Emergence of Garden Ornament in 19th Century America

Much of the surviving ornament at Montgomery Place dates to the 1850s through 1880s, and corresponds with a particularly fruitful period in American garden ornament history. Dozens of American terra-cotta manufacturers and an even greater number of cast-iron foundries were producing furniture, gates, and statuary in every style imaginable. American manufacturers worked hard to keep up with their European competitors, often copying European patterns and designs. From the 1850s through the 1890s, garden ornament catalogues were brimming with varied, inventive offerings, most of them mass-produced and affordable to the average homeowner. At last, almost anyone could own something beautiful for their garden.

Group of painted terra-cotta hanging planters with flared rims, ornamented with foliate motifs and pierced for drainage

Left: A Selection of Vases, Statues, Busts, &c. From Terra-Cottasl by J. M. Blashfield, London: Published by John Weale, 59 High Holborn, 1857,p. 208.

Right: Galloway & Graff, Art and Horticultural Terra Cotta, Philadelphia, 1876, unpaged.

The explosion of garden ornament also coincided with a time in American history when the idea of making public green spaces had at last gained widespread support (Central Park, one of the most storied of those spaces, first opened in 1858). Additionally, a nascent middle class meant that more people had gardens and leisure time, kicking off a national interest in gardening and garden ornament that continues to this day.