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Michigan Horticultural Society records

Identifier: 00163

Scope and Content

This collection includes administrative files of the Michigan Horticultural Society (MHS), correspondence, financial records, executive board materials, brochures, and other materials from garden shows, publicity materials, early MHS publications, and photographs.


  • Creation: 1904-1971, undated

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Historical Note

The Michigan Horticultural Society (MHS) was founded in 1932 by a group of Detroit area people, principally Mrs. Lloyd L. (Marion) Hughes of Detroit. The Society's first officers included Earl D. Burke of Lansing, President; Mrs. W. D. Thompson and Mrs. Lloyd L. Hughes, Vice-President; E. Genevieve Gillette of Ann Arbor, Secretary; and Fred W. Robinson, Treasurer. Paul Krone, an extension specialist at Michigan State College (now Michigan State University), also figured prominently in the early development of MHS.

Although it was formed during the Great Depression, the Michigan Horticultural Society grew rapidly. By 1939, 24 regional chapters had been established in the state, with a total membership of 1,125. The organization attracted amateur, professional, and commercial gardeners.

Patterned after the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which was founded in 1845, the Michigan Horticultural Society was established to "stimulate interest in horticulture and to disseminate garden and horticultural information." MHS was concerned not only with home gardening, but also with civic and highway planting, garden education in schools, encouragement of commercial production of bulbs and seeds in Michigan, promotion of the art of landscaping, writing garden books, and the conservation of natural resources. Its founders expected the Society to become a powerful force in the state for protecting our natural resources. The bay tree, standing for nobility and excellence, was chosen as the organization's emblem. The Society was given space at City Colleges of Detroit to set up an office, but after World War II, Belle Isle became the Society's permanent home.

The first MHS flower shows in Detroit were merely booths set up in public halls where young women of social prominence sold nosegays to defray the Society's expenses. When Detroit florists took over the flower shows, exhibits varied from funeral arrangements to beds of red geraniums. From its inception in the mid-1930s, the annual "Spring Flower Show" became the hallmark of the Michigan Horticultural Society.

A major goal of MHS was fulfilled around 1943 when the Michigan Horticultural Society combined its book collection with the library of the Detroit Garden Center and formed the Garden Library of Michigan. The library, housed on Belle Isle, received a large collection of books from the family of Esther Longyear Murphy. Mrs. Murphy had been a trustee of MHS, chairman of the Prizes and Awards committee, and an active member of the Detroit Garden Center.

The Michigan Horticultural Society provided its members with lectures, workshops, and garden tours. Noted horticulturists and garden specialists from throughout the United States presented the lectures and workshops. Members also received a yearbook and a subscription to Horticultural News (renamed Michigan Gardner, circa 1946). This horticultural magazine was directed primarily to Michigan gardeners. Unlike most gardening magazines of this period, which focused on general discussions about flowers and gardening, Horticultural News published articles written by horticultural specialists who understood the diverse soil and climate of Michigan, and offered scientific advice for gardening in Michigan.

The Society also worked closely with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University horticultural departments. Many Michigan Horticultural Society trustees and officers over the years served on the faculties of the two Universities.

The Society's records reveal a financial crisis in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the rising cost of flowers and gardening supplies began to take its toil on the quality and success of flower shows.

NOTE: The Michigan Horticultural Society has no connection with the Michigan State Horticultural Society, which was founded in 1870. Partially subsidized by the State government until 1970, the Michigan State Horticultural Society is concerned more with promoting fruit farming than with flowers and private gardens.


1.5 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Organization of the Records

(1) ADMINISTRATIVE FILES. 1932-1971, undated

The administrative files document the administration and activities of the Michigan Horticultural Society (MHS) and include financial records, executive committee materials, annual meeting materials and committee materials. The earlier records, created while the Society's original founders were still active, are more detailed, especially the committee and financial records. The series lacks consistent records from 1965 to 1971.

(2) GARDEN SHOWS AND OTHER PROJECTS. 1938-1971, undated

The contents of this series provides a fairly detailed history of the MHS garden shows and projects. Through correspondence, brochures and flower show judging sheets, the garden show files illustrate the evolution of the annual Spring Flower Show which was variously called the "Michigan Flower and Garden Exhibition," "The Spring Flower Show," and the "Builder's Home, Furniture, and Flower Show." The series also includes records of MHS's involvement in the Clara B. Ford Garden Forum.

(3) PUBLICITY. 1936-1970, undated

The publicity series spans 34 years with numerous gaps in the records. The series includes handwritten drafts of articles by Mrs. Lloyd L. (Marion) Hughes, radio scripts from the 1930s pertaining to the organization and gardening, newspaper clippings about MHS, and awards received by the Michigan Horticultural Society.

(4) PUBLICATIONS. 1932-1970

This series consists mainly of early Michigan Horticultural Society publications including the first two MHS Yearbooks and the first issue of Horticulture News and annual reports of the organization.

(5) MISCELLANEOUS. 1948-1965, undated

This series contains information related indirectly to the Michigan Horticultural Society. The MHS Library Collection file consist of three items from the organization's library. The Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr. Centennial Celebration file contains a variety of detailed information on the famed horticulturalist's life and accomplishments. Garden club, flower show, and miscellaneous horticultural information from a variety of sources reflect the Society's association with other horticulture groups and activities. There is also a scrapbook with meeting and show programs and articles.

(6) PHOTOGRAPHS. 1904-1968, undated

These records are organized into 5 series

Missing Title

  1. Series 1: Administrative Files, 1932 - 1971
  2. Series 2: Garden Shows and Other Projects, 1938 - 1971
  3. Series 3: Publicity, 1936 - 1970
  4. Series 4: Publications, 1932 - 1944, 1970
  5. Series 5: Miscellaneous, 1948 - 1961

Custodial History

Gift of Gerald E. Draheim

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University.

Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Michigan Horticultural Society Records
4 Published And Cataloged
M. McCauley
March 1987
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US