Arbor Day’s Roots in Connecticut – Who Knew?
Drawing of a man's profile turned to the left. He has a long beard and is wearing glasses.

B.G. Northrop in Illustrated Popular Biography of Connecticut (1891)- Connecticut State Library

…that Connecticut’s Reverend Birdsey Grant Northrop popularized Arbor Day celebrations in schools across the country. 

While J. Sterling Morton (governor of Nebraska Territory) started an annual day of planting trees in 1872, Northrop was responsible for involving school children and popularizing the event throughout the country. Born in 1817 to a farming family in Kent, Birdsey Grant Northrop attended both Yale College and Yale Theological Seminary. After teaching, preaching, and working for the Massachusetts board of education, Northrop became the secretary of the Connecticut Board of Education. In January 1879, he started a program to encourage Connecticut school children to plant five “centennial trees” to earn a dollar prize. In 1883, Northrop proposed a resolution at the meeting of the American Forestry Association in favor of observing Arbor Day in schools. In his retirement, Northrop continued to advocate for Arbor Day, traveling and giving lectures throughout the country and the world. By Northrop’s death in 1898, the majority of US states observed Arbor Day; President Richard Nixon established the National Arbor Day in 1970.


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