Wednesday, April 5, 2017

1896 Spring Seed & Plant Catalog selling Fall Results

State and local fairs with their produce competitions were very popular at the turn of the century.  Jesse Buckbee was born in Orange County, New York in 1796. He was the son of a Revolutionary soldier who was descended from John Buckbee, an Englishman who settled on Manhattan Island in the 17C. In 1845, Jesse Buckbee moved West to purchase 300 acres of land in Winnebago County, Illinois & relocate his family. He died shortly thereafter, but was survived by his wife & children. Among his children was Theodore who had sons  Hiram W. & John T. who would later operate H.W. Buckbee Seed Farms & Forest City Greenhouses. Hiram W. Buckbee, born in 1860, began selling cabbage plants as a boy in 1871. From there Hiram expanded the business into a huge operation that included a 350,000-square-foot warehouse, greenhouse complex, & trial area, along with a 15,000-acre seed farm. An 1892 biography of Jesse Buckbee (Hiram’s grandfather) noted that this “immense seed business conducted under the name of H. W. Buckbee, with its collateral branches, Rockford Seed Farms & Forest City greenhouses, is one of the most important merchandising institutions, not only of Rockford, but of IL, & for that matter, of the U.S.” In 1921, the year of Hiram’s death, his company mailed out 750,000 catalogues. In addition to Buckbee, Rockford was home to 3 other prominent mail order seed & plant wholesalers: Roland H. Shumway, Alneer Brothers, & Condon Brothers. The 4 businesses would later merge under the name of Condon-Shumway, a company that stayed in business until the 1970s.

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