Garden Club of America Collection

1920 -

Thornewood in Tacoma, Washington.

Thornewood in Tacoma, Washington. Asahel Curtis, photographer. August 1933.

Scope and Content

This collection contains over 37,000 35mm slides, 3,000 glass lantern slides and a small number of landscape architectural plans and drawings, all of which document the history of American gardens and landscapes. Garden files were compiled by Garden Club of America (GCA) members for most of the gardens included in the collection. These files may include information sheets, photocopied articles (from journals, newspapers, or books), planting lists, correspondence, brochures and other notes. Some gardens have been photographed over the course of several decades; others only have images from a single point in time. In addition to images of American gardens, there are glass lantern slides of the New York Flower Show (1941-1951) and trips that GCA members took to other countries, including Mexico (1937), Italy, Spain, Japan (1935), France (1936), England (1929), and Scotland. Plans and drawings in this collection date from 1914-1928 and include work by landscape architects Paul Mueller and Robert Wheelwright (1884-1965) and Hitchings and Company, Greenhouse Manufacturers. Jobs are located in Mississippi, Washington, DC, Texas, and Maine (specifically the “Spite House” in Rockport, ME.)

The gardens illustrate the design work of dozens of landscape architects including Marian Coffin, Beatrix Farrand, Lawrence Halprin, Hare & Hare, Umberto Innocenti, Gertrude Jekyll, Jens Jensen, Warren Manning, the Olmsted Brothers, Charles Platt, Ellen Biddle Shipman, and Fletcher Steele. Because of their proximity to the gardens, works of notable architects and sculptors may also be featured in the images.

A number of the slides are copies of historic images from outside repositories including horticultural and historical societies or from horticultural books and publications. The GCA made a concerted effort in the mid-1980s to acquire these images in order to increase its documentation of American garden history. Because of copyright considerations, use of these particular images may be restricted.

Historical Note

The Garden Club of America was established in 1913 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when the Garden Club of Philadelphia and eleven other garden clubs met to create a national garden club. Its purpose is to foster the knowledge and love of gardening and to restore and protect the quality of the environment through educational programs and gardening and conservation efforts. The GCA was incorporated in Delaware in 1923, with its headquarters established in New York City. Today, local clubs are organized under twelve regional zones. The GCA continues its tradition of hosting flower shows and publishing material related to gardening in the United States.

The GCA's glass lantern slides were used by the GCA for presentations and lectures about notable gardens throughout the United States dating back to colonial times. An effort was made in the late 1980s, in preparation of the 75th anniversary of the Garden Club of America's founding, to collect the disbursed slides. These slides were to eventually form the Slide Library of Notable American Parks and Gardens. The informational value of this collection is extensive since a number of images of the more than 4,500 gardens represented show garden designs that have changed over time or no longer exist. While the majority of images document a range of designed upper and upper-middle class gardens throughout the U.S., the scope of the collection is expanding as volunteers photograph and document contemporary gardens including community and vernacular gardens.


The GCA's Slide Library of Notable American Parks and Gardens was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1992; this became the core collection of the Archives of American Gardens.