The Founder of the Missouri Botanical Gardent

#OTD On this day, May 3rd, in 1819, botanist and philanthropist Henry Shaw arrived in St. Louis.

St. Louis had been founded over fifty years before Shaw's arrival, and the population by 1820 was just over 10,000 people.

Shaw is commemorated on the St. Louis Walk of Fame with this epitaph:

Henry Shaw, only 18 when he came to St. Louis, was one of the city’s largest landowners by age 40. Working with leading botanists, he planned, funded and built the Missouri Botanical Garden, which opened in 1859. Shaw donated the land for Tower Grove Park and helped with its construction. He wrote botanical tracts, endowed Washington University’s School of Botany, helped found the Missouri Historical Society, and gave the city a school and land for a hospital. Of Shaw’s gifts, the Botanical Garden is best-known. Said as early as 1868 to have “no equal in the United States, and, indeed, few anywhere in the world."

In addition to the Botanical Garden, Shaw built the Linnean House in 1882. It is the oldest continuously operated public greenhouse west of the Mississippi River and was originally designed to be an orangery; a place to overwinter citrus trees, palms, and tree ferns.


While researching Henry Shaw, I stumbled on a story that reveals Shaw's great love for the plants in his garden.

It was posted in the St. Louis Star and Times on April 5, 1933

"Mr. Shaw was escorting a lady through his gardens, pointing out objects of interest.

The visitor said: " I cannot understand, Sir, how you are able to remember all of these difficult names."

He replied, with a courtly bow, "Madame, did you ever know a mother to forget the names of her children? These plants and flowers are my little ones."

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Henry Shaw
Henry Shaw
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Henry Shaw Coffin
Henry Shaw House
Henry Shaw House