Saturday, April 12, 2014

James Vick - Marketing the Garden Dream

Yesterday I posted a piece about the seed exhibits at the Columbian Exposition.  James Vick was acknowledged as a major contributor to Class 180 (seeds) in the guidebook.  Thirty years before, when he started his business in Rochester by importing seeds from Europe he was often disappointed with the quality.  That led to his establishing his own reliable seed fields.  His catalogs and writings were incredibly effective in popularizing his brand!


Good Links:

Friday, April 11, 2014

1893 - Seven Seedsman at the Columbian Exposition

Yesterday's post  mentioned briefly how E. W. Conklin, Seedman, had won 7 prizes at the Columbian Exposition.  I started poking around and found these nifty stereo views (below),
 and more to the theme of this blog, news of which seedsman had decided to display and compete. 

World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Ill., 1893, Volume 1 had the following report on "Class 180", which was "General display of flower and vegetable, seeds by seed houses or growers.".

Two things jumped out at me from this.  That the writer saw fit to note the use of seed packets with a picture of the flower or plant that would be grown from that packages' seeds...and the cental system.  I thought at first that Google's OCR was playing games with the word central. is a system of weight I never heard of and which has quite a history of political machinations around its use.  I found an interesting piece about it in a New Orleans newspaper from 1867 that is at the bottom of this post. 

The following is from the 1893 Exposition publication...

Coming back to the chief class 180, general display of flower and vegetable seeds by seed houses or growers, we have to regret also here that the number of exhibitions was not greater.   D. M. Ferry Co., of Detroit, Mich.,  the largest seed house in the United States,Atlee Burpee & Co., Philadelphia, of nearly the same importance, and the Steele Briggs Marcon Company, Limited, Toronto, the largest seed house in Canada, had not  exhibited. 

 The catalogue names from the United States only 7,  but among these 7 were some of the greatest houses of the Union— Henry A. Dreer, Philadelphia; Peter Henderson & Co., New York; Pitcher & Mandu, Shorthills, N. J., and Y. C. Vaughan, Chicago.  Peter Henderson & Co. also had exhibited in a grand style in the agricultural building, where still another great house, Albert Dickinson & Co., Chicago, and further Vilmorin, Andrieux Cie., from Paris,  had exposed their great collections.
There were still some other exhibitions of which we will speak first.  W. Buckbee, Rockford seed farms, Illinois, had arranged his collection in a very pretty manner; all seeds were in pretty, large, green or red silk bags on a terrace, with a large mirror behind and a brass liar before, a book with the request, "Please write your address, to get a catalogue" lying out.  This latter is a very common custom in America, which should be more frequently accepted in Germany.  H. W. Buckbee especially grows vegetable seeds, onions being the principal, but also cabbage and sugar corn. Of course it would not have well been possible to exhibit flower seeds in such quantities, but the public did not miss them, and the great quantities of vegetables in the pretty bags attracted it very much.
The Michigan Seed Company, South Haven, Mich., exhibited in a smaller style about 115 flower and vegetable seeds. Their specialties are beans and radishes.
G. Barteldes & Co., Lawrence, Kans., had exhibited vegetable and grass seeds in large bags.   Some of the grass seeds were not quite clean;  the whole samples were true samples of the commerce, not extra made up for the Exposition.
Henry A. Dreer, Philadelphia, has one of the greatest horticultural businesses in the East. Not only seeds, but also a great many plants, especially palms, azaleas, carnations, ferns, etc., are grown in, the establishment out of town at Riverton, beyond the Delaware, in New Jersey, comprising 180 acres with forty-four greenhouses," while in the store, 714 Chestnut street,  Philadelphia, seeds, bulbs, and also implements are sold.   

In Chicago Mr. Dreer made a fine display, especially of vegetable seeds, etc., and his collection of implements was one of the best of all. The business was established in 1838. In 1883 Mr. Dreer had a quarter of an acre of sweet pease, employed 35 persons, and shipped 15,000 packages; in 1893 he had 6 acres of sweet pease,  employed 70 persons, and shipped 70,000 packages. The firm is now incorporated, and its president is Mr. William F. Dreer, the son of the founder.
Peter Henderson & Co., New York, the greatest house of that city, the eldest of all North America, and well renowned in thewhole world, had brought most sacrifices of all American seedsmen. As has already been mentioned, they had not only exhibited in the horticultural, but also in the agricultural building, and in both places in a highly attractive manner for the public. For our purpose it may suffice to describe the exhibition in the horticultural building. In the middle of a large pavilion stood the model of their warehouse, 35 Cortland Street, New York; around were placed large vessels with vegetable and grass seeds, and the pretty little paper bags with flower seeds, the whole decorated by exact models of the best vegetables, etc., by colored plates, figures, etc.

