NY Public School Urban Gardening A Collection of Original Vintage Photographs (1916-1920)
Photo ArchiveImportant collection of 43 original vintage photos of the Public School Gardening Movement in Queens, New York City, 1916-1920. The school gardening movement was a nationwide initiative to create gardens for children, peaking1900-1920. The movement integrated many aspects of Progressive Era urban reform, including education reform, tenement house work, and the transformation of the urban environment with Small Parks and City Beautiful. Unfolding in cities across the country, including Berkeley, Boston, Dayton, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago; it was directly influenced by the educational "nature-study" movement which advocated the study of the natural world, the growth of children's gardening programs in Europe and the development of the modern playground. These 43 photos show children planting, harvesting, watering, and carrying their produced, under the guidance of teachers. Most are approximately 2"x4" with some bearing dates 1916-1920 and a few with notes or names of those pictured. This collection is particularly relevant today as there is a resurgence of interest in the urban gardening model, and the benefit to children of time spent in direct contact with the natural world.
The leader of the school gardening movement was Frances Griscom Parsons (1850-1923), who created the first example in New York City, and helped invent a profession of school garden advocacy. In 1902, she created the "Children's School Farm" on a plot of land in Hell's Kitchen where immigrant children living in congested tenements surrounded by warehouses, factories, slaughterhouses, and the docks could have their own plot of land to grow vegetables. Parsons created the garden to counteract the slum conditions by providing an open space and experience of nature that was so glaringly absent from the neighborhood. However, she emphasized that she did not start the farm "simply to grow a few vegetables and flowers." Parsons believed that gardening would teach children values and skills applicable to their lives in the city, specifically, "brotherhood, cooperation, self-respect, and the dignity of labor." By "playing the part of little farmers," the children would become urban citizens. (This was particularly essential as many of them were children of immigrants or immigrants themselves). The farm-which had a deep resonance in the American imagination-was the site of Parson's vision of an idealized city, as manifested in her design of the farm into four "boroughs" with the main path named "Broadway," and an government elected among the children.
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