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Book talk and reception: Steward of the Land

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Steward of the Land: Selected Writings of 19th century Horticulturalist, Thomas Affleck (LSU Press, Hill Series, 2014)

Steward of the Land: Selected Writings of 19th century Horticulturalist, Thomas Affleck (LSU Press, Hill Series, 2014)

A talk, reception, and book signing for Lake Douglas’s new book, Steward of the Land: Selected Writings of 19th century Horticulturist, Thomas Affleck (LSU Press, Hill Series, 2014) took place on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 in Hill Memorial Library.

“In the first collection of published writings of Thomas Affleck (1812–1868), Lake Douglas re-establishes the reputation of a tireless agricultural reformer, entrepreneur, and horticulturist. Affleck’s wide range of interests—animal husbandry, agriculture, scientific farming, ornamental horticulture, insects, and hydrology, among others—should afford him a celebrated status in several disciplines; yet until now his immense contributions remained largely unheralded. Steward of the Land remedies this oversight with a broad, annotated selection of Affleck’s works, rightfully placing him alongside his better-known contemporaries Andrew Jackson Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted.

After immigrating to the United States from Scotland in 1832, Affleck witnessed the burgeoning American expansion and its major advances in agriculture and technology. He worked as a journalist for the influential Western Farmer and Gardener, covering Ohio, Kentucky, and the Mississippi River Valley. Affleck moved to Mississippi in 1842 to manage his new wife’s failing plantation; there, he created one of the first commercial nurseries of the South while writing prolifically on numerous agrarian topics for regional periodicals and newspapers. From 1845 to 1865 he edited Affleck’s Southern Rural Almanac and Plantation and Garden Calendar, published in New Orleans. Following a postwar move to Brenham, Texas, he published letters and essays about rebuilding that state’s livestock herds and rejuvenating its agricultural labor forces.

Steward of the Land includes excerpts from dozens of Affleck’s articles on subjects ranging from bee keeping to gardening to orchard tending. This valuable single-volume resource reveals Affleck’s astonishing breadth of horticultural knowledge and entrepreneurial sagacity, and his role in educating mid-nineteenth-century readers about agricultural products and practices, plant usage, and environmental stewardship. Never before collected or contextualized, Affleck’s writings provide a firsthand account of the advancement of agricultural techniques and practices that created a new environ-mental awareness in America.” (From http://lsupress.org/books/detail/steward-of-the-land/)

The papers of Thomas Affleck are held at the LSU Libraries Special Collections and some of the materials have been digitized as part of the LSU Libraries Civil War digital collection.

Lake Douglas is Associate Dean of Research & Development at Louisiana State University’s College of Art and Design and associate professor in the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture. He is the author of Public Spaces, Private Gardens: A History of Designed Landscapes in New Orleans.

Jessica Lacher-Feldman is the Head of Special Collections at Louisiana State University.

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