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New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill: Edward Winslow Lincoln in His Own Words

Digitized resources, archival and special collections, exhibitions, and other items of interest.

Edward Winslow Lincoln (1820-1896)


Edward Winslow Lincoln was born and bred in Worcester, son of Gov. Levi Lincoln (1782-1868), and grandson of President Jefferson's Attorney General. He was educated at Harvard and practiced law in Illinois for a time before returning to Worcester. In 1845 he became editor of the Aegis, and later, Postmaster, but really didn't come into his own until 1860 when he was able to combine his interests in journalism and horticulture as Secretary of the WCHS. It's a position he held for 36 years. For a time he was the Librarian as well. In 1870 he became Chairman of the Parks Commission and until his death worked tirelessly creating green spaces and promoting horticulture.


If you pick up or click on the WCHS Transactions from the early 1860's through 1896 you can experience his magnificent, expansive writing on the Society in his capacity as Secretary, but on many other topics as well. He made his dislike of birds that harmed crops and the government funding of the Worcester Co. Agricultural Society abundantly clear. But he also never missed a chance to promote and improve the WCHS, whether it was making sure the WCHS participated in the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 or making sure there was a robust schedule of lectures and exhibitions.

"Lincoln was a forceful and expressive writer, and his reports are as interesting and amusing to read today as they were when written."

Margaret Erskine, Heart of the Commonwealth

"It would be a source of profound regret that so few of our community possess even a limited knowledge of Botany. It ought to be a cause for deeper self-reproach when the remedy is within our own hands and we withhold its application. Your Secretary has already advised the procurement of a course of lectures from Prof. Asa Gray....

Edward Winslow Lincoln, Transactions of the WCHS

'What he thought and wrought': Edward Winslow Lincoln in his own words

Today there's a simple memorial in Elm ParK for Edward Winslow Lincoln:

Our exhibit, on display in the Fall of 2014, set out to honor his contributions to the WCHS and the Park Commission. Lincoln was a transformative figure on several counts and left a legacy, in words and deeds, that few have equaled. Our exhibit coincided with a talk about Lincoln by Jock Herron, a descendant and someone uniquely qualified to discuss his "Vision, Practice and Legacy."

Elm Park

"Lincoln began work on Elm Park in 1874. He installed proper drainage to dry up the swamp so lawns could be developed. He created the ponds and bridges and planted hundreds of trees, many of them from his own nurseries. He installed extensive flower beds. He badgered the city government to purchase Newton Hill, which the city finally did in 1888. By 1890, Elm Park was being written about in national magazines as "one of the most perfect examples of landscape gardening in the country.""                                                          Albert B. Southwick, Close-up, Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Edward W. Lincoln at Elm Park,1875. Tower Hill Library Collections.

A missing portrait

Edward W. Lincoln's portrait is not part of our Non-Living Collection of artwork as it, and several others, were lost in a fire at 30 Elm Street in 1939. The faded photograph above is the only evidence that remains of the framed oil painting. Since Lincoln was the one who first suggested the Society display portraits of founders, presidents and other "worthies" as he referred to them, it's ironic and unfortunate that his is among the missing.

This guide provided by CBHL