A Springtime Trip to Texas

A Springtime Trip to Texas 

By Janet Mosely

In 1928 Dr. David Fairchild, his wife Marian and their daughter Barbara took a trip to Texas. From April 22 to May 5, they travelled from Avery Island to San Antonio. As Dr. Fairchild stated in his pocket notebook, this was an investigatory trip to look at fruits, yucca, sorghum, cotton crops and sabal palms. 

The Fairchild party monitored high and low temperatures, root rot in cotton, and visited growers who were growing specimens received from the Special Plant Introduction Section. They also visited ranchers who were struggling with Johnson grass infiltrating their forage fields of Sudan grass. Johnson grass, under certain conditions, is toxic and potentially lethal to livestock but hard to identify when mixed with Sudan grass. 

Accompanying the Fairchilds on their two-week whirlwind tour of Texas horticulture were friends Gutzon Borglum, his wife Mary and their son Lincoln. A flamboyant, controversial sculptor, Mr. Borglum then lived in Beeville, Texas. Mr. Borglum, who trained at Harvard Technical College and was a student of Auguste Rodin, was well known for his large-scale sculpture. He is most well known for creating the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  Like Mount Rushmore, most of his pieces were commemorative public works, including “Pickett’s Charge” at Seminary Ridge, Gettysburg and “The Aviator,” a World War I memorial at the University of Virginia. 

May 5, 1928, San Antonio, Texas. During the last day of their trip, the Fairchilds and Borglums stop for a roadside
picnic in a field of Blue Bonnet, Texas’ state flower. From left to right: Mary Borglum, Lincoln Borglum, Barbara
Fairchild Muller, Gutzon Borglum and David Fairchild. David Fairchild Collection, Archives/FTBG.

At the time of his trip with the Fairchilds, the Mount Rushmore project was one year old. Mr. Borglum would work on it until his death in 1941, at which time his son Lincoln took over and finished his father’s creation. But for those two weeks in 1928, the families enjoyed each other’s companionship as they travelled through Texas. A hint of what conversations must have been like between scientifically minded Dr. Fairchild and artistically minded Mr. Borglum can be found in Dr. Fairchild’s book The World Grows Round My Door: “I recall the reaction of Gutzon Borglum, the great sculptor, to an account I gave him of the light-producing mechanism of the firefly. ‘Let them carry their little lanterns, David. Don’t destroy my illusions; I like to think of them as tiny elves.’”

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Please contact:
Nancy Korber
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Center for Tropical Plant Conservation
11935 Old Cutler Road
Miami, Florida 33156 USA
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