Dr. Bolton joined the Lyceum of Natural History of New York City in 1867 and has been an active member for twenty-six years. He was one of the committee (with the late Dr. John S. Newberry and Prof. B. N. Martin) who accomplished in 1876 the change of name to the New York Academy of Sciences by which it is now known; from 1876 to 1877 he held the office of corresponding secretary; from 1887 to 1892, of recording secretary; from 1892 to 1893, vice-president; and in 1893 president. He has also been prominent in the national society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, frequently serving on its council and on committees, besides holding the office of Secretary of the Chemical Section (1876), Secretary of the Council (1889), general secretary (in 1878, 1879, and 1890), and vice-president (1882). Dr. Bolton was one of the founders of the American Folk-lore Society in 1887, and has been on the council of the society to date. He is also president of the New York branch of the American Folk-lore Society established in the spring of 1893. He has been a member of the Executive Committee of the New York Section of the American Chemical Society since its foundation.
To all these societies Dr. Bolton has frequently contributed papers; including communications of literary and general character printed in journals, they number more than a hundred and fifty. He has been influential in shaping the policy of the Council of the Scientific Alliance of New York City, and was made its treasurer in 1893.
Dr. Bolton is a member of many learned societies besides those above named, the chief being as follows: German Chemical Society of Berlin, Chemical Society of Paris, National Society of Natural and Mathematical Sciences of Cherbourg, American Society of Naturalists, Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, American Metrological Society, Brooklyn Institute, corresponding member of the Rochester Academy of Sciences, and honorary member of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society of Chapel Hill, N. C.
He founded the 'Ology Club in Hartford and the Lunar Society in New York, social clubs for scientific discussions and mutual admiration. He is a member of the University Club of New York and of the Cosmos Club of Washington.
Dr. Bolton's private library, though numbering less than one thousand volumes, is probably unique in the United States, being devoted to the history of chemistry. It is rich in original works on alchemy and early chemistry, besides containing a collection of several hundred portraits of scientists of all countries and all time. At the request of the Grolier Club of New York city, he made an exhibit of a selection from his library in their club house in January, 1891.