Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Livingston's Seed Catalog from Des Moines, Iowa

Alexander W. Livingston was born on October 14, 1822, near Reynoldsburg, Ohio. He grew up on his family's farm & received limited schooling. He could read & write & do simple math problems. While still a child, Livingston showed an interest in seeds & plants, & many Reynoldsburg residents viewed him as an authority on these subjects. Upon reaching adulthood, Livingston married Matilda Dickey Graham. The couple had 10 children. In 1852, Livingston purchased 70 acres of land near Reynoldsburg. Here he developed A.W. Livingston Buckeye Seed Gardens, a seed business. His business quickly prospered. At this time, Livingston began to try to improve the tomato. He succeeded in doing so in 1870. Livingston spent two decades breeding his "Paragon" tomato. Tomatoes existed before Livingston, but they were small fruits with a sour taste. Livingston's Paragon was much larger & had a sweeter taste. Over the next 28 years, Livingston developed more than 30 other varieties of tomatoes. His work helped to make tomatoes more popular with American cooks. A scientist until the end of his life, Livingston died in 1898.
1822 - Founder Alexander W Livingston b in Reynoldsburg, OH 
1842 - Begins working for a local seed grower. 
1844 - Marries and leases land to begin farming.
1852 - Purchases his own land for a farm & seed business. 
1856 - Purchases 400 boxes of the Buckeye Garden Seed Company from Robert Robertson who was moving to Iowa.  During the late 1850s and early 1860s, business does well; and Livingston is able to expand his farming and seed operations. 
1864-65 - Builds a family home and consolidates seed and farming operations in one location. 
1875-76 - The Buckeye Garden Seed Company went bankrupt in the economic crash that affected many businesses in the nation. The business is dissolved and new entity formed by son Robert and named, "A. W. Livingston's Sons." Marketing was expanded using seed catalogs and advertising in newspapers and magazines. 
1880 - The company moves from Reynoldsburg to Columbus, Ohio. Alexander moves to Des Moines, Iowa after purchasing the farm of his friend Robert Robertson. Alexander's plan was to relocate the entire company to Iowa, but the business was prospering in Columbus under his son's management. 
1890 - After Alexander's wife passes away, he turned over the Iowa seed business to his son, Josiah. He returned to Ohio and began to work on his book, "Livingston and the Tomato." It was part autobiographical, part instructional, and part agricultural history. It combined information about Livingston's methods, the history of the tomato as a food crop, and even contained a large selection of compiled recipes. 
1898 - The company is incorporated as the Livingston Seed Company. Founder, A. W. Livingston passes away. 
1919 - The Livingstons were big players in the seed trade industry interacting with many major seed houses. They had their own grow outs as well as 'traded' stock. On April 1st, 1919, a fire broke out at one of their warehouses destroying everything. The McCullough's Sons Seed Company from Cincinnati, took the train up to Columbus the next day, gathered up what they could, and filled orders for the Livingstons. Even with their help, Livingstons still was forced to send out a form letter returning orders along with money.  
1930s - By the late 1930s, the seed industry had begun to change. The company survived by moving into field seeds, and dropped tomatoes from their line. 1937 - The United States Department of Agriculture's "Yearbook of Agriculture" for the year 1937 published the following short history: "The work of A. W. Livingston, of Columbus, Ohio, and his associates and successors in the Livingston Seed Co. has resulted in the introduction of more new varieties than that of any other private group. Most of the varieties introduced by the Livingstons were of their own finding or origination, but some were obtained from other growers. Paragon, from a chance seedling, was their first introduction (1870). The famous old variety Acme was developed by A. W. Livingston from a single superior plant found in a field of mixed stock and introduced in 1875. Like the Trophy, this variety was the source or served as one parent of many subsequently introduced varieties. In 1880 Perfection, a chance variant in Acme, was introduced. Livingston next brought out Golden Queen in 1882, Favorite in 1883, Beauty in 1886, Potato Leaf in 1887, Stone in 1889, and Royal Red in 1892. This last was developed from seven similar plants found in a field of Dwarf Champion by M. M. Miesse. The others just named were chance seedlings occurring in varieties the names of which are not known. These were followed by Aristocrat and Buckeye State in 1893, Honor Bright in 1897, and Magnus in 1900, as chance seedlings in varieties not recorded. In 1903 Dwarf Stone was introduced; it was a chance seedling found in Stone. Globe is from a cross between Stone and Ponderosa made about 1899 by Robert Livingston and was introduced in 1905. Hummer, another introduction, was selected out of Paragon. Of this impressive list introduced by the Livingstons, Stone and Globe are among the most important varieties grown today. Acme, Beauty, Buckeye State, Dwarf Stone, Golden Queen, and Perfection are still listed by some seed producers although they are not extensively grown." "With all due credit to the important contributions of other growers, seedsmen, and investigators, it is not out of place to call attention again to the great contribution of the Livingston Seed Co. to tomato improvement. Of about 40 varieties that had attained a distinct status prior to 1910, a third were productions or introductions by the Livingston company. If we add those varieties derived directly from Livingston productions and introductions, it appears that half of the major varieties were due to the abilities of the Livingstons to evaluate and perpetuate superior material in the tomato." 
1947 - The last wholesale catalog was produced. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

