Agnes Williams (1860-1946), a botanical artist, married Thomas Sadler Roberts, the first director of the University of Minnesota Bell Museum, at the age of 77. Some of her original artwork, created between 1880 and 1900 is housed at the Andersen Horticultural Library and can be viewed by appointment.

UMedia hosts digital scans of the Agnes Williams Botanical Wildflower Paintings from Andersen Horticultural Library's collection.

Agnes Williams

Agnes Williams grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania at her family home, the Hedges.  As a college freshman, she attended Swarthmore college in 1876-1877, taking at least one natural history course.  She lived with her parents caring for them into the early 1900s.  Later in life, an old friendship was renewed with Thomas Sadler Robert, the first director of the University of Minnesota Bell Museum, and they married in 1937.  

Wildflower Watercolor Portfolio of Agnes Williams and Emma Roberts

Agnes Williams knew Thomas Sadler Roberts from his time attending the University of Pennsylvania, as her brother Carroll Williams was Thomas's roomate.   After seeing the 40 wildflower watercolors given to Thomas Sadler Roberts by his sister Emma, Agnes volunteered to add some of her own art to Thomas's collection. During the 1880s and 1890s Agnes painted wildflowers in mostly at the Hedges, the family farm, but also in New Jersey, Vermont and others.

Later the whole portfolio of Emma Robert's work and Agnes William's work was donated by Thomas Sadler Roberts to the Museum of Natural History (Bell Museum) at the University of Minnesota, where he served as the first director.

During the 1990s, the small natural history library on the 3rd floor of the Bell Museum closed, and the Emma Roberts/Agnes Williams portfolio of original watercolors were moved to the Andersen Horticultural Library.  The collection includes 111 paintings by Emma Roberts dated from 1882 to 1888, and 170 items by Agnes Williams mostly from 1880s and 1890s.  Most of Agnes Williams works are watercolors, but a few pencil sketches are dated from the 1930s and 1940s, after her marriage with Thomas Sadler Roberts.  

Further Reading:

Sue Leaf, A Love Affair with Birds: The Life of Thomas Sadler Roberts(Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press, 2013)

Sue Leaf, "A Tale of Two Women: The Wildflower Portfolio," Minnesota History v.64:no.7 (2015:Fall) p.277-291








Opuntia Rafinesquii, Agnes Williams, October 16, 1895

Clematis verticillaris, Agnes Williams, May 16, 1887

Taraxacum Dens-leonis, Agnes Williams, May 10, 1886