Noer Collection Featured Acquisition

Big things in a small package.….Luke J. Doogue’s Making a Lawn, 1912

Making a Lawn (pdf) is available in full-text PDF format through the Michigan State University Libraries!

Luke Doogue’s Making a Lawn was an important early book on the subject of lawn care, primarily for the layperson, and one that did not sugarcoat the work involved in maintaining a yard. “To the thousands of anxious inquirers, seeking solution of lawn difficulties, it would be more than delightful to say that a fine lawn could be had by very hard wishing, but honesty compels one to change the words “hard wishing” to “hard work,” in order to keep strictly within the truth” (p. 1). Given the early date of its publication, this work can be seen as a response to the dearth of professional instruction in yard care available at the time, as Doogue presented the public with the fundamentals for the creation of a healthy and attractive lawn. Many works of the time focused on public areas, such as golf courses, neglecting the needs of private homeowners. It is interesting to note that the book passed through several reprints in 1913, 1914, and 1917, virtually unchanged from the original 1912 edition. There are, in fact, many copies of these reprints still available, strongly suggesting that the book was a great success due to its large print runs. The amount of these prints present in the market today is a testament to the popularity of the work at the time and the very real need for practical lawn instruction.

A diminutive book in both physical size and page length, Making a Lawn nonetheless surveyed a variety of topics essential to a homeowner’s regular upkeep of the lawn, such as seeding, proper use of equipment, fertilizers, and dealing with garden pests, while still maintaining a conversational, and occasionally exaggerated, tone. During his discussion of crab grass, for example, he remarked: “It is a destroyer of the first rank… Even after it has been killed by the frost its baneful influence is not ended...” (p. 47).

Despite the time that has passed since the work’s initial publication, much of Doogue’s advice to the reader is still very relevant today, such as his suggestion to be cautious when selecting a lawnmower and not to give in to a low price and superficial appeal: “When you can get a lawn-mower with a pound of tea you may be sure that it is time to be suspicious, regardless of the pretty paint and ornamentation that makes it a symphony of colors” (pp. 39-40). The subject matter was obviously important to Doogue and his common sense approach and accessible writing made the book highly useful, as well as engaging to read. He easily condensed a great deal of the lawn care knowledge he acquired over the years into brief and informative chapters that dove directly into the topics most pertinent to readers.

Although a prominent figure in the field of landscape gardening, little is known about Luke Doogue personally beyond his position as the Superintendent of Boston Public Grounds Department in the early 1900s. He was born in Massachusetts to Elisabeth and William Doogue, both originally from Ireland, and grew up within Boston as one of four children; his siblings were Elisabeth, Susan, and William. Interestingly, his father William worked as a florist, which likely inspired the young Luke. He worked for a time as a clerk in Boston and eventually married a woman named Sarah, having at least two children: Elizabeth and Esther. He passed away sometime between 1920 and 1930, leaving his wife as head of the household. Much of this biographical information was drawn from Census data, which is highly impersonal and does not truly reflect who Doogue was a human being, leaving us with a great deal of conjecture as to his character. However, his contribution to the literature has stood the test of time and remained a valuable addition to the field of lawn care, and for that he is clearly a memorable figure.

View the complete TGIF record for this item. See also the first note in the record about the two 1913 reprints, and the 1914 and 1917 reprints of the book. It mentions that there are very slight differences between the prints.

Also see the complete record for Luke J. Doogue's The Proper Care of Lawns

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