Linda Hall Library
Science Engineering Technology

Image from the Missouri Botanical Garden

Image from the Missouri Botanical Garden

Image from the Missouri Botanical Garden

Image from the Missouri Botanical Garden

Image from Gardenvisit.com

Henry Shaw, an English businessman and philanthropist, was born July 24, 1800. In 1819, Shaw came to St. Louis, Missouri, from Sheffield, England, to help sell his father’s Sheffield steel. He amassed a sizeable fortune, acquired a considerable amount of land in St. Louis, and retired in 1840 to pursue his passion of gardening. Shaw built a house on his land in 1849, called Tower Grove House, and after returning to England and touring the great English gardens, especially Chatsworth, he determined to build his own public garden. He solicited advice from William Hooker of Kew Gardens, and from Asa Gray at Harvard, and ended up building a professional research garden instead of a pleasure garden.

The Missouri Botanical Garden (MPG) opened to the public in 1859 and is now one of the finest in the world. Of the thousands of trees that Shaw planted, several still stand, including a giant ginkgo (third image), several bald cypress trees, and a black gum. The MBG at one time issued a poster featuring original Shaw plantings, which you can see above (second image). Shaw died in 1889 and was buried in a mausoleum right on the garden grounds, shown here in a contemporary photo (fourth image). Shaw also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame (which is not at the Garden), at 6346 Delmar, right between Barry Commoner, Betty Grable, and Harold Ramis.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to ashworthw@umkc.edu.