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On Strawberry Hill: The Transcendent Love of Gifford Pinchot and Laura Houghteling by Paula Ivaska Robbins

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Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946) was the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, the founder of the first American forestry school at Yale, and also a founder of the Society of American Foresters. He is generally considered the Father of Forestry in America. Before all this, he fell in love with Laura Houghteling, (1863-1895) the daughter of the head of the Chicago Board of Trade, who lived at her family retreat, Strawberry Hill, across the French Broad River from the Vanderbilt family’s Biltmore Estate near Asheville, where Pinchot was working as a forester. Although they had met briefly in previous years, it wasn’t until the Spring of 1893 that their feelings for each other blossomed, despite the fact that she was terminally ill with tuberculosis. By December 1894 they were considering marriage, but she died in February of 1895. Pinchot believed in the kind of spiritualism that led him to feel he could communicate with her, and for twenty years he continued to journal about their love. What is disconcerting about this book is that the author’s note at the end of the text on page 103 states that she has permission from the Pennsylvania History Society “to copy from” the article, “The Mystery of Gifford Pinchot and Laura Houghteling” by the late James G. Bradley, that appeared in Pennsylvania History in 1999. She admits that “I have not used quotation marks except when quoting from another source.” To me, this disclaimer does not justify her extensive, word-for-word, use of Bradley’s text at very crucial points in this short book.

Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2017. 113 pages with a Bibliography, Notes, photos, and a Forward by Char Miller. Hardback with a pictorial cover