Events planned to celebrate Humphry Marshall’s 300th Anniversary

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a picture of one of the 10 banners now displayed in West Chester and Marshallton, West Bradford Township. Artwork on the banner by the celebrated Chester County artist Adrian Martinez.

If you live in the county seat of West Chester, you may have seen one of the banners (shown here) put up by the Humphry Marshall 300 Committee announcing the 300th anniversary of Marshall’s birthday.  The ad-hoc committee – comprised of volunteers and staff at Chester County History Center as well as  two non-profit groups – have worked for the past year, planning events and lectures to promote the 300th anniversary of the birth of Humphry Marshall (1722-1801) .  The goal is to come together as a community  – and to  educate the public about this explorer of the natural world whose diverse talents contributed greatly to the nation and to Chester County.

Who is Humphry Marshall?   While not as well-known today as his cousin (and fellow botanist) John Bartram  (1699 – 1777), whose Philadelphia homestead, Bartram Gardens, is now open to the public,  Humphry Marshall was an esteemed colonial botanist and scientist.

He established the nation’s second botanical garden and one of the first arboretums of native trees in what is today West Bradford, Chester County.  Marshall’s hometown, Marshallton, was named in his honor as was Marshall Square Park in West Chester.

Marshall’s scientific studies were encouraged by Ben Franklin and colleagues abroad and ranged from publications on tortoises, sunspots, forest conservation, and scientific farming methods. However, Marshall’s major contribution is considered to be  Abrustrum Americanum: the American Grove, (1785), a catalog of American plants, trees and shrubs following the Linnaean system of plant classification. It was the first publication of its kind; a botanical treatise based on Marshall’s plant and seed collections and the first book written by an American on native plants and trees and published in America.

Perhaps the most exciting endorsement of  Marshall to date:  This past month West Chester Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste declared 2022 “The Year of Humphry Marshall.”  The proclamation was presented at a recent borough hall meeting with Malcolm Johnstone, former manager of the borough’s Business Improvement District, pictured here in the guise of Humphry Marshall.

The Chester County Commissioners have also acknowledged Humphry Marshall as has West Bradford Township, the birthplace of Marshall. On Marshall’s official 300th birthday on October 8th, township officials plan to dedicate a new park in Marshallton called Humphry Marshall Historical Park.   Other events are described below. All are free and open to the public.

SAVE THE DATE:

Learn about the celebrated colonial botanist and scientist on August 18th when the West Bradford Historical Commission hosts the free Town Tours & Village Walks.  The annual tour, now in its 28th year, takes place in a different part of the county each year and highlight Chester County’s rich history and architecture.

This year’s theme, “Founding Fathers & Mothers” is well-suited for the Marshallton tour since Humphry Marshall was the village’s namesake.  Explore the historic sites of Marshall’s hometown and learn about his achievements and the village’s growth as a drover stop on the Strasburg Road.     Each tour generally lasts 50 minutes and begins at 5:30 p.m. with the last tour departing at 7 p.m. Parking & Registration is at the United Methodist Church of Marshallton, 1282 W. Strasburg Road.

On October 8th, another Marshallton group, the Friends of Martin’s Tavern (FOMT), will celebrate Humphry Marshall’s 300th birthday with a day-long celebration. The free, family-friendly event will include open hearth cooking and tastings, period music, colonial brews, and children’s activities. Several prominent speakers will also present programs throughout the afternoon.  Please keep updated at www.martinstavern.org

The Chester County History Center, which had a major year-long exhibit on Humphry Marshall featuring the work of artist Adrian Martinez back in 2016, continues to promote the life and times of Marshall.   This past spring the History Center held a native tree giveaway along with sponsor Barlett Tree Service. The specimen trees included those Humphry Marshall grew and promoted in the mid-1700s.

In addition to other in-person events, the History Center will be facilitating a series of virtual (Zoom) presentations titled “Humphry Marshall Heritage Horticultural Speaker Series.

The programs are free and begin at 7 p.m.

On September 14th, the first speaker will be Joel Fry, the longtime curator of Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia. (The former home of Marshall’s cousin John Bartram ). Fry will present an illustrated program called “Horticultural Cousins: Bartram and Marshall.”

On September 28th, Ron McColl, special Collections Librarian at West Chester University, will present a program about one of West Chester’s celebrated 19th-century botanists who followed in Humphry Marshall’s footsteps in promoting native plants.  The program is titled

“Dr. William Darlington: West Chester’s Janus of American Botany.”

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