What Happened On This Date in "Recent" Bonsai History?


Days 1 - 10
Days 21 - 30 +

15 1968 -- The first annual meeting and symposium of the American Bonsai Society was held in Cleveland, Ohio.  Jerald Stowell was the first president.  (Bonsai Journal, ABS, Fall 1968, pp. 10-11)   SEE ALSO: Jan 12, Jun 9
16 1973 -- The Yama Ki Bonsai Society was established at the home of former Bonsai Society of Greater New York president Jerome Meyer.  In addition to Jerry and his wife Charlotte, seven people from the Westchester and Fairfield county area attended the meeting.  [With Jerry as the first president, the Society participated in two garden shows that September, the first of what was to become a tradition of being requested to and participating in all appropriate area shows of note.  The first exhibit of Yama Ki was at the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital Flower and Garden Show in White Plains, NY.  Thirty member trees were shown at this, which would become an annual event for several years.  Later in the month 18 trees were displayed at the Westchester Mens' Garden Club Show held at the Allstate Insurance Company Headquarters in White Plains.]  ("Yama Ki Bonsai Society, The Beginning...," )  SEE ALSO: Jul 26.

1986 -- Vietnam issued a set of eight postage stamps featuring native styles of bonsai.   SEE ALSO: Jan 23, Jan 29, Feb 3, Feb 16, Mar 1, Mar 27, Mar 31, Apr 3, Apr 6, Apr 18, May 6, May 29, Jul 20, Aug 20, Aug 22, Sep 22, Oct 1, Oct 4, Dec 9.

17 1890 -- Homei Iseyama was born in Japan.  [He would immigrate to the U.S., be interned in Utah during WWII, and beginning in 1954 teach Bonsai at the Fuji Bonsai Club in Berkeley and the Shikishima Club in Concord, California.]  ("Individual Record -- Homei Iseyama,"®ion=-1®ionfriendly=&frompage=99)    SEE ALSO: Nov 20, Dec 24

1997 - Maxwell Herbert Handmer Leversha died at the age of 72.  (Born in 1924, Max joined the Royal Australian Air Force during WWII, was a pilot officer in the No. 166 Squadron, Service Number 430378, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross at war's end.  A little earlier, Max was a gunner in a Catalina flying boat's gunner's bubble.  On one particular mission, he was close enough to a Japanese fighter pilot to look into his foe's eyes as Max pulled the trigger.  Max's subsequent pursuit of Asian culture was born of his wish to know something about the person whose life he had ended.
     (Like his father before him, after the war Max became a landscaper and professional nurseryman in Melbourne.  He was one of Australia's first bonsai practitioners.  His first tree was a 3-year old Lebanese cedar (Cedrus libani) which was first styled in 1965.  (The tree was passed on to a student in the mid-1980s and would be in a 2014 show of the Canberra Bonsai Society, still with a lovely curving base and now covered with a soft lichen that conveys a sense of great age.  The new needles each spring are always a delight.)  In 1968, Max's 34-page book An Introduction to the Art of Bonsai in Australia (Issue 6 in the "Gardening with a purpose books" series) was published.  Max was the inaugural President of the Bonsai Society of Victoria and the group staged its first annual show in October 1972.
     ("[Max] was a local in the area that [nurseryman Lindsay Farr] grew up in.  [Max's] brother was a local doctor who was struck by a car and died when I was a kid.  It left an impression.  A couple of years after I returned from [Berkley, CA and Boston, MA in the late 1970's], I made the decision to pursue bonsai for income.  Max was not pleased and we were never close friends but I respected his role.  I acquired 300 young black and red pines from this Aussie bonsai patriarch and these were planted in the open field and slowly nurtured into bonsai."  [The last of these pines would be potted up in 2015, almost 40 years later.]
     (The Japan Seminar House (JSH) in Melbourne was opened in 1985 on the grounds donated at the rear of Livingstone Primary School.  Initially, the house had its beginning as a display pavilion of Japanese Art and Culture.  It was donated through the generous efforts of the Japanese Business Community and the Victorian Government to the Institute of Creative Sciences of Culture.  Honorary Director Dr. Hironobu Kitaoji believed that within a decade, recognised 'Masters' in the various fields of Japanese Culture could well be exported back to Japan.  Plans were drawn up for an extensive Japanese garden along traditional lines with all the elements of this fine Art/Religious form.  Dr. Kitaoji and Mr. Max Leversha intended compiling a bonsai register to maintain the integrity in Australia of this Ancient Art.  As in all these fields the Teachers would have to be approved on Japanese standards.  The Martial Arts, Language, Japanese Business Studies, Japanese Garden Design, Bonsai, Calligraphy, Ikebana, and many more subjects were to be taught there.
     (In his later years, Max taught bonsai at the JSH, together with Jeff Ackland, both masters in their own right and very practical all round handymen.  JSH was the "premiere" school of Bonsai in Victoria.  Maurice Leben studied Bonsai at the JSH under Max and Jeff, along with Paul Sweeney (who Maurice also taught for a short while).  When Max could no longer work due to vision impairment, Maurice was asked to take over Max's role and taught there for four years, from 1994 to 1998, alongside Jeff Ackland.  Jeff had a very close and personal relationship with the Koreshoff family -- who had introduced the creation of bonsai into Australia decades earlier -- and was personally taught by patriarch Vita.  Jeff would go on to demonstrate at the Association of Australian Bonsai Clubs' conventions in 1987, 1989, 1990, and 1994.
     (Max was the husband of Mary, and the father of Pauline, Carol, David and Bronwyne.  He would be buried in Navarre Cemetery, Navarre, Victoria, Australia.)

