Davey: Father of Tree Surgery

John Davey, the “tree man” of Kent Ohio. Image source:  The Davey Tree Expert Company, used with permission

John Davey (1846-1923), of Kent, Ohio, became the "Father of Tree Surgery" when he founded The Davey Tree Expert Company in 1880 and subsequently published his authoritative manual on tree care, The Tree Doctor, in 1901. As business grew, so did the need to train employs in specialized techniques. In response the company established the Davey Institute of Tree Surgery in 1909.

"Tree surgery" is the imaginative name for providing care that saves the lives or improves the looks of ornamental trees and shrubs. Trees catch diseases, get injured in storms and accidents, develop decayed spots, are injured by pests, and encounter other health glitches. "Tree surgeons," specialists in tree care, are their doctors. Tree surgeons apply medicine, splints, braces, prune, trim, fertilize, and tend to trees in other ways.

John Davey invented this occupation from scratch after immigrating to the United States from England in 1873. In 1909 Davey and his son, Martin, incorporated the Davey Tree Expert Company. Martin later was elected mayor of Kent, Governor of Ohio, and a member of the U. S. Congress. Father and son also opened a school in Kent, the Davey Institute of Tree Surgery, that was the nation’s first to teach scientific principles of tree care. Those steps planted the seeds of the modern company, whose name is synonymous with tree surgery almost everywhere.

The Davey Institute of Tree Sciences, historical classroom image. Image source: The Davey Tree Expert Company, used with permission

In 2002, the Davey Tree Expert Company’s branches in forty-three U. S. states and six Canadian provinces sold $320 million worth of services. Davey tree surgeons do everything from battling insects chewing the leaves in Aunt Emma’s backyard in Peoria to tending golf courses and overseeing the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, DC. The company’s work is so good that it has few competitors. Over the years, Ohio’s gift of scientific tree care has assured the good health and good looks of millions of trees and shrubs.

The Davey Truck Group, historical image. Image source:  The Davey Tree Expert Company, used with permission

A lot of hard work and personal sacrifice lays behind that achievement. John Davey worked long hours in low-paying jobs and sunk deep into debt while establishing tree surgery as a new occupation. People, of course, had cared for ornamental and fruit trees for thousands of years. But John Davey put tree care on a scientific foundation. To existing knowledge that accumulated over the centuries, Davey added his own personal observations. Today, more than eight thousand employees of The Davey Tree Expert Company adhere to his classic motto, “Do it right or not at all.”

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 The Davey Tree Expert Company, corporate offices, Kent, Ohio. Image source:   The Davey Tree Expert Company , used with permission

The Davey Tree Expert Company, corporate offices, Kent, Ohio. Image source:  The Davey Tree Expert Company, used with permission