Tuesday, September 19, 2017

1894 - Today's Farm Litho: Bird's Eye View of Burpee Seed Farm

What can make a lithograph more appealing to me?  
Being a bird's eye view of something, that's what!!

It is just so much fun to walk around the farm with those little people.  Enjoy!

 I love the stipling. It can evoke so much detail with a pile of dots and overprinted colors.

Want to see the whole catalog?Burpee's farm annual 1894

Sunday, September 17, 2017

1893 - Lush Lithos in Fall Seed & Bulb Catalog of John Lewis Childs

Join me in luxuriating in the colors and patterns of two of John Lewis Childs magnificent fall seed catalog's lithographs.  I love the way the illustrator had snow and ice in the background, reminding you how much these hyacinth would be appreciated.

1847 - Chinese Tree Corn - A More Positive Comment or Two

I promise this is the last mention of Tree Corn! 

Perhaps it was all a tempest in a teapot, but feelings about whether China Tree Corn was a humbug or not were noticeably varied!  I am including these two positive reports to be fair to the ghost of Grant Thorburn.

from 1854, Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 6

Chinese Tree Corn.

This variety was first brought into notice by Grant Thorburn, of Astoria, near New-York, some 12 or 15 years since. The origin of this corn, it is said, was a kernel found in a chest of tea and from that single kernel was propagated. It is a pure white variety; a very handsome ear about ten inches long; ten rows; grains very closely set; long and wedge form, well filled out to the end of the cob; some of the grains slightly indented. 

One peculiarity of this corn is the ears grow on the end of the branches - hence its name, “tree corn”. It is said to yield from one-fourth to one-third more than the common
varieties. When ground into meal it is handsomer and better flavored than other white corn. It is also an excellent variety for making hominy, samp, etc. There are generally two ears on a stalk, and often three; sometimes there have been found four ears on a stalk, although the  last mentioned number is rare.


from The Farmer and Mechanic, Volume 1, 1847

China Tree Corn

The Editor of the Western Farmer and Gardener, in some remarks on this kind of corn, observes that when first known in this country, “it sold for 25 cts. an ear,” and China Tree Corn was all the rage; but in a year or two a change took place, and the rage was then with those who bought it; and had, as they said, been humbugged.

This corn has been raised largely in this country. We remember several years ago, to have seen a large crib full at Mr. James Blake's, of this city, and we have observed frequently in our common corn a large infusion of the blood of the China tree-corn.

— Mr. Foster in the January number of the Tennessee Farmer says, incidentally, that as far south of 40ยบ and below it, it has succeeded well, and very nearly answers the original representations.    
“On soils of a medium quality, it would out yield most varieties. It also made the best and sweetest meal, and the .." would turn out the greatest quantity of fodder, and of the best quality, (owing to its abundance of leaves,) of any corn known.” 
This is important testimony and is the result of several year's trial on the part of Mr. Foster and others. Have our readers made a faithful trial of the variety? There are two reasons for calling attention to it.

1. Large shipments of corn meal are to be hereafter annually made to Europe, and a corn that produces the best meal is of unusual value.

2. Many have adopted the wise practice of sowing corn broad-cast for fodder. If the China tree-corn has pre-eminent excellencies for this purpose, let it be known.

In regard to the “reasons,” which brother Beecher mentions, we accord to them much weight, and would observe in respect to the first, that the quality of this kind of corn is excellent, although not in our opinion superior to the best Jersey Yellow or Dutton Corn; but in regard to the second reason, for sowing it broad-cast for fodder, on account of its luxuriance and greater quantity of leaves, it has certainly the pre-eminence over any other kind that we have seen; but it has, however, another advantage over other kinds in the sweetness and freshness of its flavor and color, being generally free from the dust and mildew which so frequently affects the leaves of the common field corn. 

But we can recommend the tree corn for still more substantial reasons, than either of the foregoing, as we are conversant with facts, which prove a very decided superiority of this corn, in regard to the extra yield, when compared with that of the various kinds of other northern corn, which are produced in the New England States. 

