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THE recent awakening of a national interest in the movement toward the conservation of our natural resources has emphasized the need for a collection of literature on all phases of Arbor Day more modern than the excellent Manual published by New York in 1889 and more comprehensive than the many small Arbor Day annuals brought out by the various states.
The editor has aimed to include in the present volume the most practical as well as the most beautiful essays, articles, letters, stories, exercises, and poems that have been written about Arbor Day, its history, observance, spirit, and significance, as well as those on Spring, trees, flowers, and “green things growing."
The section on Conservation is of especial timeliness.
ALTHOUGH Arbor Day is one of the newest of our American holidays, its institution is merely the revival of an ancient custom. It is said that the Aztecs always planted a tree when an infant came into the world, and gave
it the child's own name. And the old Mexican Indians plant trees on certain days of the year, under the full moon, naming them after their children.
There is a similar custom of long standing in certain parts of rural Germany, where each member of each family plants a tree with appropriate ceremonies at Whitsuntide, forty days after Easter.
Some unknown seeker after truth once discovered in a Swiss chronicle of the fifth century an account of an early and curious institution of Arbor Day. It seems that the people of a little Swiss town called Brugg assembled in council and resolved to plant a forest of oak trees on the common. The first rainy day thereafter the citizens began their work. They dug holes in the ground with canes and sticks, and dropped an acorn into each hole, tramping the dirt over it. More than twelve sacks were sown in this way, and after the work was done each citizen received a wheaten roll as a reward.
For some reason the work was all in vain, for the seed never came up. Perhaps the acorns were laid too deep, or it might have been that the tramping of so many feet had packed the earth too firmly. Whatever the cause, the acorns refused to sprout, and the townspeople sowed the same ground with rye and oats, and after the harvest they tried the acorn planting again — this time in another way — by plowing the soil and sowing the acorns in the furrows. But again the "great oaks” refused to grow; grass came up instead, and the people were disappointed. But an oak grove they were determined to have, so after this second failure a few wise men put their heads together and decided to gain the desired result by transplanting. A day was appointed in October, and the whole community, men, women, and children, marched to the woods, dug up oak saplings, and transplanted them on the
At the close of the exercises each girl and boy was presented with a roll, and in the evening the grown people had a merry feast in the town hall.
This time the trees grew. The people of Brugg were pleased and satisfied, and instituted the day of tree-planting as a yearly holiday.
Every year as the day came around the children formed in line and marched to the oak grove, bringing back twigs or switches, thus proving that the oaks were thriving, and every year at the close of the parade the rolls were distributed to be eaten in
remembrance of the day. This festival still exists and is known as “The Switch Parade.'
“The first to call attention in this country, in an impressive way, to the value and absolute need of trees," writes Egleston,* “was that eminent scholar and wise observer, Mr. George P. Marsh, for many years our worthy representative at the courts of Italy and Turkey. His residence in those older countries was calculated to draw his attention to the subject as it would not have been drawn had he always lived in his native land.
“In Europe Mr. Marsh found the governments of Italyand Germany, as well as those of other countries, making active endeavors and at great expense to rehabilitate their forests, which had been depleted centuries before, to guard them from depredation, and, instead of leaving them to be consumed at the bidding of personal greed or recklessness, cherishing them as among their most precious possessions. He found schools, of a grade corresponding to our colleges, established for the special purpose of training men for the successful planting and cultivation of forests. He found the growth of trees in masses and their maintenance reduced to a science, and the management of the woodlands constituting one of the most important departments of state.
“ Such discoveries were well calculated to fix his attention upon the very different condition of the
*"Arbor Day: Its History and Observance,” by N. H. Egleston.