1899 G Drobisch of Columbus, Ohio Plant Catalog

When Gustav Adolph Drobisch (1841-1910) was born in Germany; his father, Augustus (1809-1882), was 32 & his mother, Johanna Christiana Bergmann (1816–unknown), was 24. When he was 14, his family immigrated from Dresden, Germany to Buffalo, NY, in 1854. Gustav Drobisch married Margaret Schenck (1844-1920) in 1865 in Columbus City, Franklin County, Ohio, where he was identified as a florist. They had 5 children in 19 years. The Gardener's Monthly & Horticulturalist Magazine on August 1887 noted that "Mr. Drobisch is a 'true gardener,' one of the leading florists of Columbus, Ohio, who has been continuously from childhood up a gardener & florist." He was also serving on the Columbus School Board at that time. He died on July 9, 1910, in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 69. His obituary stated that "Gustav Drobisch was one of the pioneer florists of Ohio & the oldest in Columbus, where he has been located for forty years...He was born in Saxony & came to this country when only 14 years of age. Although he was thoroughly American in his ways & beliefs, he never lost his love for the fatherland...Mr. Drobisch was of a pleasant & companionable disposition & full of interesting reminiscences of the early days of the flower business."

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rochester, New York Seed Dealer James Vick 1818-1882

Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873, issued quarterly, pp. 132.

This description of his business was written by seed dealer James Vick (1818-1882) of Rochester, New York, in  pages 21-24 of Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873.

 Store Front Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


It is acknowledged that I have the largest and best regulated retail Seed House in the world.  It is visited by thousands every year from all parts of this country, and by many from Europe, and 1 take pleasure in exhibiting everything of interest or profit to visitors.  As hundreds of thousands of my customers will probably never have the opportunity of making a personal visit, I thought a few facts and illustrations would be interesting to this large class whom 1 am anxious to please, and be, at least, an acknowledgement of a debt of gratitude for long continued confi­dence, which I can feel, but not repay.

Inside the Store Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873

Two Catalogues are issued each year, one of Bulbs in August, and on the first of December a beautiful Floral Guide:, of 130 pages, finely illustrated with hundreds of engravings of Flowers and plants and colored plates. Last year, the number printed was three hundred thousand at a cost of over sixty thousand dollars. In addition to the ordinary conveniences of a well regulated Seed House, there is connected with this establishment a Printing Office, Bindery, Box Making Establishment, and Artists’ and Engravers’ Rooms. Everything but the paper being made in the establishment.

Vick Store and Processing Center on State Street in Rochester, NY 1873 Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide 

To do this work fully occupies a building four stories in height (besides basement) sixty feet in width, and one hundred and fifty feet in length, with an addition in the upper story of a large room over an entire adjoining block.


The large basement is arranged with immense quantities of drawers, &c., for storing Bulbs.  Here, too, are stored the heavier kinds of Seeds, in sacks, &c., piled to the ceiling.  The heavier packing is also done here.


The first floor is used entirely as a sales-shop, or “store,” for the sale of Seeds, Flowers, Plants and all Garden requisites and adornments, such as baskets, vases, lawn mowers, lawn tents, aquariums, seats, &c., &c.  It is arranged with taste, and the songs of the birds, the fragrance and beauty of the flowers, make it a most delightful spot in which to spend an hour.

The Order Room Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


On the second floor is the Business and Private Offices, and also the Mail Room in which all letters are opened. The opening of letters occupies the entire time of two persons, and they perform the work with astonishing rapidity – practice making perfect – often opening three thousand in a day.  After these letters are opened they are passed into what is called the Registering Room, on the same floor, where they are divided into States, and the name of the person ordering, and the date of the receipt of the order registered.  They are then ready to be filled, and are passed into a large room, called the Order Room, where over seventy-five hands are employed, divided into gangs, each set, or gang, to a State, half-a-dozen or more being employed on each of the larger States.  After the orders are filled, packed and directed, they are sent to what is known as the Post Office, also on the same floor, where the packages are weighed, the necessary stamps put upon them, and stamps cancelled, when they are packed in Post Office bags furnished us by Government, properly labeled for the different routes, and sent to the Postal Cars.  Tons of Seeds are thus dispatched every day during the business season.

The Packing Room Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


Here is the German Department, where all orders written in the German language are filled by German clerks; a Catalogue in this language being published. On this floor, also, all seeds are packed, that is, weighed and measured and placed in paper bags and stored ready for sale.  About fifty persons are employed in this room, surrounded by thousands of nicely labeled drawers.


On this floor are rooms for Artists and Engravers, several of whom are kept constantly employed in designing and engraving for Catalogues and Chromos. Here, also, the lighter seed are stored.  In a large room adjoining, is the Printing Office, where the Catalogue is prepared, and other printing done, and also the Bindery, often employing forty or fifty hands, and turning out more than ten thousand Catalogues in a day. Here is in use the most improved machinery for covering, trimming, &c., propelled by steam.

