Lantern slide entitled Girls Arranging Flowers

Preserving a Lantern Slide Collection at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization founded in 1827 that uses horticulture to advance the health and wellbeing of the Greater Philadelphia region. Its PHS McLean Library helps tell the story and support the mission of the organization through collections that share general and specialty garden information and hold the history of PHS initiatives and activities.

As associate director of the PHS McLean Library, Janet Evans oversees the library’s extensive collection, which includes an image library, glass slides, and ephemera. One of the highlights is the Jay V. Hare Lantern Slide Collection, which consists of 2,400 hand-colored lantern slides, and is significant as a teaching collection. With support from a National Endowment for The Humanities Sustaining the Humanities Through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP) Award, Janet and her team at PHS recently worked with CCAHA on a project to preserve the collection and make it more widely available through digitization. She shared some information about the collection so we could share its story with you.

Children and chrysanthemums

About the Jay V. Hare Lantern Slide Collection at the PHS McLean Library

Jay Veeder Hare (1878-1953) was secretary and treasurer of the Reading Company/Railway System, and in the 1930s, a member of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s executive council. He traveled extensively, and gave many lectures on plants and gardens based on his world travels. The 2,400 lantern slides of the Jay V. Hare Lantern Slide Collection depict gardens and landscapes from America and around the world from 1920 through 1940. Featured are images from Japan, Italy, Spain, and the National Parks in the United States. The images come from commercial photography houses, artist studios, and Mr. Hare’s own travels.

Women in kimonos admiring wisteria

According to PHS, at the time of Mr. Hare’s lectures, the plants and gardens were eagerly studied by curious audiences—many of whom travelled rarely, if at all. Today, the images are of great interest to historians and geographers for their landscapes and depictions of material culture.

Many of the gardens and landscapes represented in the lantern slides have changed significantly in the past 100 years or have disappeared. For example, the views of Japan include chrysanthemum festivals, women in traditional dress arranging flowers for tea ceremonies, tea gardens, farmers picking tea leaves, and characteristic gardens of Japan. They evoke a time and place that was hugely influential on American garden design and that no longer exists or have changed considerably, Janet shared.

Lantern slide image of Mt Fuji

Thanks to the SHARP Award, PHS is now able to share these digitized images of the lantern slides with a wider audience and make them available to researchers on the Web. They also plan to upload images and accompanying metadata to the PA Photos and Documents’ online digital repository, where they will be accessible to all.

Says Janet, “We are looking forward to sharing these remarkable garden and landscape images with the world, and are very pleased that CCAHA was able to work with us and to create these beautiful digital images.”

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s work spans 250 neighborhoods, an expansive network of public gardens and landscapes, year-round learning experiences, and the nation’s signature gardening event, the Philadelphia Flower Show. The nonprofit organization creates healthier living environments; increases access to fresh food; expands access to jobs and economic opportunity; strengthens deeper social connections between people; provides everyone with an opportunity to garden for the greater good as a participant, member, donor, or volunteer.

For more information about the PHS McLean Library, visit

Images from the PHS Jay V. Hare Lantern Slide Collection, from top: Girls arranging flowers; Children and chrysanthemums; Women in kimonos admiring wisteria; Mt. Fuji.