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Lounsberry, Alice

LOUNSBERRY, Alice

Born circa 1860s or 1870s; Died 22 November 1949, New York, New York

Daughter of James S. and Sarah W. Lounsberry

While information on the life of Alice Lounsberry has proven scarce, many of the references in her works suggest she was a New Yorker with ties in New England, or at least extensive knowledge of those parts of New England near New York. And since she was a former treasurer of the National Society of Colonial Dames, we can place her in the upper-middle class.

While most of her publications are about trees and flowers, we do not know her background for her work as a botanical and horticultural writer. Turn-of-the-century readers called for nature guides in large numbers, and most of the popular flower, tree, and bird guidebooks were written by women. Lounsberry and her illustrator, Australian artist Mrs. Ellis Rowan, worked on the books as a team, traveling all over the country together. Her first book, A Guide to the Wild Flowers (1899), was the most popular of her guidebooks. Organized by habitat, this work is very similar to other such works of the period, describing the plants and telling a bit about them, particularly where they might be seen. This book is illustrated with 64 beautiful colored plates as well as many black-and-white illustrations.

A companion volume, A Guide to the Trees, was published the next year and was also illustrated by Mrs. Rowan. The two works were issued in uniform format. Then the next year the two women collaborated on Southern Wild Flowers and Trees, in which Lounsberry describes their journey, including railway incidents, through the South.

In addition to her guidebooks for adults, Lounsberry wrote three books for children, one of them a wild flower guide. Her Garden Book for Young People (1908), illustrated with photographs, is not a book on how to garden but rather a fictionalized account of two orphaned young people who make their home in a suburban town called Nestly. On their own in an old brick house, they strive to improve their property and do so, with the help of many friends and neighbors. The book has little plot, apparently being intended to inspire young readers to garden.

Probably her most important garden book, Gardens near the Sea (1910), is a large, handsome work illustrated with photographs and color plates by H. W. Faulkner. It includes practical directions for various seaside locations and descriptions of gardens she had seen. The book includes gardens in New England and on Long Island and shows that she had extensive acquaintance with plant material and a lesser interest in garden design.

Lounsberry's last book (Sir William Phips, 1941), published many years after her garden writings, was a biography of Sir William Phips, a 17th-century governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who had an interesting and eventful life. This work is intended for the average reader, and there is no indication why she chose to write a book about this man, who has not been ignored by other writers.

Lounsberry's works are not much different from those of other such writers, but she is an example of the many upper middle-class women, mostly New Yorkers, who put their knowledge of plants to profit when nature study became a popular pastime.

Other Works:

The Wild Flower Book for Young People (1906). Frank and Bessie's Forester (1912).

Bibliography:

Samuel, H. J., Wild Flower Hunter: The Story of Ellis (1961).

Other references:

NYT (22 Nov. 1949).

—BEVERLY SEATON

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