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J. Horace McFarland Collection


The J. Horace McFarland Collection consists mainly of photographic materials and watercolor paintings from the J. Horace McFarland Company/Mount Pleasant Press, a prominent American printer of nursery catalogs, horticultural books, and trade publications. The collection spans the years 1896 to 1963, and occupies 432 linear feet. The collection was in the possession of the J. Horace McFarland Company until 1991, when James W. Walsh, the company’s president, donated the materials to the Archives of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The Archives subsequently transferred portions of the collection to the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Horticulture and the National Agricultural Library. The condition of the collection materials varies, with some in good condition while others are quite fragile. The glass and film negatives in Series II require preservation treatment and are currently unavailable for research use. There are no restrictions on the rest of the materials. The collection was described by Diane Wunsch in 2011.

Finding Aid File


Biographical Sketch

John Horace McFarland (1859-1948) was an American master printer and horticulturist. Throughout his career, he advocated for civic beautification, and he became a leader in the conservation movement of the early twentieth century. His wide-ranging achievements made a lasting impact on printing processes, horticulture, and environmental protection.

During McFarland’s early years, his father operated a nursery and a small weekly newspaper in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. McFarland worked in both of his father’s businesses as a youth. These early experiences instilled the passion for horticultural beauty and the business expertise that distinguished him personally and professionally. He eventually purchased his father’s press. Combining the skills learned from these early experiences, he established a successful printing company of his own. He founded the J. Horace McFarland Company/Mount Pleasant Press, specializing in seed catalogs and nursery trade publications.

McFarland’s home, Breeze Hill, was situated on a 2.5 acre property in Harrisburg. The extensive gardens he cultivated at Breeze Hill were used to test plant varieties from around the world. These gardens also provided subjects for artists and photographers employed by Mount Pleasant Press to capture accurate representations of plant specimens for use in the company’s printed publications.

Over the course of his lifetime, McFarland wrote and lectured extensively on horticulture, printing methods, and civic improvement. He founded the American Civic Association in 1904, and served as its president for 20 years. Through his involvement in the Association, he educated the public about the benefits of civic beautification and promoted the conservation of natural resources. He also drew upon the Association’s influence to promote conservation efforts on local and national levels. McFarland vigorously opposed power company development of Niagara Falls and fought to preserve the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite from damming. After the latter effort failed, he championed the conservation of America’s national parks. He helped lead the effort that resulted in Congress’s passage of the 1916 legislation establishing the National Park Service.

In addition to his many other accomplishments, McFarland was a prominent member of the American Rose Society. He was instrumental in enlarging that organization’s focus from mainly commercial growing concerns to public membership, using his horticultural expertise and printing business to help popularize the cultivation of roses by amateur gardeners. He served as the Society’s president from 1930 to 1932, and he headed a committee that developed a method of identification and registration of rose varieties. McFarland operated one of the Society’s rose test gardens at Breeze Hill. For many years, he kept detailed records on hundreds of rose varieties, methods for cultivating them, and awards they won.

Organizational History

J. Horace McFarland founded his printing business in 1878 at the age of 19, after purchasing his father’s printing press. The business grew and was moved to the former Mount Pleasant School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1889, where it became known as Mount Pleasant Press. The company started printing stock lists and unillustrated catalogs, which were the customary materials used at that time by nursery operators to advertise their products and prices. McFarland began to envision these lists as the basis for a new approach to horticultural advertising, using emerging processes for printing color imagery and photographs to increase the materials’ impact. He marketed his ideas to growers and nursery operators, and began to carve out a business niche for himself as a specialist in horticultural printing.

McFarland emphasized accuracy in printed color representations. He employed staff artists to work in gardens, painting true-to-life images of the plants and flowers. These images were collected by the company and used as examples in the printing process to achieve precise color renderings.

In addition to nursery catalogs, the J. Horace McFarland Company/Mount Pleasant Press produced books, magazines, and other horticultural trade publications. The company employed writers, editors, artists, and photographers in order to provide full publishing services to its customers.

After the death of its founder, Mount Pleasant Press was run by McFarland’s son Robert, until he sold the business in 1962. The company continued to operate until it was closed in the early 1990s.