We know farmers who have particularly and faithfully tried the experiment for several years, and the invariable result has shown an average of 25 per cent in favor of the tree corn, when planted under the same circumstances, and in the same soil. Although originally about two weeks later than the white and yellow flint, by selecting the earliest and ripest ears for seed every season, it is now but a few days, or a week at the furthest, behind the other kinds, in the time of ripening.    

The above experiments were made in Connecticut on soils of a fair quality, with different kinds of manures, &c., &c., and this has been the invariable result. We advise our readers to try for themselves.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Who Was The Put-Upon Horticulturist, Mr. Bateham?

There is nothing like a good obit to fill you in quickly on a person's life.  Bateham seems a good horticulturist who did a great deal to spread good practices and varieties through his writings and participation in a variety of societies and committees.

[From the Rural New Yorker of August 28, 1880]

M. B. Bateham died, after a lingering illness, at his home in Painesville, Ohio, August 5th, 1880. Long, quite intimately associated together for the advancement of agriculture in our adopted State, the elder is now left to lament the departure of his younger yoke-fellow.

Born among the fruitful gardens of smiling Kent, England, on September 13, 1813, with garden associations and surroundings, it was but natural that when his father migrated to the valley of the Genesee in 1825, and established a market garden at Rochester, New York, the younger Bateham, then 12 years of age, should become imbued with a taste for horticulture that has been the guiding impulse of his life-work. His frequent visits to Rochester in later years, since it has become so famous a horticultural center, must have been very gratifying to our friend, who would there see the abundant fruitage of the good seed he himself had helped to sow in the earlier half of this century.

From the garden the transition was easy and natural to the seed-store, and so we find him as a seedman in 1833. His qualifications as a writer were soon called into requisition, and for five years he was editor of the Genesee Farmer, for a long time the leading agricultural paper, even while the fertile valley was recognized as the Great West, a term which has been widely separated from the Genesee in the later years by the westward march of empire.

Mr Bateham's taste naturally brought him into contact with such men as Elwanger & Barry, and he spent some time in their extensive nurseries, which afforded him a fine opportunity of becoming familiarly acquainted with fruits, and encouraged his love for pomology.
catalog online
After an extensive western tour, chiefly on horseback, and partly undertaken in pursuit of health, Mr. Bateham settled in Columbus in 1845,  and has ever since been a citizen of Ohio. 

There, in the first year of his residence, he established the Ohio Cultivator, one of the first agricultural papers printed in the State. In it he found a good medium for imparting much valuable information, and a means of communication with others interested in rural affairs. His articles on insects and grasses were among the first papers upon those topics that were spread before the farmers of Ohio. In its pages he called upon the fruit-growers and nurserymen to assemble in convention and compare notes and fruits, and from this beginning in 1847 has grown up the State Horticultural Society of to-day—a fitting monument to the memory of its originator.

 From its early organization Mr. Bateham has been its untiring Secretary, always declining proffers of what some might consider the high post of honor as presiding officer. To do, was his choice, and so he preferred to wield the pen to the gavel.  Indeed, it is the mightier implement of the two, and in his hands it was fully and faithfully employed in the diffusion of valuable information among his fellow-men.

A bit of his life is seen in this news article from The Ohio Farmer, Jan 28, 1871.
  I feel for his awful loss of his library!

The numerous friends of Mr. M. B. Bateham, will regret to learn that he met with the misfortune, on the 18th inst, of  having his pleasant residence burned, at Painesville. 
Mr. Bateham, with an anxiety to save all the property possible, came very near losing his life, by the falling through of a floor at the same instant he cleared the building.
But little of the furniture, etc., save that from the lower floor, was saved, and in the loss, Mr. Bsteharn laments parting with a thirty year collection of agricultural and horticultural books and papers. The total loss is estimated at $3,500, insurance covering $1500.
Mr. Bateham writes us, that his little daughter Minnie, who, only the Saturday before, had submitted to a severe surgical operation, for the removal of fragments of dead bones from the limbs and arms, having been for two years a sufferer from necrosis of those members, was not seriously affected by the excitement.

