Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Little Dewdrops of Celestial Melody"

Such is the legend printed on the cover of Holden's Book of Birds.

I landed on that book in a search for birdseed.  The snowy weather and feeding the birds got me started down that rabbit hole.  Something tells me this blog's trail is going to look like Winnie the Pooh's as he circled around and around in the snow after the Woozle...except I hopefully will have some straight bits in between the circling around tangents.   Digressing, the biggest animal holes I ever saw were woodchuck holes. When I was 7, exploring the edges of a bare bare Pennsylvania cornfield,  I came across what looked to me like the Grand Canyon!  I guess a woodchuck's underground palace had collapsed.

Back to Holden... It is a good read, believe it or not.  I got sucked into it quickly.  He writes about what he really knows, filling us in on gossip about Reiche family, first importers of canaries to the US.

 While starting their business in Boston and New York,  the younger brother, Henry, thought he'd take a load of canaries out to wild California in about 1852. The older brother thought the kid was nuts - however, he went....and made a fortune which allowed the brothers to really expand their business!  

 Using this wonderful page to calculate the simple purchasing power of the amount mentioned in the book, the kid brought home $163,000 to his older brother Charles. Don't you love stories like that?!

Charles wrote a nice book, really a catalog,  to puff their place in the bird biz later on that year that you can download here from Google Books.

In it is this ad :-)

Birdseed....for pets, was a more iffy thing in the early 1800s and before.  I get the impression most pet birds were natives and people fed them what was locally thought to be their native seeds.  Weed seeds were often the byproduct of various sorts of threshing activities...maybe they were gathered and sold or used locally.  I also get the impression bird seed in some old ads is not referring to pet birds. Chambers (below) must have sold it since city people would not have access to gleanings.

I am having trouble finding birdseed history.  Do I want to find more or not?...maybe it is time for a coffee break.  Here is one of my favorite paintings.  My Gram gave me a cage like that but someone (a Philadelphia landlord, I think) stole it.  William Merritt Chase is the New England artist. This painting done in 1886.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Get them while you can...seed packet postal stamps are still available!

Post office still has them!

I never saw these stamps when they came out last April...but they are still available online from the USPS store. $9.20 I think they are.
"Dr. Irwin Richman wrote the book—literally—on the art of vintage seed packets and catalogs. Seed Art: The Package Made Me Buy It offers an intriguing glimpse at the history of the art that so entices buyers to dream of ideal gardens. Dr. Richman begins his book with a telling anecdote: “The story is told of a young woman who answered a newspaper advertisement for a commercial artist placed by a prominent seed company. During her interview she was asked about her major qualification for the job. ‘Well,’ she answered, ‘I used to illustrate children’s fairy tales.’ We hope the applicant got the job; she was obviously qualified.”"

Any reminder of spring and the promise of flowers to come is welcome tonight. A minor nor'easter is expected to roar on through in the dark and be gone before late morning. I am sitting here feeling the living room get colder and colder as the temperature drops outside and the wind picks up.   We have 4 more windows to replace in this house.  All four are in the living room!  Big old windows from 1945, one is replaced, 3 are covered with that shrink plastic and the one by my chair is just its plain old leaky Moretited self.  If I covered it I wouldn't clearly see the birds at the feeder!  The other good window is full of feeders as well...the squirrel proof feeder is there as the big rhodie lets the squirrels launch themselves onto any normal feeder.

I found a new picture archive tonight you can poke around in.  The good old USDA assembled it.

PS Next morning-   The storm was 1/2 of what was predicted. But the birds are very active this morning on the birdseed.  I have my camera here now to snap a pic and there isn't a bird near the windows!!! Before, every perch was taken. Last night when I was writing I took a picture of the porch.  That is the bird seed can.  When raccoon population peaks in our area I have to put weights on the top to keep out midnight snackers.  Rabies wiped them out a few years ago  so I rarely see one now.  The pink light is from a candy cane holiday display plugged into where the porch light should be. (Eeek!  My border spade is still out there!!)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Links: Sharing the Wealth of Seed Related Archives

I have to share this all in a lump, as what I post is often such a mishmosh of what I am thinking there isn't really a specific citation, or I forget to do them.

This morning I came across the Smithsonian's fine page compiled by Marca L. Woodhams,
Librarian, Horticulture Branch
Smithsonian Institution Libraries,
 December 1999
I haven't started to mine it yet.

The Internet Archive is a bottomless pit of cool stuff.  
You can bathe in seed catalogs there once you find the
Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection.
All the great catalogs that Google Books has no "Read" privileges
for are here in their voluptuous entirety!!!!

