In addition to the historic home, our museum features both permanent and rotating historical exhibitions, the largest publicly accessible library collection devoted to Bailey in the world, a series of horticultural gardens, a nature trail, and South Haven’s historic Blacksmith’s Shop.
The Liberty Hyde Bailey homestead today is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its influence on the life and philosophical outlook of Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr. Bailey grew up in this home and the surrounding farm, observing nature and enjoying a simple life, memories of which he would often invoke in his most influential philosophical writings.
Constructed in 1858 by Liberty Hyde Bailey Sr., the museum is one of the oldest standing homes in South Haven, Michigan and was part of the Bailey farm that was some 80 acres, including the first commercial fruit orchard in South Haven. The farm was deemed to have one of the finest apple orchards in Michigan and was recognized by the Michigan Pomological Society for the years 1873, 1875 and 1877.
In 1918, the farm was purchased by pioneer fruit grower Frank E. Warner, an authority on fruit farming. Warner made the Bailey house his home until his death in 1926. In 1937, through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Clifton B. Charles of Bangor, Michigan, this property was obtained from the heirs of Frank E. Warner and presented to the City of South Haven as a memorial to Dr. Bailey.
Since then, it has become a museum, a center for educational outreach, and a cultural hub. The City still owns this historic landmark, which is operated by The Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum Memorial Fund, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 non-profit.
The main exhibit, housed in the historic homestead, features many artifacts original to the story of Liberty Hyde Bailey’s life and work and tells that story through a series of interpretive exhibit rooms. See the cradle in which Bailey was rocked as a child, the garden hoe that his father used for many years and that inspired one of Bailey’s finest agrarian essays, original poetry written by his mother, and many more artifacts of Bailey’s childhood and his later life as a professor, author, and world traveler.
The Liberty Hyde Bailey Research Library represents a wide variety of printed materials, from books written and edited by Bailey to books owned and read by Bailey, from scarce historical periodicals related to Bailey’s work and Progressive-era horticulture to correspondence written to and by Bailey. Our current (and evolving) library collections list is accessible here: Liberty Hyde Bailey Research Library Collections. Read on below to find out about the several collections that make up this invaluable resource to Bailey scholarship and understanding.
- The Reading Library consists of hundreds of volumes of books, mostly written or edited by Liberty Hyde Bailey and mostly out of print, as well as a number of legacy books written by Bailey’s philosophical heirs and a nearly complete collection of the first fifty years of annual reports of the State Pomological Society of Michigan (later the State Horticultural Society of Michigan), including volume three (1873), which contains Bailey’s first published essay, “Birds.” This collection is publicly accessible to visitors at the museum.
- The Rare Books Library contains many signed and otherwise rare editions of Bailey’s works. This collection includes a copy of The Training of Farmers signed by Bailey to his father, a copy of Garden-Making signed by Bailey to his mother, a paperback 1901 edition of Bailey’s Plant Breeding translated into French (La Production des Plantes), a copy of Bailey’s individually published poem Outlook with Bailey’s corrections hand-written in the margins, and many more similar treasures. This collection is publicly accessible under staff supervision, and a number of volumes are on display in the permanent exhibit.
- The Bailey Family Library Collection represents over 1,000 volumes, most of them donated directly by the owners of the Bailey home in Ithaca, New York, in addition to others acquired over the years, which were owned by Liberty Hyde Bailey and members of his immediate family. Hundreds of these were owned by Liberty Hyde Bailey personally and bear his signature or bookplate as proof of ownership, and hundreds more are unmarked but were published during his lifetime and likely read by him or a family member. For the most part, they represent the more literary and philosophical works from the family library; the more scientific and horticultural texts were donated to the L. H. Bailey Hortorium Herbarium at Cornell University. Our collection is a highly significant resource for anyone interested in the context in which Bailey wrote and formed his influential earth-philosophy. The collection also contains several hundred books that were present in the home after Bailey’s death, during the residence of Ethel Zoe Bailey, many with her mark. The bulk of this collection is currently housed in a climate-controlled facility offsite, as we work to raise funds to have the books conserved. They may be made accessible to researchers if we receive adequately advanced notice and under staff supervision.
