James Arnold

The Arnold Arboretum

 Today is the birthday of James Arnold, who was born on this day in 1781 and who was the namesake for Harvard's Arnold Arboretum.

The Arnold Arboretum was the very first arboretum in the United States.
Arnold was born to a Quaker family in Providence, Rhode, Island. In 1807, Arnold married Sarah Rotch. Had Arnold not married Sarah, there would have probably never been an Arnold Arboretum. Sarah's father was part of a wealthy whaling family. Through his marriage to Sarah, Arnold eventually became a partner in his father-in-law's business.
Arnold used his wealth to buy an 11-acre estate. There he built a mansion and installed beautiful gardens and lawns. The property was so stunning that the Arnolds opened their gardens to the public on Sundays. It was a rare opportunity.
The Unitarian minister, William Potter, called the Arnold estate,

"a home the most conspicuous among all our homes for culture, for hospitality, for charity."

John Quincy Adams was a guest of the Arnolds in 1835 and 1843.
When Arnold died in 1868, he had outlived both his wife and daughter. As part of his will, he left $100,000 in the hands of three trustees: Francis Parker, John James Dixwell, and George Emerson. Emerson and Dixwell were essential to the founding of the Arboretum because they personally knew Asa Gray at Harvard, and they also knew that Harvard wanted a Botanic Garden. When the arrangements for the arboretum were finally settled, the instructions were to collect every kind of tree and shrub that would grow outdoors in Massachusetts.
In 1873, Charles Sprague Sargent was hired to be the Arnold Arboretum director - a position he would hold for over four decades. His vision, combined with the stability provided by his great leadership established a solid foundation for the Arnold Arboretum. With the gift from James Arnold, the Arboretum had the means; and with the direction of Sargent, it had the expertise. Both were needed to create the world-class arboretum we enjoy today.

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James Arnold
James Arnold

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