 Also several books were exposed, for Mr. Henderson is one of the rare gardeners who not only do practical work, but who understand how to spread their knowledge by popular publications.
So we found: Henderson's Gardening for Pleasure, second edition. 1892; Henderson's Handbook of Plants, second edition; Practical Floriculture, fourth edition, out of which we learn that in New York there are 500 florists with $6,000,000 capital—in several businesses more than $100,000; Henderson's Garden and Farm Topics, 1884; How the Farm Pays, by Henderson and William Crozier, 1884; at last, Henderson's Gardening for Profit, 1891, in which he says that a gardener must have a tleast $1,500 to $2,000 capital, and then not more than 2 acres, either bought or ten years on lease.

It is highly interesting to see Henderson's numerous greenhouses in Jersey City Heights, N. J., where there are cultivated roses in assortments (here mostly in pots what elsewhere is rare in America), chrysanthemums, palms, vines, etc. They also have large trial grounds in Hackensack. The business of Peter Henderson & Co. was founded by Peter Henderson in 1847 and incorporated in 1890, Alfred Henderson being president; Charles Henderson, vice-president and treasurer; Robert Liddell, secretary. I

n 1883 they had about 100 persons; in 1893, 200. How great the correspondence is follows by the single fact that in 1894 in one day of the chief season they received 4,000 letters and postal communications. Their specialties in garden seeds are cabbage, celery, cauliflower, pease, and beans. One variety of extra early pease alone takes 1,000 to 1,200 acres to produce enough for their trade annually during the past three years.
The Michigan Seed Company, South Haven, Mich., exhibited in a smaller style about 115 flower and 150 vegetable seeds.Their specialties beans and radishes.
Pitcher & Manda, Shorthills, N. J., is that grand horticultural establishment to which the World's Fair Commission is much indebted, for they have contributed in store plants more than any other house, and without their huge tree ferns, their orchids, and other plants, renewed the whole summer, the horticultural building would have lacked some of its most attractive features. It is a delight to see their vast establishment in Shorthills. Nowhere in America can one see such a variety of plants and flowers, indoors and outdoors; even nursery articles are to be found there. But we have to do here only with the seeds they exhibited, and this collection consisted of about 2,000 flower seeds, etc., in small paper bags as they are in use now in nearly all businesses, each having a colored figure of the flower which will come from the seed.
J. C. Vaughan, Chicago, is one of the greatest firms in the Central States, having office and warehouse at 146 and 145 Washington street; retail store at 88 State Street; greenhouses, plant, and bulb grounds at Western Springs, Ill., near Chicago, and finally a branch establishment at 22 Barclay street, New York, where all European shipments are received.  Mr. Vaughan was the horticulturist who saved the honor of Chicago itself in the floricultural department, for although there are so many florists in that city, most of them did not participate at the Exposition. Mr. Vaughan showed especially cannas in the choicest varieties, many of them not yet in commerce, gained by the celebrated raiser, Mr. Crozy, at Lyon. But Mr. Vaughan also made a grand display in seeds and his pavilion was a worthy counterpart to that of Messrs. Henderson & Co., New York.  Seeds of all kinds, vegetable and flower seeds, grass seeds, etc., in vessels of different forms, large and small ones tilled the middle and the sides,  and a good decoration was produced by living flowers. Mr. Vaughan had the great advantage to be nearest to the Fair, and he had in the person of a young lady a representative all the time, which would have been too expensive for the other houses.
The Albert Dickinson Company, Chicago, had not exhibited in the horticultural hall, but in a fine manner in the agricultural building. They handle chiefly field seeds—clovers, lucerne, timothy, and the natural grasses of that country; also linseed. Of the latter they sold, during the past five years, probably 1,500,000 bushels per year. The dealer of field seeds, especially in America, can not do like the dealer in garden seeds; he can not have seeds grown, except in special instances, exclusively for him. The territory and the quantities handled being so extremely large, it would be impossible to contract growing. So, also, the Albert Dickinson Company buys seeds in the open market or from country shippers. Most of the seeds they sell are raised in that country, the same as grain crops. The quantities of seed handled in the Chicago market exceed any market in the world, especially in timothy seed. The Albert Dickinson Company also prepared tables of equivalent quotations on clovers and grass seeds as reduced from standard bushel to cental system and cental system to bushel. They commend the change to the cental system, but they should not have stopped half way; they should have promoted the use of 100 kilograms instead of 100 pounds English.  God bless the day when England and the United States shall adopt the metric system in weights and measures.