The Bindery Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


The immense amount of business done may be understood by a few facts: Nearly one hundred acres are employed, near the city, in growing flower seeds mainly, while large importations are made from Germany, France, Holland, Australia and Japan.  Over three thousand reams of printing paper are used each year for Catalogues, weighing two hundred thousand pounds, and the simple postage for sending these Catalogues by mail is thirteen thousand dollars.  Over fifty thousand dollars have been paid the Government for postage stamps last year.  Millions of bags and boxes are also manufactured in the establishment, requiring hundreds of reams of paper, and scores of tons of paste-board.  The business is so arranged that the wrappers are prepared for each State, with the name of the State conspicuously printed, thus saving a great deal of writing. as well as preventing errors.

I had prepared several other engravings of German Room, Printing Office, Artists’ Room, Counting Room, Mail Room, Post Office, &c., but have already occupied quite enough space give readers somewhat of an idea of the character of my establishment.  Another year, I may give further particulars.  James Vick

Seedsman James Vick (1818-1882)

James Vick was one of the merchants who dominated the floral nursery industry in New York in the 19C. James Vick was born in Portsmouth, England on Nov. 23, 1818.  In 1833, at the age of 12, he arrived in New York City to learn the printing trade.   By the time he moved to Rochester, he had acquired skills as a printer & writer.

In 1837, he moved with his parents to Rochester, New York, where he set type for several newspapers & journals. In 1849, James Vick was elected corresponding secretary of the Genesee Valley Horticultural Society. From 1849 through the early 1850s, Vick edited & then bought the popular journal The Genesee Farmer in 1855.  He later owned part of a workers’ journal and helped to found Frederick Douglass’s North Star.

Vick’s house in 1871

With Vick as editor, the publication became more elegant & circulation rapidly increased.  A year later he sold out to Joseph Harris.  On the death of A. J. Downing, James Vick bought "The Horticulturist" & moved it to Rochester in 1853.  For for 3 years he published this with Patrick Barry serving as Editor. It was devoted to horticulture, floriculture, landscape gardening, & rural architecture.

About this time, Vick started to grow flowers & began sending seeds out by mail to the readers of his publication.  Vick also started importing seed stock. In 1855, he established a seed store & printing house in Rochester for his growing mail order business.  In 1856, Vick started "Rural Annual and Horticultural Directory".  The first half was a seed catalog & the second a list of nurserymen.  This was taken over in 1857 by Joseph Harris who continued it until 1867.

Vick's Home on the South Side of East Avenue in Rochester, NY. 1877

With Vick’s knowledge of chromolithography & printing, he produce a catalog & later a monthly magazine.  The first, "Floral Guide and Catalogue" was printed in 1862.  His "Floral Guides" provided gardening advice, quality color prints, & reached a circulation of 250,000.  He entertained his readers with anecdotes, published letters he had received, & had a special section for children.

By the 1870s, as many as 150,000 catalogs were sent out each year.  A staff of more than 100 worked in the office & packing house.  There were over 75 acres of seed gardens scattered about the city.  In 1878, Vick started a paper, "Vick’s Illustrated Monthly" which was published by the Vick Seed Company in Rochester & in Dansville until 1909.  This magazine was sold by subscription.  Vick also printed a set of chromolithograph prints which were either sold or offered as premiums with large orders.
The Seed House of James Vick 1881 From Commerce, Manufactures & Resources of Rochester, NY

Vick was one of the most successful American horticultural seedsman, writers, & merchandisers of his day.  The Vick Seed Company continued into the 20C before being sold to the Burpee Seed Co. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

1900 Green's Fruit Catalog from Rochester, NY

The Story of My Nursery Business (1915) 
I am a farmer & a fruit grower — always have been — was born & brought up on a farm. Fruit growing has always been my hobby & pleasure, but, like a great many other young men who live in the country, I did not appreciate the advantages that country life offers, & moved to the city. In 1877 I left my bank in Rochester & went 12 miles outside the city to a farm on which I intended to raise fruit. The first year on this farm I planted & budded about a thousand seedlings (trees from seed). The trees grew well & I planted acres into orchards. I had a few surplus trees. These I sold to my neighbors. My neighbors’ trees grew well. They then came to me & said: “We like your trees. They are fine trees & we paid only 25cents each for them. Agents charge us 1 dollar or more. Will you have more next season?” 

This question set me to thinking. Then the idea came to me: Grow the best trees possible. Get them into the hands of the people by selling direct on a cash with order basis. Cut out the agent or sales- man. Use a catalog.

I began right then to work out this idea. The success of this plan you well know. Many other nurseries which sold nursery stock by agents now sell with agents & catalog also. But I have never had an agent in my business & never will. I believe that the saving which my catalog business brings should go into your pocket. 

