The Moss Exchange Club and the BBS
The BBS – or at least, The Moss Exchange Club upon which it was built – is almost certainly the oldest bryological society in the world. The Moss Exchange Club was founded by in 1896, predating by 2 years its American equivalent, the Sullivant Moss Society which went on to become the American Bryological and Lichenological Society.
The Moss Exchange Club was formed at the instigation of an Irish clergyman, Rev. C H Waddell, with the main object of assisting members in building up collections of correctly named specimens. It started with 23 members, increasing to 60 just before the First World War. There were no meetings, and most contact between members was in the form of an annual exchanges of specimens. It was however instrumental in keeping interest in British mosses and liverworts alive during a period when they were largely ignored by universities, and greatly increasing knowledge about the distribution of British species.
At an early stage in the life of the MEC, it was decided to create a separate section for beginners, and this helped to encourage new bryologists in pursuit of bryological knowledge. As the years passed, the beginners became experts and the distinction between the 2 sections blurred. Eventually, in 1923, it was agreed to merge the 2 and the British Bryological Society was born, with 87 members of the MEC joining the new Society.