Scope and Content Note

J. Horace McFarland (1859-1948) operated his horticultural printing business, the J. Horace McFarland Company/Mount Pleasant Press, from 1878 until his death in 1848. His son, Robert, continued to run the company until he sold it in 1962. The materials in this collection came from the company’s records and span most of its existence under the McFarlands’ management, from the late 1890s through 1962. The collection also contains materials from the test gardens located at McFarland’s Breeze Hill property in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Included in the collection are photographs, negatives, transparencies, 35-millimeter slides, nursery and seed trade catalogs, horticultural publications, watercolor paintings, and rose cards describing the development and cultivation of rose varieties. There is also a set of miscellaneous papers from the J. Horace McFarland Company, which includes samples of print work that the company produced. There are ten series of items, most of which are in good condition, with some exceptions. Most of the photographs in Series I are in fair to good condition, although some have been affected by the warping of their mounting boards, discoloration, or water damage. A few items retain printer’s marks or masking. Some of the glass lantern slides in Series III are cracked. Many of the negatives in Series II are seriously damaged or are in various stages of deterioration. As a result, Series II is unavailable for use until conservation treatment can be completed. There are no restrictions on the use of the rest of the collection.

The bulk of the collection consists of photographic materials and images that were produced and used by the J. Horace McFarland Company/Mount Pleasant Press. Series I and II contain prints and negatives of images that were available for sale to McFarland’s customers for illustrating catalogs and other publications. Series III and V contain lantern slides and transparencies, respectively, that McFarland used in his lectures. Most of these images portray horticultural subjects, primarily plants and plant varieties along with detailed images of flowers, fruits, foliage, and plant specimens. Other subjects include garden, orchard, farm, and landscape plantings, as well as horticultural processes, such as transplanting or pruning.

Many of the photographs and negatives in Series I and II were taken at Breeze Hill in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the site of McFarland’s home and test gardens. These series include images of plants, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and trees, along with examples of early- to mid-twentieth century landscape gardening. Boxes 110, 111, and 133 of Series I contain scenic images that include early twentieth century rural life, transportation, livestock, gardens, and parks. Most of these scenes depict areas of Pennsylvania and the eastern United States, with numerous images of Harrisburg and Breeze Hill. Evidence of McFarland’s interest in improving public spaces can be found in such subject categories as “Wires and Poles,” documenting the unsightliness of telephone and electric power lines, and “Tree Butchery,” illustrating the effects of over-pruning. Series I Box 66 contains pictures of the interior and exterior of the J. Horace McFarland Company/Mount Pleasant Press.

McFarland maintained high standards for color reproduction in his company’s printed materials. Series VI consists of a set of watercolor paintings produced by McFarland Company staff artists, whose job was to paint pictures of plants growing in gardens in order to represent their exact colors. These paintings were used as benchmarks to achieve precise color rendering in the printing process.

The rose cards in Series VII describe hundreds of varieties of roses. They record names of rose varieties and details about their plants and blooms. Some of the cards contain historical notes regarding the origins and introductions of particular varieties.

Series VIII and IX contain nursery catalogs and trade publications from the files of the J. Horace McFarland Company’s offices. Many of these were printed by the J. Horace McFarland Company/Mount Pleasant Press. Series VIII consists of catalogs from nursery businesses across the United States, the bulk of which are materials from the 1930s through the early 1960s. Series IX has several booklets on gardening, landscaping, national parks, and other horticultural topics. Several copies of the Finding-List of Plants at Breeze Hill Gardens from Series IX are housed separately in the Special Collections stacks.

The original labeling and filing systems from Mount Pleasant Press have been preserved as much as possible in the arrangement of the collection. Most of the materials are filed alphabetically by plant name, variously using Latin botanical names and common names. It is recommended that researchers check for both when searching in this collection. Subject terms other than plant names are interfiled alphabetically with the plants.

Series Description

Series I. Photographs. 1896-1963. 133 boxes.

Series I consists of black and white photographic prints mounted on 8.5-inch by 10.5-inch cards. Handwritten annotations on each card may include the image subject, date, plant variety name, location of the subject, and other remarks. Some of the cards have information on the reverse noting dates and names of purchasers who bought the rights to use the images in their publications. Image subjects cover many varieties of plants, flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables, along with landscape plantings, horticultural processes, scenic views, parks, and related horticultural topics. Series I includes extensive sections on azaleas, gardens and gardening, narcissus, roses and tulips. Arranged alphabetically by plant name (either botanical or common) or subject term (e.g., foundation planting, garden, lawn, scenic views, etc.).

Series II. Negatives. Circa 1890s-1960s. 170 boxes.

Glass plate and film negatives representing the stock of photographic images that the J. Horace McFarland Company made available to its clients are contained in Series II. This series is awaiting preservation and remains unprocessed. There is currently no container listing for these materials and they are not available for use pending completion of preservation treatment.

Series III. Lantern Slides. Undated. 25 boxes.

The glass lantern slides in this series are predominantly color images depicting plant specimens, horticultural subjects, and scenic views. Lantern slides were used for image projection from the latter half of the nineteenth century until the 1950s, when they were replaced by transparencies and 35-millimeter slides. The items in Series III are presumed to be from the early twentieth century. The slides measure 3.25 inches by 4 inches and are individually labeled with the plant name or a subject term. Box 22 includes images of Breeze Hill. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject. Most slides are in good condition, but there are occasional cracked or broken slides throughout the series.