In the year 1890 my business had grown to such an extent that I found it advisable to move my main office to Rochester, N. Y. I located near Highland Park in Rochester, & built a large main office & packing house. My business grew & I found it necessary to buy more land. I now have 5 nursery farms, in Clifton, Coldwater & Riga, all within 14 miles of Rochester. I also built many new' buildings & an office at Clifton. I was the 1st nurseryman to sell largely trees direct by catalog only. I have done business so many years by this direct method that my organization knows every phase of the mail order nursery business. You may have great confidence in my organization to get good trees to you in perfect condition. 

Many of my men who have been in my organization for years have sons who have worked in my nurseries 10 to 15 years. These young men have learned the nursery business from childhood & are experts in their special departments.

HOW I GAINED THE CONFIDENCE OF THE PEOPLE To establish a business of this kind it was necessary to gain the absolute confidence of the general public. This could be done only by satisfying every customer or giving “fair play & half the road,” & sometimes more than “half the road.” But this rule has always been strictly adhered to, as it is this more than anything else that made it possible for me to establish “the largest mail order nursery in the world.” Absolute responsibility & honesty, highest quality trees, most reasonable prices, trees true to name, satisfaction to customers, are the corner-stones of my business. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

J. Bolgiano & Son Seed & Plant Catalog from Baltimore, MD reflects the Patriotic Liberty Gardens of WWI

In the 19C, Joseph Ault Bolgiano (1836-1913), F W Bolgiano, & J Bolgiano Jr operated the J Bolgiano & Son Seed Store at 28 S Calvert Street in Baltimore, Maryland. Joseph Ault was the son of John (Johnnes) H Bolgiano (1812-1892) who had Joseph Ault Bolgiano with with Charlotte Hannah Ault in Baltimore, Maryland. 

John's (Johnnes) father was Francis William Bolgiano, Sr (c 1769-1832) who immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland from Italy or Germany. He married Elizabeth Weller on 25 May 1799 in Baltimore, Maryland, daughter of Johan Georg Weller. Francis W. is listed in the Baltimore City Directory as a 'bread and biscuit baker' from 1799-1827. It is possible, that he also sold seed.

1919 J Bolgiano & Son Seed Company

According to Baltimore newspapers, in 1895, John Bolgiano sued Joseph A. Bolgiano, who was managing the seed company, after their partnership was dissolved. By 1897, Joseph A. Bolgiano's sons Charles J. Bolgiano (1868-1920) & Roland Bolgiano (1870-1924) succeeded their father in running the business. 

1903 J Bolgiano & Son Seed Company

The 1904 Wharf Fire from the blog The Promise of Seeds: Magic in a Packet by Emma Craib
American Poultry Advocate, 1904
It is more than probable that every reader of this paper has heard of the wonderfully disastrous fire which so recently burned the heart out of the city of Baltimore. Unless you just happened to know some one who was living or doing business in Baltimore, it is likely that you gave the fire hardly more than a passing thought. But what do you think it means to the people of Baltimore? What do you thing it means for instance, to J. Bolgiano & Sons,

the seedsmen who have for eighty-seven years been doing business In the fated city? In all that long period they have never before suffered from fire. Indeed, they felt perfectly safe this time, for when the fire first started it was more than ten city squares away from them. Later, and when they thought they were endangered — though the fire was still six squares from them — they employed two hundred hands and fifty drays and began the removal of their large retail seed stock to one of their warehouses a long distance from the fire, and where they felt everything would be safe. It transpired, however, that by a shifting of the winds the fire ate relentlessly away until both retail stores, offices, packing rooms and warehouses were destroyed. Bolgianos made a brave fight to save the orders and seeds for their thousands of customers, but fate was against them. The orders already booked and the lists of names of multiplied thousands of customers all over the world were lost in the twinkle of an eye.
With absolutely nothing to work with, nothing to aid them except their fair name and excellent reputation, the Bolgianos have set to work with firm hands and brave hearts to rebuild their business. They have already laid in a large stock of the very best farm and garden seeds, notwithstanding the short seed crop of the past season, and will be able to fill orders as usual. Since all their advance orders and names of customers are burned, they have very little to begin on. Will those of our readers who ordered from Bolgiano & Sons write a postal card at once, simply giving your name and post office address? Do this whether you are an old or new customer of theirs. Send them your name anyhow, so that they may send you their catalogue another season. Simply address the card to J. Bolgiano & Sons, Baltimore, Md.

In 1904, their business, including all poultry & seeds & related merchandise, warehouses, & business records were destroyed by fire on the Inner Harbor.  In 1913, Roland Bolgiano retired from the Seed Store, located at Pratt & Light Streets. 

J Bolgiano & Son Seed Company

In 1917, 97 feet of brick wall, in fact, the whole west side of the Bolgiano Seed building on their wharf on the Inner Harbor was about to be acquired under eminent domain by the City of Baltimore to clear the way for the new Key Highway project. It was claimed that the highway was needed to serve the increased movement of goods due to the Panama Canal, when it opened, increasing the shipping to the port of Baltimore. Charles Bolgiano had to challenge Baltimore City. It was exhausting, but he eventually won. 

