March 07, 2012
By Elisabeth Grant
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrating 100 years of cherry trees in the Washington Tidal Basin. Each year around a million people descend on Washington, D.C., to see the signature pink blooms, and this year the centennial makes this event even more special.
While the cherry trees have become an iconic symbol of D.C. and Japanese-American friendship, their journey to become so was a long and arduous one. The effort to plant the trees, first suggested by Mrs. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore in 1885, was fruitless until 1909 when first lady Helen Herron Taft took up the cause. But the story doesn’t end there. The first trees, which arrived in 1910, had to be destroyed due to an insect and nematode infestation. In February 1912, a shipment of 3,020 new cherry trees made their way to D.C. Helen Herron Taft and the Japanese ambassador’s wife planted the first two cherry trees in the Tidal Basin on March 27, 1912, and the rest of the trees were planted from 1913 through 1920. See the National Park Service’s complete history of the cherry blossoms to learn more.
As a part of the Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship exhibit, coinciding with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the Library of Congress is holding three one-day teacher workshops on March 29, March 31, and April 14. At each workshop teachers will explore “watercolor drawings of blossom varieties, Japanese books, and an array of photographs, posters, editorial cartoons, postcards and other printed ephemera” and work on strategies to use them in the classroom to teach about both the cherry blossoms as well as 20th-century relations between Japan and the United States. A variety of other events, from NPS-led walks to exhibits and dance programs, will help celebrate the centennial from March 20 through April 27.