Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History/Arbor Day

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Arbor Day.—This day owes its origin to J. Sterling Morton, of Nebraska, late United States commissioner of agriculture, who in 1872 succeeded in inducing his state (then almost treeless) to set apart a day for the purpose of planting trees. Over a million were planted that year. In 1874 the same state planted over 12,000,000 trees, Gov. Robert W. Furnas, the governor at that time issuing a proclamation setting apart a day in April for the purpose. Nebraska, in 1885, enacted a law, designating April 22, the birthday of Mr. Morton, as Arbor day and making it a legal holiday. In Kansas the first recognition of the day was in 1875, when Thomas J. Anderson, then mayor of Topeka, issued the following proclamation:



“At the sugggestion of many citizens who desire to see the capitol grounds made an ornament to the city, I hereby appoint Friday, April 23, 1875, as "Arbor Day," and request all citizens on that date to set out trees in the capitol grounds. On that day, it is hoped that each citizen interested, will repair to the grounds, between the hours of 2 p. m. and 5 p. m., and set out one tree. The secretary of state will point out the proper locations for the trees.

Thos. J. Anderson, Mayor.”

The citizens of Topeka responded to the call and some 800 trees were planted. The next year the mayor of Topeka set apart April 18 as arbor day, on which occasion the residents of the capital city again gathered on the capitol grounds to replace such trees as had died during the previous twelve months, and to make such additions as they saw fit.

From this time on the cities, towns and villages of the state began observing the day in a more or less public manner, with the ultimate result, that many sections are now veritable forests, where a few short years ago they were treeless plains.

On April 4, 1883, Gov. George W. Glick issued a proclamation, setting apart April 25 to be observed as arbor day. This probably was the earliest official recognition given the day by the chief executive of Kansas, which custom has since been followed by succeeding governors.

Arbor day is now observed in nearly every state and territory in the Union, and in many places in Canada and in parts of Europe. The day is made a feature in the Kansas schools each year, when appropriate exercises are given in connection with the planting of trees and shrubs.