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Uncovered: Photo of John Muir

Muir, John A sugar pine and John Muir (1)
A sugar pine and John Muir.  Courtesy of the Archives, Pasadena Museum of History.

There are few new things under the sun, but here's a fun one: a photograph uncovered in early December by the archives of the Pasadena Museum of History. It shows John Muir holding a sugar pine cone nearly as long as his beard. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.) On the back of the photo, Muir wrote:

The grandest tree in the world
the Sugar Pine
and the grandest mountaineer in the world
John Muir

It's thought that Muir was jesting with his friend T.P. Lukins, a conservationist and Pasadena community leader in the late 1800s. Many of their letters, held by the Huntington Library in San Marino, California,   reflect the same sense of humor.

Muir, John Signature
Reverse side of John Muir photograph, showing inscription and his signature.  Courtesy of the Archives, Pasadena Museum of History

When you're used to six-inch pine cones, the 24-inch cones of a sugar pine are astounding, and it seems fitting that Muir should be photographed holding one. The cone I drew, below, measured about 16 inches.  It took me many tries to capture the shape of the seeds without drawing each one. Next to the drawing is a three-inch cone from a blue spruce.

Muir, Sue's drawing

-- Sue Fierston paints and teaches just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a painter, she works in acrylics and watercolor and is in the middle of a series called "100 Flowers." As a teaching artist, she works with teachers to bring art into their classrooms in grades 4-8. Her posts focus on her nature-themed art collaborations. For a look at her paintings or more about her teaching, check out her website at suzannefierston.com.

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