1915 Bogiano's Pier on the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD

On October 28, 1920, receivers were appointed for the business, after Charles J. Bolgiano was adjudicated a "bankrupt by consent in the US district court." On November 19, 1920, 42 year-old Charles J. Bolgiano ended his life.

Friday, May 19, 2017

John Lewis Childs Seed and Plant Catalog

John Lewis Childs (1856-1921) was a horticultural businessman & politician who founded Floral Park, New York. Childs was born in Franklin County, Maine, & grew up in Buckfield. His career in horticulture began in 1874, when he took a job with C. L. Allen of Queens. Soon afterwards he began renting, then buying land in nearby East Hinsdale, Queens County, near other nurseries. While working as a seed seller, young Childs learned all he could about the business. After one year of apprenticing, Childs started his own seed business. He rented a small piece of land in East Hinsdale in 1875, & began selling seeds & bulbs. He created & marketed his products with leaflets,& he saw potential in mail order. He produced an 8-page list of products. As his business grew, he bought more land where he planted the most spectacular flowers. Childs became so successful that the name of the town was changed from East Hinsdale to Floral Park. By 1891, the post office name was also changed. The mail order company became so prosperous, it led to the establishment of a railroad station & freight office on Childs’s property, which was named Floral Park Station. Childs died in 1921 aboard a train after a sojourn in Florida & California. The seed catalog continued to operate throughout the 1920s but came to a halt during the Great Depression. Childs’s wife sold the catalog business to the Edward T. Bromfield Seed Company. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

1896 W.W. Barnard Co.Garden Field & Flower Seed Catalog from Chicago

W.W. Barnard Co., 10 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois 

William Wilcox Barnard (1856-1921), son of William Barnard II, founded & operated the W. W. Barnard Seed Co. in the late 1800s. The company was taken over by Ralph Howe, when William W. Barnard moved to California for his health, where died in 1921. Ralph Barnard Howe, born in 1882, held a degree in agriculture from the University of Illinois. But the company did not survive the depression years. After graduating from Amherst College in 1845, William Barnard II headed west to homestead. He intended to settle in Iowa, but stopped in Chicago where he met Thomas Morgan who owned several thousand acres of land south of Chicago (now known as Morgan Park) Morgan convinced William Barnard II to settle near Chicago. In 1846, William Barnard II's parents & siblings joined him in Chicago to farm in the area that is now 49th Street & Vincennes Road. William Barnard II married Miranda Wilcox in 1852, & they had 4 children, Alice Sarah (1854), Mary Elizabeth (1855), William Wilcox (1856), & Emma Jerusha. (1859). William Barnard II eventually bought 160 acres in Longwood & built a home for his family at 101st & Longwood Drive. William Wilcox Barnard's grandparents Alice Emerson & William Barnard also came to Chicago from the Amherst, Massachusetts area. Barnard was a practicing physician for a time. Alice Emerson & William Barnard were married in 1819 & had 5 children, William Barnard II (1821), Elizabeth (1823), Daniel Emerson (1826), Alice Lucretia (1829), & Erastus Ames (1833).

Monday, May 15, 2017

1898 D. M. Ferry & Co Autumn Catalog from Detroit, Michigan

Dexter Mason Ferry was born in Lowville, New York, on August 8, 1833, but after his father's passing when Dexter was 3 years old, he & his mother moved to Penfield, New York. Dexter went attended school there & at age of 16 began working on a farm. In 1851, when Ferry reached 18, he began working for Ezra M. Parsons of Rochester, New York. In a short time, in 1852, Parsons helped Dexter get a job as an errand boy for S .D. Elwood & Company, a stationery firm in Detroit, Michigan. There he was soon promoted salesman, & later bookkeeper. With a formal education, experience as a laborer, & various aspects of business under his belt, Mr. Ferry, along with 2 partners, Milo T. Gardner & Eber F. Church, founded Gardner, Ferry & Church on April 1, 1856, when Dexter was not quite 23. In 1865, Ferry bought out Gardner & the company name was shortened to Ferry, Church & Company. Church retired 2 years later, & Dexter dropped his ex-partner's name. Ferry focused on quality & gained a reputation for selling superior seeds. He chose to only sell fresh seed with tested high germination rates. In 1879, Mr. Ferry absorbed the Detroit Seed Company & incorporated as D. M. Ferry & Co. The company grew, released new varieties of vegetables, & thrived. On New Years Day in 1886, fire demolished the company's warehouse at with a loss of nearly $1,000,000. Ferry quickly decided to purchase seed stock & 2 smaller seed companies, & were able to fill customer's orders. They constructed a new warehouse, & by 1890 were selling over $1,500,000 annually. By the early 1900s, the company's sales grew to over $2,000,000 yearly through mail-order catalog sales as well as placing seed racks to 160,000 retail outlets. D. M. Ferry died on November 10, 1907. The company merged with the California based seed company, C. C. Morse Company in 1930, to become the Ferry-Morse Seed Company. They relocated to Kentucky in 1959.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

