Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hurl or Hell? (Part 1)

Help!  The energy to pursue seed history is harder to save than the seeds themselves!

School wiped me out this week...I was doing painting with kindergartners, sewing hats with the 5th grade, modular origami with the 4ths and who knows what with the rest.  Between scrubbing hands, arms, faces and floors, doing the "dishes" of brushes and trays, being super alert with needle wielding overly-animated social beings all trying to get their work done and needing help simultaneously, and trying to convince 4ths that precision in the end saves you labor and that persistence is worth cultivating...with all that I get home with a brain the consistency of sea foam.

Seed research is my relaxation and joy.
As a teacher type, sharing it with you is my second joy!
Only I pooped out on the gathering and synthesizing last night.  Kids come first, you come second. :-)

On the bright side, today is Saturday.  It is rainy and mild in this New England winter.  My fireplace is warming the right side of my body and crackling away like the cyber fire you can download for your phone.  I am looking around for some one thing to spin a story around for a change and I think I found it in the family of Thorburn.  They lived on Long Island  and were very well respected seedsmen and plant dealers around 1830.  It is a multigenerational story taking place on  Long Island where my mother's family is from, and it is an early story.  The only negative is catalogs then were not illustrated, so for a hit and run visual snack it won't satisfy.  But, then again, I think it will be interesting in a more calorically dense way.

The first quest is to figure out where the nursery was located on Long Island.
Hurlgate?    The answer to where the heck is Hurlgate (none found in contemporary map search) is in the great page by The Gotham History Blotter that is all about the naming of that particular area.  

So there you go...a start.  This photo is from Gotham History's essay, HELL GATE: NAMES OF FEAR, FEAR OF NAMES, by Michael Nichols. 
"Michael Nichols is at work on a book about Hell Gate—a riff on its name, history, and lore."

And just because this is too cool to waste...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Silly Sells Seeds (by the seashore)

Silly did seem to sell seeds when it came to the trade cards. I find this one fascinating because of the reversed violin scroll banjo. Having a hubbard squash dropped on your head is pretty harsh criticism of your playing ability!   

Trade cards had their heyday in the late 1800s to very early 1900s.  Lithography had a breakthrough in the late 1800s that made the printing of these colorful cards affordable for advertising.  Reid's Seeds card with the latest in sports, the penny farthing race,  combines two great collectible themes.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Seed Company Letterheads: Mostly 19th & Early 20th Century

Old letterheads let you know what was going on.  I like that.  You can tell what the company sold back then.  Names and artwork worked together to fill you in on what the business was up to.  

I'm collecting images of the ones that include engravings of the seed buildings. The pride in accomplishment at that level is charming.  The nice thing about following flower seed companies is that global domination is not the ultimate goal, unlike field crop seed.  That is just my observation.  Besides,  in the early days of seed production in the US what we were trying to do was make a more reliable and desirable seed than the imported seed from France, England and others.

Here is a collection of seed letterheads that I accumulated off eBay. 
I smile every time I see the happy dude hugging his cabbage!  (It is a cabbage?) 

Download a paper by Robert Biggert giving a very good grounding in the art of letterheads and how they reflect the history of the country and the attitude of the people.
"The Robert Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery was donated to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library by Robert Biggert in honor of Lisa Ann Riveaux. This unique collection of printed ephemera contains over 1,300 items with architectural imagery spanning the dates 1850 to 1920, in more than 350 cities and towns in forty-five states, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. possessions. The collection's billheads, letterheads, envelopes, checks, and business cards document the rise of the United States as an industrial nation, in often elaborate vignettes of factories, warehouses, mines, offices, stores, banks, and hotels."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Links Too Good To Ignore; Bird Books

I keep bumping into nice things I want to share, seeds or no seeds.  
Think of them as "seeds of future interests".  :-)

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 55 million Americans spend upward of $3 billion a year on birdseed. I tried really hard to find some current birdseed industry figures  for this page but can't before bedtime.   BUT I found a nearby city 
of Cranston, Rhode Island passed an ordinance restricting homeowners to one bird feeder per property, with a penalty of $50 for each infraction. The ordinance is aimed at reducing the rat infestation affecting several wards in the community.

Rats are so 15th century sounding.  
But I know they are very "now"...I used to live next to a donut shop that was not a good neighbor (until the health department told them to keep their trash bin lids closed).  The rats were unreal!   They dug runs under ground and popped up all over our yard like a Whac-a-Mole game! 

Here is an absolutely charming article from Chambers Journal on pet birds.

Free, downloadable books:


The Bird Book  - Written in 1905 it is a nice blend of scientific information and more casual observations.

There are pleasant little pen and ink illustrations scattered in the margin of the text that bring it alive.

Published a year after the last passenger pigeon died.  I assume that is why they got the place of honor.  By the way, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, when “Martha,” died in captivity at the Cinncinnati Zoological Gardens.

