Saturday, May 20, 2017

Comparison of Seed Dealers & Nursery Owners in South Carolina & the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South

The pattern established by the growing South Carolina seed & nursery trade is similar to that of the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South, but there are some significant differences. In the extended Chesapeake region, gardeners & plant dealers dedicated to promoting & selling plants found their most secure footing after the Revolution.

Detail of an image from Traité général des pesches, 18C

Female Pennsylvania & South Carolina nursery owners & seed merchants successfully began selling both useful & ornamental plants decades before the Revolution. In South Carolina, much seed & plant material was imported from England, both before & after the Revolution.

In the Chesapeake, the earliest seed merchants & nursery owners, appearing after the Revolution, were from France & Germany. After the war, Dutch bulbs & roots found their way into South Carolina as well; and itinerant French seed merchants also peddled their wares in Charleston, but English nursery proprietors continued to own the majority of Carolina businesses.

In both regions, English gardeners & nursery owners came to dominate the local seed & nursery trade by the turn of the century. Both Chesapeake & Carolina garden entrepreneurs offered a full range of stock from greenhouse plants to seeds for field crops, from traditional medicinal herbs to fragrant shrubs by the beginning of the first decade of the 19th-century.

Seed merchants & nursery owners in both areas aggressively advertised their services & stock (at both retail and wholesale prices) in regional newspapers, & sometimes offered free printed catalogs to prospective clients. Gardeners in both regions sold seeds & plants at their nurseries & stores; at local farmers’ markets; and through agents at various locations throughout their regions.

Gardeners from both regions sold seeds & plants imported by ship from Philadelphia & New York, as well as those from their local suppliers. A new nationwide network of capitalistic nursery & seed business was nipping at the heels of traditional garden barter exchanges in the Mid-Atlantic, Upper South, & South Carolina as the 19C dawned over the horizon.

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