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Arbor Day Is Celebrated Because Of
A Man Named Morton

The Mortan Salt girl has been updated with new looks periodically through the years since she first appeared with curly blonde hair in 1914.

In 1854, J. Sterling Morton and his new bride, Caroline, left from a comfortable home in Michigan to take up residence on the west side of the Missouri River, in what would soon become Nebraska Territory. They established a claim for a farm just outside the small village called Nebraska City.

Morton soon became editor of the Nebraska City News, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who had published a newspaper in Michigan. And he quickly became involved in the politics of the newly established Nebraska Territory. Eventually he went on to be appointed Secretary of Nebraska Territory by President James Buchanan, Acting Governor of the new state of Nebraska, and Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland.

J. Sterling Morton
J. Sterling Morton brought trees to America’s Great Plains.

But what J. Sterling Morton is remembered for today can be summed up in the word “trees.” One of the first things he and Caroline had done when they established their farm in 1854 was to plant fruit trees, primarily apple trees, on the otherwise barren plains of the countryside. A respected agriculturist, he spent the rest of his life encouraging people to plant trees, as well as instructing them in other good farming practices.

On a national level, he helped organize the Department of Agriculture into a service that was of real help to farmers, as well as supporting President Cleveland in setting up national forests. On a personal level, for a 25th anniversary present he gave Caroline a 24-place setting of flow blue china, with the phrase “Plant Trees” in the center of each piece.

Morton organized the first American Arbor Day in Nebraska City on April 10, 1872. On that day, Nebraskans planted approximately one million trees. For the next three decades, there was pressure put on by conservationists to establish a national Arbor Day. This finally happened in 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt issued a Proclamation to the School Children of the United States about the importance of trees.

Plates and cups are part of the 200-piece china set purchased by Morton on his 25th anniversary. The Mercer Pottery Co., Trenton, N.J., produced the flow blue pattern. The center of each piece says “Plant Trees.” Flow blue china gets its name because the blue transfer ware tends to “flow,” so it doesn’t appear very sharp in this photo.

The Mortons became prosperous residents of Nebraska City and their 52-room home, Arbor Lodge is now a part of Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. It is surrounded, as one would expect, by enormous trees of many kinds.

Arbor Day continues to be celebrated across America every April. And many cities have become part of the Arbor Day Foundation’s program of “Tree City U.S.A.” J. Sterling and Caroline Morton created a fantastic legacy for our country. In 2016, Arbor Day is scheduled for April 29.

J. Sterling and Caroline had four sons, and the oldest, Joy Morton, founded a salt company with which every American can identify: Morton Salt, with its well-known slogan, “When it rains, it pours.”

Salt clumps due to humidity. Obviously, the humidity is high when it is raining. In 1911, Morton added magnesium silicate to the salt (sodium chloride) and this prevented clumping – so, the salt would still pour from a shaker or container. Later, the additive was changed to calcium silicate, also an anti-caking agent. Housewives began to wonder how they ever got along without that round salt container with the handy pouring spout.

The slogan was adopted in 1914, and at the same time, that other well-known marketing icon was added to Morton Salt’s advertising. The Morton Salt Girl, with her umbrella, graced the packaging. The Morton Salt Girl’s appearance has been updated through the years. She started with curly blond hair in 1914. It was changed to straight brown hair in 1921, and updates have continued.

The Morton family influenced America in vastly different ways. If you happen to get to southeastern Nebraska, be sure you pay a visit to Arbor Lodge.

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Plaster Filled Cracks

Plaster was used in homes in America as early as the late 1600s. The first plaster was made of hair from the tails of cows or horses, mixed with crushed clam or oyster shells. When lime was discovered in the soil in some areas, it was used instead of or in addition to the crushed shells.

Early plastering was done primarily for warmth. It not only provided an extra layer of material between the wooden walls and the outside, but covered the holes or spaces where the wind could sneak through.

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Liquid Clay Used

Slip casting is a type of pottery making in which liquid clay is poured into a porous plaster mold. The water is absorbed by the mold and any surplus liquid is poured off.
The mold is then removed, and the shaped clay piece is fired.

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