Saturday, March 18, 2017

1856 to1921 - Obituary for John Lewis Childs, Seedsman

This joyous nasturtium catalog cover is a fitting memorial to a fine seedsman.  
It is always interesting to get a glimpse of the individual as it is not easy to find personal information beyond the society page sort.  This obit shows  a man who was having trouble with with the "melting pot" theory of immigration as a strength of our country.

John Lewis Childs.

John Lewis Childs, well known mail order seedsman and gladiolus specialist of Floral Park. N. Y.. died March 5 of heart failure on the New York Central Railroad‘s Twentieth Century train between Albany and New York, returning from Los Angeles. Calif.

On February 11 he passed through Chicago en route to Los Angeles leaving on the Santa Fe Railroad's forenoon train the Missionary.   He then stated he had been unwell during the fall and early winter but had almost regained his normal health by a sojourn in Florida. He looked worn, as if from overwork, but was active, methodical and full of plans for future business.

Returning to Chicago from Los Angeles on the Santa Fe about 10 a. m., March 4, leaving on the Twentieth Century,  our representative, an old friend, spent upwards of an hour with him at the LaSalle street station and his health had apparently greatly improved. He spoke at length of general and trade conditions in Los Angeles and discussed various political and mercantile matters with all his usual vigor, among other things expressing himself as emphatically opposed to the presence of the Japanese in California, his objections being social as well as economic.

Mr. Childs was born in Maine in 1856 and at the age of 17 went to work in a greenhouse establishment at Queens. N. Y.    The following year he rented a few acres of land near the railroad, a mile and a half from Queens. and started business for himself as seedsman and florist. For five years it was uphill work but perseverance won out.   Subsequently the land occupied was purchased and from time to time more acreage was added. The railroad company built a station and at Mr. Child's request, it was called Floral Park. Greenhouses, storage houses and dwellings for employee followed in rapid succession. His mails became so large and important that the government established a post office at his place. Progress continued until Floral Park became a thriving village. built up mainly on this one industry. He early specialized in bulbous plants. on which he was well informed. At one time he had the most complete collection of garden lilies ever brought together in this country. but these were so persistent in running out that he was obliged to abandon the Long Island culture of most of them. He acquired the late E. V. Hallock’s fine strain of gladioli and gave a wonderful impetus to the culture of this plant.

The soil at Floral Park having been worn out by a long period of intensive cultivation, some years ago the plantations of gladioli and other specialties were removed to a large tract of land about 35 miles from the home establishment. The new place, with its station, post office and warehouses has been named Flowerfield, this growing and shipping point being reserved for the heaviest products. The principal business and offices are continued at Floral Park. which is only 20 minutes from the center of Manhattan by direct train service. The catalogues are printed and mailed at these headquarters and it was here the Mayflower ran a highly successful career so many years as an amateur gardening monthly, the paper being later sold to an Ohio concern. He also had a 10-acre seed growing branch at South Pasadena. Calif.

In his mail order business, Mr. Childs had a remarkable faculty in the selection of attractive common names for plants, many of which will be recalled by our readers as the cigar plant (Cuphea ignea), the Chinese lantern plant (Physalis Franchetii,) the black calla, Chinese wool plant, the wonder berry and many others, these names, well advertised, creating an extraordinary demand in most cases.  Perhaps the best example of his ability in this direction was in his purchase from Frank H. Banning, Kinsman, OH. of Gladiolus Reuben H. Warder, which he renamed America.

Besides the details of his great business and close personal attention to the wants of his customers. Mr. Childs found time to perform many public duties. He was a member of the state senate during 1894 and 1895. when that office was more important than that of congressman, New York state having more of the latter than of the former. He was a director in the Preferred Accident Insurance Company of New York. and for a long time treasurer of that well known institution. He was a director of the National Agency Company of New York. the Queens and Suffolk Fire Insurance Company. and of the Bank of Jamaica, a member of the board of managers. also treasurer and trustee of the Union Free School at Floral Park. He was a member of the Society of American Florists, the American Seed Trade Association and many other trade organizations.
He was greatly interested in wild birds and in means for their preservation and protection.

This lush illustration is from the back cover.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

1917 - Good News that Makes You Smile (and a seedsman)

"Mrs. Dibble and Miss McGowan played the "Poet and the Peasant" as a piano duet."  
This sort of news does not make the  cut these days!  The newspaper I pulled this from was delightful, sharing the good news for many New York State towns.  Included was mention of Mr. A. T. Cook who has appeared many times in this seed blog.

 I like the caterpillar :-)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

1895 - A Fragment of Spring!

We just had a foot of snow today, March14, in Connecticut...I need to post this!!!

1890s Rants - Free Seed Program: Good Intentions and Greed

This is a good story. I enjoyed the people mouthing off about the waste, the injustice, and the humbuggery that developed within the government free seed program over its long history! I've put off addressing this admittedly interesting bit of seed history as it is a complex political story.   However, my folder of bits and pieces of the story keeps getting fatter so I'll share some of them here. If you are interested in this sort of political shenanigans there are modern books that cover it in a more thorough and organized way. 

