After One War
The Japanese ambassador poses with his family in 1928 at the second official Cherry Blossom Festival. Japan presented the trees in gratitude for the United States’ help in ending the Russo-Japanese War. The first festival, in 1927, featured children dancing a “Cherry Petal Ballet.” Photograph Courtesy of Museum Resource Center, National Park Service.
EffectsHelen Taft, wife of President William Howard Taft, made beautifying the Potomac River her cause as First Lady. She loved the Japanese aesthetic, and when she was shown four postcards, including this one—showing, in the words of David Fairchild, a plant explorer of the time, the blossoms’ “fairylike effects”—she was captivated. The mayor of Toyko then arranged a gift of 3,000 trees to DC.
Photograph Courtesy of Museum Resource Center, National Park Service.
Rite of Spring
Visiting the cherry blossoms is now a popular activity in Washington. Here, a view with the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin. Photograph of Tidal Basin by Buddy Secor.
Royalty for a Day
First Daughter Tricia Nixon welcomed the Cherry Blossom princesses to the White House in 1970. Beginning after World War II, each state and territory elected a princess to come here as part of the festival. The Cherry Blossom princess representing the Embassy of Japan lights a Japanese lantern at the start of the festivities. Photograph courtesy of Bettmann/Corbis.
The festival as we know it today was revived after World War II and gained popularity though the 1950s. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and Pat Nixon, wife of the Vice President, showed off their flower-themed hats at a cherry-blossom luncheon in 1958. Photograph courtesy of Bettmann/Corbis.
Beauty With Style
A woman relaxes by the cherry blossom trees in East Potomac Park in the 1930s. Before the festival became a big event, blossom-viewing was a more casual affair. Photograph by Volkmar Wentzel.
Care to Dance?
Traditional Japanese arts have become a big part of the festival. Here the 40-member taiko dance group from Tokyo’s Tamagawa University performs. Photograph of dancers by Nick Eckert.
Smiles and Waves
WavesA convertible carries Miss America and Miss District of Columbia’s Outstanding Teen in the annual parade. Photograph by Ron Blunt.