fbpx September 2019: Joy Morton, Founder of The Morton Arboretum | The Morton Arboretum

September 2019: Joy Morton, Founder of The Morton Arboretum

Black and gray photograph of Joy Morton standing on Joy Path. He is on a cleared trail and there are trees surrounding him.

“Joy Morton’s work is not just the sum of salt and trees. Those two notable but seemingly incongruous interests were bookends to a lifetime of achievement.” -James Ballowe, A Man of Salt and Trees

Born September 27, 1855, Joy was the eldest of four sons of Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902) and Caroline Joy Morton (1834-1881). His parents instilled a deep respect for nature within their family.

Black and white photograph of the Morton family seated on porch outside of Arbor Lodge


Joy perpetuated his family’s appreciation of nature in his establishment of The Morton Arboretum. As a Chicago industrialist, Joy would come to discover Lisle in the early 1900s and eventually build his family estate, Thornhill, in 1909.

Black and white photograph of the Morton Residence at Thornhill, exterior, front view, just after house was built

The actual work of transforming his Thornhill estate would begin in early 1921, when Joy was 65 years old. The Morton Arboretum would be formally established on December 14, 1922. The Morton Arboretum Indenture establishes and outlines the creation of the Arboretum, describes Morton’s intentions surrounding its development, appoints trustees, and details the original tract of land designated as The Morton Arboretum.

Morton Family Correspondence Project

Staff and volunteers of the Sterling Morton Library, named for Joy's son, are working to digitize and catalogue the correspondence written by various Morton family members and their constituents. To view the work that has already been done, visit the Morton Family Correspondence page on ACORN! 

The Sterling Morton Library also has a plethora of resources available should you be interested in learning more about the Morton family or other local history topics.

Morton Family

The Morton Arboretum

DuPage County

Chicago History