John Lewis Childs

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John Lewis Childs
Member of the New York Senate
from the 1st district
In office
Preceded by Edward Floyd-Jones
Succeeded by Richard Higbie
Personal details
Born (1856-05-13)May 13, 1856
Jay, Maine
Died 6 March 1921(1921-03-06) (aged 64)
Floral Park, New York
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Caroline Goldsmith Childs
Residence Floral Park
Occupation Horticulturalist

John Lewis Childs (May 13, 1856 – March 6, 1921)[1][2] was a horticultural businessman and politician who founded Floral Park, New York. In addition to a widespread reputation for being a zealous ornithologist,[3] Childs is also credited with founding the first seed catalog business in the United States.[4]


Childs was born in Franklin County, Maine, and grew up in Buckfield. His career in horticulture began in 1874, when he took a job with C. L. Allen of Queens. Soon afterwards he began renting, then buying land in nearby East Hinsdale, Queens County, near other nurseries.


Within five years of building his own seed and bulb business and starting America's first seed catalog business, Childs established a bustling business. The volume of his business is attributed with the expansion of the Floral Park Post Office and nearby village businesses. Additionally, Childs was responsible for building more than 20 buildings in Floral Park, including hotels, lumber mills and his own printing press. He also provided a public park for the community,[5] built the first school in town, and served as the first village president, which later became the office of mayor.[4]


He was a Republican member of the New York State Senate (1st D.) in 1894 and 1895, and during his term he ferried a bill establishing a State Normal School in nearby Jamaica. He ran twice unsuccessfully for a seat in the U.S. Congress.

Land holdings[edit]

Childs bought a great deal of land in the area around Floral Park.[4] His extensive land holdings related mainly to his seed catalog business, with more than 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) used for that purpose near St. James, New York and eastern Long Island.[1] Today, "Flowerfields" is an area within St. James that was founded by Childs around 1909.


Childs maintained one of the largest private ornithology libraries in the United States, and had more than 700 personally collected specimens in his collection.[3] He was also a friend of John Burroughs, who contributed articles on birds to Childs’ magazine called The Warbler.


Childs died aboard a New York Central train from Albany to New York City in 1921. His company continued to operate in the 1920s, only stopping in the Great Depression. His wife sold the seed catalog operation to the Edward T. Bromfield Seed Company in the mid-1920s. Childs’ realty holdings were sold in the mid-1930s, valued by the broker at $2,000,000. Childs's ornate 18 room Victorian house in Floral Park was torn down in 1950.[6]


  1. ^ a b Weidman, B.S. and Martin, L.B. (1981) Nassau County, Long Island, in Early Photographs, 1869-1940: In early photographs 1869-1940. Courier Dover Publications. p 49.
  2. ^ "John L. Childs dies on Central Train", New York Times. March 6, 1921. Retrieved 12/30/07.
  3. ^ a b Witmer Stone (1918), "(review of) Catalogue of the Childs Library", The Auk: Quarterly Journal of Ornithology, American Ornithologists' Union, Nuttall Ornithological Club, 35: 93 
  4. ^ a b c The history of Floral Park, Village of Floral Park. Accessed August 17, 2016.
  5. ^ Ross, P. (1903) "John Lewis Childs", History of Long Island: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. p 247.
  6. ^ Laby, D. (2004) "John Lewis Childs, James D. Mooney, Flowerfield: Some historical footnotes". Retrieved 12/28/07.

External links[edit]

New York State Senate
Preceded by
Edward Floyd-Jones
New York State Senate
1st District

Succeeded by
Richard Higbie