We are currently in the midst of a project to digitize a selection of glass plate negatives of photographs taken by Ernest H. Wilson, distinguished Arboretum plant collector of the early twentieth century. Like his famous photographs taken in eastern Asia, these are often stunning images of magnificent trees. This time, however, we are treated to views of the trees of New England: oaks, maples, stately but long-since departed elms, and other woody plants, both native and exotic to the region.
We don’t actually know why Wilson began photographing these trees; perhaps he had a book in mind or maybe he just wanted to document notable specimens he encountered. But during the mid-1920s, Wilson, his wife Ellen, and family friend Beatrice “Aunt Betty” Mumford struck out for locations in the Boston area, central Massachusetts, the Mohawk Trail, southern New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island in search of special trees. With his Sanderson camera, he captured nearly one hundred photographs of elms, more than fifty of various oak species, and numerous genera of conifers.
As we process this collection, we will highlight photographs that delight us or tell an interesting story. To start things off we offer you a photograph taken on June 13, 1924 at the Hunnewell Estate in Wellesely, MA, of a magnificent stand of Rhododendron catawbiense ‘Album’.
— Lisa Pearson, Head of Library and Archives