Series IV. 35-millimeter Slides. 1951-1961. 2 boxes.

This series is composed of 35-millimeter color slides of plants, landscape gardening and scenic subjects. Slides are arranged alphabetically by plant name or subject term. Box 1 includes a 4.5-inch by 7-inch ring binder titled “Color Slides,” which consists of a typewritten list of slide images in numerical sequence, divided by alphabetical tabs.

Series V. Transparencies. 1940-1963. 17 boxes.

Series V consists of mostly color transparencies of plant specimens, landscapes, garden plantings, and scenic views. The transparencies are housed individually in envelopes on which are written subject, date, and location information pertaining to the images. Some envelopes reference the record number of the corresponding black and white photograph from Series I. Box 1 of Series V includes a set of images of the J. Horace McFarland Company’s building interior, employees, and equipment, circa early 1960s. The series contents are arranged in a numerical sequence within alphabetical subject groupings.

Series VI. Watercolors. 1906-1962. 34 boxes.

This series is partially processed. It contains watercolor paintings of plant specimens, primarily detailed studies of flowers, foliage, and fruits. Most items are approximately 5.5 by 6.5 inches in size. The paintings are labeled with plant name, date, artist’s initials, and may include source information or additional remarks. Some paintings also have handwritten annotations about the color or physical features of the plant. The items in this series are arranged by the first letter of their scientific plant names. Interfiled with the paintings are printed images from catalogs, postcards, and other publications, and these are grouped with the paintings by subject.

A database containing scanned images of the watercolor paintings is being developed for this series.

Series VII. Rose Cards. 1913-1945, undated. 22 boxes.

Each of the cards in this series describes a rose variety. The cards are arranged alphabetically by the variety name and are 8.5 by 9.5 inches in size. The information contained on these cards may include the rose’s originator, date of introduction, plant and flower descriptions, growth and blooming habits, and any awards won. Some are accompanied by pictures or related clippings from letters or trade publications.

Series VIII. Nursery and Seed Trade Catalogs. 1903-1963. 25 boxes.

The catalogs contained in this series came from the McFarland Company’s offices. Many of them were printed by the company. Series VIII contents are arranged alphabetically by catalog company name.

Series IX. Publications. 1908-1963, undated. 2 boxes.

This series contains miscellaneous publications from the McFarland Company’s offices. A few issues of McFarland’s own publications, Breeze Hill News and The Cloverleaf, are also contained in this series. Subjects include plants, horticulture and gardening, floral arrangement, photography, national parks, and consumer guides. Six editions of the Finding-List of Plants at Breeze Hill Gardens published between 1925 and 1935 are housed in the Special Collections stacks at call number SB408.F56.

Series X. Miscellaneous Papers of the J. Horace McFarland Company/Mount Pleasant Press. 1920-1959, undated. 5 boxes.

The bulk of this series consists of printing samples made by the McFarland Company. The samples are mostly rose plates, but also include images of fruits and vegetables, flowers, gardens, landscape plantings, and other subjects. The series contains a partial set of prints from Mary Lawrance’s Collection of Roses from Nature, which McFarland republished and sold in the 1930s. Also in this series are samples of logo artwork, copies of paintings that were reproduced for the McFarland Company offices, an internal list of employees’ telephone extensions, unmounted stock photos, and McFarland Company calendar covers. There is an oversize photograph of the front entrance of the J. Horace McFarland Company and a diagram of the gardens and grounds at McFarland’s residence, Breeze Hill.


Biographical References

McFarland, J. Horace. Memoirs of a Rose Man: Tales from Breeze Hill. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1949.

McFarland (J. Horace) Company. Sixty Years of Printing Service, 2nd ed. Harrisburg, PA: J. Horace McFarland Company, 1940.

Morrison, Ernest. “Doctor Rose.” Apprise, June 1989: pages 40-47.

Morrison, Ernest. J. Horace McFarland: A Thorn for Beauty. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1995.

