Holiday laid its roots in Nebraska


By Kristin Zagurski

Today is Arbor Day, a nationally-celebrated holiday that encourages tree planting and care. It was founded in Nebraska in 1872 by journalist J. Sterling Morton.

Morton was the editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper. Using the power of the press, he spread agricultural information and his enthusiasm for trees.

Morton advocated tree planting by individuals in his articles and editorials and encouraged civic organizations and groups to join in.

On Jan. 4, 1872, Morton first proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day” at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture.

The date was set for April 10, 1872, a date on which more than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska.

Arbor Day was officially proclaimed by Gov. Robert W. Furnas on March 12, 1874. In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday in Nebraska and April 22, Morton’s birthday, was selected as the date for its permanent observance.

During the 1870s, other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day.

Today, the most common date for the state observances is the last Friday in April, and several United States presidents have proclaimed a national Arbor Day on that date. But a number of state Arbor Days are at other times to coincide with the best tree planting weather, from January and February in the south to May in the far north.

Arbor Day has now spread beyond the United States and is observed in many countries of the world.

The National Arbor Day Foundation’s Web site at offers many suggestions for the celebration of Arbor Day.

Among the suggestions are Arbor Day concerts with songs about trees, holding a paper drive to gather paper to be recycled and save a tree, dedicating a tree or holding an Arbor Day Fair.

Tree planting is the most common way to celebrate Arbor Day.

The Web site says planting a tree is “an act of optimism and kindness, a labor of love and a commitment to stewardship.”

Information for this article was taken from