1839 - Tree Corn, Humbug and Gross Imposition!

While I have read some  positive accounts of Grant Thorburn's China Tree Corn, usually commenting on it is a good forage crop in more southern climes due to the extra leaves its suckering habit supplies, most are not positive. 

The following is from 1840, and was in the Genesee Farmer.  Thorburn threw Bateham, owner of the Rochester Seed Store, under the bus in a previous issue.  Mr. Bateham writes a good article that tries to make clear the issue of responsibility for people's dashed expectations for Thorburn's China Tree Corn.

CHINA TREE CORN: And the Rochester Seed Store.

Mr. Tucker–Since my return from England, I have been looking over the Agricultural papers received during my absence, and observe numerous articles on the subject of Thorburn's celebrated China Tree Corn, most of which condemn it as an “imposition,” “humbug,” &c. 

Many of the writers obtained their seed directly from Mr. Thorburn, and of course must look to him for any explanation they may require. But others obtained it through different seedsmen, and seem inclined to suspect them of selling a spurious article for the sake of gain.

In your paper of the 7th of October, is a communication from Syracuse, signed W., and headed “Gross Imposition”. The writer, after stating that he was induced to try the corn from reading Grant Thorburn's glowing account of it, complains that it did not answer the description, and proved inferior to our common varieties.

He then adds:

“We look upon the matter in this section, as a gross fraud practiced upon the public for the sake of gain. The odium at this time is principally attached to Mr. Thorburn, inasmuch as he has the credit of furnishing all the seed; some of which, I am informed, came directly from his store in New-York; most of it, however, that was planted in this vicinity, came thru the ‘Rochester Seed Store,' but was said to be genuine seed from Thorburn's. We look for a satisfactory explanation.”

In the Farmer of November 9th, is a reply to W. from Grant Thorburn himself. But, to me, it is far from being a “satisfactory explanation.” He says, he “thinks W. has not got the true kind,” and then adds, “the seed sold by his sons in New York, Albany and St. Louis, was genuine.”

I am afraid old friend Laurie is becoming rather uncharitable of late, and since he is so free with his insinuations, I shall have to “unfold a tale” which, I fear, will render his defense of but little service to him.

Soon after Mr. Thorburn published his wonderful corn story last fall, I began to have numerous inquiries after the seed. Accordingly, on visiting New York in October, I purchased of Mr. G. C. Thorburn a quantity of the corn, and was informed that his supply was limited and selling rapidly. Soon, after reaching home, this lot was all disposed of, and I sent to Mr. Thorburn and obtained an additional supply.— This was all sold during the winter, and as the spring approached, the demand seemed to increase. 

By this time, I expected to hear that Mr. Thorburn's stock was entirely exhausted, as he had stated that he only raised a small patch of about 200 hills; but to my surprise, I was informed that his supply was still adequate to the demand, although orders poured in upon him from every quarter.

O, rare Laurie Todd, thought I, your corn is certainly “something new under our sun,” and well did you name it “Prolific,” for it seems to possess the miraculous properties of the ancient Widow's oil—the more you draw from it, the more there is left!

Being rather skeptical on the subject of modern miracles, I determined to inquire into the mystery. I then learned that the wonderful “new variety'' was an old acquaintance among the farmers of Long Island, several of whom had cultivated it for a number of years, and were then selling their crops to Mr. Thorburn, to supply the immense demand which he had occasioned.

Supposing I had contributed my share towards the nameless “charitable institutions”, I now purchased a further supply of seed from Mr. G. R. Garretson, of Flushing, which I have the fullest proof was the same in every respect as was sold by Mr. Thorburn. All that was had or sold at the Rochester Seed Store, were the two lots from Mr. Thorburn and one from Mr. Garretson. The following letter was lately received from Mr. Garretson in relation to the seed from him:

Flushing, L. I., Nov. 5th, 1839.  
Dear Sir: In answer to your inquiries about the China Tree Corn, which I sold you last spring, I would state, that it was precisely the same as was advertised and sold by Mr. Thorburn, under the name of “China Prolific Tree Corn.” It was raised by Mr. Jonathan Mingo, of Flushing. Mr. Thorburn purchased some of the same man, and I sold Mr. Thorburn some of the same lot as that sold you.  
Yours, &c. G. R. GARRETSON
Owing to its southern complexion, I always had some doubts of the adaptedness of the corn to this northern climate, and I never recommended it to my customers, any more than to refer them to Thorburn's own account of it, and let them take it on his responsibility alone. My patrons may rest assured that I shall always be ready to give full, and I trust, “satisfactory explanation” of any matters affecting the reputation of the Rochester Seed Store. 