Max Leversha by Maurice Leben
Max Leversha, outside his kitchen window. "It was just a snapshot amongst his huge collection of trees."
(Photo by Maurice Leben, reprinted by permission)

(Gunner anecdote in Facebook messages from Lindsay Farr to RJB, July 19, 2015; 300 pines story per Lindsay Farr Facebook general posting July 18, 2015; Catalina flying boat per Brian, a friend of Max who commented on Ausbonsai posting, Aug 9, 2015; Balzary, Mick  "Wisteria Bonsai, Training for Flowers," Sydney City Bonsai Club, October 2010 newsletter, p. 3; "Bonsai The Imagination Tree," July 6 2011 blog; "2014 Annual Bonsai Show Display Catalogue," Canberra Bonsai Society, Item 50; "All Results for Leversha,",; "Maxwell Herbert Handmer Leversha," Australian War Memorial,; "Navarre Cemetery,; "JAPAN SEMINAR HOUSE - Vermont South-Victoria," Buddhist Discussion Centre (Upwey) Ltd., Newsletter No. 18, January 1986,, pg. 36)   SEE ALSO: Jan 28, Mar 4, Jun 1, Nov 22

1999 -- For the first time since November 1900, bonsai were auctioned at a public event in London.  Sotheby's offered some twenty-one trees from the German collection of Helmut Ruger, with estimated values ranging from £600 to over £10,000.  The youngest tree in the lot was a 28-year old informal upright Satsuki Azalea, while the elder statesman was a c.600-year old informal upright Japanese Yew which had delighted the Meiji emperor a century earlier in Hokkaido.  Hoping to further promote the art in the West through such a high-profile auction, Ruger was present in London to assist with the care of the trees during their stay at Sotheby's.  Bidding in the tree-lined room was solid, most trees reaching their estimate, the lion's share going to the same telephone bidder.  The "Tree of the Emperor's Gaze" yew, however, remained unsold.  ( Japanese Works of Art, Prints and Paintings catalog, Sotheby's; Oriental Art, Vol. XLV, No. 3, 1999, pg. 91)
19 1996 -- Southern California teacher and nurseryman Kahn Komai died at age 82 near his home in Temple City.  (He had studied under his father-in-law, pioneer bonsai teacher Frank Nagata; had opened his own nursery in 1958; was co-founder of the Santa Anita Bonsai Society, the Satsuki Azalea Bonsai Society and the Golden State Bonsai Federation; and was recognized with a medal from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture for his work in the art of bonsai.  For many years he was the California Bonsai Society's master of ceremonies and spokesman at its annual shows.  He and his wife Kay traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad helping spread the art.)

Khan Komai, ABS Bonsai Journal, Summer 1974, pg. 38
"Khan Komai contemplates the winter silhouette of Japanese maple."
(Bonsai Journal, ABS, Summer 1974, pg. 38)

Khan and Kay Komai, photo by Tommy Miyasaki, Garden Ideas, Spring 1989, pg. 58
Khan and Kay Komai, photo by Tommy Miyasaki, Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living, Spring 1989, pg. 58)

("In Memory" by Marybel Balendonck, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, September/October 1996, pp. 28-29)   SEE ALSO:  Apr Also, Sep 9
20 1981 -- The Danish Bonsai Society was established by a small group of people.  [The annual show of DBS, which would run through a weekend every spring or early summer, would grow to exhibit the best of Danish bonsai.  Some of the best bonsai would also be participating in some of the best international exhibitions.  At this yearly meeting, some of the finest bonsai artists from Europe would be invited to do demonstrations and workshops.  A new talent competition would be held every year since 1996, and the winners would then participate in the International final, arranged by the European Bonsai Association (EBA).]  ("The Danish Bonsai Association,"[sic]   SEE ALSO: Jun 29

1986 -- The Karate Kid, Part II was released in the U.S.  Taking place in Okinawa, its bonsai trees would fare poorly as Sato's henchmen sent a warning to Miyagi-san.  (The Internet Movie Database,

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