Finalist For the 2018 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION
ABOUT THE BOOK When Dr. David Hosack tilled the country’s first public botanical garden in the Manhattan soil more than two hundred years ago, he didn’t just dramatically alter the New York landscape; he left a monumental legacy of advocacy for public health and wide-ranging support for the sciences. A charismatic dreamer admired by the likes of Jefferson, Madison, and Humboldt, and intimate friends with both Hamilton and Burr, the Columbia professor devoted his life to inspiring Americans to pursue medicine and botany with a rigor to rival Europe’s. Though he was shoulder-to-shoulder with the founding fathers―and even present at the fatal duel that took Hamilton’s life―Hosack and his story remain unknown. Now, in melodic prose, historian Victoria Johnson eloquently chronicles Hosack’s tireless career to reveal the breadth of his impact. The result is a lush portrait of the man who gave voice to a new, deeply American understanding of the powers and perils of nature.
From the meadows of Manhattan and correspondents around the world, Hosack collected over two thousand species at his twenty-acre botanical garden. He used these plants to conduct some of the first pharmaceutical research in the United States and to experiment with new crops. In his enormous conservatory, Hosack introduced New Yorkers to ornamental flowers, shrubs, and trees from as far away as Japan, Madagascar, and the Cape of Good Hope. He had coffee trees, tamarind trees, and banana trees. Flame lilies, bird-of-paradise flowers, and sweet-scented daphne greeted visitors to his American Eden. Today, Radio City Music Hall sits on the footprint of Hosack's conservatory. His land is home to Rockefeller Center.
Browse through Hosack's 1811 plant catalogue for his botanical garden.
See a list of selected plants with their historical and contemporary names.
For the complete bibliography of primary and secondary sources used in American Eden, please click here.
Read my piece for The New York Botanical Garden on Alexander Hamilton's horticultural efforts.