Monday, January 29, 2018

1886 - Mr. Beyer's Cress

 Hugo Beyer of New London, Iowa is a hard man to track down using old advertisements.  He doesn't seem to have any! (That show up in the usual online search.) 
 I did find one or two articles referring to him and his Upland Cress.  These, and a few other sentences gathered here and there, give me the impression he puffed plants he liked without carefully researching them.  It wasn't flim-flam,  just "enthusiasm" :-)

The 1886 The American Garden: A Monthly Illustrated Journal Devoted to Garden Art reported on his new Upland Cress.


About New Year's we received a package of leaves from Hugo Beyer of New London, Iowa, which were partly wilted, but still had the semblance of Cress leaves and answered the description sent by Mr. Beyer.  The leaves were unusually large, and of unmistakable Cress flavor. 

Mr. Beyer writes as follows:

“It is in reality a new class of vegetable.   I have named it ‘Upland Cress,‘ as it thrives on any soil, wet or dry, to distinguish it from the Water Cress. Undoubtedly it belongs to the Nasturtiums, as the Water Cress does, and seems to be related to that in shape of leaf and taste. I 
failed. it seemed new to all. I sent for that purpose a large plant to the American Agriculturist last spring, also seed to Vilmorin, Andrieux & Co., Paris. By a letter received about a month ago they inform me that this plant is new in France.

“ ‘Upland Cress' can be used ten to eleven months out of the twelve, without protection, yielding an immense supply of leaves. It possesses hardiness not equaled by any other. We have had heavy frosts, for some time 5° below zero, then about eight inches of snow, and for about a week thawing in the day and freezing at

night, and how Upland Cress has stood all that, a sample taken from the patch yesterday (Dec. 30th) will best tell you." [Sample above mentioned. En. AM. G.] 

It cannot be expected to be of first quality now, for it is pungent and somewhat tough, yet is still eatable. Chopped fine (stems are good also) and eaten with bread and butter, it does not go so bad.     
Boiled, prepared same as Kale, it is fine, but the first water must be thrown away and the boiling finished in a second, otherwise it would taste bitter. 

The refuse foliage we give to the family cow, and she enjoys it as much as Clover in the summer. As it remains green all winter I don’t see why it might not prove also a valuable forage plant. Our chickens eat it whenever they can get to it, and we notice a large increase in eggs, at a time when our neighbors don't get any.

“When I noticed the valuable qualities of Upland Cress I thought, if generally used, it would prove of special benefit to the poor. Viewing it thus, I did not feel willing to monopolize it, and to give all an opportunity I sent out last spring all the surplus seed I had, gratis, to different seedsmen and customers to aid me in introducing it quickly."

This Cress is said to have originated in Tennessee. It furnishes “greens" two to three weeks earlier than any other outdoor vegetable in Iowa.

The American Garden: A Monthly Illustrated Journal of Horticulture, Sept. 1888

Stray facts and links:

  • Land cress, also known as American cress, bank cress, black wood cress, Belle Isle cress, Bermuda cress, early yellowrocket, early wintercress, scurvy cress, creasy greens, and upland cress, is a biennial herb in the family Brassicaceae. Wikipedia

Seeds in the Stacks: National Agricultural Library's Video Introduction to Vintage Seed Catalogs

The Biodiversity Heritage Library just sent out their newsletter and it contained a link to this tour behind-the-scenes at the National Agricultural Library.  

Enjoy Seeds in the Stacks!

The text below is supplied by the Biodiversity Heritage Library on their YouTube page.

Go behind-the-scenes at the USDA National Agricultural Library to explore vintage seed and nursery catalogs from the Library's collection of over 200,000 catalogs. 
This video originally aired as a Facebook Live broadcast on 3 November, 2017.
View all of the catalogs featured in Seeds in the Stacks on the Biodiversity Heritage Library at the links below: 
Introduction Catalogs: F.W. Bolgiano & Co., 1902: Elliott & Sons, 1905: Bros, Co., 1904: Seed Co., 1901:’ Seed House, 1923: Philips’ Sons, 1901: Seed Co., 1913: Wilson, 1889: Seed Co., 1905: Seed Co., 1908: 
Broadcast Catalogs: William Prince, 1771: Prince, 1830: Robert Prince, 1844: Breck & Co., 1838: Breck & Sons, 1886: Breck & Co., 1840: Vick, 1887: Vick, 1894: Vick, 1889: Henderson & Co., 1885: Henderson & Co., 1886: Henderson & Co., 1892: Henderson & Co., 1909: 
Finale Catalogs: J. Bolgiano & Son, 1908: Atlee Burpee & Co., 1896: A. Weaver Company, 1897: Wilson, 1897: & Stokes, 1895: Explore More Seed Catalogs in BHL:

