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The City Natural

Garden and Forest Magazine and the Rise of American Environmentalism

Shen Hou

Publication Year: 2013

The weekly magazine Garden and Forest existed for only nine years (1888–1897). Yet, in that brief span, it brought to light many of the issues that would influence the future of American environmentalism. In The City Natural, Shen Hou presents the first “biography” of this important but largely overlooked vehicle for individuals with the common goal of preserving nature in American civilization. As Hou’s study reveals, Garden and Forest was instrumental in redefining the fields of botany and horticulture, while also helping to shape the fledgling professions of landscape architecture and forestry. The publication actively called for reform in government policy, urban design, and future planning for the preservation and inclusion of nature in cities. It also attempted to shape public opinion on these issues through a democratic ideal that every citizen had the right (and need) to access nature. These notions would anticipate the conservation and “city beautiful” movements that followed in the early twentieth century. Hou explains the social and environmental conditions that led to the rise of reform efforts, organizations, and publications such as Garden and Forest. She reveals the intellectual core and vision of the magazine as a proponent of the city natural movement that sought to relate nature and civilization through the arts and sciences. Garden and Forest was a staunch advocate of urban living made better through careful planning and design. As Hou shows, the publication also promoted forest management and preservation, not only as a natural resource but as an economic one. She also profiles the editors and contributors who set the magazine’s tone and follows their efforts to expand America’s environmental expertise. Through the pages of Garden and Forest, the early period of environmentalism was especially fruitful and optimistic; many individuals joined forces for the benefit of humankind and helped lay the foundation for a coherent national movement. Shen Hou’s study gives Garden and Forest its due and adds an important new chapter to the early history of American environmentalism.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: History of the Urban Environment

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6


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pp. 7-8

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pp. ix-xi

In his Principles of Psychology (1890), the scientist and philosopher of pragmatism William James asserted that an infant feels the world “as one great blooming, buzzing confusion.” Growing older, we learn to see it as an orderly succession of discrete objects, but that order may or may not conform to reality. Confronted by bewildering complexity, we tend to look for a few simple categories...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-11

A novel published in the late nineteenth century, Looking Backward, 2000– 1887, offered a highly influential glimpse into America’s urban future. The whole nation would move into cities reorganized into a socialistic paradise where everyone received the same income and lived together in harmony. Science and technology would meet every human need and enhance happiness...

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1. The Origins of Environmental Reform

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pp. 12-28

The United States in the late nineteenth century was at the crucial milestone of entering a new urban industrial age. Immigrants from abroad and migrants from the countryside flooded into cities, looking for jobs and housing in the changing economy. Right before the Civil War, the US urban population constituted only 19.8 percent of the total population. In 1880, it reached 28.2 percent. Ten years later, 35.1 percent of the American people...

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2. Two Minds, One Magazine

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pp. 29-54

William A. Stiles had neither the time nor the mood to celebrate Christmas and the new year of 1888. Besides his routine editorial writing for the New York Tribune, he had accepted a new job as managing editor of the forthcoming weekly magazine Garden and Forest. The idea for this new publication had come from Charles S. Sargent, the founder and director of the...

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3. Shaping New Professions

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pp. 55-86

The late nineteenth century was a formative period for many fledgling professions dealing with the human environment—forestry, gardening, urban design, and even conservation. The advocates of those new professions were seeking self-definitions and identities. They wanted to set standards and justify these new areas of expertise that were challenging the...

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Garden and Forest Gallery

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pp. 87-99

The visual iconography of Garden and Forest magazine was an important part of its environmental message: to naturalize the city and harmonize its people and their lives within the broader context of green plants, forests and other habitats, and the general forces of nature. The illustrations in this gallery are representative of the magazine’s pages and exemplify its ideals. The gallery includes photographs, line drawings and etchings, and designs for...

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4. Nature and Civilization

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pp. 100-126

Late-nineteenth-century Tunis, a small French colony on the edge of the vast desert in northern Africa, might have seemed remote and exotic to most people living on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Although Tunisians could trace their history back to the tenth century BC, for most Americans, who as a whole were marching in the vanguard of an industrial and urban era, this semiarid part...

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5. Design with Nature

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pp. 127-151

Garden and Forest magazine was deeply engaged in curing the problems that came with the transition from a rural to an urban society. Those problems seemed to follow the loss of nature and green spaces in American life. Sitting in his Manhattan editorial office, William Stiles witnessed that loss occurring in one of the most populated spots in the world...

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6. Distant Forests

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pp. 152-182

Today, when one looks at a map of the United States, one can see extensive patches of green, from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific, that represent the many national and state parks and national forests. Most of these green areas are located far away from such big cities as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or Chicago. These green areas are sharply different from major urban areas and express what may seem very different values from those of...

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pp. 183-190

Although the term “environmentalism” acquired its current meaning only in the second half of the twentieth century, it traces its intellectual, social, and political origins to a period fifty to one hundred years earlier. Some would say its roots go even deeper—back to early American naturalists or the New England transcendentalists, particularly Henry David Thoreau, in the 1840s and 1850s, all of whom expressed environmental concerns. Those...


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pp. 191-218


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pp. 219-230


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pp. 231-240

E-ISBN-13: 9780822978589
E-ISBN-10: 082297858X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822944232
Print-ISBN-10: 0822944235

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 7 b&w photos, 10 line drawings
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: History of the Urban Environment
Series Editor Byline: Martin V. Melosi and Joel A. Tarr, Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 859687285
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The City Natural

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Environmentalism -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Garden and forest -- Influence.
  • Urban ecology (Biology) -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Urban ecology (Sociology) -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Nature -- Effect of human beings on -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • City planning -- Environmental aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States -- Environmental conditions -- History -- 19th century.
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