UNL Libraries
Archives & Special Collections | Finding Aids

Walter Kiener, Botany Papers

Title: Walter Kiener, Botany Papers

Creator: Kiener, Walter Bigler, 1894-1959

Dates: 1848-1959 bulk 1912-1959

Quantity: 126 boxes (47 linear feet)

Collection Number: RG 12-07-16

Language: English, German, French, and Spanish

Restrictions: None

Access and Use: For information on access or copyright, please see our guidelines or email archives@unl.edu.

Historical Records Statement: Please see our statement on historical records and materials.

Preferred Citation: Walter Kiener, Botany Papers (RG 12-07-16). Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.


Walter Bigler Kiener was born on 18 October 1894, in Bern, Switzerland. He attended school until the age of 15, when he began work as an apprentice to his father, a sausage makerKiener attended night classes to continue his education.

During World War I, Kiener served in the Swiss Citizen Army. In November of 1922, Kiener left Switzerland and his family for United States. After seven months in New York, Kiener moved to Denver, where he became a foreman at a small sausage-making plant. In Denver, Kiener took classes in English and Citizenship and spent time climbing in the Rocky Mountains.

Kiener entered the University of Nebraska in the fall of 1925 as an adult special student. He earned his A.B. degree in 1930 and his master's degree in 1931. He became a United States citizen in 1929. Kiener was elected to Sigma Xi in 1931. His master's thesis was entitled On the Vegetation of an Isolated Peak in the Rocky Mountains. Kiener continued his work at the University of Nebraska and completed his doctoral dissertation, Sociological Studies of the Alpine Vegetation on Longs Peak, in April of 1939. He received his Ph.D. in 1940.

After graduating, Kiener was hired by the University of Nebraska where he held the following positions over time: Assistant in Botany (1930-1940); Ecologist, UNL Conservation and Survey Division (1941-1943); and Biologist, State of Nebraska Game, Forestation, and Parks Commission, (1943-1955). He eventually became the Chief Biologist for the Commission and established the Commission's Fisheries Research Department.

Kiener established an extensive personal herbarium of lichen and bryophyte specimens that eventually numbered well over 50,000. Several species of plants were named after Kiener: Pleuridum kieneri; P. exsertum; Splachnobryum kieneri; and Chara kieneri. Today the entire Kiener plant collection is housed within the Charles E. Bessey Herbarium of the University of Nebraska State Museum's Botany Division.

Kiener died on 24 August 1959, at Lincoln General Hospital, after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Scope and Content:

The papers consist of Kiener's personal and professional papers arranged into 11 series and include oversize materials. The series include Personal Effects, Correspondence, Kiener's Writings, Research Files, Maps, Writings about Kiener, Newspapers, Negatives and Photographs, Postcards, and Articles and Reprints. Work on the Kiener papers included the incorporation of three smaller collections into a single collection. Kiener organized his research files alphabetically and this original arrangement was maintained throughout the materials. The final collection consists of materials from the Nebraska State Museum and the Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.

Kiener's personal effects contain journals, diaries, and other more intimate items. The correspondence series documents Kiener's professional and personal life, mostly from the 1920s to the 1950s. Kiener's writings include published and unpublished works and research done for publications. The bulk of the collection is comprised of Kiener's research files. These materials document his extensive lichen and botany research, Nebraska and Colorado wildlife, mountaineering, and his other interests. Kiener also kept a collection of maps from North and South America, Switzerland, and areas of local interest in Nebraska and Colorado. The writings about Kiener include articles published on his research or about plants named after him, newspaper articles about him before and after his death, and a book about the history of Longs Peak that mentions the Agnes Vaille tragedy and his climbing accomplishments. Also included is a short article about him written by Mari Sandoz.

Kiener was an accomplished amateur photographer. The photograph collection includes photographs and negatives of his lichen and botany research, the Rocky Mountains, Nebraska and Colorado wildlife and vegetation, and friends and family.


Elias, M.K.

Kiener, Walter Bigler, 1894-1959

Sayre, Geneva

Vaille, Agnes

Alpine vegetation



Forests and Forestry -- Colorado



Mountain plants -- Colorado -- Longs Peak


Natural history -- Colorado

Plant communities -- Colorado -- Longs Peak


Swiss Colony

Vegetation classification -- Rocky Mountains Region


Longs Peak (Colo.)


Rocky Mountain National Park


Twin Sisters (Colo.)

Nebraska Game, Forestation, and Parks Commission

Swiss Alpine Club

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Series Description: Series 1: Personal Effects, Box 1-3

Kiener's personal effects contain journals, diaries and field notes, academic materials compiled during his time at the University of Nebraska, his father's will, Swiss military documents, his certification as a meat butcher, awards and honors, the disposition of his estate, and other personal items.