Next, a book of 2 dozen lithos of the famous natural history illustrator Louis Aggasiz Fuertes bird paintings.  These would be nice for any child who likes birds.  The poses and "feel" of each plate give room for imaginings.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Three Misses From Minneapolis

To tidy up my posts about Minnesota seedswomen from around the turn of the 20th century, here are seed catalogs from the three from Minneapolis.

 The University of Minnesota has featured the three women's catalog art - Miss C. H. Lippincott,  Miss Jessie R, Prior  and  Miss Emma White.  I looked at Lippincott earlier this year.

Here are a few pages from the UM archive (above thumbs from their Pinterest page).
Visit the Andersen Horticultural Library's  Pinterest page for these and other worthwhile pins.

I am having an awful time finding out anything about Miss Jessie Prior.  Thanks to the University of Michigan we have a bit.

Check out that "finger spade" (above)!!  Is that cool, or what?!! 
 I wonder what people think it is when they find one at a flea market.

"The Andersen Horticultural Library collection is a rich resource for everyone from the weekend gardener planning a perennial border to the professional horticulturist. Its vast collection of nearly 20,000 books and 300 subscriptions to magazines, newsletters, and scientific journals provides information and inspiration—from the literature of horticulture, botany, landscape architecture, and local natural history to children's books and specialized horticultural research."                                 

Miss Emma White is easier to find full catalogs for and the catalogs give you starters for looking things up.  Below she mentions she bought out E. Nagel & Co.  Cashing in wisely on the popular conception at the time that women were more careful and honest seed dealers, Miss Emma emphatically emphasizes she is a woman. You go, girl!!

Link to UM Pinterest page...really full of fantastic, lush catalog covers.

1898 catalog issued by Miss Emma White (PDF download) was pixie filled and had no color.

By 1899 she had a marvelous color lithographed front and back cover.  Download PDF.

Below is the 1900 catalog cover.

I am confused on how little info pops up about these 3 seedswomen in business journals.  I have done an immense amount of focused research for two other projects over the last 10 years.  One project is all about antique outboard motors from the same period this blog focuses on - 1890s to 1920.  There is tons of mentions of the 50 or more companies I follow in trade mags, exhibition coverage, patents, magazines that cover new consumer goods, racing sports, commercial fishing,  and a weird assortment of other stuff, all in addition to the company catalogs.   Why Miss Lippincott is the only one I have so far found an article written about her business seems to say I just haven't stumbled on the right searches yet. Google Books is being more opaque than usual!  Burpee  was a great self promoter with books and articles, but what I like is third party mentions of business deals, expanisions, buy-outs, managers acquired from other companies; all the nitty gritty which is probably so boring to most people.  Over the years I found that there are always people that like what you do (which feels so very, very nice!) so it is worth documenting what calls to you.

My other projects are done for my husband who collects American  turn of the 20th century outboard motor ephemera and the motors themselves!  I have caught the bug insofar as my interest in documenting the European motors of the same period lets me weasel around the internet with a focus.   The sites are:

             • Jack Craib's Rowboat Motor Information Site

             • Jack Craib's Caille Outboard Motor Information Pages

Most of my interest is on the rowboat motors.  The Caille site is a research site to help people identify what model they have plus learn about the company.  The rowboat site is more interesting as it includes period articles (of which there were many), plus the many models of early motors are interesting if you are a gearhead :-)   

Monday, January 6, 2014

Call Me Butter - I'm On a Roll...

This fell in my lap, again from cruising eBay.

Like the fabric, the idea of first day covers for seed packets hadn't entered my mind.   I first saw some nice, but "normal" covers.  Then I scrolled down further.  There they were...artist covers!  I love artist covers.  (I think fruitcake withdrawal has messed up my memory; I should have thought of them.  Less brandy on it next year perhaps.)

These covers by John V. Colasanti are wonderful.  Enjoy.  And if you like, visit John's eBay Store, The Purveyor of Needful Things. 

Which is your favorite?  I would pick Stan Laurel with his digitalis thumb!  He was born in think he was on TV all the time when I was a kid.   Lincoln is cool, too.  I was NOT around then.

The more staid covers are very nice... here is one.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Who Knew?! - Sew a Seed :-)

I sure as heck didn't think seed packet fabric was a popular item!!!

The fact there is seed packet themed fabric was an eye opener. When I bumped into one on eBay in a seed packet search I thought, "Wow - cool!".  Then I queried eBay for more and the place is crawling with them. Spooky.  My "Wow - cool" has been replaced by a funny feeling that maybe we don't need so many.

I could live with this one, I think, if I had a porch with chairs that needed cushions...and the Freedonia Seeds one....but the rest aren't  my cup of tea.  Maybe the faded pinkish one in the last't like the words in it.  I realize after reading more on eBay that quilters use these in smaller pieces.