Arbor Day was first proposed in the 19th century by J. Sterling Morton, an American journalist and politician, who famously wrote,
“Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future.”
Morton, the editor of a Nebraska newspaper, often wrote agricultural articles and shared his passion for trees with his readers. There were relatively few trees in the state at the time, and for several years Morton proposed such a holiday to encourage his fellow Nebraskans to plant trees. He believed that trees would serve as effective windbreaks, protecting crops from erosion and overexposure to the sun, and would provide fuel and building materials. The first Arbor Day celebration was held in Nebraska on April 10, 1872, and more than one million trees were planted. During the 1870s several U.S. states established Arbor Day as a holiday, and in 1885 Nebraska declared J. Sterling Morton’s birthday, April 22, as the date of the holiday. In the 1880s American schools typically observed the day by planting trees as memorials of historical events and in honor of famous people.
In the United States, Arbor Day is now most commonly observed on the last Friday in April, though some states have moved the date to coincide with the best tree planting weather.
We inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees is the motto of the Arbor Day Foundation, founded in 1972, the centennial of the first Arbor Day observance. Their vision is to help others understand and use trees as a solution to many of the global issues we face today, including air quality, water quality, a changing climate, deforestation, poverty, and hunger.
From the Port Jefferson Echo, April 17, 1920
Think It Over
Some one has said that the American cuts down trees six days in the week and fifty-two weeks in the year, and when Arbor Day comes he sets out one lone tree. This is too true, particularly of Long Islanders. It has been shown that there is big money in raising walnut timber, and that Long Island soil is particularly adapted to the rapid growth of such. Black walnut trees that are standing today can be sold, if of good size, for from $50 to $100 each and even more. Suppose, Mr. Farmer, that your father had put out several hundred such trees in out-of-the-way places on his farm, along the road front, and in other spots, fifty or sixty years ago. Think of the reward for his foresight that you would be reaping. It is not too late in life for you to make a start. Those who come after you will reap a golden harvest for an investment now of a comparatively small sum. Think it over.