Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Art of Seed Selling: The Early Days

The first catalog I posted was an 1818 broadsheet of William Prince.  It was a simple list with no descriptions.  You had to know what you were looking at.  The Prince family were botanists and horticulturists that began to sell things, but their mindset was still of the naturalist rather than salesman.  The centuries long assumption that gentlemen (and ladies) interested in natural history could use Latin to correspond still held, plus the still new-ish (1753) system of plant taxonomy of Carl Linnaeus would have been more in keeping with Prince's more scientific training.  
This is such a nice scan from Wikipedia I have to include it!
I love old books with their owners' names, marginalia,
bookplates, dog ears, and snippets stored within the pages.

This Baltimore, Maryland catalog is from 1810.  William Booth, Nursery and Seedsman, issued this catalog which is much more buyer friendly, listing the plants and seeds by their common names and giving a little bit of advice on culture.  This certainly opens up you market to many more people who, while having money, do not have a classic education.

The Hampton Mansion records note this about Booth:
"The flower beds were laid out about the year 1810, and possibly earlier, by William Booth, a man of English birth, who, according to the historian Scharf, "stood high among the earlier botanists, florists and seedsmen" of the United States, and laid out some of the finest gardens attached to the old mansions around Baltimore. Scharf says: "His own grounds on West Baltimore Street, extending south to Pratt, were celebrated for the care and exquisite culture with which they were kept." (link)

Booth didn't seem to have started a family business like Prince. His wife Margaret continued the business after his death however.  Here is the New York Times obituary of his son in April 1872.  I don't know why, but it surprised me he spent 20 years in business in Lima, Peru!