Archive for January, 2011


Four generations of nurserymen

   Posted by: rring    in Uncategorized

[Posted by Oliver Chamberlain, Executive Director (ret.) Center for the Arts University of Massachusetts Lowell]

When one goes to a research library, one usually submits a request by call number, then waits while an attendant goes off to locate the book in a locked, enclosed room. When they come back, cards and permissions have to be filled out. Finally you get to view the book. My experience at the Watkinson Library at Trinity College was quite different.

It started with my email inquiry to the Library after locating the book, a late nineteenth-century tome with catalogue by a nurseryman and landscape gardener (architect) of Pittsburgh. I am working on an article for The Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington DC, on the four generations of the family who were nurserymen, florists and landscape architects from 1840 to 1940. They have not previously been described. They influenced the new way Americans designed and planted their homes and estates before the twentieth century. They called themselves landscape gardeners and architects before the 1899 founding of the American Society of Landscape Architects. They did work for men of wealth who owned or ran oil, steel and banking in Pittsburgh and
across the eastern US.

Word came back to my inquiry from the Library Curator that I could actually find the book closer to my home, at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA. I went there and found the eighth edition of
the book. But what I really needed to see was the last edition, the tenth, held by the Watkinson Library.

When I arrived I was greeted cordially in the Library. I filled out an information sheet. I met Richard Ring, who greeted me like an old friend and who had the book in question already waiting for me. Yes, I could take photographs. Credit only to the Watkinson Library. No fee. I was grateful, since this project is not supported by a grant.

My view of the book allowed me to corroborate that what the father wrote in this book had been repeated in the son’s autobiographical volume forty years later. I could also see that the frontispiece used by the father, a detailed drawing of rhododendrons characteristically exceeding their frame (attached), signed by W[illiam] Hamilton Gibson, noted author, naturalist and illustrator of the period, was used again by the son in his small volume coming out of his talk to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society two years after the publication of his father’s book. Viewing the book confirmed, among others things, the close relationship of the work between father and son, important members of the four generations.

My thanks to Rick Ring and his staff at the Watkinson Library at Trinity College for collecting, preserving and making available such books and information.

[Curator’s note:  the record of the book in question is here:]

Stunning Native American Portraits

In the process of cataloging a collection of over-sized volumes (folios) from the Watkinson Library I have discovered several items of interest.  Because of their size many folios have remarkable illustrations or maps.  Pictured here is a portrait from McKenney and Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America, published in Philadelphia, 1837-1844. This 3 volume set contains 120 colored lithograph portraits copied after paintings by Charles Bird King in the Indian Gallery of the U.S. War Department.   When noteworthy Indians visited Washington it became the custom to have their portraits painted.  Thomas McKenney was the superintendent of Indian Affairs at the time and got to know some of the people of the native nations.  The book also contains biographical sketches by McKenney and a history of the tribes by James Hall.

–Sally Dickinson, Special Collections Librarian, Watkinson Library

[NB:  Most of the original portraits were destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian in 1865, so the set is a vital historical record.  –R. Ring, Head Curator].