A Guide to the Henry Nehrling Collection

Archives and Special Collections. Rollins College, Winter Park Florida



Descriptive cataloging funded by a grant from the State Historical Records Advisory Board of the State Library and Archives of Florida.

Finding Aid encoded by Blair Jackson, 2006

Latest revision 2006-4-3

Descriptive Summary
Date(s) 1886-1929  (Inclusive).
Extent:� 12 boxes totaling  8.5 linear ft.of archival collections and 48 linear ft. of books and journals from Nehrling's personal library collection.
Languages:  English.
Administrative Summary
Portions of collection available online?  Yes
Provenance:  Henry Nehrling  1853-1927.
Acquisition Information:   Manuscripts,  notes, and books were purchased from Mrs. Henry Nehrling in 1930.  The Nehrling-Mead correspondence series was a gift of Julian Nally to Rollins College in 1937.  The children and grandchildren of Henry Nehrling have also contributed books, papers and memorabilia.
Access Conditions: Unlimited
Use Conditions:  Collection is open for research.
Processing History:  A preliminary organization of the Nehrling collection was undertaken in 1985.  At this time, a typescript index to the Nehrling manuscripts and a summary transcription of the Nehrling-Mead correspondence was also created.  These documents are available online.  
Copyright Status:  The status of copyright on the materials of the Henry Nehrling collection is governed by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U. S. C.).
Preferred Citation:  Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: container number, the Henry Nehrling Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.
Biographical/Historical Note  
Henry Nehrling was born in 1853 in Herman, Wisconsin, the son of German-Americans Carl Nehrling and Elizabeth (Ruge) Nehrling.  His education in Lutheran parochial schools led him to eventually complete a teacher education program at the Lutheran Teacher's Seminary in Addison, Illinois.  After graduation, Henry married Sophia Schoff and launched a teaching career with  Lutheran parochial schools.  Henry and Sophia had nine children together.

Nehrling was always interested in birds and studied them wherever he lived.  His teaching career took him to Illinois, Missouri and Texas.  By 1897, Nehrling had published three books on birds, all written in the German language.  Nehrling became known as "the Audubon of Wisconsin."  While in Texas, Nehrling also became interested in tropical plants and palm trees.  At the Columbian Exposition of 1893, Nehrling had the opportunity to examine a great number of tropical plants and trees, including the fancy-leafed caladium.  With its colorful variegated leaves, the caladium held an enduring fascination for Nehrling.  Through a South American horticulturist, Adolph Leitz, Nehrling acquired hundreds of Brazilian caladium specimens.  These were first housed in his greenhouse in Milwaukee.  Many of them were later moved  to his new home in Gotha, Florida. 

In Central Florida, Nehrling believed he had found a paradise to grow his caladiums, which he did with great success for many years.  Nehrling created new hybrid caladiums, two of which he named for his son and his son's wife, the "Arno Nehrling" and the "Mrs. Arno Nehrling."  Nehrling also assigned names in honor of  his wife, the "Mrs. Sophie Nehrling," and in honor of  his long time friend, the "Theodore Mead," who was another prominent name in early Florida horticulture.  Nehrling and Mead wrote to each other, exchanged seeds, plants and information for nearly thirty years. In Gotha, Nehrling also began to experiment with the colorful annual flowering Amaryllis, which was a favorite of Theodore Mead's.  By 1908, Nehrling's study of the Amaryllis led him to write a manuscript titled "Die Amaryllis."  

For years, Nehrling had been a collaborator with the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction, which was part of what was then called the Bureau of Plant Industry.  Through this connection, Nehrling was able to expand his international contacts and gather information, plants and seeds from tropical horticulturists around the world.  By the 1920's, Henry Nehrling had become one of the world's leading authorities on tropical plant lore.  After a devastating freeze in Central Florida, Nehrling moved the focus of his activities to Naples, in southern Florida, where he set up what he called his "Tropical Gardens."  By 1925, Nehrling had over three thousand species of tropical plants growing in Naples.  

Nehrling was a true naturalist.  He studied nature with great intensity and found Florida to be a paradise for his passions.  Near the end of his life, he wrote "In both the cultivation, and enjoyment of gardens is peace, rest and contentment... As I look out my window at the orchid laden trees, I wonder what more life could offer anywhere."

Henry Nehrling died on Nov. 22, 1929 and was buried in Woodlawn cemetery near Gotha, Florida.

