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Item of the Week: Martha Strong’s Tucson Trip

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 10:10

From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

Martha Howard Prentice Strong (1851-1949) was a founding member of the Garden Club of East Hampton. She made this scrapbook documenting her trip to Arizona from 1936 to 1937, having first traveled to Tucson in the spring of ‘36 with her daughter, Martha Prentice Strong Turner (1884-1945), who was known as Mattie.

Martha spent an extended portion of her trip at the Desert Sanatorium, which operated as a tuberculosis treatment center and health retreat. It’s not clear what prompted the pair to travel, but in January 1935, at the age of 84, Martha was injured in a car accident, which may have contributed to her stay at the sanatorium.

Martha and Mattie shared a passion for gardening, and in Arizona they photographed the numerous public and private gardens they visited. Martha documented the cactuses she brought back to her summer home, the Dolphins, at the northwest corner of the intersection of Cottage Avenue and Lily Pond Lane. She also documented the cactuses of fellow East Hampton summer residents, one of them Annie Jessup Woodin’s “desert garden” in Arizona.

Her scrapbook chronicles the plantings at the Tucson Airport, the sanitorium, the Carnegie Library of Tucson, and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum north of Tucson in Superior, and she pasted in clippings from books or magazines featuring specific types of cactuses.

At the front of Martha’s scrapbook she added a May 1939 note from a fellow Garden Club member, Maud Hassam, along with an etching from Maud’s husband, the artist Childe Hassam, of cactuses the Hassams saw during a trip “out west.” Maud’s note reveals that Martha was known for scrapbooks. She was also known for writing articles for the Garden Club of America’s publications as well as other gardening guides. She turned her adventures into two articles for the May 1939 Journal of the New York Botanical Garden.

Martha’s scrapbook and some of her other writings are now on display in the East Hampton Library’s front lobby exhibition cases.

Andrea Meyer, a librarian and archivist, is head of collection for the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.

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