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United States


History of the Cherry Trees

alec vanderboom

For the last few weeks, we Washingtonians have taken delight in the National Cherry Blossom Festival. As a gesture of friendship, Japan donated 3,200 cherry trees to plant along the Potomac River. Each Spring, the trees explode in pink fireworks.

Imagine my surprise to find that all of this natural beauty and international goodwill is due to two American women, Mrs. Eliza Schidmore and First Lady Helen Taft. Mrs. Schidmore came up with the idea of planting cherry trees along the streets of Washington D.C. after a visit to Japan in 1885. It took Mrs. Schidmore 24 years of persistent letter writing before she found a sympathic heart for in her project, in none other than the First Lady of the United States of America! Mrs. Taft had once lived in Japan and was familiar with the beauty of flowering cherry trees.

In 1909, the First Lady and Mrs. Schidmore asked the nation of Japan to donate a few trees to their joint "cherry tree" project. Japan eventually gave over three thousand as a gesture of goodwill. The cherry trees have survied the hostilities of two World Wars (vandals chopped down four cherry trees in WWII, so the trees had to be renamed "Oriental" Trees for the rest of the conflict) and now stand once again, as a lasting tribute to beauty & international-friendship.

Now when I look at the cherry trees, I'll also be contemplating the virtue of patience. Could I develop a smidgen of Mrs. Schidmore's patience and keep sending polite, persistent letters for 24 years until my words reach the ears of the right person? Or am I going to remain the girl who gives up after two notes go unanswered?

Read the whole story here.