Don't forget the fun and fast searches that can fill a few minutes and give you a chance of stumbling on something extraordinary.  Go to eBay and search for Vintage Seed Packets, or search in Google Images for the same.  You always have the chance of spotting something special or new!  Tally Ho!!!!!

Google Books can be a bit of a slog but worth it if you are feeling terrier-like. Don't forget to set the date parameter under the drop down Search Tools menu. I once had an Airedale who was a charming washout in most traits doggy being nearsighted and rather dim, but if she got the idea there were rats around she would hunt until exhausted.  Remember, if Google Books lists it as No Preview it might be elsewhere in full.

Happy New Year 2014!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Suitable Job for a Woman in 1863 - Seed Enveloper

Below is an eye opening reference in this excerpt from the 1863  The Employments of WomenA Cyclopaedia of Woman's Work to how a woman could not literally fit into some jobs because of their bulky clothing!!!
 And it mentions how it was a problem in a work environment when it rained as the women took half a day to get dry before they could start; could that be accurate?

The Landreth building to the left is typical of Philadelphia in the early 1800s.
While that building was demolished, a block from there at Market and 7th the buildings are still around.  Dreer's Seeds on the right is on Chestnut St. in Philadelphia.

When I went to college in Philly in the 70s Market Street was a gritty time warp place that only needed horse drawn  vehicles to look like it used to.  Things seem different now in Google Street View!  Some days the winds were so powerful in this area as I walked around I would try and see how far I could lean into them before tipping over.  I can't imagine walking to work in voluminous skirts!!!!

1863 - The Employments of WomenA Cyclopaedia of Woman's Work

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tidying Up: Carrie and Sam - Art and Business

Focus.... I really need to focus more on why I first was drawn to seed catalogs, packets and other paper ephemera - the engravings!  But first...I should finish up for now the Carrie and Sam story.

 Here is an overview of her style.  Saccharine and usually not whimsical.

If you want to see tons of these charming Lippincott covers just view this Google image search for C. H. Lippincott!  Me, I have seen enough for awhile.  I DO like them...but it like when I finish off the Xmas fruitcake...I love it while it is here but sincerely relieved when it is gone!

Remember how Sam Haines was puffing his new color catalog for 1898 in Philadelphia?  I bumped into a repro of its cover being sold on eBay this morning.  It is the only image I have found anywhere - so far.

Another interesting thing is this ad which was in Carrie Lippincott's first catalog.  She cleverly sold some ad space to the railroad.

How much of the catalog text was her writing I wonder.  You can clearly see her self confidence growing along with the business in the early catalogs. The pride and enthusiasm is gone in 1914.

• Read or download the 1896 catalog.  Nice.
Read or download the 1899 catalog.  Nice and improved.
Read or download the 1914 catalog.   Awful.  More successful competition seems to have won.

The Internet Archive is a wonderful place.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Found It!

Ta-da!!  I found the old squished envelope of seeds gathered by my Gram in the chest where I keep old photos.

 It wasn't unmarked, her scrawl on the envelope says, Beans Kentucky Wonders.

 Gram was legally blind since she was in her mid 30s. By her 80s, when she squirreled this away, she hadn't seen her handwriting for decades.

Those old photos were in an album she made in her early 20s.  To think, she saw the effects of both the amazing Wright brothers and men on the moon!!! That is Gram below.  Read the little newspaper clipping...Josiah Dow is her father.

And I found that Miss. C. H. Lippincott was Carrie H. Lippincott.  It was in her 1900 catalog.

The mysterious Mr. Haines really was her brother-in-law.  Samuel Y. Haines, who visited Chicago with his wife, Miss Carrie's sister, had a Philadelphia seed business in 1887. He traveled around visiting seed suppliers and going to industry events. I wonder, was the train service from Philadelphia to Chicago  better then, or now? (Later: Found an answer! See this Quartz page. )
Minneapolis...the W-I-L-D west?!!

All of Sam's snippets from

Miss Lippincott's Rabbit Hole

Did you ever feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole?  All the fascinating facts and mysteries about the seed business popping up as I look around seed history have my eyes spinning in my head.

 Trying to go to sleep last night I kept thinking someone must have written a thesis on women owned seed businesses.  (And, no, I haven't looked yet.)

 But take a moment and fall into this illustration from C. H. Lippincott's 1898 catalog.
 A LARGE version is here.

What is C. H. short for anyway?  Rabbit holes abound!  And don't forget Mr. Haines - I haven't.