Saturday, June 28, 2014

1895 - A. W. Livingston's Sons

1895 - Source:
Interesting name!  Livingston's Sons.  I have never seen a company named like that, have you?  

I have jumped into an old seed company's history after the son has taken the reins.  But this cover with its phrasing just caught my fancy.

Consider this posting, with the brief history below, an introduction to the family, with many nice images from catalogs to follow.  AND, since A.W. is very important in the history of tomatoes, be expecting some very lush lithographs as well as interesting tomato gossip.


This envelope is unusual.  It is addressed to Livingston's Sons from another seedsman, Nordlinger, an importer. 

I so like the whimsical carrot page...bunches hanging on nails with their names in fancy-dan script! Those lovely concentric circles around the little Golden Ball's root end!!

The following text history is from the still extant company web site!

Livingston Seed was founded in 1850 by Alexander Livingston. Mr. Livingston developed the first reliable tomato variety and cultivated a total of 31 varieties under the name “Buckeye Garden Seed Company”. The first of these was the Paragon, introduced in 1870. However, in Mr. Livingston’s day tomatoes were generally thought poisonous. In fact, tomatoes were prized more as exotic ornamentals than edibles.
As Buckeye Garden Seed Company, Mr. Livingston first tried hybridization, and eventually began a careful selection of traits from generation to generation. Eventually his hard work fine-tuned the tomato into the fruit we know today.
With the economic crash of 1876, the company filed for bankruptcy. It was Mr. Livingston’s son, Robert who reformed the company under the name “A.W. Livingston’s Sons” and continued his father’s success. In 1898, the company was incorporated as “Livingston’s Seed Company” and continued as a family run business until 1979. Alexander Livingston’s great-grandson, Alan, sold the business to Mr. Forest Randolph. He changed the name to “Superior Seed Company”, but Mr. Randolph’s ownership was brief. By 1980 Mr. Robert Johnston had acquired the company and changed the name back to Livingston Seed Company.
Over the years, Livingston Seed has evolved greatly. Originally the business was only in bulk seed offering grass seed, vegetable, and flower seed, as well as bulk seed displays. As the company grew, Mr. Johnston saw opportunity in the packet seed market. In 1998 he began to develop a seed packet line which would eventually grow to include 12 different collections and over 500 varieties.
Today, Livingston Seed offers an expansive range of vegetable and flower seeds in both packets and bulk, as well as many display options. Livingston Seed has continued to search out new varieties, merchandising, and packaging all designed with you and your customer in mind.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Fossil Seeds

Help!  Summer has intruded upon my ability to concentrate.  I have lost the push to keep going on popcorn and somehow wandered into fossil seeds.  I have a few fossils, but no seeds.  A school favorite is fossilized turtle poop from Florida.  "Does anyone know what a coprolite might be?" Kid responses when they find out what they are examining  always have the class in an uproar :-)

The following are all seeds though!

London Clay fossil seeds found 14th July 2009 at Eastchurch - Sheppey  -  from schming2001
Some 350 named species of plant have been found, making the London Clay flora one of the world's most diverse for fossil seeds and fruits.

Link: 1840- A history of the fossil fruits and seeds of the London clay  By James Scott Bowerbank

Do a fossil seed search on ebay and you will have quite a choice!

Oligocene, Muddy Creek Formation
Beaverhead County, Montana

** This is a compression fossil seed from a deciduous tree over 25 million years ago.  A "samara" is a seed fruit with a flattened wing that enables the seed to be transported longer distances by the wind.  Most of us are familiar with those ubiquitous maple seed "helicopters that seem to spin their way down to the pavement from the branches.  That "helicopter" is properly called a "samara".  Some samaras have a structure attaching two different seeds to give them the ability to spin while others are singles and depend upon random movement by gusts of wind or breeze.  This very well preserved samara measures .5 inch in length on a plate 2 inches square and 3/8 inch thick.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Designer Popcorn Seeds

efore you read anything, just look at this.

Astonishing, isn't it?  You must go to this Business Insider article to get you socks knocked off with more amazingly beautiful photos plus the story behind the man who bred this variety, Glass Gem! Probably far from the translucent beauty of the kernels above, "...rainbow seed originally came from a crossing of "Pawnee miniature popcorns with an Osage red flour corn and also another Osage corn called ‘Greyhorse.’"  

The reason I called this post Designer Seeds is I read this picture went viral a few years ago (missed me).  It just was a great match for what people wanted.

That's enough for today.  The rest can wait.  Go enjoy the article!  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Break from Pop Corn: An Awesome 1890s Scrapbook

I just didn't feel pop cornish yesterday so the last posting about pop corn varieties, past and present as "heirloom" offerings, didn't get off the drawing board.

Here is something nicer.  Time travel to when creating scrapbooks was great fun and filled many hours with the hunt for colorful illustrations, choosing of the favorites, deciding which went best on a page...not to mention little bottles of mucilage.

This is the 1890s.  Just the right time for my gram to have done it as a little girl.