The task of a seedsman is generally a thankless, as well as a difficult and responsible one. And while I do not mean to shrink from any blame or responsibility which justly belongs to me, I cannot consent to become responsible for the statements of every puffing “new variety” monger, who may have a fine patch of corn or potatoes to dispose of; even though the profits are to be given to charitable institutions.

M. B. BATEHAM. Rochester Seed Store, Nor. 25, 1839.

P. S. I am frequently asked, what “charitable institutions” received the donation promised by Mr. Thorburn; and some persons actually suspect that he pocketed the funds. 

But any one at all acquainted with the unimpeachable character of Grant Thorburn, considers that to be an impossibility. The only reason I can give for the non-appearance of any public acknowledgment, is, that it would be offensive to the modesty of the donor, who doubtless wishes to “let his alms be done in secret.” 

Still, as this money was made up of contributions from many who do not think they received an equivalent in return; justice to their feelings renders it necessary and proper that the receipt of the donation should be publicly acknowledged.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Supaun? Mr. Thorburn Mentioned Eating Supaun...

Cornmeal mush!  The name supaun seems to have died out.  Having seedsman Thorburn mention it in his advertising got me curious as I never had heard of it and had no clue what he was talking about (he wrote like that, too, so you do not know what he is riffing on sometimes).  

Once I looked it up in Google Books I find the word was in use in memoirs, songs and articles in the 18th century and to the mid 19th century.  I think the 19th c. uses were by older people, so the name just didn't stick into the mid 1800s.  Pone, hominy and samp I have heard of...although I am not sure I knew exactly what samp was.  (Samp is a much more roughly chopped/cracked corn than any meal grind.)


In a recent number of  The Century, Mr. Edward Eggleston points out some of the many useful things which the white settlers learned from the Indians. 
“The art of making maple-sugar and the culture of the maize were learned from the savages, who planted the corn in hills, grew beans around the stalks, and filled the intervening space with pumpkin-vines, as old-fashioned farmers do yet. The great factories of fish-manure along the Northern coast are tracked to the advice of an Indian given to the pilgrims to put a fish in every hill of corn. Hominy, Samp, supaun and pone are Indian words, and there is hardly an approved method of cooking maize that the Indians did not know:..."

1910 - Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico: N-Z, Volume 2; Volume 30, Part 2

In this book from 1851 an old lady who went visiting and expected nice dinners, was served potatoes and supaun by her cousin to test how she would react to such humble fare.  She was at heart a nice old woman and reacted fairly well

More references:

Curiosities of Literature: And, The Literary Character Illustrated

Isaac Disraeli - 1847 - ‎Read - ‎More editions
For many heroes bold and brave From New-bridge and Tappan, And those that drink Passaic's wave, And those that eat supaun; And sons of distant Delaware, And still remoter Shannon, And Major Lee with horses rare, And Proctor with his ...

My Boy Life: Presented in a Succession of True Stories - Page 197

John Carroll - 1882 - ‎Read - ‎More editions
When we had partaken of our supaun and milk, I was cheered by my brother's coming in from outdoors with the news, that " the Bashan bull had gone to feeding." I must wind this story up with a not very pleasant finale. The calf had very good ...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

1839 - Thorburn's Rant in Defense of China Tree Corn

Good grief !- I have begun to think Grant Thorburn was starting to loose his marbles!  Or he was a drinker who wrote in his cups...  
What an odd, rambling response to criticism of his China Prolific Tree Corn. 
Actually the letter is an ad that he got published for free!  This letter got published in many (dozen or more?) papers and journals as people waded in to the discussion.

