Sunday, November 13, 2016

1840 - 1930s -The Elliotts of Pittsburgh, Seedsmen, Nurserymen, Writers

Family businesses always catch my interest.  The passing down of an interest in horticulture along with ability to successfully run a business is a chancy scenario!  

The Elliott family had not shown up in my readings until this month.  With 1848 as the entry of the first generation into horticultural business, and two (found so far) succeeding generations continuing, growing, and changing the business, the Elliott's have left their mark on the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area and horticulture in general.  The son and grandson have left books available online to read.

I found this envelope image on eBay and went in circles trying to track down W. R. Elliott.  At first I only found J. W.'s business, then a reference to B.A. and finally the New York Botanical Garden's page which beautifully puts the family, and its individuals, in perspective.  It is a good read...with many tantalizing threads to follow even though it primarily outlines the most recent Elliott's career. 

This 1871 envelope is from the first in the line of Elliott men who had been in business at this time for almost a quarter of a century.  It was William R. Elliott (a former blacksmith) who founded the first Elliott nursery in Pittsburgh in 1840.

Benjamin A. Elliot was next in the business.  While he loved his roses and carnations which he raised in the nursery, he also offered seeds.  Like his father he appears to have let the printer design his envelope! 

He had been in business at the time of this stationary for thirteen years.

Benjamin A. also began lobbying for the use of plants that were hardy.  
To this end he wrote a book, A few flowers worthy of general culture : an effort to win for hardy plants a recognition of their great wealth of beauty.

April, 1888

Benjamin A. competed in the 1882 Pennsylvania Agriculture Exhibition in Pittsburgh, racking up a respectable number of awards.  Below are snippets of the awards.

J.W. Elliott on the right.

I am sad that I could not find an envelope for the more famous grandson. I wonder why, since he was so very prominent in the trade.  It will turn up on eBay someday I am sure!

It was J. Wilkinson Elliott who had the personality to make it big on the national and international horticultural scene.

If you are interested in his career and travels, do go to the NYBG page and read it.

J. W. was, it seems to me, more of a business man and horticultural writer and educator than a nurseryman.

He was dedicated to improving gardening through better plants and was extremely involved in the horticultural world, but I have the impression his hands stayed much cleaner than his father's and grandfather's.  

The catalogs I have looked at always acknowledge another man's nursery as growing his stock for him, and he retains the exclusive right of distribution.   These nurseries are all over, and he appears to have specialists caring for specific plant types.

J. W.'s 1902 book; READ HERE

Another very excellent paper is from the Journal of the California Garden & Landscape History Society . It explores J.W.'s move to California when he was older.  This wonderful photo is from that PDF.

Related????  No indication at this time... Elliott Brothers & Burgess Nurserymen and Florists Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A subscription to would come in handy!

I guess that is it for now.  Time to iron clothes...tomorrow is a school day.