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Arbor Day: A Celebration of Trees

Apr 22, 2013

Tags: arbor day archives bulletin special collections

In 1854, J. Sterling Morton and his wife left Detroit, Michigan, for the Nebraska Territory.  Trees and other plants were needed to beautify the land and, more practically, to keep soil from blowing away, provide fuel & building materials, and for shade.  Morton proposed an Arbor Day in 1872, and it is estimated that more than one million trees were planted on April 10 of that year.  In 1885, Arbor Day became a legal holiday in the State of Nebraska, to be celebrated annually on Morton’s birthday, April 22.


Arbor Day may have first been celebrated in Kansas in the city of Topeka.  All interested citizens were invited to plant a tree on the capital grounds on April 23, 1875, and over 800 trees were planted that day.  Governor George W. Glick set aside April 25, 1883, as Arbor Day.  The State of Kansas currently celebrates Arbor Day on the last Friday of April.


In 1901, Kansas State Normal School student Katherine Morrison received the following post card featuring an Arbor Day message.

Postcard to student Katherine Morrison "Miss Katherine Morrison, Emporia, Kans. / (Please [Fwd.])

 Address side of postcard received by Katherine Morrison


"You would better harvest / your / millet / which was sown Arbor Day on the campus / at K.S.N.S. / B.F. Martin, C.M. Ware, C.H. Mull, / J.W. Blood, John Brown, O.F. Grubbs, / Ben Bowers, V.E. Postma, Mr. Meyers. / Emporia, Kansas, September 2, 1901.
 Backside of postcard


The Bulletin, KSNS student newspaper, reported that in 1921, 2 rows of trees were planted in celebration of Arbor Day.  The following text is from an article, “Arbor Day Exercises at Chapel Friday”, published April 21: 

"Arbor Day Exercises at Chapel Friday," Bulletin, April 21, 1921

 "Arbor Day Exercises at Chapel Friday," Bulletin, April 21, 1921


On April 26, 2013, Emporia State University will combine one of its sesquicentennial celebrations with Arbor Day as a number of trees and other plants & perennials are added to the campus grounds.  All faculty, staff, and students are invited to participate in this Arbor Day & Campus Beautification Celebration at 1:00 p.m.  This event is sponsored by the Associated Student Government, Campus Beautification Committee, Community Hornets, Environmental Club, and Sigma Alpha Lambda.


Katherine Morrison’s postcard (NA1963.0001), The Bulletin (ESU003.004.004.001) and other Kansas State Normal School memorabilia is available from ESU’s Special Collections and Archives.  Access these collections by visiting the Special Collections and Archives reading room, which is open Monday-Friday from 11-3 p.m.  Special Collections and Archives staff may also be reached via e-mail ( or telephone (620-341-6431).


Online resources for Arbor Day history include the National Arbor Day Foundation, Inc. ( and Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History/Arbor Day (

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives

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