Monday, January 13, 2014

Pelargonium peltatum To the Rescue! (Part 3)

Our hero, Grant Thorburn was living in 1801 at 22 Nassau Street, running a grocery with his new wife.

Nassau Street seems to have been the sort of street where you could find anything...but you had better look at it very closely before buying. Signs hung from every wall, were posted in windows, painted on stairs and fluttered as posters aged.  It bustled!  These two pictures, nearly 100 years apart, show similar scenes.

Thorburn was doing well...until a competitor opened a shop in a much more noticeable corner building.  Thorburn's business started to fail.

I am constantly impressed by Grant Thorburn's energy and ability not to get stuck saying "poor me".  This time he noticed a new craze for potted plants has created a greater need for pots.

 He picked up a few plain terracotta pots, and sold them. Then he thought that an improved pot, one with a green varnish might sell.  He slapped a coat of varnish on two pots, sat them in his window and they sold almost immediately.  He continued customizing the pots that he bought in the market.

One day while passing a plant dealer there he noticed for the first time in his life a geranium!
(The guy was not into plants.)

He was impressed with its tangy smell, thinking it would look great in his pots and catch a lady's eye. Thorburn bought the geranium, and it sold quickly with its pot so he had to buy more.  Eventually he did a deal with the plant man where the plant grower would stay  home from the market and use his time to grow more for Thorburn to sell. Both were Scots, the business arrangement worked well, and Thorburn began to attract buyers for his plants.

Many people, in the city for amusement and not wanting to carry a heavy potted plant home on the train, asked if he sold seeds.   And that is the beginning in 1802 of the seed and plant business for the Thorburn family.

To be continued...

Pelargonium peltatum

A nice book to peruse  that shows New York in the late 1800s (published in 1872 I think):

Lights and Shadows of New York Life: Or, The Sights and Sensations of the Great City. A Work Descriptive of the City of New York in All Its Various Phases