- The Periodicals Collection contains many periodicals that were either edited by Bailey, that feature his writings, or that profile him. Our collections of Gentes Herbarum during the Bailey years and of the full run of Baileya are particularly strong, and we have most of the issues of Country-Life in America that were published under Bailey’s founding editorship, as well as issues of many other relevant historical American periodicals. This collection is publicly accessible under staff supervision.
- The Correspondence and Ephemera Collection contains correspondence from Bailey (mostly postcards written to his daughter Ethel); other Bailey family correspondence; some unpublished manuscript materials, such as poetry written by Bailey’s mother, Sarah Harrison Bailey, and by his brother, Marcus Benjamin Bailey; and various ephemera related to Liberty Hyde Bailey and to the Bailey Museum.
- Digital versions of many of Bailey’s Books are available through:
- Hathi Trust digital books
The Bailey Museum’s gardens and grounds feature a number of lovely gardens with interpretive signage, a series of community garden plots, the Bailey Farm’s old smokehouse, the South Haven Blacksmith Shop and Carriage Barn, and a nature trail. You can read more about our gardening efforts on our Gardening page, or continue reading about the resources of our gardens and grounds below.
Living Collections: The Bailey Museum’s Living Collections showcase many of the varieties of plants to which Bailey dedicated his life’s work, both horticultural and literary. These currently include the Garden of Pinks, Garden of Larkspurs, Garden of Bellflowers, Carex Garden, and Brassica Garden. Ideas for the future include a Rubus Garden and a Garden of Gourds. We also feature the Marie Dissette Herb Garden, the Martha Warner Day Lily Garden, and an Heirloom Kitchen Garden. All of our gardens are tended by volunteers, so let us know if you would like to get involved! Liberty Hyde Bailey Nature Trail: The museum features a short nature trail winding through a stand of woods on the east side of the property which has reclaimed part of the original Bailey Farm. A short trail with several loops, this is one of the only places in the City of South Haven to get away from streets and buildings and reimagine what South Haven looked like during the frontier days when the Baileys farmed this land and when young Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr. walked the same ground and explored the woods, collecting plants and beginning a life of wonder and discovery. Outbuildings: The Smokehouse is the last remaining outbuilding of the Bailey Farm, and is currently being considered for restoration work. Our property also houses the Blacksmith Shop and Carriage Barn, one of the oldest structures in South Haven along with the Bailey Homestead itself, and moved from downtown to the museum property for preservation.
In 1886, a young horticultural botanist and professor at what was then the Michigan Agricultural College set off with two other naturalists on a journey from Michigan up to northern Minnesota and into the wilderness of the Boundary Waters. He was only 28, and it would be his first plant-collecting expedition into a place considered wilderness as well as his first excursion outside of the United States, and it would help him conclude his first major work of botanical taxonomy: a study of the genus Carex (the sedges). Little did he know that the trip would change his life, as well as the future of both horticulture and agrarian philosophy, forever.
That young man, of course, was none other than Liberty Hyde Bailey. His childhood prepared him for this adventure in more ways than one. Growing up in South Haven, Michigan, Bailey had been challenged by the first botanist he ever met, Lucy Millington, not to worry about the Carex genus — that it was “not fit” for a young botanist. Now, ten years later, he was heading into the wilderness to complete his study of that genus and publish his full taxonomy. Additionally, in South Haven he had enjoyed meaningful friendships with many of the Potawatomi children who lived on and near the Bailey farm, with whom he would go into the woods and trap passenger pigeons. In Minnesota, the Ojibwe guides who paddled with him through the woods and swamps would both remind him of his childhood days with the Potawatomi and also challenge some of his assumptions about First Nations people.
So, take a paddle and join young Bailey, along with Ojibwe guides Pashetonegweb and Mamashgawab, as we set off from Onamanni Sagiegan, or Vermilion Lake, on a journey you won’t forget. This exhibit features images and artifacts on loan from the L. H. Bailey Hortorium Herbarium at Cornell University and the Michigan Maritime Museum of South Haven, Michigan, as well as images reproduced with permission from the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. We received research support from the Bois Forte Heritage Center of Tower, Minnesota. Financial support has been provided by a grant from Albemarle Corporation and the generosity of Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum members.