A portrait of the Dawson family taken on Labor Day weekend, 1901

December 3, 2015

A portrait of the Dawson family taken on Labor Day weekend, 1901

A portrait of the Dawson family taken on Labor Day weekend, 1901

A portrait of the Dawson family taken on Labor Day weekend, 1901

First row, left to right: Jackson Thornton Dawson (1841-1916), Mary Elizabeth Dawson (on Jackson’s lap), daughter of William Francis and Julia Hoffman Dawson, Mary McKenna (Minnie) Dawson (1842-1902). Second row, left to right: Minnie Motley Dawson (1878-1922), Julia Hoffman Dawson, wife of William Francis Dawson (1871-1954), Henry Sargent (Harry) Dawson (1886-1938), William Francis Dawson (1868-1939), Laura Blanchard Dawson (1881-1930). Third row, left to right: James Frederick (Fred) Dawson (1873-1941), Charles Jackson (Charlie) Dawson (1871-1902), George Walter (Walt) Dawson (1870-1938).

A portrait of the Dawson family taken on Labor Day weekend, 1901

Photograph by William Francis Dawson (1868-1939, American)
Jamaica Plain, MA
1901

Jackson Thornton Dawson (1841-1916), the first plant propagator and superintendent of the Arnold Arboretum, served 43 years and played a significant role in the growth of the Arboretum as a world-class institution.

Dawson was a horticulturist of exceptional ability, and it was said only half in jest, that he could coax life from a dead stick. During his work as Plant Propagator for the Arnold Arboretum, Dawson lived and raised his family in the white frame house at 1090 Centre Street [pictured here]. At this location he also maintained the Arboretum’s propagation facilities, including a greenhouse and outdoor nursery. All of the seeds and cuttings sent by Arboretum collectors in this period, including Ernest Wilson, William Purdom, and John Jack, were raised here. In total he raised 450,718 plants and distributed 47,993 seed packets during his 43 years as Arboretum Propagator.

READ MORE:
Connor Geary, Sheila and Hutchinson, B. June. “Mr. Dawson, Plantsman.” Arnoldia 40(2), March/April 1980 [pdf].

Pearson, Lisa. “Dawson Medals Come to the Arboretum Archives.” Library Leaves, Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library, May 18, 2015.

Whitacre, Benjamin. “Filing A Missing Rose Claim: Jackson Dawson and the Arnold Rose.” Arnoldia 73(1), 2015 [pdf].

Copyright © 2015, President and Fellows of Harvard College; all rights reserved.

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