The following is a guest post by Helena Zinkham, Chief, Prints & Photographs Division.
The United States celebrates Arbor Day on the last Friday in April to remind us of the need to plant and nurture trees. This year, the national celebration day prompted me to check the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. How many of the thousands of tree-related pictures at the Library of Congress represent the planting of new trees?
While only a few digitized images relate directly to Arbor Day, several hundred pictures show people establishing new trees in their own yards, attending special memorial tree dedications, and working on major conservation projects. Two of the digitized images especially caught my eye.
A delightful scene called Quentin Roosevelt Planting a Tree shows the young son of President Teddy Roosevelt with a sapling at Sagamore Hill, the family estate in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. The empty bottle might have held water for the tree. Taking a look at the group of portraits of Quentin and his brothers, made in 1904 by master photographer Edward Curtis, revealed, however, that the images are primarily about boys playing. The bottle was also used to hold June bugs!
The second photograph, Tree Planting Ceremony, shows Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam with a large group of people gathered outside the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C. A photographer working for Underwood and Underwood captured this scene around 1920. Might the event be honoring Library staff who fought in World War I? Is the tree still standing almost one hundred years later?
I’ll check in with the savvy reference librarians who follow the Library’s own history and report back!