First Ladies and Their Orchids
A Century of Namesake Cattleyas

A. A. Chadwick and Arthur E. Chadwick

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Distributed by University Press of Florida on behalf of Chadwick & Son Orchids
For as long as orchid hybrids have been made, breeders have been naming them after prominent women of the day. European royalty were often honored and included queens, princesses, empresses, and baronesses. By the early 1900s, Queen Victoria, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Alexandra all had namesake cattleyas.
Royal titles are not part of the American culture so, in the United States, orchids are named for the wives of presidents. From Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, Edith, who coveted “canaries, bourbon, and orchids” and was given a fresh orchid bloom every day by her husband through Doctor Jill Biden, who lives just minutes from the Chadwick home in Wilmington, Delaware and spent half an hour with Art discussing orchids in the green room of the White House, we now have nineteen consecutive first ladies with namesake cattleyas. Each hybrid is as lovely and interesting as the women themselves.
The Chadwick’s are responsible for much of this history. They acquired, bred, named, or presented the hybrids, got them awarded, corresponded with the first lady (or her children or grandchildren) then donated the entire collection to the Smithsonian for safe keeping. It is, after all, a National Treasure.
Arthur Everett Chadwick is President of Chadwick & Son Orchids Inc in Powhatan, Virginia. He founded the orchid company in 1989 with his father who had been growing orchids since 1943. Chadwick’s operates 12 greenhouses, two retail stores in Richmond, Virginia, and boards over 13,000 orchids for clients. Art has the distinction of naming cattleya hybrids after the wives of the six most recent U.S. Presidents and personally presenting the flowers to most of the honored recipients.
Arthur Andrew “A. A.” Chadwick was a feature writer for the American Orchid Society for over fifty years. His passion was cattleyas, having been raised during the corsage era of the 1940’s. Art was an accomplished hybridizer who planted his own seed on the kitchen table using a pressure cooker and glass beakers. He tended to his sizable orchid collection every day in two redwood greenhouses that he built by hand. His first book, The Classic Cattleyas, sold out and is now in its second printing.  

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