Newton and the Wildflowers

Published on May 20th, 2019 by Judy Thomas

A blog series presented by Plants of the James River Project

Blog 3: Newton and the Wildflowers
Ancarrow Boatworks built high-end, fast boats for wealthy people, including royalty. They were the height of sailing fashion, comparable to automobiles of the day, with long fin-like projections at the stern. Wealthy people often like to see their boats being built, but Ancarrow could not let them do that. Why? The James was not the recreation area it is today. The James River Park System attracted 1.5 million (yep, million) visitors last year. But back then it was highly polluted with fuel oil, industrial waste, and sewage when there was a hard rain. This muck fouled Ancarrow’s beautiful boats. So, Ancarrow began to walk the James to document where pollution was dumped into the James. What he found appalled him. The river was even worse than he thought. But, along the way, Ancarrow noticed something beautiful: wildflowers. Ancarrow taught himself botany and photography, eventually taking about 35,000 slides, about 350 of which are digitized by a joint agreement with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and VCU’s Libraries (more on that later). Next time: the wildflowers, how he used his photos, and our project.

Read more in this series:
Blog 1: What in the World is the PJRP?
Blog 2: Who is Newton Ancarrow?

Photo of Azure Bluet (Quaker Ladies) by Newton Ancarrow. 

Photo Credit to the VCU Libraries in conjunction with the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and the VCU Rice Rivers Center.
The Ancarrow Digital Archive at