Milwaukee's Anthony Mitchell (1817-1887) became the wealthiest man in Wisconsin according to the census of…
In England during the early nineteenth century only the wealthy could afford conservatories, or glass houses, to cultivate tropical plants during the cold months of winter.
Eventually when glass became cheaper the middle class could also afford such a glass house for special plants.
The Historical Society of Talbot Country in Maryland published a book called The Art of Gardening: Maryland Landscapes and the American Garden Aesthetic 1730-1930. In it we read: “Technical advances made during the industrial revolution provided ample supplies of glass and iron to fabricate structures in which to maintain and propagate exotic plants year around–from simple hothouses to complete ‘crystal palaces’.”
In Philadelphia I remember visiting the fernery at the Morris Arboretum. Built in 1899, it is an example of the fascination American gardeners, like the English, had with exotic plants like ferns.