This is an extraordinary collection.  Someone's relatives got the good catalogs!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Popcorn: The Frolics of Fruits and Vegetables

There are many odd, often charming, often too sappy for words, illustrations of this ilk in 

Mother Earth's Children: The Frolics of the Fruits and Vegetables.  1914

I like the looks of the green pea, string beans, barley and citron people.   It wasn't the popcorn info I was looking for, but it was...different :-)    Five and six year olds would like most these I think...
especially the girls.  The boys would like the weird ones!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Carl Sandburg's Popcorn Hat

Rootabaga Stories was written by Carl Sandburg for his three daughters.  He believed the European fairytales were not right for our American children who did not have castles and royalty laying around.  But we did have popcorn!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pop Corn History: Popitics and Poptential for Popfits

From children's amusement to profitable cash crop, the popping varieties of corn quickly covered the distance.  Insofar as popped corn has been a valued food for thousands of years it is interesting to see the entrepreneurial newcomers to North America took awhile to see the possibilities.  Once they did, however, popcorn started its climb to where the Chicago-based Popcorn Board, created by an act of Congress in 1996, expects to spend nearly a half-million dollars on international promotion.

"Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain... said that month on the Senate floor that subsidies to the popcorn industry could total $91 million over the next 10 years, and he argued that federal crop-insurance programs shouldn’t protect popcorn. Noting that the price of popcorn had risen 40 percent in recent years, thanks to Congress’ backing of ethanol and new free-trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea, he said: “There isn’t a kernel of evidence that they need this support from taxpayers.”"

Backing up from the current popitics to the "early" days of popping corn to amuse kids over long winter days, here are some articles and images I gathered.

By W. Webb
"In consequence of the call made on me by the Society at its last meeting,

 I have thrown together the following statement of facts on the different
varieties of Indian Corn."  (Too boring to post except for the last.)
In 1822, W. Webb identified 14 types of corn,  each listed with a brief mention of its usefulness. "The fourteenth is an unprofitable sort, called Pop Corn, used to feed chickens, and to amuse children."

1872- The Nursery, Vol. 11  

In the later 1800s, popcorn balls and popcorn cakes were popular, as was home popped corn.
I found many references to awful popcorn sold in little paper bags. Stale, I suppose.   I don't think that applied to the popcorn wagons that popped it in front of you! And I read that sometimes the butter on the product was not butter...ick.

These popcorn wagons stayed popular for many decades!
1914 image from Howard County Historical Society

A popcorn cake is just a flat slab of popcorn ball confection, cut into pieces.  I was sort of hoping it was a cake!  I looked up the recipe and was disappointed.  Oh well.


The Irrigation Age, Volumes 14-15

The demand for pop corn increases every year, yet the crop is never equal to the market. Good corn sells on the retail market today for five to six cents a pound. Farmers do not consider the profits of this special crop or there would be more grown for supplying home demands. An acre will produce from fifty to one hundred bushels of salable corn and a ton or more fodder. The corn weighs 56 pounds to the bushel and never sells for less than $1.50 to $2.50 a bushel. The folder will pay for the cost of growing and the corn be left as a fair profit after paying rental and interest on the land. From those who make a business of raising pop corn I learn that a poor crop will bring $100 an acre, and many get double that sum from an acre every year.
Pop corn requires about the same soil as that demanded by the sweet and field varieties. A sod or vegetable mould, containing more sand than clay and having previous clean culture is best adapted to corn corn growing. If plowed in the fall or winter and left to freeze until the spring weeds begin to grow before planting the land will be in fine condition. As the plant ripens during the hot summer months the use of nitrogenous fertilizing elements is not very beneficial, but there is no field crop that yields better returns from liberal application of potash and phosphoric acid. Numerous experimental stations report that potash alone has increased the yield of field corn over 20 bushels per acre, and added one half ton of fodder. The increase in pop corn is more marked by using 500 pounds of a fertilizer containing 10 per cent potash and 8 percent phosphoric acid than by any other means.
There are different varieties of pop corn, all possessing merit as marketable crops. The white rice is probably the most in demand, but yellow or golden, gives perfect satisfaction to those who purchase by the carload for commercial purposes. The Mapledale Prolific is a very choice variety having from eight to twelve good ears on each stalk. There are several mixed colored kinds much esteemed for ornamental frames of dainty handwork. When popped, one quart of good corn will make a bushel of balls or bricks in which form it is usually sold at confectionary stands, pleasure resorts and thousands of other places. The pop corn business has become so important that large sums are paid for privileges of selling at fairs, picnics and public conventions.

The corn gets better with age, but it can be sundried and made marketable the first year. As a general rule the poppers want want it three years old. After getting thoroughly dry in the shoch it can be husked put in gunny sacks and left in the sun for several days, when it will bd thoroughly dried. If completely dried it will sell better after being shelled, which can be done with a commercial shellers. Many farmer boys might find a very profitable winter trade in popping corn, buttering the rolls and selling it in neighboring cities and towns. Two or three quarts, costing less than a dollar, will plant an acre. The cultivation is about the same as for field corn, and consists in keeping the plow going and cutting out the weeds. It must not be put in near field corn, as the pollen will cause the varieties to mix.
Pop corn may be planted closer than any other varieties. One man reports having grown 176 bushels the past year upon an acre. His plan of planting is to make the furrows three feet apart and have the corn stand one stalk in a hill, fourteen inches apart in the rows, If the corn is planted very early or late it will not suffer so much from the worms as the medium planted crops. Where irrigated care must be taken in keeping the water from the stalks and not give the plants more than two periods of irrigating during the growing season. The poor ears can be fed to poultry with profit and the fodder is relished by the cows, sheep and horses. A ready market always awaits the grower of good pop corn and the business is certainly profitable.
Joel Shomaker.

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