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While it is almost certain that Western man had in some small way been exposed to Bonsai even as early as the 16th Century by sea traders and missionaries, the earliest Bonsai to come to the west came from Japan and China. The showing of Bonsai at Paris exhibitions in 1878, 1889, 1900 and the first major Bonsai exhibition held in London in 1909, increased western interest in Bonsai. In the late 1800's, at least 2 Japanese nurseries had operations in America and a catalog from the S.M. Japanese Nursery Company, which indicates that over six hundred plants were auctioned off over a three day period in New York City. It wasn't until 1935 that opinions changed and Bonsai was finally classified as an art in the western part of the world.

With the end of World War II, Bonsai started to gain in popularity in the west with soldiers returning from Japan with Bonsai in tow, sparking western interest in the art. The large Japanese-American population was invaluable to Americans in this respect. Their knowledge in the art of Bonsai was of great interest to many Americans who were learning the art. Today, Bonsai are sold in department stores, garden centers, nurseries and many other places. However, most of these are young cuttings and not the true Bonsai produced by Bonsai masters. Most trees purchased today are known as pre-Bonsai and are for the most part, used as a starting point. Good quality Bonsai take many years to grow and develop and may sometimes be bought from specialist nurseries or private collections.

 
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