1898 Plant Catalogs from Conrad & Jones of West Grove, PA

Alfred Fellenberg Conard, (1835-1906)–West Grove, Pennsylvania–was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1835. He descended from German Quakers who were part of William Penn’s Colony in 1683. He worked on his father’s farm & learned the nursery business from Thomas M. Harvey. Conard formed the firm of Conard & Brother, but some time after 1862 he started a nursery business with Charles Dingee under the name Dingee & Conard. The business had two greenhouses & the establishment was known as the Harmony Grove Nursery. About 1867 the firm started propagating roses under a new system introduced by Antoine Wintzer. Conard conceived the idea of disposing of their rose stock through the mail. Their first catalog offered bedding plants, shrubbery, bulbs, seeds, & roses. About 1892 Conard separated from Dingee & along with Antoine Wintzer joined with S. Morris Jones in 1897 to become Conard & Jones Co. The new company continued with the growing & distribution of roses & flowering plants. As another specialty, they worked on the improvement of the canna. Conard died on December 15, 1906.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

1895 Catalog of the John A. Salzer Seed Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin

A timeline of the life of seedsman, John A. Salzer and the company he created in La Crosse, Wisconsin

1823 - John Adam Salzer was born in Dettingen, W√ľrttemberg, Germany on December 28, 1823 to John G. Salzer, a nurseryman and fruit-raiser.
1846 - Immigrated to the United States.
1849 - Married Wilhelmina Joerris.
1866 - John Salzer the pastor of the German speaking Methodist Church in La Crosse. He served in this position until 1869. It was reported that he delighted in jaunts into the country where he could see the fields of grain and fruit trees. Many fields were planted with seeds purchased from his company.
1868 - The "John A. Salzer Seed Company" in La Crosse, Wisconsin is established.
1884 - "The collection of plants owned by Mr. Salzer is estimated at $20,000 value and the transactions of the house, which reach all over the United States, will amount to over $40,000 per annum. This is the largest house of the kind in the Northwest, outside of Chicago, and Mr. Salzer also owns seed farms where he grows seeds for his large seed trade in St. Vincent, Minnesota, and Bath and Groton, Dakota, also has control of a small seed farm for growing celery, lettuce and beet seeds near Sacramento, California. Handsome and complete catalogues of plants and seeds have been prepared by Mr. Salzer, which can be obtained upon application, German or English edition as desired. Since 1881 the business has been largely increased owing to the liberal use of printer's ink. The high estimation in which this house is held has been secured by the enterprise and liberality of the proprietor and the superior excellence of the plants and seeds sold by him as well as the skill and exquisite taste displayed in the arrangement of cut flowers in various novel and unique designs."
1884 - In this year, he purchased a family cottage in Minnesota that he named "Ferndale." He and his family may have camped at that site in Minnesota for some years before he purchased Ferndale as a summer camping ground and retreat. Many guests also came to visit and the primitive cabin was improved upon each year. (Note: Ferndale was destroyed in 1957 due to the expansion of U.S. Highway 61.)
1886 - The company is incorporated.
1892 - On January 22, John A. Salzer dies at 68 years and 25 days and is interned at the Oak Grove Cemetery in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Section: 25 Lot: 727.
1892 - Henry Salzer, son of John, takes over the management of the seed company and runs it until his death in 1917.
1919 - First service of what was to become the La Crosse Municipal Airport began on November 29, on leased land that was was once a Salzer Seed Company cornfield. Service was abandoned in 1922 but resumed in 1928 at which time the city council voted to purchase the land.
1920 - As early as 1920, they claimed that they were recognized as the largest mail-order seed house in America.
1922 - The company is printing and distributing 1,000,000 catalogs per year.
1945 - The family sold the business.
1958 - The company closed.

La Crosse Public Library-Salzer Family.
Salzer Summer Home Scrapbooks,
1897-1898 Print Ad, 1920 Footsteps of La Crosse: A Journey Through Time & Architecture "Die Nordwest Deutsche Konferens der Bisch√∂flichenMethodistenkirche," 
Charles City, Iowa, 1913 Chipmunk Coulee Pioneers and their Early German Methodist Church A History of La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1900-1950,
Stanley N. Miller La Crosse, Her Trade, Commerce and Industries: 1883-1884, pgs 74-75 "History of La Crosse County, Wisconsin", 1881, p. 789
 Autobiography, John A. Salzer, 1869

