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100 Years Of D.C. Cherry Blossoms (PHOTOS)

The Huffington Post     First Posted: 03/20/2012 3:25 pm   Updated: 03/20/2012 4:02 pm

WASHINGTON -- Celebrating the centennial of Japan's gift of cherry blossoms to the American capital, it seems that some things never change. For starters, people have loved photographing the Japanese trees ever since they arrived in the District of Columbia a century ago.

However, bringing cherry blossoms to the nation's capital proved to be a difficult endeavour.

Geographer and writer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore worked for more than two decades to bring cherry blossoms to D.C. after seeing the beautiful flowering trees in Japan.

Sadly, archival photos from 1910 document destruction. The first shipment of 2,000 trees, a gift from the city from Tokyo, were diseased. President Taft granted his consent to burn the trees as advised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Two years later, another substantial donation was authorized by the Tokyo City Council -- 3,020 cherry blossom trees. This shipment had 12 species of healthy trees; among them, 1,800 Somei-Yoshino to be planted around the city and 20 Gyoiko trees to be planted in the White House gardens. After careful horticultural wrangling, the second gift of trees arrived on March 26, 1912.

But it wasn't until 1935 that the first "Cherry Blossom Festival" was held, organized by local civic groups.

Four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, four cherry trees were cut down in suspected retaliation. (Beavers, too, have had their way with the trees over the years.)

However, the trees remain a symbol of peace. In 1954, Sadao Iguchi, the Japanese ambassador to the United States, presented a 300-year-old Japanese Stone Lantern to the city. The two-ton granite lantern commemorated a treaty between the United States and Japan signed in 1854 which avoided war and allowed American whalers to refuel in three Japanese ports.

More recently, the National Cherry Blossom Festival was expanded to two weeks in 1994 to accomodate expanded programming.

According to festival organizers, more than a million people visit D.C. annually to admire the cherry blossom trees that line the Tidal Basin and the banks of the Potomac River.

Below, check out 100 years of photos of cherry blossoms in the nation's capital.

Arrival Of The Trees, 1910
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In 1910, an initiative to bring Japanese cherry blossoms to D.C. being pushed by geographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore appeared to be nearing a success point. After Scidmore gained the support of first lady Helen Herron Taft, Scidmore's 24-year-long effort gained significant momentum. This tree was one of 2,000 trees from January 1910 that arrived as a shipment from the Japanese embassy to plant along the Tidal Basin and Potomac River.
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2011 History of the Cherry Blossoms
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