These are stereo views of the inside of the Agricultural Building at the Columbian Exposition.  I have also posted large versions below so you can enjoy the detail.   This first one appears to be before the exhibitors have moved into the booths.

Is this the Liberty Bell made with apples?


What is in the bottles the Maids of Honor are guarding?

 I still can't tell what is in the bottles. Wine?  Booze?

Cool link: 

The World's Fair as Seen in One Hundred Days: Containing a Complete History of the World's Columbian Exposition...Description of Chicago, Its Wonderful Buildings, Parks, Etc (Google eBook) - Henry Davenport Northrop, 1893  (This links to an illustration of a wonderful Wardian case!!!)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

1902 Letterheads of Three Seed Companies

The end of the 19th century and the early 20th had wonderful letterheads if you enjoy detail!  Pride in their buildings and history is what they want to convey visually. How different from our icon focused business identities now...a swoosh, a squiggle or artfully arranged letters in a distinctive type face.

Look at that barn below!  Octagonal? 
And the train!  
The wagon loaded with seed bags at the store with the impatient horses is a nice touch, too.
What a great historical document.

Above, did you notice they got all seven awards at the Chicago Worlds Fair (The Columbian Exposition) for pure Clover and Timothy?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Almost...but Not Yet

The other week it was warm and I was thinking it was time to dust off the kayak; then it dropped to 30º.   Grrmph....
New England is almost thawed.  The ice is out in Black Pond though ...the last hold out to spring.
In the next 7 days though we should hit 70º F!  The first time since last October.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Devil You Say!

Somewhere I saw a flower or pod plant offered that was named Two Horned Devil in a Bush.

I assume it is related to the other day's post about Nigella.  I lost track of the Two Horn one, but in trying to find it again I found so many devil plants I became interested and wondered if it was one of the most common names.

You won't find seed catalogs offering them under the old names, or offering them under new names for that matter, as the plants often were annoying or poisonous. As a died in the wool romantic, a Sabine Baring-Gould groupie even,  I feel the old names have the weight and magic of human history.  Not the big history we are asked to memorize in schools, but the more intensely personal history of how we relate to the earth.  We would do better to teach more of the latter.

The upshot of all this is I went on a search for plants with devil in the name... especially ones for the cottage garden.  The first book that was nice I found was Plant Lore, Legend and Lyrics, a book that could keep you happily reading a little every day for quite awhile.  You can download it in many formats, from text to ePub, or read it online.  A list of "devil plants" follows this chapter.

So what is Certagon?  I found a plant called chasse-diable which is a teasel.  See below...which is a Google translated page from an interesting small French site!

The following is from  On the popular names of British Plants, being an explanation of the origin and meaning of the names of our indigenous and most commonly cultivated species - Richard Chandler Alexander Prior - 1870
Add caption

Monday, April 7, 2014

Love in a Mist OR Devil in a Bush

The last few days I have been thinking about the old plant names as I look up these old oddly named plants.  We won't see that sort again.

Seed companies have too much invested in their stock, and too much competition, to risk offering homely and to some repulsive variety names like Snails, for example.  I think there would still be an audience, but probably a smaller, at least!

How about Devil in a Bush?  That is a name to get your attention!

Now we call it simply Nigella or  Love in a Mist. How's that for a turn around!!   

It is a lovely, feminine  plant used in cottage gardens since Elizabethan times numerous sources say.

Wikipedia did mention it is sometimes called devil-in-a-bush so perhaps the name is not dead. Who knows? 

The seed pod to the right illustrates the devil and the bush!

Our Mr. Abercrombie, in 1782, (see posts 1, 2, 3) offered "Nigella, or devil in a bush, the long blue, the Spanish, The white"

Off on another tangent, why did people want to buy Roman Nettle seeds?  
After reading this blog,THE POISON GARDEN website, 
one might try growing it someday for arthritis.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Faux Nuts...Traditional Pottery from Yixing Zisha

Taking a break from weirdly named garden plants, I turned up these ceramic seeds on Ebay when I was cruising for seed ephemera. I had to buy them!!

There was no information with it that was correct and it took me awhile to turn up its source.  I finally did it as I matched the color of the clay to a teapot I found online that was from a region in China.  Then I found a teapot with applied nuts!

Using the source of the teapot as a more focusing search these came up quickly.

