Concord, Massachusetts, 1856. Four men cut down a huge, seemingly healthy American elm tree using block and tackle, and ropes drawn by a horse. The graceful tree towered above a house whose owners heard creaking during a storm - they felt unsafe and had it removed. The event would have been long forgotten, except one of America’s greatest writers and earliest environmentalists also lived in Concord - Henry David Thoreau.
Supremely ticked-off, the removal of the stately elm inspired a flurry of journal writing by Thoreau that defined elms as symbols of virtue that looked to Concord’s past and the country’s future. Guest Thomas Campanella, Professor at Cornell University and author of Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm, shares his work. It turns out, elm trees helped define our young nation’s sense of itself.
Thomas J. Campanella
Professor of City and Regional Planning
Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm, Yale University Press, 2003.
Henry David Thoreau and the Yankee Elm, Arnoldia, 2001.
Thoreau and the Language of Trees, Richard Higgins, Univ of California Press, 2017.
Diccon Lee, www.deeleetree.com
Dahn Hiuni, www.dahnhiuni.com/home
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This episode was written in part at LitArts RI, a community organization and co-working space that supports Rhode Island's creators.