We may think of the 1970s as the start of mainstream interest in environmental causes, but it was actually in the 1870s that Arbor Day was born. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the holiday was invented by a newspaper editor in Nebraska.
J. Sterling Morton was known for encouraging others to plant trees, and when he became the secretary for the Nebraska territory, he proposed implementing a tree-planting holiday to the State Board of Agriculture.
Estimates show that Nebraskans planted more than 1 million trees in the state for that first commemoration in 1872. By the 1880s, children across the country were receiving designated Arbor Day education in schools, as well as a tree to plant in their own yards at home. In the 1920s, 45 states and territories in North America were celebrating Arbor Day, and by the 1970s, President Richard Nixon proclaimed the day a national holiday, exactly 100 years after Morton originally proposed the idea.