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September 2019: Joy Morton, Founder of The Morton Arboretum

Black and gray photograph of Joy Morton standing on Joy Path. He is on a cleared trail and there are trees surrounding him.

“Joy Morton’s work is not just the sum of salt and trees. Those two notable but seemingly incongruous interests were bookends to a lifetime of achievement.” -James Ballowe, A Man of Salt and Trees


On September 27, we celebrate the birthday of the Arboretum’s founder, Joy Morton! Born in 1855, Joy was the eldest of four sons of Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902) and Caroline Joy Morton (1834-1881). J. Sterling and Caroline instilled a deep respect for nature within their family. J.Sterling was an early and passionate advocate for forestation. Two of his more notable achievements include establishing Arbor Lodge, which would eventually come to serve as a state historical park in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and founding Arbor Day.

Black and white photograph of the Morton family seated on porch outside of Arbor Lodge
Joy was able to perpetuate his family’s appreciation of nature in his establishment of The Morton Arboretum. As a Chicago industrialist, Joy would come to discover Lisle in the early 1900s and eventually build his family estate, Thornhill, in 1909.

Black and white photograph of the Morton Residence at Thornhill, exterior, front view, just after house was built

The actual work of transforming his Thornhill estate would begin in early 1921, when Joy was 65 years old. The Morton Arboretum would be formally established on December 14, 1922. The Morton Arboretum Indenture establishes and outlines the creation of the Arboretum, describes Morton’s intentions surrounding its development, appoints trustees, and details the original tract of land designated as The Morton Arboretum.

Morton Family Correspondence Project
Staff and volunteers of the Sterling Morton Library are working to digitize and catalogue the correspondence written by various Morton family members and their constituents. To view the work that has already been done, visit the Morton Family Correspondence page on ACORN! 

The Sterling Morton Library also has a plethora of resources available should you be interested in learning more on the Morton family or other local history topics.

Morton Family
Around the world by Margaret Gray Morton
J. Sterling Morton by James C. Olson
A man of salt and trees : the life of Joy Morton by James Ballowe
Sterling's Carrie : Caroline Ann Joy French, Mrs. J. Sterling Morton 1833-1881 by Margaret V. Ott

The Morton Arboretum
Around the arboretum by Richard A. Thompson
A great outdoor museum : the story of the Morton Arboretum by James Ballowe

DuPage County
DuPage at 150 and those who shaped our world by Jean Moore
DuPage discovery, 1776-1976 : a Bicentennial view
DuPage roots by Richard A. Thompson
A history of the County of DuPage, Illinois by C.W. Richmond
The Phoenix land : the natural history of DuPage County by Wayne Lampa

Chicago History
Chicago by Gary Irving
Chicago, 1930-70; building, planning, and urban technology by Carl W. Condit
Chicago : a century of progress, 1833-1933
Chicago gardens : the early history by Cathy Jean Maloney
Chicago: growth of a metropolis by Harold M. Mayer
Chicago metropolis 2020 : the Chicago plan for the twenty-first century by Elmer W. Johnson
Chicago's progress : a review of the World's fair city by Glenn A. Bishop  
Chicago's urban nature : a guide to the city's architecture + landscape by Sally Anderson Chappell
A compendium of the early history of Chicago to the year 1835 when the Indians left by Ulrich Danckers
Creating Chicago's North Shore : a suburban history by Michael H. Ebner
A guide to Chicago's historic suburbs on wheels and on foot (Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage, Will & Cook Counties) by Ira J. Bach

Giants gone; men who made Chicago by Ernest Poole
Millennium Park : creating a Chicago landmark by Timothy J. Gilfoyle
A natural history of the Chicago Region by Joel Greenberg
Plan of Chicago by Daniel Burnham
The Plan of Chicago : Daniel Burnham and the remaking of the American city by Carl S. Smith
Reminiscences of Chicago during the civil war
Women building Chicago 1790-1990 : a biographical dictionary