To J. Sterling Morton, ex-Governor of Nebraska, and Secretary of Agriculture under President Cleveland, belongs the honor of originating this tree-planting festival, and he is popularly known throughout our whole country as the "father of Arbor Day." So well has the day been observed in Nebraska since 1872 that there are now over 700,000 acres of trees in that state planted by human hands.
The successful establishment of the day in Nebraska commended it at once to the p
In the latter state it took on a new character, which has caused it to spread rapidly throughout the country. The teachers and pupils of the schools were invited to unite in its observance, and instead of trees being planted merely as screens from the winds, they were also planted for ornamental purposes and as memorials of important historical events and of celebrated persons, authors, statesmen, and others. Thus the tree-planting has gained a literary aspect and an interest for all classes, for young as well as old. In preparation for it the pupils of the schools have been led to the study of trees, their characteristics and uses. They have learned the history of celebrated trees and of persons who have been connected with them. They have become familiar with the lives of eminent persons and the best writings of distinguished authors, and thus have received most valuable instruction, while, at the same time, their finer tastes have been cultivated.
Since the observance of the day has been modified, as it was on its introduction into Ohio, it has spread rapidly through the country and at present forty-four states and territories celebrate Arbor Day. Its every way healthful and desirable features have so generally commended it also that it has gained a foothold abroad and has begun to be observed in England, Scotland, France, and even in far-off South Africa. It has become preëminently a school day and a school festival. In many cases school teachers and superintendents have introduced its observance. But it has soon so commended itself to all that, in most cases, it has been established by law and made a legal holiday.