American gardens of the early 20th century

Always wanted to know how colourful gardens were 100 years ago? An extraordinary collection of coloured lantern slides from the period is presented in a brand new publication. 1Sam Watters, Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935: Photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnston, Acanthus Press (April 15, 2012).
And The Library of Congress made a selection available through their flickr account. This set of slides made by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) contains 127 of her photos, the first part of wich was published in 1917. Most of the photos depict gardens in California, a small portion of them is made in Manhattan.

View the set here.

About the book:

“Gardens for a Beautiful America,” a 400-page hardcover book presents 250 garden photographs in large full-color illustrations. The book includes informative essays that describe the importance of Johnston’s work with gardens and explain the techniques she used to compose lantern slides that resemble delicate miniature paintings. The book is available for $79 in bookstores nationwide and in the Library of Congress Shop, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., 20540-4985.

But that is not all: the author tied the photos to specific locations, and found out when these photos were taken. He also gives information about the current state of the garden. So aside from the apparent beauty of the images, the book is a valuable source of information for garden historians. Both for the depicted gardens themselves, and as a vital source of information about the colour schemes of the borders, the specific species used, etc.

More information about the slides and the publication: here. I have tried to find the book in the LOC’s online store, but did not find it. That’s either just me being clumsy, or an indication of how new the book actually is…


1 Sam Watters, Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935: Photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnston, Acanthus Press (April 15, 2012).

A great set of coloured lantern slides made between 1895 and 1935 is made available on flickr by The Library of Congress. And there is a book about the photographer, Frances Benjamin Johnston. Some information and a link to the set is presented here.

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One Comment

  1. Apologies! Here’s a direct link to the book’s listing,

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the photographs. Having specific dates, places, etc., does make a big difference. — Helena Zinkham, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

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