Friday, May 5, 2017

1897 Michigan Seed Dealer D M Ferry distributes Seed & Plant Catalogs

Dexter Mason Ferry was born in Lowville, New York, on August 8, 1833, but after his father's passing when Dexter was 3 years old, he & his mother moved to Penfield, New York.  Dexter went attended school there & at age of 16 began working on a farm. In 1851, when Ferry reached 18, he began working for Ezra M. Parsons of Rochester, New York.  In a short time, in 1852, Parsons helped Dexter get a job as an errand boy for S .D. Elwood & Company, a stationery firm in Detroit, Michigan. There he was soon promoted salesman, & later bookkeeper. With a formal education, experience as a laborer, & various aspects of business under his belt, Mr. Ferry, along with 2 partners, Milo T. Gardner & Eber F. Church, founded Gardner, Ferry & Church on April 1, 1856, when Dexter was not quite 23. In 1865, Ferry bought out Gardner & the company name was shortened to Ferry, Church & Company. Church retired 2 years later, & Dexter dropped his ex-partner's name. Ferry focused on quality & gained a reputation for selling superior seeds. He chose to only sell fresh seed with tested high germination rates. In 1879, Mr. Ferry absorbed the Detroit Seed Company & incorporated as D. M. Ferry & Co. The company grew, released new varieties of vegetables, & thrived. On New Years Day in 1886, fire demolished the company's warehouse at with a loss of nearly $1,000,000. Ferry quickly decided to purchase seed stock & 2 smaller seed companies, & were able to fill customer's orders. They constructed a new warehouse, & by 1890 were selling over $1,500,000 annually.  By the early 1900s, the company's sales grew to over $2,000,000 yearly through mail-order catalog sales as well as placing seed racks to 160,000 retail outlets. D. M. Ferry died on November 10, 1907. The company merged with the California based seed company, C. C. Morse Company in 1930, to become the Ferry-Morse Seed Company. They relocated to Kentucky in 1959.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Time to Plant Corn in North Dakota - The company's success was the direct result of gifts of seed from near-by Native Americans

Oscar H Will published his 1st mail-order catalog in 1884 at Bismarck, Dakota Territory, 3 years after he arrived there to run Major Edward M. Fuller's greenhouse, garden & floral shop. It was a modest, black-&-white piece with relatively few pages, & a circulation of about 1,000. He offered trees, shrubs, flower & vegetable seed, cut flowers, fresh vegetables in season, & he continued to call the company the Bismarck Greenhouses & Nursery, the name Fuller chose when it was established in 1881.

Within a few years, the company's name was changed to Oscar H. Will & Co. to reflect a brief partnership, & shortly after, the moniker "Pioneer Seed House of the Northwest" appeared on catalog covers along with the registered trademark "Will's Pioneer Brand." By the early 1900s, the catalog had grown in size & circulation, reaching as far as Russia, South Africa & Colombia. The larger catalog featured a color cover & was more agriculturally oriented, focusing especially on field corn, & later hybrid field corn. At its peak, Will & Co.'s catalog grew to more than 80 pages & had a circulation of about half a million.

Will & Co.'s catalogs chronicled early corn variety development & hybridization in the northern plains, & the agricultural contributions of Native American farmers who successfully worked that land long before European contact. Oscar & his son, George, were keenly aware of the skill of Native farmers in both seed selection & growing practices, & much of the company's ongoing success was the direct result of gifts of seed from Native American friends. For example, Will & Co.'s most famous introduction, the Great Northern bean, was selected from a leather pouch of seed given to Oscar in 1883 by Son of Star (Son of a Star in some references), a Hidatsa man living at the Ft. Berthold Reservation.

Although Oscar was generous in crediting his Native American friends for their gifts of seed, most of his early catalog covers were fairly traditional for the time, adorned with fantastical floral or vegetable still-life images. This was not the case later in the company's history, as George became more influential, taking control of the company on his father's death in 1917. George was a passionate student of the Mandan, Arikara & Hidatsa people, all of who farmed along the upper reaches of the Missouri River before Oscar arrived in the territory.

The cover of the 1911 catalog was the 1st to formally celebrate the Native American connection. Two panels commemorated the 1882 gift of "Squaw" corn to Oscar by Native American farmers as the basis for then modern varieties. Oscar developed two important & long-lasting varieties of field corn known as Dakota White Flint & Gehu Flint from that initial gift of multi-colored corn; both were still listed in the 1959 catalog.

In 1913, Will & Co.'s catalog cover featured a spray of flowers alongside a picture of the statue of Sakakawea on the grounds of the North Dakota State Capitol. The cover of the 1919 catalog featured a painting of a Native American woman cultivating corn with a hoe fashioned from a bison shoulder blade - the caption referred to her as a "Pioneer Agriculturist." Field corn varieties such as Will & Co.'s Gehu Yellow Flint, Will's Dakota White Flint, Northwestern Dent, Pioneer White Dent & Square Deal Dent were also featured on the 1919 cover. By this time, the company offered a "Pioneer Indian Collection" of garden seed that included, among other items, Mandan Squash, a couple varieties of Native American corn, & Native American beans. Later catalogs would identify some of the varieties in the collection as Arikara Yellow bean, Hidatsa red bean, & Mandan sweet corn, to name a few.

Throughout the 1920s to the company's closing, most catalog cover images were painted by regionally known artist, poet & George's good friend, Clell G. Gannon. The covers often illustrated aspects of Native American agriculture or ritual, affirming George's genuine interest in Native American farming & culture. For example, the image on the cover of the 1937 catalog depicts a Mandan Corn Priest blessing seed corn before planting, while the cover on the 1941 catalog shows Scattered Corn, a Mandan woman, hand-shelling ear corn into a woven basket.

