Victoria Johnson

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New York, New York

Victoria Johnson's "captivating and intensely readable" (Ron Chernow, author of ALEXANDER HAMILTON) new book tells the story of the first botanical garden in the United States, founded by the attending doctor at the Hamilton-Burr duel, David Hosack.



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A lost garden is buried under Rockefeller Center.


In 1801, a young doctor named David Hosack—who would soon be chosen by his friends Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr as the attending physician for their 1804 duel—bought twenty acres of Manhattan farmland and founded the first botanical garden in the new United States.  At the dawn of the 19th century, the island was blanketed with fields of goldenrod and thickets of mountain laurel.  Fifth Avenue was still a country lane called the Middle Road.


Today, Radio City Music Hall sits on the footprint of David Hosack’s magnificent tropical conservatory.


At his garden, he collected and grew thousands of medicinal, edible, and ornamental plants. He introduced New Yorkers to precious remedies, exotic foods, and gorgeous blooms.  He conducted some of the first pharmaceutical research in the United States.  His conservatory was a glorious swirl of colors and aromas—he had aloe, mango, banana, avocado, coffee, bird-of-paradise, roses from around the world, and more.  Because of his pioneering garden, Hosack became one of the most famous Americans of his generation. 




In her book and her talks, Victoria Johnson masterfully transports readers back to a Manhattan covered with farms and forests and reveals the incredible lengths to which the larger-than-life Hosack went to realize his dream. Hosack’s own stunning country estate on the Hudson inspired the first professional landscape architects in the United States.

American Eden delivers a thrilling portrait of a forgotten, towering American who was admired by the likes of Jefferson, Madison, Lafayette, Alexander von Humboldt, Sir Joseph Banks—and Burr and Hamilton.


Victoria Johnson's American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic (Liveright/W.W. Norton, June 2018) forms the basis of her beautifully illustrated and entertaining book talks.

Topics include: 

1.  Dr. David Hosack (1769-1835) and the Elgin Botanic Garden (1801-c. 1815)

2.  The horticultural and botanical passions of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr

3.  The Hamilton-Burr duel seen for the first time through the eyes of Dr. Hosack, the beloved family physician to both the Hamiltons and the Burrs. 

4.  The natural environment of New York in the late 18th and early 19th centuries



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Audience Reviews

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She's as 'engaging & captivating' as her book!

ilona ontscherenki from NJ - 11/06/2018 17:42:37

A professor who can tell a fascinating story of history, medicine, and botany? Impossible before Victoria leaned of David Hosack and chose to tell his long-lost story in her terrific new book, just shortlisted for an NBA.