Series 2: Correspondence, Box 4-8

The correspondence consists of personal and professional letters in English and German. The bulk of the correspondence is dated between 1925-1955. Kiener's personal correspondence consists of letters from acquaintances made while a ranger and mountain guide on the Longs Peak and Twin Sisters mountain ranges, holiday greetings, evidence of a romance with a woman named Margaret(?) and of its ultimate demise (Personal 1934-1935), and letters from family and friends. His professional correspondence covers his lichen studies, alpine vegetation, Colorado vegetation, and Nebraska vegetation, as well as his memberships in professional organizations. Both the personal and professional correspondence is arranged by year, then alphabetically by last name, and then alphabetically by topic.

Series 3: Articles and Publictions, Box 9-10

The articles and publications are those created by Kiener. The publications illustrate his research and include drafts and the final version of his Ph.D. dissertation and various topics, such as lichen, mountain climbing, birds, Longs Peak, botanical explorations, and the Nebraska landscape.

Series 4: Research Files, Box 11-55

Kiener's research files make up the bulk of the collection and are representative of his work on lichen studies, alpine vegetation studies, mountaineering, Colorado, the Nebraska State Game, Forestation and Parks Commission, Nebraska fisheries and lakes; Nebraska counties, and Switzerland. The files also include research conducted for his thesis and dissertation. Some of the folder titles include a notation, "from binder, " which means that the folder title is taken directly from the information on a binder that originally housed the material.

Series 5: Maps, Box 56-57

The map collection contains regular and over-sized maps of Colorado, Nebraska, the United States, Europe, and Switzerland. They are arranged by place names in North America and then place names in Europe.

Series 6: Articles on Keiner, Box 57, Folder 37-50

The writings about Kiener consist of journal and newspaper articles on his scientific studies, lichen research, mountaineering, and the Agnes Vaille tragedy. Included is a short article written by Mari Sandoz, entitled, "Climber of Longs Peak."

Series 7: Newspapers and Newspaper Clippings, Box 57, Folder 51-58

The newspaper series contains clippings and excerpts from newspapers collected by Kiener.

Series 8: Negatives and Photographs, Box 58-94

The negatives include contain cellulose and glass plate negatives, mostly of scientific and professional subject matter. Their are cellulose negatives, glass plate negatives, and lantern slides. The photo indexes included have numbers and information on some of the photos in the collection. Among the photographs in the collection are images of Jules Sandoz in the Nebraska Sandhills. The photographs are not numbered, but but they do correspond with some photos in the Sandhills index. There are several photograph albums and formal portraits in this series. The subjects of the negatives and photograph collection are Colorado mountains and vegetation, Nebraska wildlife and vegetation, lichens and other botanical specimens, the University of Nebraska, Switzerland, and family and friends. Kiener kept many of his photographs in alphabetical order and that system has been maintained. Some photographs in the collection are stamped with "photo by Walter Kiener" on the back. Photographs taken by other individuals are marked as such, including photos of plant fossils taken by M.K. Elias. Many of the photographs do not provide photographer or date information but may be attributed to Keiner. Kiener kept many photographic prints with the original negative.

Series 9: Postcards, Box 95

The postcards are those collected by Keiner. The subjects include Switzerland, Colorado, Twin Sisters Lookout, the University of Nebraska Botany Department, mountains, religion, wildlife, and selected photo postcards of friends and family.

Series 10: Articles and Reprints, Box 96-1265

The articles and reprints are those collected by Keiner. They are arranged by author last name and document the subjects Keiner focused on in his research.

Series 11: Oversize Materials, Folders 1-12 oversize box, Folders 13-17 map case

The Oversize series consists of maps, publications, and prints or pictures collected by Kiener.

Container List: Please contact the Archives & Specials Collections for a container list or for more information on this collection.
Related Material and Resources: Fuenning, S.I. "Walter Bigler Kiener (1894-1959)." The Bryologist. Vol. 63, 1960, pg. 64-66.Kiener, Walter. On the Vegetation of an Isolated Peak in the Rocky mountains. Thesis (M.S.)--University of Nebraska (Lincoln campus), 1931______________. Sociological Studies of the Alpine Vegetation on Longs Peak Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Nebraska (Lincoln campus), 1939Selected letters from Kiener to Geneva Sayre are located at the Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany at Harvard University.There are also letters from Kiener in the Archives of the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University.

If you have questions about the Archives & Special Collections, please email "archives@unl.edu."
Finding Aids | Archives & Special Collections | UNL Libraries | UNL Home
© University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries | Lincoln, NE 68588-4100 | 402-472-9568 |