From an 1807 print, conservancies in Washington, DC, were already ' hothousing ' and documenting precious, natural resources.
One of the fiercest, albeit silliest attacks on a beleaguered Mrs. President Lincoln occurred in February, 1864. Flowers from the National Conservatory " Botanical Gardens " graced a ball at the home of New York congressman ( and author, as mayor of NYC, of a sincere albeit preposterous proposal that NYC secede ) confirmed self-promoter and general opportunist, Fernando Wood. WELL. A local writer of snark denounced Mary Lincoln, in her official role, having given permission for a bouquet to be sent to Mrs. Wood, as " Strewing our national posies at their feet "- the feet of treason. Hysterically inaccurate, flowers threatened to be a national scandal.
How that battle ended.
Real story was that wives of DC politicians were permitted access to flowers from our famous Botanical Gardens, correct route being through the President's wife. With her ball looming, Mrs. Congressman Fernando Wood made an official request- and was sent a bouquet.
The Botanical Gardens, foreground, dated by how complete our dome is, 1861.
One part of a ' conservancy ' there, although photo may be post war.
The thing is, one terrific reason the ' scandal ' threatened to take, er, root is because our National Conservatory- much better known as The Botanical Gardens was a huge, big deal. In the midst of war, a Union in shambles, and a struggle over the future of 4 million, American souls- we loved our flowers, gardens, butterflies, bugs and bulbs. Loved? Elaborate, much-fountained, lush, blooming and extravagantly landscaped, " Botanical Gardens " were a huge draw. Springing up in every, major city, these fantastic, moist, acres-long greenhouses hosted lavish displays of exotic and domestic plants, flowers, trees shrubs and frequently, some wildlife.
Another from the series, 1807, called " Botanical Gardens ", who knew begonias could look so lovely?
And they were a day out, with the kids! Who liked it! Who knew? Try interesting most small children, in 2018, in a shrub, see how well it goes. Our then-Botanical Gardens were part of our National Conservatory. Still around and amazing today, in 1850 they were located, like most of the city, on reclaimed swamp, within sight of the Capitol. Not exactly ' new ', in 1864. Our Founding Fathers liked flowers, too- just don't tell anyone.
This is from that era, one of the walks through this escape into exotic nature.
1816, it was the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences' idea. Create a botanic garden- intent was to benefit Americans by a kind of United Nations of all-growing-things. A ' give and take', too- originally ' distributing ' plants, the result of careful seed and plant collecting. Congress liked flowers, too, green ( sorry ) lighting our national treasure in 1820. Until 1837 , when the Institute folded, the garden seems to have been smack on the grounds of the Capitol.
The Wilkes Expedition helped hugely revitalized a notion of a National Conservatory, coming 'home' with an astonishing, wonderful collection of living plants from all points of the globe. By 1850, the old Institute's site saw what became the era's elaborate, extensive Botanical Gardens, Washington, DC.
From a ' Botanical Garden ', in England, plants were exchanged, making our garden a kind of communal, national museum of ' green ', and peace
I'm sorry but wow did we get it right! The best, most extensive florist slash arbor slash natural museum slash entertainment, too. In the middle of a muddy, worn, worried and dirty city, frantic with ' war ', you could escape into a world where the loudest sound was the color red, on a rose bush.
This series, on NYPL is awesome. The Latin name of each flower is documented and a careful ' study ; made- an Egyptian Water Lily, with pyramids in the distance. From these ' conservators ', really, guardians of, and guides to nature.