Barber’s Trees

chs_1953_5_56The New Haven artist John Warner Barber knew a lot about trees. When he traveled around Connecticut in the early 1830s making sketches for his book, Connecticut Historical Collections, he carefully noted the species of the trees, so that he would be able to portray them correctly in the wood-engraved illustrations. Many of his drawings include young trees, recently set out, providing us with some idea of what kinds of trees people were planting in that period. Young trees, including at least one young elm, are shown lining the town green in Guilford. In his sketch of the Nathan Hale homestead in Coventry, Barber specifically noted the presence of “young maples” lining the road leading to the house. Some of those trees, now grown to massive old age, still survive. I wonder how many of Barber’s young trees are still to be found, scattered about Connecticut.

Over 300 of Barber’s views of Connecticut towns, including preliminary sketches and finished wash drawings, may be seen in Connecticut History Online, a collaborative digital library of historic images of the state.

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