Nebraska Authors

Melvin R. Gilmore

AKA: Dr. Melvin Randolph Gilmore

Born 1868-03-11 Valley, NE (USA)

Died ≈ 1940-07-25
Lincoln, NE (USA)

Gilmore 's book Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, originally published in the Thirty-Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1919, is considered one of the classics of ethnobotany. Gilmore is one of the first American ethnobotanists, and was among the first white men to respect the environmental knowledge of Native Americans and to understand how intricately Native American Culture was connected to environmental knowledge and practice. Gilmore originally intended to be a Christian missionary and graduated from Cotner University in the town of Bethany, Nebraska (now a Lincoln neighborhood), in 1904-5. He then pursued graduate work at the University of Nebraska under the botanist Charles Bessey. This brought him into a circle that included Frederic Clements and Roscoe Pound, a circle that pioneered the idea of ecology in the biological sciences. Gilmore also studied anthropological field technique with Addison Sheldon of the State Museum. He was to begin his research at a time when there were still elderly Native American informants who knew the old names, uses, and symbolic meanings attached to native plants.

Gilmore had a distinguished career that took him from the Nebraska State Historical Society to the State Historical Society of North Dakota, then to the Heye Foundation's Museum of the American Indian (then in New York, but now considered the founding collection of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington) and finally to the position of curator of Anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Nebraska folklorist Roger Welsch wrote the introduction to the Minnesota Historical Society's edition (1987) of Gilmore's Prairie Smoke, a 1929 collection of traditional Plains Indians stories that illustrate their ties to the land.


Places Lived

Lincoln, NE
North Dakota
New York, NY
Ann Arbor, MI

Author Of

  • Nonfiction


Anthropology; Ethnology; Botany; Ethnobotany; Great Plains; Folklore; Native Americans


Bachelor of Arts Degree, 1905, Cotner College, Bethany, NE
Ph.D. in Botany, 1914, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE


Curator of Ethnology

Places Worked

Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan
Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, NE
State Historical Society of North Dakota
Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation


Nebraska 150 Books honor for Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, 2017


Charles Bessey
Frederic E. Clements
Addison Sheldon


Uses of Plants By the Indians of the Missouri River Region. 1914.
Prairie Smoke. 1929.

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Melvin R. Gilmore

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)