A Sioux man named White Crow also provided images for a few catalog covers. According to Will family legend, White Crow periodically dropped art off at the seed store in return for cash loans. More often than not, the loans became sales, & George at one time had quite a collection of White Crow's works. Will & Co.'s 1945 catalog featured White Crow's beautiful painting of a Mandan village with three women working beneath the drying scaffold, preparing corn & other produce for winter storage.

During World War II, catalog covers continued to feature Native American themes on the front, but the backs offered patriotic sentiments. The 1942 catalog featured Will's Defense Garden Collection on the back cover. The catalogs for 1943 & 1944 featured Will's Victory Garden Collection, & in 1945, the space was again devoted to Will's Pioneer Home Garden Collection.

In 1950, the Native American gift of corn was again commemorated in Gannon's cover painting depicting a head-dress-clad man handing over bundles of red & yellow corn to two buckskin-clad "pioneers" sporting animal skin caps & carrying flintlock rifles. Beneath the painting, the cover also featured a photograph of the then-oldest living Mandan corn grower by the name of Crow's Heart, alongside a photo of ears of Will & Co.'s own Pioneer Hybrid N field corn.

When George died in 1955, his eldest son, George F. Will Jr., took over the business. George Jr. continued the tradition of using Gannon's artwork for catalog covers. Gannon's painting for 1956 consisted of two panels - one showing the company's trademark oxen-drawn prairie schooner with the words "Will's Pioneer Brand" & the other a modern farmstead complete with house, barn & silo. Inset beneath the painting was the image of an ear of "Native Indian Corn" on the left & a "Modern Northern Plains Hybrid" on the right.

The final Oscar H. Will & Co. catalog, mailed to customers in 1959, gave no indication that the company's private stockholders had decided to liquidate. In his letter to customers, George Jr. wrote of the company's move to a modern, efficient & fireproof building with excellent access to rail & truck loading.

Although the Will family saved some representative artifacts of the business, many early records & other items were destroyed in an 1898 fire. However, the company was large enough, & had enough of an impact, that letterhead, postcards, seed packets, pesticide containers, thermometers, cloth seed & feed sacks have survived. Many of these items point to other ventures that were part of Oscar H. Will & Co.

Will & Co. did substantial early business supplying trees for homesteaders who had filed tree-claims. One tree contract tendered before the turn of the century was for 800,000 tree seedlings to be delivered to Crookston, Minn. The Northern Pacific railroad in North Dakota also contracted with the company for two million trees to be planted along the tracks between Jamestown & Mandan as a living snow fence, a task reputed to have taken from 1898 to 1901 to complete. Large tree orders were later delivered to the Canadian government & U.S. National Park Service. Certainly, many of the older trees still growing in shelterbelts in the Northern Plains are the result of Oscar's efforts.

The company was also a dealer for a number of seeders, planters, cultivators, fanning mills & many other pieces of agricultural equipment. Back pages of the catalog were devoted to Clipper brand seed cleaners manufactured by A.T. Ferrell & Co., Hudson brand spraying, planting & cultivating equipment, & Cyclone brand seeders & poultry equipment. For the livestock producer, the company offered a number of specialty feeds, minerals & milk replacer, some of which were manufactured in-house. Cotton feed sacks bearing Will's Pioneer Brand have survived alongside cloth seed sacks to this day.

During the Great Depression, George, encouraged by a couple of employees, adapted a coffee roaster for use in roasting sunflower seeds. The salty confection, then known as "Russian peanuts," was a favorite of the immigrants who inhabited the German-Russian towns around Bismarck. According to George Jr., his dad test-marketed the seeds through the Bismarck Bakery for a year, & quickly expanded to other venues. Will & Co.'s sunflower seed envelopes are often found in collections of seed company ephemera.

Whether it was improving the quality of life in early northern prairie communities by providing trees for shade & shelter from the wind; shrubs, lawns & flowers for general beautification; fruit trees, vegetable seeds & plants for fresh produce - or the introduction of many varieties of hardy & short-seasoned grains that made regional dry-land farming a viable enterprise, Oscar & his company played a significant role in opening up the Northern Plains to settlement.

When the Oscar H. Will & Co. was liquidated in 1959, the Farmer Seed & Nursery Co. of Faribault, Minn., bought Will's mailing list. The company's seed-rack business was sold to Ferry-Morse of Detroit, Mich., & the Pioneer Hybrid Seed Corn Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, became the new owners of the name Pioneer Brand. Later, the nursery's acreage was developed & now sits beneath the Kirkwood Mall of Bismarck. George Jr. bought the sunflower seed business, & in 1960, offered a limited seed catalog under the name Will's Bismarck Seed House. This division of Will's Incorporated continued to operate into the late 1960s, at which point, the sunflower seed business demanded all of George Jr.'s attention. Will's trademarked Sunnuts & Sunseeds were distributed nationwide with warehouses in North Dakota, California & New Jersey until 1979 when George Jr. finally retired - nearly 100 years after his grandfather Oscar had arrived at Bismarck, Dakota Territory.