One thing to come from this is I learned a new word...supaun.  Most regional names for common things (hint) show up enough in books and articles that it is hard to find a one you are unfamiliar with if you are a reader and of a sufficient number of decades. I'll post what I finally found about supaun in the next post.


I think, Messrs. Printers, that we have had enough in all conscience of puffing and blowing about family Ravels, Tree play actors, men singers, and women singers, Italian fiddlers, and rope dancers, live elephants and monkeys. (By-the-by it is a very prevalent opinion at Cow Bay, Cow Neck, Oyster Bay and Hallet's Cove, that if all those drones were turned out to fell trees, grub up brush and hoe corn, we would not need to import peas-meal and rye-flour from Germany—things which feed the sense of sight only.) 

Now we, some of your clod-hopping subscribers, think ourselves entitled to half a column of your paper to speak of things which feed the taste, and give nourishment to the body corporate.

Mr Jefferson says the man who makes three blades of grass grow where only one grew before, is more the friend of man than he who conquers kingdoms.   I think if Mr J. had always preached such sound doctrine, he would have been the greatest philosopher of the age. 

Seeing, then, that this proposition about the grass is self-evident fact, what think you should 
be done to the man who makes three ears of corn grow where only one grew before inasmuch as grass feeds the horse, and corn the man?

 But to come to the point at once:
 Some three years ago a merchant in New York, while emptying a box of tea, observed therein a few grains of corn. Concluding that corn from China must be something new under our sun, he had them planted, so they grew and multiplied.    

Last spring, I received from a worthy friend, a portion of said corn—it’s a new variety—so I gave it the name of China's fall prolific, or tree corn; as it strikes off in two, three, and frequently four branches, in appearance like a small tree, and produces an ear at the head of each branch, whereas the common corn shoots out the ear from the side of the stalk; it grows from eight to ten feet high,  produces an abundance of fodder, and is a large white flint twelve rows long, and ears from ten to fourteen inches long. 

I counted six hundred and sixty grains on the ear;  it was planted on the 10th of May, and had ears fit to boil on the 10th of July.  Its produce was curtailed by the long drought, but notwithstanding I counted two thousand one hundred and twenty grains, the product of one stalk: being an increase of two thousand and one. 

The Dutton (which is an excellent corn) planted on the same day, on the same field, and received the same quantity of manure, cross ploughed and hoeing, did not produce one half. The patch about two hundred hills, was examined by many respectable farmers, who all pronounced it something new, and something superior.  

The corn may be had of G. C. Thorburn, New York, and at the store of Wm. Thorburn of Albany, price 25 cents per ear; the net profits to be given to some of the charitable institutions in New York and Albany. 

Now, if there is a farmer between Maine and the Rocky Mountains who would rather pay 25 cents for two gills of brandy, than to buy one ear of this corn, which will plant 100 hills —I say, if there is a man, he ought to be fed on nothing but supaun and buttermilk as long as his little soul and big carcass will hang together.   

A stalk, having the ears on, to show the manner of growth, may be seen at the above stores.   Every printer in Kings, Queens, Duchess, Orange, and Albany counties, who is fond of Jennie cake—(for if my informant speaks true, it took its name from a southern lass by the name of Jennie Dawson, who was famous for manufacturing this delicious article; but that at a meeting of the Bachelor's Club, Jennie was voted out and Johnny put in her place—I only hope that some of those chaps who were concerned in an affair so ungallant may never taste one of those new made cakes, when anointed with fresh butter)—will please insert as much of this long winded story as they see fit: and every printer who has children, who ere long may be orphans, will please insert the whole, and place it to the credit of the widow and the fatherless—he who is their Judge will register the thing in Heaven, as Uncle Toby says.

Hallet's Cove, Sept. 24, 1838.

REMARKs.—We have some of this corn for sale at the New England Farmer office, but as we know no more about it than what is contained in the above statement, every purchaser must take it on his own responsibility. J. B.

The above amazing ad is from New England Farmer, Volume 17, 1839