As Ancarrow prowled the banks of the James looking for raw sewage outlets, he discovered wild flowers and began learning photography and botany. He knew he could persuade people to his conservation cause by using beautiful images of flowers. He photographed all parts of the plants, and photographed them in all seasons. Ancarrow was a popular speaker on the topics of restoration and conservation of the beautiful James River. He developed Flower Show #2, with over 300 images, lengthy narrative to describe each flower, and a sound recording of his talk. The digital archive is a presentation of Flower Show #2, along with other content from the Ancarrow archive. LEARN MORE
The Ancarrow Wildflower Digital Archive is a collaborative project of the VCU Rice Rivers Center, the Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries, and the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Check out this online exhibit of his wildflowers.
View Flower Show No. 2 (1972) by Newton Ancarrow
The Ancarrow Wildflower Digital Archive builds on the Rice Rivers Center’s relationship with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to support outreach and research to the community.
Newton H. Ancarrow, Richmond’s earliest environmental activist, battled to improve water quality of the James River in the late 1960s. Our founding river suffered from raw sewage and industrial waste and oil overflows that coated his boat ramp and the bottoms of his high quality speedboats after a heavy rain. He walked the banks of the James looking for sewage outflows and, on his journeys, documented over 400 species of wildflowers in what is now the James River Park System. The digital capture of his slide collection gives us a unique snapshot from the past to compare with the riparian flora of the present, a story of a crusade for clean water and conservation that still echoes today.
The following content is originally published on Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s website.
The Wildflower Hunter
Newton Ancarrow's family donated the Ancarrow Wildflower Digital Archive slide collection to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in 1992. Nearly 35,000 photos reflect his passion for capturing the beauty of plants all along the James River in what is now the James River Park System. Newton Ancarrow (1920-1991) was a boat builder who relocated his business from Scott's Addition to the south bank of the James River in 1962. In 1965, he opened a large ramp for his business, and very quickly learned of the poor water quality. Ancarrow was enraged when oily, polluted water covered his ramp and his boats. He began a crusade to force city, state, and federal authorities to clean up the James, the legacy of which we continue to enjoy today. The Ancarrow Wildflower Digital Archive is a collaborative project of the Garden and the Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries and VCU Rice Rivers Center. The archive is hosted on VCU Libraries’ website.
Along the James
The Boat Builder
Before he was a wildflower hunter, Newton Ancarrow was a boat enthusiast and designer. His goal was to build luxury boats capable of reaching 60 mph. Little did he know that relocating his boat business would lead him into the role of conservationist and flower photography. Follow the trail here from speed boats to wildflowers. LEARN MORE