Thomas Meehan

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Thomas Meehan

Thomas Meehan (March 21, 1826 Potters Bar, which was in Middlesex, and today in Hertfordshire, England – November 19, 1901), was a noted horticulturist, botanist, and English writer. He worked at Kew Gardens as a gardener from 1846 to 1848, and later moved to Germantown, Philadelphia. He was the founder of the monthly Meehan’s Monthly (1891-1901) and editor of the Gardener’s Monthly (1859-1888).

Meehan grew up on the Isle of Wight. His interest in plants was initiated by his father, who was a gardener. He published his first botanical contribution to the fourteenth, which led him to belong to the “Wernernian Society”. His knowledge and skills resulted in obtaining a position at Kew Gardens from 1846 to 1848, where he was influenced by William Jackson Hooker.

Meehan traveled to Philadelphia in 1848, and worked for the owner of Bartram’s Garden, with the pioneering locomotive builder Andrew M. Eastwick (1811-1879) and who, with Thomas De Kay and Joseph Harrison, having pledged to build the First railroad in Russia. Meehan started a nursery in partnership with William Saunders, in Germantown, Philadelphia, where he lived with his family for the rest of his life. When his business with Saunders ended, he started “Meehan Nurseries,” which he later turned into “Thomas Meehan & Sons” in 1896. His three sons Thomas B. Meehan, Mendelson Meehan, and J. Franklin Meehan had a remarkable career while they were in kindergarten. J. Franklin designed parks and golf courses, such as eg. Spring Ford Country Club, Ashborne Country Club, North Hills (originally “Edge Hill Golf Club”). He left “Edge Hill” to design Sandy Run Country Club, where he in turn served as its first president.

Meehan and his sons supplied plants to the United States and Europe for seven decades, expanding to cover 60 ha in the 20th century. His specialty was ornamentals, such as Japanese maples. In 1888, Meehan rediscovered the “pink dogwood” Cornus florida var. Rubra, which was thought to be extinct, along the shores of Wissahickon Creek, today part of the “Philadelphia Municipal Parks System.” His studies in botany led him to be the editor of The Gardener’s Monthly (1859-1888), and after the Meehans’ Monthly (1891-1902), two horticultural magazines with more circulation at that time. Meehan wrote his own agriculture columns in five newspapers.

He corresponded with very important botanists such as William Darlington, Josiah Hoopes, William Saunders, George Engelmann, John Torrey, Asa Gray, Maxwell T. Masters, Ferdinand von Mueller, George Nicholson, Charles Darwin.

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