Arbor Day and Its History

Arbor Day is an annual holiday that celebrates trees, the earth, and nature. It is a day where people are encouraged to plant a new tree somewhere, and to appreciate the beauty and benefits that trees provide. The holiday was first established in 1872, and by the 1920s all fifty states were participating in the holiday. Arbor Day is now celebrated on the first Friday of April. Across the country, people plant trees and spread awareness about the importance of conservation and putting back into the earth what we take out of it.

Arbor Day originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska, also known as the “Tree Planter” state. Arbor Lodge, a beautiful 72-acre arboretum and 52-room mansion, was the home of J. Sterling Morton, who founded the holiday. Today the Arbor Lodge is a historical site and a popular place for visitors and citizens of Nebraska to visit and enjoy. The state is proud of its Arbor Day heritage, and Nebraska celebrates the holiday by holding festivals and promoting school-based tree planting and related activities. Although man has continually been aware of nature, it was not until Morton declared Arbor Day a holiday that trees' full beauty and potential were fully recognized.

J. Sterling Morton

J. Sterling Morton served as the Secretary of Agriculture under president Grover Cleveland. He was born in New York, but eventually called the state of Nebraska his home. Morton was an active agriculturalist, and he spent much of time educating farmers on crop techniques and agricultural practices. His love and appreciation for nature was clear and showed through his ongoing efforts to preserve and protect natural farmlands and forests. Grover Cleveland hired him because of his vast knowledge of the natural world. A bronze statue of Morton now sits at the United States Capitol as a tribute to Morton's contributions and the founding of Arbor Day.

Governor Robert W. Furnas

Robert W. Furnas was the second governor of the state of Nebraska. He was responsible for publishing the first agricultural journal in the state of Nebraska, called Nebraska Farmer. Like Morton, Furnas had a true appreciation for nature, trees, and agriculture. He held many positions, including president of the American Fair Association, president of the State Horticultural Society, and the first president of the Nebraska State Historical Society. Once elected governor of Nebraska, he worked with J. Sterling Morton to get Arbor Day founded and implemented as a national holiday.

Arbor Day Today

Today, Arbor Day is still celebrated across the United States. The Arbor Day Foundation encourages people to plant a new tree in honor of the holiday. Free trees can be sent to communities for planting, and educational programs and activities abound in schools across the country. Teaching children about the importance and value of trees is a large part of Arbor Day's heritage. Through education and fun, people can gain a better understanding of the important role trees play in our every day lives. Providing trees at little to no cost and teaching people where and how to plant them can help to ensure that our children have a future with plenty of trees to provide shelter, shade, beauty, and food.