April is just one day away and we're looking forward to a week of Springtime weather on the grounds of Hagley. This calls for some #FridayFlowers!
This lantern slide shows a hand-colored lantern slide, created from a black and white photograph taken on June 10, 1922, of the hybrid perpetual rose garden at Longwood, the garden estate of Alice Belin and Pierre S. du Pont.
The image is the work of William Corbit Spruance, Jr. (1873-1935). Spruance was an electrical engineer, a company executive on the board of directors of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, and a civic leader in Wilmington, Delaware. Spruance was also an amateur photographer and used these skills to photograph his wife Alice's gardens, as well as the gardens of other wealthy residents of New Castle County between 1920 and 1925.
Most of the gardens photographed were those of members of the Wilmington Garden Club. As an advisory member of the club, Spruance displayed his work in several slide lectures presented to the organization in the early 1920s.
The gardens seen here had their roots in Peirce's Park, an arboretum created by Joshua (1766-1851) and Samuel Peirce (1766-1838), who planted their collections of native and exotic trees on the land near their family's farmhouse in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. After the brothers' death, the land remained in the family, but their arboretum deteriorated over the decades, as ensuing generations lost interest in the property.
In 1906, a lumber mill operator was contracted to remove the trees. But the Park wound up being rescued by Pierre S. du Pont, an executive of and founding family member of the DuPont company, who purchased the property in July 1906 with the goal of protecting the collection.
Pierre and his wife Alice Belin du Pont made their home in the the Peirce-du Pont house, also known as Longwood Mansion and, over time, they grew the site to include gardens, greenhouses, fountains, a ballroom, music room, an organ, and a theater. Prior to P.S. du Pont's death in 1954, he established a foundation to maintain the site as a public arboretum and botanical gardens, Longwood Gardens, which now attracts over 1 million visitors per year.
Many of the photographs taken by Spruance are, like this one, now part of Hagley Library's W.C. Spruance lantern slide collection (Accession 1984.217). In addition to hand-painted slides, the collection also includes images colored using the autochrome process, an early technique for producing color photographs that relied on dyed grains of potato starch. More images from this collection can be found in our Digital Archive by clicking here.