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Old Photos to Make You Smile

I was just looking through some old digital photos, thinking I should delete them if I have shared them with you already.   But then I decided, no way!!  I really get pleasure from looking at them again!

Here are two that I like for their pride in the children and the plants.  I think its being -5F. outside now makes them even more attractive!

Friday, December 22, 2017

1896 - Cox's Seed Catalog Lady

I just fell in love with this seed catalog cover image.  She looks like a little wooden doll about to tip over!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

1866 - Mr. Beyer, Iowa Seedsman, Wins Big at the Iowa State Fair

On a brighter note than the last post about Hugo Beyer, New London, Iowa, this one reports on his wins at the fairs, one for an essay he wrote.

However, this essay was just too, too boring to read so I left 90% out.  Mr. Beyer got $10 prize for writing it though!  The Iowa State Agricultural Fair offered ribbons for the best essays on bees, sheep, hogs, butter dairy and flowers!  

(While I could not find pictures of any vintage fair ribbons for agriculture, there are some wonderful 19th century ribbon photos online.  Chickens seem to have had some elaborate ribbons - who knew?!)

$10 is worth about $145  in today's money if the online reference is correct.


It is painful for the observer and the admirer of the beautiful to notice that the culture of flowers, which adds so greatly to the appearance and value of property, promote the enjoyment, health and happiness of a family, is so much neglected in the Western States.
Those who delight in the pleasant occupation of adorning the home, be it cottage or mansion, with the beautiful of nature, give proof that there dwells intellect, taste, and feeling.
The thoughtful parent will assign to their beloved ones, a place where to grow their own flowers and will derive much pleasure by seeing how, with busy hands and eager, childish hearts, they will watch the result. It will aid in shaping the mind for future usefulness. Children will be more obedient, performing other duties with more cheerfulness...
History tells us of many interesting incidents. ... Those beautiful things (flowers) sometimes produce surprising wonders upon minds, where least expected. I refer to a case of a most touching nature, which is, perhaps, not so generally known. It occurred during our late deplorable civil war. As the blood-thirsty guerrilla, Quantrell, was outraging humanity in the ill-fated town of Lawrence, in Kansas, neither sparing the aged nor the infants, ruthlessly destroying property, he came, in his wild career, to a residence surrounded with flowers of extraordinary beauty, effecting an impression so charming upon him, that he exclaimed: "This is too pretty to be destroyed" giving, at the same time, orders to leave everything undisturbed, nor have the inmates in the least molested. Flowers saved their lives and property.
Flowers occupy a no less high place in family ceremonies. Is not the snow-white myrtle blossom—the symbol of innocence and purity—wreathed in the bride's hair, more effective in solemnizing the event than costly jewels? And as a last tribute to our own departed friends, flowers follow to the grave.
1866 - Annual Report of the Iowa State Agricultural Society

Hugo Beyer picked up ribbons at the 1893 Iowa State Agricultural Fair as well.  (Then, as now, firsts through thirds have cash awarded.  I have a friend who aims to earn enough in prizes to pay for her family admission to the Woodstock Agricultural Fair...and she does, with change!)
  • First half peck Red tomatoes, three dollars; 
  • second three Hubbard squashes, two dollars; 
  • first three Nutmeg melons, three dollars, 
  • Second display green beans, two dollars,
  • First unnamed native plums not less than twelve specimens, eight dollars; 
  • first four bunches grapes, most promising new seedling,

($8.00 in 1894 is worth about $220 in 2017, and 2 is $55 ish.) 

Monday, November 27, 2017

1855 to 1905 - Hugo Beyer, Iowa Seedsman Says Farewell

"...too much of a strain and I can bear it no longer."

