Lenore Spiering; Sarah Parsons; unknown
Dates: 1845-1885; undated
Quantity: 2.3 linear feet (6 document boxes)
Acquisition: Accession #: 1148; 1880; unknown; Donated by: L G. Lucille Smith; Lenore Spiering
Identification: A93 ; Archive Collection #93
Citation: [Document Title]. The Sea Moss and Seaweed Collection, [Box #, Folder #, Item #], Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, MA.
Copyright: Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be addressed to the Librarian/Archivist.
Language: English
Finding Aid: Amber L. Wingerson, Curatorial Assistant, 2019; Clio Lang, Student Intern, 2023.

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Sea moss and seaweed collecting and scrapbooking were popular hobbies for young women during the nineteenth century. The rise of the middle class created a population of young, educated women who didn’t have to do manual labor and needed edifying activities to fill their time. At the same time, the Industrial Revolution was making paper and books less expensive, and women had access to unprecedented numbers of magazines, newspapers, prints and fashion plates. The process of sea moss and seaweed collecting differentiated it from other forms of natural history collecting. Those who collected seaweed needed to wade out into the water to obtain the seaweed and moss, before painstakingly preserving and mounting the seaweed and moss specimens. In the late nineteenth century, the book Sea Mosses: A Collector’s Guide and an Introduction to the Study of Marine Algae by A. B. Hervey (1881) described how to properly press and mount various types of algae. Collectors needed a pair of pliers, scissors, a stick with a needle in the end, at least two bowls for washing algae, blotting paper for drying, cotton cloth and cards to mount the specimens on. Pliers and scissors were used to handle the specimens and cut away any extraneous, superfluous branches. The collector used the needle to move the plant with relative ease to show the finer details. The drying and pressing process consisted of layering the mounting papers with various types of blotting cloth and additional paper topped with weight. Most seaweed adhered to the mounting board via gelatinous materials emitted from the plant itself. This process was used by collectors throughout the 19th century, and likely the collectors featured in this collection.

This Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives collection includes seaweed and sea moss that was mounted in books, on paper sheets and on cards by various collectors. Most of the small cards are not labeled, but the majority of the books and larger paper sheets are labeled with the name of the collector, the location in which the specimens were found, and, in some cases, the purpose of the collection. Recorded locations of collecting range from Gloucester, to other locations in Massachusetts, to as far away as Scotland. According to one of the collector’s notes, their book of seaweed and sea moss was presented at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.


The Sea Moss and Seaweed Collection in the Library & Archives of the Cape Ann Museum is the combination of three acquisitions, which were accepted into the Library & Archive collection at different times, from different donors.

The Davis and Bray Sea Moss Collection, which encompasses a large portion of the collection, was given by Lenore Spiering of Burbank, California in 1966 (Acc# 1880). The donor’s grandfather was “Grandpa Mueller,” who created and signed one of the books of pressed seaweed within this donation. This group includes several books as well as sheets of varying sizes of pressed seaweed. Another book of pressed sea mosses in the collection was collected by Sarah Parsons and given to the Library & Archives by Miss G. Lucille Smith in 1946 (Acc# 1148). The final part of the collection does not have a known accession number, but is a typescript how-to and history of sea moss and seaweed collecting likely from the early 20th century. The dated part of the collection ranges from 1845 to 1885, with bulk dates between 1845 to 1852 and includes several undated objects.


This is a manuscript, object, and scrapbook collection of pressed sea moss and seaweed primarily from the nineteenth century. The collection includes several books of pressed sea moss and seaweed, sheets of varying sizes of pressed seaweed, and handwritten and typed writings. While many of the objects are undated, the dated objects range from 1845 to 1885, with bulk dates between 1845 to 1852.

Series Description

Series I: Writings, 1852, undated
Series 2: Pressed sea moss and seaweed collections, 1843 to 1883
Series 3: Objects, 1885, undated


Series 1: Writings, 1852, undated

Writings, has a typed how-to and history of seaweed and sea moss collecting. Other parts of this series include handwritten notes and quotations. This includes one page of handwritten notes and quotations that was found folded and loose in Miss Harriet P. Mason’s sea moss collecting book, 1852. This page was not part of the book, but rather a piece of lined paper with handwritten notes and quotes by an unknown author. In order to unfold and preserve the page, the curatorial assistant removed the paper from the book, placing it in a folder in the corresponding series and noting where the article was originally found (handwritten quotations about the sea, friendship, and death).


Box Folder (FF) Name
4 1 Typescript, How-to and history guide for sea moss and seaweed collecting, undated
4 2 Handwritten quotations about the sea, friendship, and death, 1852
4 3 Handwritten inventory of the Davis and Bray Sea Moss collection, undated


Series 2: Sea moss and seaweed collections, 1843-1883, undated

Pressed sea moss and seaweed collections, consists of the books, envelopes, and sheets of pressed sea moss and seaweed. The series is broken into three subseries, including Books, Envelopes, and Unmarked cards. Each of the subseries has several examples of pressed sea moss and seaweed in these formats.

Subseries 1: Books, 1843-1883, undated

Includes bound and unbound books with various pressed sea mosses and seaweed within.