Bartram’s Boxes at the Philadelphia Flower Show

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Sara Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, PHS, Philadelphia Flower Show

John and Ann Bartram in their recreated garden at the Philadelphia Flower Show

“My head runs all upon the works of God in nature. It is through that telescope I see God in his glory.”   John Bartram, December 3, 1762

“Since ten years old, I had a great inclination to plants.  I knew all that I observed by sight, though not by the proper names having no person or books to instruct me.”   John Bartram

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

The history of Bartram in his garden was explained by the display constructed by Williamson Technical School at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

It was a glorious day to return to Philadelphia. Members of the senior class of Williamson Technical School unveiled their exhibition on the cultivation, harvesting, packing, and transport of plants and seeds for my Bartram’s Boxes. This major tribute to my seminal work on the distribution of native plant species through the horticultural world was on display at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

John Bartram fronting the Williamson Technical School booth on the historic Bartram’s Boxes.

I greatly enjoyed sitting in the front of the display. Some would say that it is the height of recognition to have a booth at the world famous Philadelphia Flower Show dedicated to one’s life’s work. So noted! The show’s sponsor, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, is an organization founded in 1827 at a meeting “of gentleman farmers, botanists and other plant enthusiasts” that included members of my family. From that simple beginning such a tremendous show has grown.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

The display of seeds introduced by Bartram in his overseas shipments of botanical boxes was encyclopedic.

On exhibit were bags of all of my most favored plant species: Quercus rubra (Red Oak,) Acer rubrum (Red Maple,) Magnolia grandiflora and all of the magnificent understory shrubs. The assortment was greater than any I’d seen collected since days of my youth!

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

All of the samples were displayed in historically authentic context. The boxes would actually have looked like this.

The team of students from Williamson was a collection of scholars, botanists, artists and carpenters that reminded me of me at the same age. They were enthusiastic in their conversation. They were engaged with the topic. They were well turned out.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

There were substantial awards given to the Williamson Technical School Booth on their demonstration of the Bartram’s Boxes.

As a result of their study and their industry, the display was awarded many prestigious prizes. I was very glad for them that their effort received its due recognition. How amazing after all of these years to be confronted with the very image of my house and garden and work rooms and packing stations.

History can and does repeat itself!

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, Sara E. Brown, Philadelphia Flower Show, Williamson Technical School

The major awards for this display on Bartram’s Boxes reflected the student’s dedication and passion to the subject. John Bartram would have been very, very proud!

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