Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Urban Forestry in the Nineteenth Century

Often when looking at 19th-century photographs of Hudson, one is struck by the number of trees lining the streets.

Many of the trees in these old photographs appear to be American elm trees, and it's possible to assume that the trees were lost to Dutch elm disease in the 1950s. It has also been suggested that the trees were lost in the early 20th century, when streets were widened to accommodate automobiles. This little item, discovered in the Hudson Daily Evening Register for October 31, 1889, suggests that 19th-century theories about trees in cities may have been the reason that trees were removed.



  1. On both sides of the Atlantic, the 19th century's newfound obsession with hygiene proved very injurious to trees and forests.

    Battling the perceived evils of moisture and dampness, suspect woodlands were heroically cleared of their understories (an entire ecological niche in a healthy forest), if the forests weren't razed altogether.

    This newspaper excerpt captures the mindset perfectly, though I never stopped to think that the craze extended to municipal trees too.

    Well, why not? As the article says, "one needs light and air, and when you add to it the dampness ..."

    Fortunately, we've moved beyond such ignorance (um ... most of us have).

  2. Also, with the exception of the two conifers, every tree in the photo is an American Elm. You can even see the species' distinctive bark pattern.

    Say, isn't that Allen Street? Ha! you're too subtle Gossips!