The City Beautiful Movement

McFarland, a leading proponent of the City Beautiful Movement and president of the American Civic Association, also took great interest in the way parks and gardens could enhance the appearance of cities. He once wrote that “the finest ‘wild’ flowers I know are suitably and happily located in an ‘American Garden,’ not forty minutes distant from Philadelphia’s City Hall.” 

With a mission of “photographing for the civic good,” many of McFarland’s photographs also attempt to convey how plants, parks, and nature could transform American cities into better places to live.

Democracy of Beauty Exhibit Images

This image taken c. 1930, illustrates how cherry blossom trees create a stunning effect to enhance the appearance of our nation's capital, Washington D.C. Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, J. Horace McFarland Company Collection. 

Democracy of Beauty Exhibit Images

"Great parks are in the highest degree . . . a sheer expression of democracy," McFarland once wrote. This ideal is represented by Bushnell Park in Hartford, Connecticut, among the first municipal parks in the United States to be built using public funds after a vote by citizens there in 1854.