M'Mahon (McMahon) was born in Ireland about 1775 and died on
September 18, 1816). He emigrated to the United States,
presumably to flee from the political turmoil in Ireland, in 1796.
Coming from a
country where land ownership was reserved for the noble few and gardening
and farming taxed and tithed, he was immediately taken back by the lack of
gardening trade in America. He presumed that this was due to an
absence of quality seeds and the lack of informational materials available
to the American gardener.
By 1802/03 he
was established in Philadelphia where he issued his broadsheet "Catalogue
of Garden Grass, Herb, Flower, Tree & Shrub-Seeds, Flower Roots, &c."
It was comprised of seven hundred and twenty species and varieties of seed
and was the first published seed list in the United States. In 1804
he published another catalogue, this one containing thirty pages, mostly
devoted to native American seeds.
He was often
described as Thomas Jefferson's gardening mentor.
A steady stream of correspondence passed between them. His
prominence as a horticulturalist and his connection with Jefferson found
him being selected as one of two nurserymen to receive and grow the seeds
and roots collected by the
Lewis and Clark Expedition.
In 1806, he
fulfilled the need for American specific gardening information by
authoring the classic work, "The American Gardener's Calendar: Adapted
to the Climates and Seasons of the United States." I was
the most comprehensive gardening book published in the United States at
that time and finished in its eleventh edition in 1857. (It was
again reissued in 1976)
M'Mahon purchased twenty acres on the Germantown Road, in Penn Township,
Philadelphia for a nursery and botanic garden that would enable him to
expand his business. He named it "Upsal Botanic Garden" in commemoration
of Linnaeus' connection with Uppsala University. It was located at the
north edge of the then urban part of the city. Part of the MíMahon garden
is currently occupied by Fotterall Square, a small park in Philadelphia.
At his death,
the operation of the nursery business passed to his wife. Mrs.
M'Mahon operated the business successfully for many years. Their son,
Thomas P. M'Mahon, continued to revise and republish "The American