Friday, August 17, 2018

James Vick's Seed and Plant Catalog from Rochester, New York

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.  In 1837, he moved with his parents to Rochester, New York where he set type for several newspapers and journals.  In 1849, James Vick was elected corresponding secretary of the Genesee Valley Horticultural Society. Vick was associated with the "Genesee Farmer" as a writer and editor from 1849 became owner and publisher in 1855.  With Vick as editor, the publication became more elegant and circulation rapidly increased.  A year later he sold out to Joseph Harris.  On the death of A. J. Downing, James Vick bought "The Horticulturist" and moved it to Rochester in 1853.  It was devoted to horticulture, floriculture, landscape gardening, and rural architecture. About this time, Vick started to grow flowers and then began sending seeds out by mail to the readers of his publication. In 1855 he established a seed store and nursery on East Avenue in Rochester.  In 1856, Vick started "Rural Annual and Horticultural Directory."  The first half was a seed catalog and the second a list of nurserymen.  This was taken over in 1857 by Joseph Harris who continued it until 1867.

With Vick’s knowledge of chromolithography and training as a printer, he produce a catalog and later a monthly magazine.  The first, "Floral Guide and Catalogue" was printed in 1862.  His "Floral Guides" provided gardening advice, quality color prints, and reached a circulation of 250,000.  He entertained his readers with anecdotes, published letters he had received, and had a special section for children. By 1870, his mail was averaging over 3000 letters and over 300 orders a day.  As many as 150,000 catalogs were sent out each year.  A staff of more than 100 worked in the office and packing house.  There were over 75 acres of seed gardens scattered about the city.  In 1876, the catalog offered 46 pages of general gardening information followed by a price list. In 1878, Vick started a paper, "Vick’s Illustrated Monthly" which was published by the Vick Seed Company in Rochester and in Dansville until 1909.  This magazine was sold by subscription. Vick also printed a set of prints that were either sold or offered as premiums with large orders. Vick was one of the most successful horticultural seedsman, writers, and merchandisers of his day. The Vick Seed Company continued into the 20th century before being sold to the Burpee Seed Co.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A W Livingston's Sons 1895 Seed Annual from Columbus, OH

A W Livingston's Sons 1895 Seed Annual from Columbus, OH
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.
Timeline:
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. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

1894 Charles A Green's Fruit Instruction Manual From Rochester, NY

Charles A Green was born on a farm near Rochester, NY.  He became a banker for 15 years; until the financial panic of 1873, when he returned to farming 12 miles south of Rochester. He loved growing and selling fruits especially apple and peach trees, and also published books on fruit growing and edited a horticultural magazine for over 30 years.  

Saturday, August 11, 2018

John A. Bruce & Co. Seed Catalog from Hamilton, Canada

John A. Bruce & Co. Seed Catalog from Hamilton, Canada.  The Seed Warehouse of this firm, one of the largest and best equipped in Canada, was situated in Hamilton on the corner of King and McNab Streets, had a frontage of 30 feet on the former and 130 feet on the latter, occupying 7 plots. The business was established by John A. Bruce in 1850, and in 1861 his brother, F. C. Bruce, became partner. They popularized soybeans in Canada and beyond. Brothers John and Frank Bruce had supplied a Canadian market for quality seeds of all kinds since 1850. By the time John A. Bruce and Company first offered soybean seed for sale, it had an established reputation for introducing new and improved varieties of field crop, vegetable and flower seeds, tools, and ideas to farmers and gardeners throughout the Dominion of Canada.  Their exhibit mounted by the Bruce Company at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 was awarded the World’s Fair Medal and a diploma “for the superior quality of our exhibit of Oats, Peas, Rye, Millet and Timothy Seeds.” While the Bruce Company maintained a seed farm and trial grounds on Main Street East, Hamilton, in addition to its offices and warehouse at the corner of King and McNab Streets, many seeds sold by them in Canada were imported from Britain, France, California, and a few from Holland and Denmark. By offering larger quantities of seed at more favorable prices per unit, the Bruce Company targeted farmers who intended to plant soybeans as a field crop, not a garden or vegetable crop. John A. Bruce's seed-house encouraged farmers to buy their products "Farmers all over the Dominion are awakening to the fact that it pays to buy the very best seeds that can be procured, and our long connection with the best growers in the seed producing districts gives us exceptional advantages in securing the best samples offered, while our cleaning facilities are unequaled. The large annual increase in our trade with the farmers of the Dominion is an evidence of the superiority of our stocks and of the personal attention we give to the interests of our patrons. Our first grades of Clovers and Timothy are in all cases export seed." In North America, more seed and nursery companies came into being during the 2nd half of the 19C, especially after the US Civil War. Mail-order became much more common due to improved transportation networks and US postal reforms in the 1860s that made it cheaper to ship seeds and plant material, as well as catalog. Mail-order companies increased the size and number, often including colorful art, of catalogs they produced, and most catalogs were shipped to customers free upon request. As more business was done by mail, catalogs contained more detailed ordering and shipping instructions. John A. Bruce & Company, produced mail order catalogs and instructional leaflets from 1862-1932.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

1898 The Conrad & Jones Co New Floral Guide from West Grove, PA

1898 The Conrad & Jones Co New Floral Guide from West Grove, PA
Alfred Fellenberg Conard (1835-1906) of 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 and 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 2 greenhouses, and 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, and roses. About 1892, Conard separated from Dingee and along with Antoine Wintzer joined with S. Morris Jones in 1897, to become Conard & Jones Co. The new company continued with the growing and distribution of roses and flowering plants. As another specialty, they worked on the improvement of the canna. Conard died on December 15, 1906.