Photo taken by pam phillips in September 2015
In 1897 George W. Vanderbilt employed Harbison as collector of plants for a herbarium at Biltmore, a post he held until the herbarium closed in 1903. Bringing specimens home from travels nationwide, he published his findings. Upon Vanderbiltís death, his widow donated the collection to the National Herbarium in Washington, D.C. In 1905, Harbison began two decades of work for Harvard University as a field botanist for Arnold Arboretum. Once again he traveled extensively between 1905 and 1926, preparing a revision of Sargentís manual on trees.
Harbison was a consultant to the federal government on national forests, a promoter of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a landscape architect. His farm in Highlands hosted field experiments with apples and other crops conducted by agronomists from Clemson, South Carolina. In a private venture Harbison grew specimens and shipped them on demand to customers across the country. Harbisonís time in the classroom remained dear to him. Looking back on his days teaching the children of poor mountain families in the vicinity of Highlands, Thomas Harbison remembered fondly: ďThose were the happiest and most satisfactory years of my life.Ē
Harbison remained robust and active until the last year of his life. In 1933 he laid the groundwork for an herbarium at the University of North Carolina. The following year, Harbison was named curator of the herbarium, a position he held until his death. He is buried in Highlands.