Erwin Alexander Reeves, 1857 - 1941

by Brian Stevenson
last updated February, 2021

Some of the people who made collectible microscope slides during the Victorian era were long-term enthusiasts who mounted slides over multiple decades, while others experienced brief infatuations, producing slides for a short time before drifting off into other hobbies. E.A. Reeves, of Rochester, Pennsylvania, USA, was one of the latter, producing well-made slides with attractive custom-made labels for only a couple of years around 1891.

Figure 1. Actinolite crystals, mounted by E.A. Reeves in February, 1891. The photomicrograph was imaged through a 3.5x objective lens with crossed polarizing filters and a C-mounted digital SLR camera.


Figure 2. E.A. Reeves' entry in the 1892 "Naturalists' Directory". This biannual/annual book compiled names, addresses, and interests of professional and amateur scientists throughout the world, and was a useful means to connect with like-minded people. Reeves expressed interest in virtually every category available. The abbreviations "C." and "Ex." meant that he was interested in collecting and exchanging materials. The asterisk meant that he had recently been in contact with the publisher. The additional address of East Otto, Catt Co. (i.e. Cattaragous County), New York, was his parents' home, perhaps reflecting an uncertainty of how long Reeves would live in Rochester, Pennsylvania.


Edwin Alexander Reeves was born in February, 1858, in South Valley, Cattaragous County, New York. He was the second son of Warren and Electa Reeves, and grew up on the farm that was operated by his father and uncle. The 1875 census of New York shows Edwin with is parents, along with 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I have not found specific records of Reeves for the following 15 years, although a later government record implied that he married circa 1883.

Edwin Reeves next shows up in records on the tax rolls of Rochester, Pennsylvania, a town in the western part of that state, north of Pittsburgh and near the Ohio border. He was also listed in the 1892 tax rolls, but not in subsequent years.

E.A. Reeves contacted the publisher of The Naturalists' Directory, requesting inclusion of his contact information in the 1892 edition. As shown above in Figure 2, Reeves expressed interest in a wide variety of scientific topics. Notably, Reeves was not listed in the previous, 1890 edition, nor was he listed in the subsequent 1894 or later editions. The Naturalists' Directory generally continued to publish a person's information for 1-2 issues after they had last been contacted - the absence of Reeves from the 1894 edition suggests that he had contacted the publisher and requested that he not be included. The microscope slide shown in Figure 1 is dated February, 1891. From this, I conclude that E.A. Reeves' time as a microscopy enthusiast spanned a fairly short period between 1890 and 1894.

Reeves' entry in the 1892 Naturalists' Directory described him as a "teacher".

One other item from Reeves' time in Rochester has come to light. In March, 1891, "Mrs. E.A. Reeves wrote from Rochester, Penn." to Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. the author Mark Twain). The lady was chosen to present a sketch about Twain 'to The Literary and Scientific Society of our city' and asked for 'a few words in your own hand writing'.” Clemens filed the letter away with his "unanswered letters".

E.A. Reeves next appears in the 1897 City Directory of Cleveland, Ohio, as the operator of a plant nursery. His business, Lake View Nurseries, was described in the 1898 City Directory as being a dealer of "home grown roses, shrubs, vines, bulbs, and fruit and shade trees" (Figure 4). Reeves became a member of the American Association of Nurserymen, and, in 1903, was a founding member of the American Peony Society.

The 1900 US census tells us that Edwin's wife's name was Nora, and that they did not have any children. Nora passed away soon afterward. Edwin remarried in 1911, to Agnes Murray. Their marriage record listed Edwin's parents as Warren and Electa Reeves, confirming that the Cleveland nursery owner was indeed the same man as the Rochester microscopist. Edwin and Agnes adopted a son, Edwin B. Reeves, who was 55 and 50 years younger than they were, respectively – his name suggests that he may have been an orphaned great nephew.

Reeves left the plant business in the mid-1920s, and moved to Toledo, Ohio, where he took up real estate. Agnes died during the 1930s. Edwin's widowed younger sister, Mary Ellen, moved in with him. E.A. Reeves died of heart failure on January 1, 1941.

Figure 3. Edwin and Agnes Reeves, from his 1919 catalogue of "Paeonies and Perennials" (see Figure 5).


Figure 4. Reeves' entry in the 1898 "Cleveland City Directory".


Figure 5. Cover of E.A. Reeves' 1919 catalogue.


Figure 6. Figure 6. Pictures of awards won by Edwin Reeves. He was a founding member of the American Peony Society (in 1903), and long specialized in producing and selling that plant.



Center for Mark Twain Studies (accessed February, 2021) Mark Twain Day by Day, Vol. 2,

Cleveland, Ohio, City Directory (1897) page 1302

Cleveland, Ohio, City Directory (1898) page 1340

Death record of Edwin Alexander Reeves (1941) accessed through

Marriage record of Edwin A. Reeves and Agnes E. Murray (1911) accessed through

The National Nurseryman (1900) The Chicago Convention, Vol. 8, page 72

The National Nurseryman (1903) American Peony Society, Vol. 11, page 78

The Naturalists' Directory (1890) S.E. Cassino, Boston, E.A. Reeves was not listed

The Naturalists' Directory (1892) S.E. Cassino, Boston, page 179

The Naturalists' Directory (1894) S.E. Cassino, Boston, E.A. Reeves was not listed

he Naturalists' Directory (1895) S.E. Cassino, Boston, E.A. Reeves was not listed

Paeonies and Perennials (1919) E.A. Reeves, Cleveland

Reeves’ Price List of Paeonies and Perennials (1906) E.A. Reeves, Cleveland

Toledo, Ohio, City Directory (1928) page 925

U.S. census and other records, accessed through and