Yixing pottery history search.

They are naturalistic objects for the scholar's desk.  Small items to focus thought?  To bring luck?

My set is a revival of the original traditon, a relatively modern recreation from the same area as the originals.

 The water caltrop (the water buffalo head or bat shaped one) is a propitious reference as the the character  , 福,  meaning "good fortune" or "happiness" is represented both as a Chinese ideograph, but also at times pictorially, in one of its homophonous forms, most popularly as a bat.  I teach kids to fold little red origami bats around the New Year for this reason. A red bat is especially lucky because red 红, has the same sound as vast, 宏. So a red bat means “vast fortune”.  

"The art of using objects of nature and incorporating them into Yixing wares was perfected by the great master potter of the 18 century Chen Mingyuan. His works of art was widely collected by the art connoisseurs of his time and examples of his Yixing wares can be seen in Chinese collections of museums worldwide. Copying the works of Chen Mingyuan continued after his death and into the 20 century. Jiang Rong, of the famous Rong family of potters of Yixing, was instrumental in reviving the art of making Yixing teapots after objects of nature. Under her guidance, young Yixing potters strive to perfect this art form. This set of 9 natural fruits, seeds and nuts is a fine example of the work done during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960's. The black bat like looking fruit is the water caltrop, a rhizome of the water lily family. The fruit with a long stem is also a water plant as is the water chestnut. The walnut, chestnut and gingko nut grow on trees, and the peanut on land. The pumpkin seed and gourd seed round up the presentation which carries all sorts of auspicious meanings of which fertility and good luck are the most important."  (This description was on a similar set for sale at Far East Asian Art. A photo is at the end of this page.)

 In the studio the scholar isolated himself from others, finding the calm necessary for study and contemplation. It was in the studio that he studied Confucian classics, wrote poetry, played music, practiced calligraphy, and perhaps painted. Objects important in the pursuit of these activities included writing utensils and desk accessories. There were also objects used for making and serving tea, a beverage thought to stimulate intellectual and social discourse. And there were decorative objects for the scholar as well. While these pieces appear to have either a utilitarian or decorative purpose, they also provided philosophical and moral inspiration through their symbolic content.  from McClure Museum Treasures of the Chinese Scholar show notes

The sunflower seed is nice.   Remember the contemporary art sunflower seeds?

This bat nut is an invasive weed in the United States according to a Washington State bulletin..  It fills the waterways with vegetation.

I always think of biofuel when I hear this.  Like the water hyacinth in Florida.  You could have your little methane plant like a farmer if you lived near enough to harvest the stuff.
The Chinese name is língjiǎo (菱角), líng meaning "caltrop" and jiǎo meaning "horn." This is often rendered as ling nut by English-speakers.
This is a typical book and box fastening.  They work very well.
 I have no clue what this says...but I assume it was made within the last 40 years.

Here is the real Chen Mingyuan at the Victoria and Albert.

The following pieces are in a wonderful box.  The starting bid at this auction was to be $1400.  
"The group includes a fruit basket filled with seventeen Zisha stoneware imitation nuts and vegetables, such as water chestnut, peanuts, lychee, eggplant, chestnut, walnut, and Cigu, molded with naturalistic forms and colors, some with artist mark "Ming Yuan"."

Now I know there were more species made than I have :-)  Look carefully at the peanut and notice the quality shown compared to my recent "revival" wares.

Here is another from Bonham's.
An Yixing stoneware 'fruit and nuts' group
Late Qing dynasty
Naturalistically modelled in the form of bat-fruit, walnut, peanut, chestnut, water chestnut and arrowhead, the clay of beige, brown and some tinted colours.

And another that sold for $3000 +-  
An Yixing stoneware 'fruit and nuts' group
Late Qing dynasty
The finely potted group naturalistically modelled in the form of bat-fruit, walnut, peanut, chestnut, water chestnut, sun-flower and watermelon seeds, arrowhead and nut, the clay of beige, brown and some pigmented colours, fitted box.

This lotus pod with froggie is new and available on Amazon.

Chinese Yixing Zisha Decoration Frog on Lotus Seed Head Delicate Mini Tea Pet

What the heck is a tea pet?

Far East Asian Art's set (sold)

The real water caltrop nut -

Many books quote a version of this sentence when describing the use of the water caltrop in India - "The Sinhara ( Trapa bicornis ) or water-chestnut, is of immeasurable benefit, such as food for the poor, that the Brahmins represent it to have been transplanted into the valley by Lakschimi, the wife of the god Vishnu."