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John J. Tyler Arboretum records


Held at: Tyler Arboretum [Contact Us]515 Painter Road, Media, PA, 19063

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Tyler Arboretum. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

"In 1681 Thomas Minshall, an English Quaker, purchased property in Pennsylvania from William Penn that contained the site now occupied by the [Tyler] Arboretum. Between 1681 and 1944, the property was owned by eight generations of the...Minshall/Painter/Tyler family. Until 1944, it was a working farm and served as a summer residence for the Tyler family.

"The Arboretum itself began as the private collection of two brothers, Jacob and Minshall Painter. The brothers were fascinated by the popular 19th century study of natural history. During their lifetimes, they managed to amass large collections of dried plants, rocks, and other specimens. In 1825, the brothers set aside some of their land to begin the systematic planting of more than 1,000 varieties of trees and shrubs.

"In 1944, Laura Tyler, a direct descendant of Thomas Minshall, bequeathed the property to a board of Trustees that had been established to direct and oversee the land as an arboretum. Dr. John Casper Wister, Tyler Arboretum's first director, was considered by many to be one of the great American horticultural figures of the 20th century. He set out to build upon the Painter legacy, whereupon he created comprehensive collections representing conifers, magnolias, lilacs, hollies, narcissus, peonies and rhododendrons.

"Today Tyler Arboretum is a non-profit organization...[whose] mission is to preserve, develop and share...[its] diverse horticultural, historic and natural site resources in order to stimulate stewardship and an understanding of our living world. Tyler fulfills its mission through high quality educational programs, extensive horticultural collections and displays, preservation of its historic buildings and stewardship of 650 acres of woodlands, meadows and stream valleys."


Quoted text from: Tyler Arboretum. "History." Accessed March, 21, 2014.

This collection contains administrative records, correspondence, financial papers, historical research and other materials relating to Tyler Arboretum.

The administrative records consist of various reports (annual reports, reports on aspects of the park, park programming, and historical status); master plans and plans for developing the park; and files for the Board of Trustees, committees, and staff members, including John C. Wister. Dr. John Caspar Wister (1887-1982) was the first director of Tyler Arboretum from 1946 to 1968, and considered to be one of the premier horticulturalists of the 20th century.

Financial papers (such tax documents, insurance materials) are also present.

Additionally, the collection has photographs of Tyler Arboretum's property and buildings, and research files on the history of the Arboretum, the Painter brothers, and the Minshall/Painter/Tyler family.

Other materials available in the collection include information about the park trails and features, a letter from Helen Keller showing support for the Arboretum (1950), deeds and wills relating to the Arboretum property, maps, and press clippings (2005-2014).

Materials created or collected by the Tyler Arboretum over time

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Tyler Arboretum directly for more information.

Tyler Arboretum
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Access Restrictions

Some files, especially the more recent financial documents, may be temporarily restricted. Contact Tyler Arboretum for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

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