Wednesday, July 9, 2014

1885 Praise of Mr. A. W. Livingston

We are in the habit of indulging in hearty congratulations over the advanced conditions of our modern horticulture. Such effusions are as cheap as they are appropriate. But it is well, now and then, to take a look backward and recall some of those to whom the goddess of horticulture is indebted for her present exalted position. When we do this, we discover that the number who have put forth earnest, systematic and persistent efforts to the real foundation work in horticulture is not large, nor have such always been most rewarded. We owe a tribute of praise to every worker who has spent years of patient care and selection in seeking to improve the products of our orchards and gardens. It is this sort of work that really builds up horticulture, and this class of workers that most deserves our recognition and encouragement. 
Mr. A. W. Livingston of Des Moines, Iowa, whose portrait appears on this page, emphatically belongs to this class of horticultural workers, and his successful labors in improving the tomato have made his name well-known to those who are interested in gardening. Indeed, to him we are indebted for many of our best market tomatoes. The introduction of the Paragon, Mr. Livingston‘s first success (about 1867), may be said to have marked an era in the culture of the tomato. Previous to that time we scarcely possessed a variety of this fruit suitable for extensive shipping, and few varieties were sufficiently smooth and solid to make them worthy of culture, even in the family garden. But since the dissemination of the Paragon, Acme, Perfection and Favorite, all Mr. Livingston's productions, the tomato has rapidly increased in importance, until it now ranks among our prominent market and garden products. 
1870s map

Mr. Livingston was born in the year 1821, in Franklin County, Ohio, a few miles from the city of Columbus. The surrounding country was then a wilderness, and his parents were able to give him few advantages. After the age of ten years his schooling was limited to a few winters, and when he attained his majority he hired out at such work as came to hand “by the day, job or any other way." He soon married and rented a farm, on which he lived eleven years, during which time he was able to save sufficient to purchase 50 acres for himself, and soon
commenced the culture of garden seeds. Even before this time, he had begun to turn his attention to improving the tomato. To use his own words, “ I commenced selecting the smooth specimens, and after fifteen years of untiring effort, I found myself no nearer my object of getting a perfect tomato than when I began my plan. I then changed my plan and selected from smooth dwarf varieties, having a certain peculiar kind of seed, with no rough fruits on the vine, and by careful selection, in five years, I was able to send out a fine, large, smooth red tomato, that bears not a single rough fruit, which I named the Paragon.'"
Those who have attempted to develop new varieties of fruit or vegetables will be able to appreciate something of the patience required to continue one's efforts for twenty consecutive years before sufficient success is attained to warrant an introduction. Contrast this with the record of some of our seedsmen. Instead of patiently working in their own grounds to produce superior new varieties and refusing to introduce a sort that has not sterling merit, they have grasped at novelties wherever they could find them and have pushed them industriously. A comparison of the Turk’s Cap and President Garfield tomatoes with any of Mr. Livingston's offers a case in point.
The Paragon was soon followed by the Acme, a tomato of equally regular form with a purplish red skin. By this time it was apparent that a tougher skin was demanded for shipping purposes. and the Perfection was developed to satisfy this want. The Favorite was offered as having special value for canning, owing to the solidity of its flesh and the fewness of its seeds. It may, perhaps, be questioned whether Mr. Livingston’s more recent introductions are in any sense superior to the Perfection and Favorite. The color of the Beauty is extremely brilliant, however, while its quality is probably unsurpassed among the purplish red tomatoes. For many years Mr. Livingston’s introductions were regarded as standards among tomatoes and they are still in high esteem. During the last few years many valuable sorts have been put out by other parties, some of which bear too close a resemblance to the Perfection and Favorite to be regarded as distinct.
We think that Mr. Livingston merits the recognition of progressive horticulturists for his persevering efforts to secure new varieties of real merit. To say that a seed grower has introduced half a dozen or more novelties is not particularly to his credit, but to say that he has originated some truly valuable acquisitions, and that he spent twenty years on the first, is to make him eminently worthy of our esteem.
An article from 1885 -  The American GardenA Monthly Illustrated Journal Devoted to Garden Art
Super Link:  Victory Seeds has a Livingston tomato collection with good historical information!