1853  Born on May 9, 1853 to Carl Nehrling and Elizabeth (Ruge) Nehrling at the town of Herman, near Howard's Grove in

Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. �Attended a Lutheran parochial school near Herman. 

1869-1873  Attended the State Normal School in Addison, Illinois.
1873� Graduated from the Teacher's Seminary in Addison, Illinois.
1874  Married Sophia Schoff of Oak Park, Illinois on July 20.
1874-1884  Taught schools in Illinois, Missouri and Texas.
1879-1884  Taught school and studied birds in Texas.  Began experimenting with tropical and subtropical plants.
1884� Bought  property in Gotha near Orlando, Florida.   Appointed Deputy Collector and Inspector of Customs at the Port of


1886  First came to Florida from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, eventually creating what he called his "Palm Cottage Gardens" in Gotha,


1929  Wrote an Essay Titled "Orchids in South Florida."  Became interested in rubber and fig trees (Genus Ficus). 
1891  Published Die Nordamerikanische Vogelwelt (Birds of North America).
1893  Visits Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Volume I of  Our Native Birds of Song and Beauty completed.  
1896  Volume II of Our Native Birds of Song and Beauty was completed.  
1900  Nehrling Presented with Certificate by the German Association of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as a Token of Appreciation for his Efforts to  Protect  Birds.

1902  Nehrling worked as an ornithologist with the Philadelphia Commercial Museum for six months.

1906  Began working as a collaborator with the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industries. Nehrling's young daughter, Hedwig-Elsie died on June 12th.
1904  Moved to Gotha, Florida after working six months with the Philadelphia Commercial Museum.
1905  Nehrling's only remaining daughter, Hildegard, died on November 1st.
1908  Wrote an Essay Titled "Die Amaryllis."
1911  Nehrling's wife, Sophia, died on November 11.
1916  Married Betty B. Mitchell on June 7.
1917  Freeze killed many valuable plants at Gotha, causing Nehrling to seek out the Naples property in south Florida where he

created what he called his "Tropical Garden."

1922-1929  Numerous articles on tropical plants published in the weekly paper titled The American Eagle.  (Estero, Florida)

1924  Moved plants from Naples to Sebring, Florida.

1926  Created a nursery in Sebring, Florida  as part of a partnership which soon dissolved.
1927 �On April 27, Thomas A. Edison, accompanied by his wife, spent the day with Nehrling at his Naples gardens.  Due to

freezing temperatures in January and March, Nerling loses many of his Ficus plants at his Naples gardens.

1929  Awarded the Meyer Medal for Distinguished Service in Plant Exploration by the Miami Garden Club.  Nehrling died 
           on November 22 and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery near Gotha, Florida.

List of Publications
Die Nordamerikanische Vogelwelt (1891).
Our Native Birds of Song and Beauty  (Vol. I, 1893, Vol. II, 1896).
The Plant World in Florida (1933).
My Garden in Florida and Miscellaneous Horticultural Notes (1944).
Nehrling's Early Florida Gardens  (Abridged and edited by Robert W. Reed, 2001).
Nehrling's Plants, People and Places in Early Florida  (Abridged and edited by Robert W. Reed, 2001). 
Contributions to Periodical Titles:
Anzeiger des Westens
American Eagle
Journal of the International Garden Club
Die Gartenwelt
Gardener's Chronicle
Garden and Forest
Der Haus and Bauernfreund
Milwaukee Germania Sonntagspost
Sonntagsblatt der New Yorker Staats  Zeitung
T�gliche Illinois Staats Zeitung
Der Westen
Scope and Content Note
The personal papers and library of Henry Nehrling contain manuscripts, photographs, memorabilia, periodicals, and pamphlets from his personal library.  The collection also includes Nehrling's correspondence with internationally famous botanists, plant collectors and horticulturists of his time, such as Theodore L. Mead.  
Index Terms
Personal Names:

Nehrling, Henry, 1853-1929.

Mead, Theodore Luqueer, 1852-1936.

Geographic Names:

Florida--Orange County--History.

Florida--Collier County--History.

Subject Terms:

Agriculture--Florida--Orange County--History.

Agriculture--Florida--Collier County--History.






Tropical Plants.

The Henry Nehrling Collection
Nehrling Photo Gallery
Series Description
Collection Contents_