Selected Publications by J. Horace McFarland in the Collections of the National Agricultural Library

Lawrence, George Hill Mathewson, Catherine E. Meikle, R[aymond] C[layton] Allen, and J. Horace McFarland. Modern Roses IV: A Uniform Descriptive List of All Roses in Commerce or of Historical or Botanical Importance. Harrisburg, PA: J. H. McFarland, 1952.
Call Number 96.1 M162M Ed. 4

McFarland, J. Horace. Finding-List of Plants at Breeze Hill Gardens, Harrisburg, Pa.: The Residence of J. Horace McFarland, Twenty-first Street, Bellevue Road and Hillside Road: Including Trial-Gardens of the J. Horace McFarland Company, [Harrisburg, PA: J. Horace McFarland Company], 1925-1935.
Call Number SB408.F56

McFarland, J. Horace. Getting Acquainted with the Trees. New York: The Outlook Co., 1904.
Call Number 99.05 M16

McFarland, J. Horace. Memoirs of a Rose Man: Tales from Breeze Hill. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1949.
Call Number 96.1 M162Me

McFarland, J. Horace. Modern Roses: A Uniform Descriptive List of All Important Roses in Commerce. New York: Macmillan, 1930.
Call Number 96.1 M162M

McFarland, J. Horace. My Growing Garden. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1915.
Call Number 97 M162

McFarland, J. Horace. New Life in Old Trees. Kent, OH: Davey Tree Expert Co., 1910.
Call Number 99.05 M16N

McFarland, J. Horace. Not Only the City Beautiful. 1912.
Call Number 98.5 M16

McFarland, J. Horace. Photographing Flowers and Trees, and The Use of Natural Forms in Decorative Photography. New York: Tennant and Ward, 1911.
Call Number 332 M16

McFarland, J. Horace. “The Pines.” Outlook, February 7, 1913: pages 313-322.
Call Number 97.32 M16P

McFarland, J. Horace. Planting the Home Grounds. 1915.
Call Number 98 M16

McFarland, J. Horace. The Rose in America. New York: The Macmillan Co., [1923].
Call Number 96.1 M162

McFarland, J. Horace. Roses and How to Grow Them. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1924.
Call Number 96.1 R722

McFarland, J. Horace. Roses of the World in Color. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., [1936].
Call Number 96.1 M162R

McFarland, J. Horace. Roses of the World in Color, 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., [1947].
Call Number 96.1 M162R Ed. 3

McFarland, J. Horace, R. Marion Hatton, and Daniel J. Foley. Garden Bulbs in Color. Harrisburg, PA: McFarland, 1938.
Call Number 96.4 M16

McFarland, J. Horace, R. Marion Hatton, Catharine E. Meikle, Bess E. Trump, Alfred Rehder and American Rose Society. Modern Roses II: A Uniform Descriptive List of All Roses in Commerce or of Historical or Botanical Importance, 2nd ed. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1940.
Call Number 96.1 M162M Ed. 2

McFarland, J. Horace, Catherine E. Meikle, and Alfred Rehder. Modern Roses III: A Uniform Descriptive List of All Roses in Commerce or of Historical or Botanical Importance. Harrisburg, PA: J. H. McFarland Co., 1947.
Call Number 96.1 M162M Ed. 3

Pyle, Robert, J. Horace McFarland, and Glendon A. Stevens. How to Grow Roses, 17th ed. New York: Macmillan Co., 1930.
Call Number 96.1 C742 Ed.17

Pyle, Robert and J. Horace McFarland. How to Grow Roses, Rev. [22nd] ed. Harrisburg, PA: J. H. McFarland Co., 1948.
Call Number 96.1 C742 Ed. 22

Shepherd, Roy E., Catherine E. Meikle, Gordon D. Rowley, and J. Horace McFarland. Modern Roses V: A Concise Descriptive List of All Roses in Commerce or of Historical or Botanical Importance. Harrisburg, PA, [1958].
Call Number 96.1 M162M Ed. 5


Other Manuscript Collections Pertaining to J. Horace McFarland

Contact the following institutions for additional information on accessing their current J. Horace McFarland holdings.

Archives of American Gardens, Smithsonian Institution 

The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens (AAG) was one of the recipients of the collection materials donated by James W. Walsh of the McFarland Company in 1991. The portion of the collection housed at AAG includes 445 glass lantern slides and over 3,100 black and white photographs. These images primarily depict gardens, landscape plantings, and nurseries, including over 380 pictures of Breeze Hill.

Arnold Arboretum Library, Harvard University

The Arnold Arboretum Library maintains a collection which includes photographs of the Arboretum taken by J. Horace McFarland during his visits there.

Historical Society of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania

The Society’s holdings include photographs of the Harrisburg Improvement Campaign of 1900-1904, along with a few manuscript materials.

Library of Congress

The General Reading Room has a collection of American Civic Association pamphlets and issues of Photo-Miniature to which McFarland contributed. The Mira Lloyd Dock papers held by the Manuscript Division includes McFarland correspondence.

Archives of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Along with the Smithsonian Institution and the National Agricultural Library, the Pennsylvania State Archives acquired part of the J. Horace McFarland Collection. The Archives is the major repository of McFarland’s manuscripts, including articles, speeches, diaries, correspondence, and photographs. It also holds a large number of horticultural catalogs printed by the J. Horace McFarland Company.

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