Arts and Leisure

England Celebrates the American Holiday, 1850

The English people — at least some of them — celebrated the American Holiday in 1850, when Frederick Law Olmsted visited the country.

Olmsted, a 28-year-old Hartford native, spent  five months in England checking out public gardens. He owned a farm on Staten Island, N.Y. , that his father helped him buy. He then got interested in landscape design, developing into the pre-eminent landscape architect of his day.

Olmsted later co-designed Central Park in New York. He also  headed the first Yosemite commission and led the campaign to protect Niagara Falls. He designed the U.S. Capitol Grounds and planned both the Great White City of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” of green space.

frederick-law-olmsted

Young Frederick Law Olmsted

But before all that, Olmsted wrote a book about his experiences in the British Isles. He called it Walks and Talks of An American Farmer.

In the book, he wrote the English people talked about the United States every day of his visit. And he wrote that most Englishmen let bygones be bygones.

The American Holiday

I do not recollect ever to have heard any expression of hostile feeling (except from a few physical-force Chartists, with regard to slavery) towards our government or our people, and only from a few stanch church-and-state men against our principles of government.

He noted that the English Lord Brougham put into words the highest eulogy ever on Washington. And, he wrote, the Duke of Wellington lately took part in a banquet in honor of American independence. He himself attended a Fourth of July dinner in one of George III’s old palaces.

[I] saw there a member of Parliament, and other distinguished Englishmen, drink to the memory of Washington, and in honor of the day.

Olmsted wrote that he often saw the American flag flown in England “without exciting remark.” He also wrote that he knew one gentleman who regularly set it over his house on the Fourth of July. He saluted it with gun-firing and festivities.  His neighbors “kindly regarded” the day as “the American Holiday,” wrote Olmsted.

This story was updated in 2021.

To Top