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! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

1892 - Chariot Drawn by Butterflies - W.W. Barnard & Co

The  over-the-top fantasy of this cover is delightfully whimsical.  In spite of the chariot featuring flowers, this catalog had about 2 dozen flower species for sale, with the bulk of the content dedicated to vegetables.

The interior of the catalog has my favorite style of vegetable illustrations, black and white engravings.  Download from the Internet Archive.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pursuing the Great Ruta Baga of Botley

Here you will find:

  • a impassioned put down of potatoes containing an icky reference to a prime                       minister's habits which illustrates why the Great Ruta Baga of Botley was a convicted libeller
  • the connection between GRB of Botley and Thorburn of Astoria

Before exploring that, look at this glowing description of Mr. Thorburn.

Wondering how the Great Ruta Baga of Botley came in close enough contact with seedsman Grant Thorburn to spark a libel suit?

According to this account, the year 1837 was marked by a ruta baga seed shortage!  I assume something in the ruta baga seed brought the GRBB and Grant Thorburn together. If you want to skip down to the Thorburn reference I marked it with red arrows.  William Cobbett, the Great Ruta Baga of Botley, was a major proselytizer for the use of rutabagas as animal feed.

And when did ruta baga become rutabaga?

Below is one page written by the Great Ruta Baga of Botley, Wm. Cobbett.  He was not a diplomatic man.  He could certainly rub a lot of people the wrong way faster than most.

It is also just plain gross in one spot!!!!


This book... A year's residence in the united states of america By William Cobbett contains an interesting point of view on many topics.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sowing on Snow...Who Knew?!

Snow here today, but only a school delay.  6ยบ F but not windy so time to pack my peanut butter sandwich and head off.  It would be more fun to stay in my nice comfy warm chair and follow a lead about Philadelphia seed houses though!

I just looked up seeds and snow and came up with this.  I didn't know about this practice.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gram's Cottage Pudding Recipe, An Odd Old Man, and 1886 Advice from Aunt Patty

Something from almost nothing....that is cottage pudding.  It is something you make when being a good, frugal housekeeper.

This is Gram's recipe.  Gram was born in 1889, so Aunt Maggie's recipe is probably from this pre-20th century period.   Compared to more modern recipes this does not have much sugar. Check out the sauce, for instance! Did Gram forget to write down the sugar or did the strawberries carry the sugar?   Guess I'll have to try it...waiting til strawberry season, of course, like a good housewife should.

Recipes for everything and anything are in this, not atypical, book for 1888.  

Would you buy a pudding from this man?

Cottage Pudding - 1894 Style
By Jone Johnson Lewis on
From a 19th century recipe for cottage pudding
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon butter 2 Tablespoons butter 1 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
1 pint boiling water lemon to taste

One cup of sugar, one­half cup of milk, one and one­half cups of flour; and one tablespoonful of butter; bake as a cake, and serve with this­­
SAUCE.­­Two tablespoonfuls butter, one cup white sugar, and one tablespoon flour, wet in cold water; one pint of boiling water. Let boil two or three minutes, stirring all the time. Flavor with lemon.
Recipes 1894 Style1 |Puddings 1894 Style2
Adapted from Recipes Tried and True, compiled by the Ladies' Aid Society of the First Presbyterian Church, Marion, Ohio, 1894, a source in the public domain.
The recipes in this collection are representative of cooking in America in the late 19th century, and the compilation of a cookbook shows the ways in which women were beginning to organize and act both within their traditional roles and outside of traditional expectations. The recipes are presented exactly as written in 1894, and may not conform to current nutritional or food preparation standards. Try at your own risk.
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Links in this article:
1. 2. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The House of Thorburn vs.The Great Ruta Baga of Botley!

The Great Ruta Baga of Botley came to light in the following article from The American Florist, The American Farmer of 1869 goes into some detail about GRBB.  To be kind, the man seems to have been a nut case. An eccentric and prolific writer and champion of the rutabaga he was  convicted of libel on both sides of the Atlantic! He did believe his "ruta bagas" were the perfect crop though.
1906.  An English gentleman named Wm. Corbett was the Great Ruta Baga of Botley. He seems to have been an enemy of of the Thorburns.

I was  delighted when I found the issue of the Florist containing this history of the Thorburns. The thought of having to compile it wasn't making me glow with excitement,  yet they are such an important family in the history of the seed trade I felt I wanted to see the big picture.  Thank goodness IT'S BEEN DONE!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

1818 Catalog of Wm. Prince: Just Plain Convolvulus (plus a treat)

William Prince published this catalog in 1818.   Working with his son by this date, he mentions you can pick up a catalog at the son's, Wm. R's, South Street establishment.

To make remembering who is who even more difficult, the senior Prince was the son of yet another William who was an economic botanist and horticulturist.

Their fields were in Flushing, New York.

I am featuring this to illustrate the style of older catalogs in general.  Buyers had to know what they wanted.  There was absolutely no attempt to seduce you with lush illustrations and horticulturally titillating descriptions.  You either knew what a "Convolvolos sagittafolius" was, or you didn't!  (Spelling was a more casual affair back then as well.)

Click here to view these full size PDF of the catalog and a sheet of a handwritten list by a buyer/dreamer.

I was curious to see what the buyer was checking off.

Here is your reward :-)  There is a fantastic book to download from Google Books,

The ladies' flower-garden of ornamental annuals by Mrs. Loudon