Contributor: Cian Duffy
Location: Philadelphia, USA
Description: Located on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, John Bartram’s garden is the oldest botanical garden in America. It was founded in 1728 when Bartram purchased the land in what was then Kingsessing Township, an area originally inhabited by the Lenape people and settled by the Swede Hans Månsson in the mid seventeenth century. Bartram built the stone house which still stands today and laid out the original garden which was later expanded and maintained by his sons William, who made an early sketch of the property, and John junior. The Bartrams helped to shape the estates and gardens of the Romantic period by introducing many American plant species to Britain, and William’s widely-read account of his botanical expeditions in connection with the garden, Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulgees, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws (1791), is known to have influenced François-René de Chateaubriand, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth. Bartram’s Garden exemplifies not only the increasing prominence of botany as a branch of natural philosophy during the eighteenth century but also the rise of plant collecting as an index of cultural and economic capital.