Lewis and Valentine Collection

1918 - 1970

Specializing in moving and replanting large trees, the Lewis and Valentine Nursery was one of the most prominent landscape contracting companies in the eastern United States during the first half of the twentieth century.

Historical Note

Moving TreesThe Lewis & Valentine Company was formed by five brothers whose father had always hoped that his sons would grow up to be lawyers. Instead, the Lewis brothers formed a landscape design, installation and nursery firm that specialized in developing “successful methods for transplanting full-grown trees.” Their success, which was based on “doing well the task which is usually considered impossible,” would have made their father proud.

The company was the inspiration of H.C. Lewis, the oldest of seven brothers, who believed that estate owners should have the luxury of immediate landscapes, rather than waiting decades for their landscapes to mature. The Lewis brothers started their business in the early 1900s. Shortly afterwards, a Mr. Valentine, roommate of Albert Addison Lewis at the Amherst Landscape School in Massachusetts, invested in the business. After three years time Mr. Valentine moved on and the Lewis brothers bought back his interest, but continued to keep Valentine part of the company’s name.

Moving TreesThe Lewis & Valentine Company was the largest firm in America devoted to transplainting mature trees years leading up to the Great Depression. It claimed to be “the most experienced and most versatile, backed by an intimate knowledge of horticulture and the development of fine estates.” Lewis & Valentine was noted as a leader in providing complete landscape services, from selling and guaranteeing the plants, to designing and installation.

The Lewis & Valentine Company required that their staff be men “of good character and not afraid of hard work.” This was evident in the firm’s principle of no limitations to the size of trees that they were willing to deliver. The trees were often full-grown and ranged in age from twenty to a hundred years old. Many were so large that 20 or more tons of earth had to be moved during the relocation process.

During its 25 years in business, Lewis & Valentine opened nineteen offices east of the Mississippi serving such notable clients as Charles A. Schwab and P.S. duPont at his Longwood Estate.

The Lewis & Valentine Company was set up as an organization of independent companies. Each was incorporated under the laws of the state in which they operated. The offices were located in Connecticut (Darien), Florida (Palm Beach), Illinois (Chicago), Maryland (Baltimore), Massachusetts ( Boston and Hanover), Michigan (Detroit), Pennsylvania (Ardmore and Pittsburg), New Jersey (Ashbury Park and Morristown), New York (Buffalo, Roslyn-Long Island, Rye, Valley Stream-Long Island, New York City), North Carolina (Winston-Salem) and Ohio (Cleveland and Cincinnati).

Scope and Content

The collection includes brochures, photographs, books, trade catalogs, company papers, and letters from clients dating from 1918 to 1970. It was a gift from the late Hewlett Withington Lewis, former owner of the Lewis and Valentine Nursery.

Finding aid to the collection

Highlights from the Collection

Letter of Praise

The praise from Lewis & Valentine Company’s clientele was endless.

“I wish to compliment you on the excellent character of the work, on the trees selected and, particularly, on the careful methods employed by your men in doing their work without injury to the premises and leaving things in good order.”– P.S. du Pont, Wilmington, Delaware
“I wish to say that I have never spent any money for landscaping that has given me quite as much satisfaction than this.”– Le Roy Latham, New York, New York.
“I desire to say that I consider you the best-equipped and most skillful organization in the field for the moving of large trees, box bushes, etc., and I shall hope to have you do any work of this character which I may undertake in the future.”– Walter C. Janney, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania