Arbor Day: One Of America’s Oldest Holidays
A Simple Request: “Plant Trees”
LISLE, IL (February 10, 2007) – Arbor Day’s creation is rooted in the treeless prairies of Nebraska’s Great Plains. Arbor Day – the nation’s oldest environmental holiday – was the brainchild of a man who would become U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
When Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1903) and his new bride Carolyn Joy French Morton (1833-1881) – whose son Joy founded The Morton Arboretum – moved to Nebraska in 1854, they missed the forests of their old home in Michigan, and quickly planted their trees, shrubs and flowers around their new Nebraska City home. As editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper, Morton became an advocate of planting trees, not only for their beauty, but also as a boon in agriculture.
As early as 1870, Nebraska offered cash prizes to encourage tree-planting in the state. A resolution for the first Arbor Day was offered in 1872 to the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture for April 10, 1872. The Board member presenting the resolution was Julius Sterling Morton. During the first year of Arbor Day, Nebraskans planted one million trees in the state. In the mid- to late-1870s, other states began passing legislation to observe Arbor Day.
Today, all 50 states, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico, as well as several countries across the globe celebrate this important holiday. Illinois, along with 25 other states and D.C., celebrates Arbor Day on the last Friday in April.
J. Sterling, who was appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in 1893 by President Grover Cleveland, passed away just after celebrating Arbor Day at his son’s home in Lake Forest, IL, on April 27, 1902. J. Sterling Morton’s statue stands in the National Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C.
A product of the Morton family’s commitment to planting trees is The Morton Arboretum, founded by Joy Morton – J. Sterling Morton’s son – in 1922. Joy Morton (1855-1934), then-president of the Morton Salt Company, purchased a 175-acre tract of land in 1910 along the East Branch of the DuPage River for his family estate. By the time of Morton’s death, the Arboretum had grown to 735 acres, and now features 1,700 acres and more than 182,000 plantings from 61 countries around the globe.
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of more than 4,057 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission – the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or sunset, whichever is earlier, Central Time. The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CDT) and 9:30 to 4 p.m. (CST). Visit www.mortonarb.org or call 630/968-0074 to learn more.