Hugo Beyer is not an easy seedsman to track down in publications so I have no anecdotes and few  insights into this man.  He seems a hard worker, and he worked as long as he could.

This catalog is not impressive visually, but interesting once read because this catalog is his last, and he writes about his career in the first few pages.  I am just including the covers and his farewell here.

Remember, when he started, Iowa in early 1850s was the frontier, trains from Chicago had not crossed the Mississippi yet! 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

1904 - Hugo Beyer, "the Burbank of Iowa"

As an east coast resident who has spent most of my life living in New England events in the 19th century seem "new" to me as I read historical accounts.  Thinking about it, you need to reference the 16th or even 15th centuries before I perk up thinking "OK, that's old!".  
In this age of YouTube and being able to access BBC shows even those dates are loosing their impact; just yesterday I was watching Escape to the Country and the hostess was standing in front of a flour mill which had been there and working for a thousand years!   

Back to my point - businesses in the west are old when you see 1850s for their start date.  Iowa was opened for settlement in 1833!  Another factor I need to remember is that the railroads, necessary to support a bigger business, didn't cross the Mississippi until after 1850.  
One did not come near Mr. Beyer's community until late 1856 when it came as far as New London on its way to California from Chicago.

Hugo Beyer arrived in America in 1854, part of a large wave of German immigrants which had begun earlier in the century.  Most were farmers looking for good land in which to invest their modest savings.  


This synopsis of his life is from The History of Henry County, Iowa - 1879.
BEYER, HUGO, cultivator of vegetable and flower seeds, S. 10; P. O. New London; born in Prussia March 21, 1830; was brought up there, and came to America in 1854; he came to Iowa and located in this county in 1856, on the place where he now lives, and engaged in cultivating vegetable and flower seeds. 
He is the oldest seedsman in this State, and has built up a large business; he has demand for his seeds throughout this State and Missouri, and as far west as California.
Mr. Beyer is very successful in keeping plants through the winter without fire—a method peculiarly his own, and which keeps the plants nice and fresh and far more healthy than the old way. (To which I say, "So what is that method?!!!) 
He married Miss Bertha Schael, from Prussia, April 16, 1868; they have two children— Herbert and Oswald; they have lost two children—Hugo and Max.

The Luther Burbank of Iowa
unimproved R. occidentalis
Artist: Helen Sharp, 1907

Hugo Beyer, the veteran seedsman from New London, IA., was hero this week with samples of his “Perpetual Bearing Raspberry.” Mr. Beyer, who will deserve to be remembered as the Luther Burbank of Iowa, has been developing this new and wonderful variety of blackcap raspberry for the past 13 years.

It will interest especially the people of this community to know that Mr. Beyer secured the original stock from Dr. Tom Hell of Wapello, who is supposed to have transferred it from its original wild state. It is what is called a “sport”, an “accident” in the speech of of the unthinking, but what Mr. Beyer calls a “Providence.” 

It remained for him to discover and develop this remarkable new variety of one of the most valuable berries grown. The peculiarity of "Beyer’s Perpetual”,  by which name it is known in the government department at Washington, is that it fruits continuously from the time it begins to bear until frost. 

The cane which he left at the REPUBLICAN office contains fruit in all stages from the blossom to the ripe berry. Thus it bears for two or three months, and at a season when most small fruit is scarce.  The sample given us on the first day of August indicates that this variety fruits later than the ordinary black and red varieties.  Another peculiarity in which it differs from other kinds of raspberries and from the blackberry, is that the fruit is found on this year’s growth of canes, thus insuring against winter killing and injury from rabbits and mice. The roots also strike down deep into the ground, instead of spreading over the surface, thus preventing the injurious effects of drouth. 

It is certainly a gift of providence to the people through the watchful care of a good man, who spent fifty years in the study of fruits and flowers. Hugo Beyer, who is a native of Germany, and a resident of Henry county, Iowa, for over fifty years, is known for his integrity.   This new variety of raspberry has been introduced into thirteen experiment stations in the U S. and has also been sent to the Horticultural Society of London. And the original stock came from Louisa county. 

From the Wapello Republican, Aug. 3, 1904.

Testimonials are always hard to ignore!  
I wonder where the watercolor is, and who painted it.