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Signature of Famous Botanist Discovered on Map of Japan

The following post is by Ryan Moore, a cartographic specialist in the Geography and Map Division.

The signature of the American botanist who helped bring the famous Japanese cherry blossom trees to the United States was discovered by this author on a 1901 map of Japan. David Fairchild (1869-1954) traveled the world on behalf of the U.S. government and introduced more than 200,000 varieties of crops and plants to this country. His signature, along with the self-described title “agricultural explorer,” sits among his extensive annotations about Japanese plants and crops, including a note about cherry blossom trees, which the Japanese call sakura. He likely signed the map and annotated it during his trip to Japan in 1902.

Map of Japan. Published by the Welcome Society of Japan, 1901. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Map of Japan. Published by the Welcome Society of Japan, 1901. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The Welcome Society of Japan published the map, which measures 22.5 x 34.5 inches in size and is handsomely colored. The organization was interested in fostering American-Japanese relations and dispelling misunderstandings and prejudices between the two countries. The map’s creators used traditional provincial place names, rather than modern ones that gradually appeared in the Meji era (1868-1912).  The map appeared in several editions and was supplemented by a guidebook, which has been digitized and can be accessed on the Library of Congress website.

A guide-book for tourists in Japan. Published by The Welcome Society, 1906. General Collections, Library of Congress.

Cover of A guide-book for tourists in Japan. Published by The Welcome Society, 1906. General Collections, Library of Congress.

Page of A guide-book for tourists in Japan. Published by The Welcome Society, 1906. General Collections, Library of Congress.

Page from A guide-book for tourists in Japan. Published by The Welcome Society, 1906. General Collections, Library of Congress.

While the map itself is an important historical artifact, it is uniquely interesting because of Fairchild’s numerous annotations. Among his many notes, he wrote that the best rice is said to come from Higo Province, giant radishes from Sakurajima, and large bamboos from Kagoshima. He found “[l]ong tail fowls” and Juncus effuses in Hiroshima. Concerning the famous cherry blossom trees, he noted that Yoshino is the “center of cherry blossom cult[ivation].”

Detail of Map of Japan. Published by the Welcome Society of Japan, 1901. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Detail of Map of Japan. Published by the Welcome Society of Japan, 1901. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Fairchild fell in love with the cherry blossom trees during his trip to Japan. He felt that the climate of Washington, D.C., and Japan were similar enough that the trees could be planted and sustained in the capital city of the United States. Fairchild initially brought 125 trees to his estate in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and, with the help of a Japanese gardener, successfully cultivated them.

Fairchild teamed with other advocates to urge then-First Lady Helen H. Taft to support bringing cherry blossom trees to the Tidal Basin, near the National Mall. These efforts were successful, and the mayor of Tokyo sent 2,000 cherry blossom trees to Washington as a gift in 1910. While the first batch of trees had to be destroyed because of pests and disease, a second shipment arrived without issue and was planted on the north bank of the Tidal Basin. The trees are considered a national treasure and the National Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated every spring in Washington, D.C.

Detail of Map of Japan with signature of David Fairchild. Published by the Welcome Society of Japan, 1901. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Detail of Armour Expedition to Africa & Friends. Bain News Service, 1926. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

“David Fairchild.” Detail of photograph, Armour Expedition to Africa & Friends. Bain News Service, 1926. Prints and Photographs Division, Biography File Collection, Library of Congress.

The author wishes to thank Setsuko Means, Geography and Map cataloging specialist, for updating the map’s catalog record.

Investigating Collections: Science Meets Archaeology at the Library of Congress

This post is about research conducted by the author, in conjunction with Dr. Tana Villafana, Research Chemist and Spectroscopist, from the Preservation Research and Testing Division, and with Rosemary Ryan, Archaeological Research Fellow, at the Library of Congress. The research is part of a larger project to characterize and study all of the Mesoamerican jade […]

Marvels of Pre-Columbian America: Talking Textiles

This is a guest post by Rosemary Ryan, an Archaeological Research Fellow at the Library of Congress. Rosemary is a student at Towson University specializing in Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology. Her research at the Library is in support of the Exploring the Early Americas exhibit and the Jay I. Kislak Collection, which comprises of more […]

Extremities of the Earth: The Northernmost Inhabited Point Part 2

In the previous post of this series, the military installation of Alert in Nunavut, Canada was named the northernmost permanently inhabited point. While this is indeed true, it is only accessible to assigned military personnel. For the adventurers out there, we will have to content ourselves with visiting or living on the island of Spitsbergen, […]

Scientist of the Seas: The Legacy of Matthew Fontaine Maury

Matthew Fontaine Maury has been hailed as, among other names, the “Scientist of the Seas” for his contributions to understanding ocean navigation in the mid-19th century. His expertise is evident in his large body of work, and particularly in his maps. But while Maury left an indelible mark on the fields of oceanography and geography […]

Early Pictorial Maps of Asia and Europe from the Hauslab-Liechtenstein Collection

The following post is by Anna Balaguer, a Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. This summer, I have the opportunity to participate in the Library of Congress Junior Fellows program, working in the Geography and Map Division. I am working with cartographic specialist Ryan Moore to process the Hauslab-Liechtenstein Map […]

The Changing Place Names of Washington, D.C.

The following post is by Kim Edwin, a library technician in the Geography and Map Division. Since coming to the Washington, D.C. area and joining the Geography and Map Division, I have enjoyed learning about the early history of our nation’s capital through maps and place names. In studying maps from the city’s early years […]

Baseball Stadiums and Maps: Chicago

The following post is by Ed Redmond, a cartographic reference specialist in the Geography & Map Division. As part of the Library’s newly opened, yearlong exhibit Baseball Americana, the Geography and Map Division will be featuring several blog posts describing the depiction and history of baseball stadiums on maps in major American cities. As the […]