The Garden Journals of Herbert H. Dow BY HISTORIAN SAMANTHA ENGEL

Do you keep a journal? What do you write inside? Perhaps you note the things you do throughout the day, or maybe you document events going on around you.

Herbert H. Dow spent a lot of time journaling. He used some journals to document his work at the Dow Chemical Company and ideas for new inventions, but we have three journals in our collection that he used to write about his work outside. Dow spent a lot of time gardening, planning flower beds, and experimenting in his orchard, so it was important for him to keep track of his work. It was also important for him observe the natural world around him. Let’s take a look at some of entries he made, and what they mean to us today.

Herbert Dow spent a lot of time working in his fruit orchard. Based on his journals and other notes, we believe he had 177 varieties of apples, plums, and pears, as well as some cherry trees and grape vines. Herbert would often note when certain fruit trees were beginning to bloom and when the fruit was ready to pick. By looking at these entries, we can see if the growing season has changed for any of these fruit trees and even learn which ones grew the best for Herbert in Midland at that time.

It was important for Herbert to document the seasonal changes, as well. Hearing the first frogs of the spring would have signaled the start of planting season. Documenting the first frost of the fall would’ve given him a good idea of when he needed to harvest the last of his crops. He could also use his entries to track variations in rainfall and average temperatures throughout the year.

We can also use his journals to track changes to his home and family. A series of entries in 1923/24 discuss the construction of a swimming pool in his side yard. He even mentions alterations to his daughter’s house, which is today The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation office. A favorite entry of ours notes the height of his children in two different years.

If you’ve never kept a journal, now could be the perfect time start one! You can use the printable field journal to record the weather, animals you see on walks, plants you notice blooming, and more! Even if you can’t leave your house, you can look out your window and start to notice the world around you!