself makes a large part of the glass and all the enamels, which he powders to use as paint.”[5] In addition to funding and visiting, Mary took a fairly active role in the project’s progress, going so far as to personally unpack each model[12] and making arrangements for Rudolph’s fieldwork in the U.S. and Jamaica[12] – the purpose of such trips being to gather and study various plant specimens before returning to the old style Bohemian lamp-working table at which he (and Leopold) worked.

It is also known that, in 1898, Mary Lee Ware was made a member of the Committee of Overseers on the Botanic Garden and the Botanic Museum – an addition that was met with pleasure by its members, including Professor Goodale. Indeed, Miss Ware’s “generous gifts of money and time for the advancement of the Department…[were] already known from the previous [Harvard] Annual Reports.[13]

Upon her death in 1937, Mary Lee Ware left a will with assets worth one million dollars, $600,000 of which she bequeathed on charity and education. Of this vast sum, a full half of it (the largest single bequest in her will) was given to Harvard for completion and the upkeep of the Glass Flowers (as well as support Rudolf and his wife).[14]

The Ware Farm and agricultural work

The Ware family farm in Rindge NH

However, though her mother remained in Boston, Mary Lee Ware clearly considered herself a New Hampshirite and apparently maintained the West Rindge family farm of her childhood; though, reportedly, she wintered in Boston with her mother (interestingly, she is always referred to as Miss Mary Lee Ware of Boston; very rarely is Rindge, NH mentioned); there is some ambiguity though, as other sources state she only spent her summers at the Ware Farm.[14] The Ware Farm was sold to Mary’s father, Dr. Ware, by a Joseph Davis and Dorestos Armory for $3000 in 1868 – the place having 450 total acres, 21.5 dedicated to pasture land with another 56.5 for cultivation.[14] Housing from two to forty people (mostly hired hands), the place was spared from a massive tornado that, on September 13, 1928, hit West Rindge. Enduring for twenty minutes, the disaster leveled the land and resulted in a $100,000 loss for the town. Thankfully, “the beautiful Mary Lee Ware estate proper was not damaged,” yet the estate workers’ homes suffered via falling trees. Her estate manager, William S. Cleaves, fled his truck – to the relative safety of his home – in the nick of time, just before a falling tree crushed it.[15] Years earlier, in 1898 the farm saw the death of Miss Ware’s mother, Elizabeth C. Ware, making her the sole heiress of the estate and, in 1931, was the location of her cousin Cordelia E. Ware’s wedding (specifically, Cordelia was her first cousin once removed on her father’s side – the child of his first cousin John Ware).[14]


It is known that, by at least 1913, Miss Ware was a member of the New Hampshire Horticultural Society.[16] The Grange Hall in Rindge was also named after her — the Mary L. Ware Grange Hall — doubtless in tribute to her many agricultural contributions. Sadly, in 1957, the Hall was bought and converted into the Ed’s Country Auction House by Mr. Edward Gilman “Ed” Stevens.[17][18][19] Furthermore, in regards to Miss Ware’s agrarian impact, the New Hampshire Farm Bureau‘s highest award was once the Mary Lee Ware Trophy.[20][21] Regarding her will, Mary left $25000 to her Boston and West Rindge employees.[14] As to the Ware Farm itself, it was given to “certain relatives and their children.”[14]

Community Involvement

Aside from the Glass Flower enterprise, Mary Lee Ware supported Harvard University in other ways, donating four table cases to the Economic Room[22] along with various sums of money for research and preservation purposes, as is evidenced in various Harvard Treasurer’s Statements.

In 1901-1902 Miss Ware played a pivotal role in the creation of the New Hampshire Rhododendron State Park when, in 1901, subsequent owner Levi Fuller planned to “lumber off” the property and would have if not for Mary, who bought it in 1902. Giving it to the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) a year later, she signed the deal on the condition that the woodland “…be held as a reservation properly protected and open to the public…forever.”[23] The contract also barred cutting down any trees or picking any rhododendron, a promise that has been broken only once due to the 1938 hurricane.[24] The donated land is called “Old Patch Place,” remodeled by the AMC as a hostel/clubhouse but has since (1946) come under the protection of the N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation — the system’s only designated botanical park. The “Old Patch Place” cottage near the park entrance was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

It is known that, upon death, Mary’s will detailed the donation of her taxidermied bird and animal collection to the Ingalls Memorial Library of Rindge — “The collection native to this region was donated through the generosity and under the will of Mary Lee Ware. It is quite a wonderful collection and many Rindge residents know of its existence because of school visits.”[25] She also left them $5000. Additionally, Miss Ware’s will detailed sizable donations to organizations such as the Massachusetts General Hospital, Kentucky’s Berea College, and the American Unitarian Association.[14]


In 1900 Miss Ware began a subscription to the Fund for the Encouragement of Mexican and Central American Research, as recorded in a Harvard University Annual Report.[26]

Mary’s relationship with her brother, Charles Ware Jr. is not known. It is known though, that Charles Jr. also went to Harvard in the 1870s and lived in Boston for a while – marrying in 1881 – before moving to Newton. Why Mary and her mother never involved him (and his wife) in the Glass Flowers enterprise is unknown. However, her will designated a favorable sum to a Charles Eliot Ware of Fitchburg. Charles Ware Jr. presumably had at least one child, a son named Charles E. Ware 3rd. — an assumption made due to one of that name acting as an usher at Mary Lee Ware’s funeral.[14]

Miss Ware died at her 41 Brimmer Street Boston home and was buried at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, her funeral having taken place at King’s Chapel and officiated over by Reverends John and Palfrey Perkins with many notable personages in attendance.[14]



Annual reports of the President and Treasurer of Harvard College. Harvard University. 1900–1901. p. 5325. Retrieved 14 January 2016.


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