In 1827, the nation's first passenger and freight railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio, was incorporated, slavery was abolished in the state of New York, and on November 24, a group of gentleman farmers, botanists and other plant enthusiasts held a meeting to create the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. There, it was resolved "to establish a Horticultural Society in the City of Philadelphia for the promotion of this interesting and highly influential branch of Science." At this time, the fledging PHS boasted 80 members. Today, our membership is 23,500 strong.
Community, friendship, and glorious gardens all describe PHS, but interwoven with these descriptions is tradition, and the tradition that looms in most minds, is the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, held each year at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The first Flower Show was in 1829 at the Masonic Hall on Chestnut Street, where the well-known Christmas favorite, the poinsettia, was introduced. Over the decades, the event has grown dramatically to become the nation's grandest Flower Show, attracting nearly 300,000 visitors annually.
Our greening programs are another integral part of the tradition at PHS. From neighborhood parks to the restoration of major public landscapes, such as Penn's Landing and the grounds of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, PHS has involved thousands of city residents in an ongoing effort to make the city a more livable, likable place to live and work.
The greatest PHS tradition, however, is volunteering. If there is any single concept that gets to the core of PHS's mission, it is the act of getting together with other gardeners of all backgrounds and "working the soil." Whether it's planting fall bulbs in a Philadelphia neighborhood, taking a tour of other members' gardens, or joining other avid gardeners to help stage the Flower Show, when gardeners come together, great things happen.
Fostering the passion for sowing and growing together has been one of the greatest achievements to emerge in the history of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
To access the McLean Library's digital collection including gardening books and periodicals published before 1923, click here.