Earth Day is held on which famous Nebraskan’s birthday?

From the treeless plains came a holiday to celebrate the tree. In 1872 J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska City proposed the first Arbor Day. The State Board of Agriculture in 1874 designated Arbor Day as the second Wednesday of April.

In 1885 the legislature made Arbor Day a state holiday, observed on Morton’s birthday, April 22. By 1900 most states and many foreign nations observed Arbor Day. In his diary for April 8, 1874, Morton remarked on the celebration of Arbor Day, “an invention of mine.”

Though it may be just coincidence, the first Earth Day in 1970 was held on April 22, and Morton’s birthday continues to be the date of the annual Earth Day observances.

J. Sterling Morton's diary (RG1013.AM, SG1, S4.F37, B24)

J. Sterling Morton’s diary (RG1013.AM, SG1, S4.F37, B24)

Arbor Day, an invention of mine, now become a public holiday, destined to become a blessing to posterity as well to ourselves. It is devoted to tree planting & premiums are given to the largest planter by State Board of Argiculture. On the Morton place, today, Two Hundred Plums, Ash & Linden trees are set out on East Line and East Avenue, …..”  (excerpt from J. Sterling Morton’s diary)

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

State Song Sing-Along

State Song Sing-Along

Robert Ball Anderson’s journey “from slavery to affluence”

Robert Ball Anderson’s journey “from slavery to affluence”

Marker Monday: The Savidge Brothers, Aviation Pioneers

Marker Monday: The Savidge Brothers, Aviation Pioneers

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.