First, a succinct history of the program, which is much older than all the blather I collected led me to believe, is presented in this snippet from The Greatest Service to Any Country, an article by Marguerite Gilstrap in the 1961 Yearbook of Agriculture.
Henry L. Ellsworth
Henry L. Ellsworth, Commissioner of Patents, had wide support in 1838 when he asked the Congress to appropriate money for collecting and distributing seeds. Agricultural societies, which were dedicated to the introduction of superior varieties and completely new crops, helped Ellsworth distribute the seeds and plants sent by consuls and naval officers. Congressmen distributed some of the seeds.
Ellsworth wrote: "Inventors are sanguine in the belief (and probably not without reason) that the time is not far distant when ploughing machines will be driven by steam, and steam power applied to many other operations of the husbandryman. . . A subject intimately connected with this is the aid which husbandry might derive from the establishment of a regular system for the selection and distribution of seeds of the choicest varieties for agricultural purposes."
The Congress responded in 1839 by appropriating one thousand dollars of fees collected by the Patent Office to support his work in agriculture. Part of the money was allotted to the collection of information on agriculture in the 1840 census. The remainder was for collecting and distributing seed.
Thus began the distribution of free seeds, an activity that continued until 1923 and supplied Americans, through their Congressmen, with billions of packages of seeds. Most of them were seeds of vegetables and flowers, but also included were seeds of sorghums, sugar beets, soybeans, and many others.

April 16, 1895 - St. Louis Globe-Democrat, reprinted in The Florist

A sensation will be made by Secretary Morton's promised disclosures respecting the sale by Congressmen of seeds bought with public money and intended for free distribution among their constituents. It appears that this business has been conducted for an indefinite period on a scale so extensive that the wonder is why it should not have occasioned scandals before now. Many members of the House have made a regular practice year after year of disposing of their entire quotas for cash to brokers.  A quota is 15,000 packages. One broker offered to Representative Hatch, of Missouri, whose district is agricultural, 60,000 packages in one batch, at $2.50 per 1,000. This is about one-sixth of their actual cost to Uncle Sam. Seeds are commonly sold directly or indirectly by Congressmen from urban districts to others whose constituencies are rural.

The man who conducted the investigation of this matter at the instance of Secretary Morton was Enos S. Harnden, buyer of seeds for the Department of Agriculture. He caused it to be known that he was desirous of purchasing seeds on his own private account if he could get them cheap from Congressmen. One broker. whose confidence was gained, entertained an impression that Mr. Harnden wished to use the seeds for political purposes, with a view of securing an election to Congress for himself. The situation was certainly unique. The seeds which Mr. Harnden had purchased for the Government at market rates he subsequently bought again from members of the House at a small fraction of their actual cost. Notwithstanding the evident profit in this enterprise, he let pass offers aggregating 100,000 packages.

In truth, Government seeds were found to be a drug on the market.  Brokers had whole cellars full of them stored away in stacks. One of them offered Mr. Harnden 30,000 packages of last year’s seeds at an incredibly low figure, because they were somewhat damaged, mice having got into them.    Another dealer was ready to sell three full quotas at $150 per quota —i. e., at the rate of 1 cent a package. But the richest case was that of a Representative whose name is withheld for the present by Secretary Morton. It will be made public soon, together with the rest of the data. The story, as told by Mr. Harnden is as follows:


“I was called upon the telephone by an official of the House. He said that he had heard that I was purchasing seeds. Would I like to buy a quota? I replied: ‘What is the price?‘ The answer was, $75. I said that I would close the bargain, but must know the Congressman’s name in order that I might make sure that the quota had not been drawn from the Department of Agriculture. The name being given, I sent over to the seed barn and found that the quota was there all right. Having ascertained this I called up the official over the telephone and told him I would take the seeds. I asked him to get the Congressman to make out an order transferring the quota direct to me. There was some demur at this, the official suggesting that it would be just as well that the order should assign the seeds to himself, and he could indorse it for me. But I insisted that the deal must be strictly ‘above ground and honorable,‘ and that the order should be straight. So he sent the order in the form I requested, which was what I required for evidence. I paid the $75 with a check to the order of the Congressman, and now have that check with his own endorsement in my possession. Thus the case is made complete.

"Whereas there was plenty of evidence in a general way of the prevalence of this abuse, we desired to make out in complete shape a typical case in which a Congressman sold for money the seeds which were received by him from the Government for free distribution. The law expressly provides that the seeds shall be distributed among the constituents of the respective Representatives. Thus the transfer of seeds by one member to another is wholly illegal. Yet we have record of more than 100 transfers of this kind. One member wrote to the department the other day inclosing a paper which assigned to him the quota of another member. We replied that the other member had no seeds to transfer, inasmuch as he had already drawn them all out. Whereupon the applicant rejoined that he must have the seeds, inasmuch as he had already paid the other member for them. Where such transfers between Congressmen are made, it is not uncommon for the agricultural member to give public documents in exchauge for the seeds of the city member. Yet the law allots the seeds to the district and not to the men representing it. They belong to the people of the district, and are not the personal property of the Congressman.


"Here are figures that show that in 1894: 9,555,000 packages of seeds were purchased and put up by Uncle Sam for distribution by members of the House, at a total expense of $127,708.   In view of the practice prevailing, it is no wonder that Government seeds are a drug in the market. I let pass offers that were made to me of 100,000 packages of this year's seeds, merely because the evidence relating to their sale by the Representative would not have been complete. These 100,000 packages were represented by Congressmen‘s orders held by brokers, who offered to assign them to me. One member actually came to me to buy seeds. He was from a rural district and had not enough to go round among his constituents. He had received offers of quotas at $8 per 1,000, and desired to know if that was an excessive price.

“The quota which I purchased for $75 was certainly a bargain. It consisted of 14,950 packages of vegetable seeds, 1,365 packages of flower seeds and eighty-two packages of field seeds - corn, grass and clover. The total was 16,397 packages, which cost the Government $14- per 1.000. So you will see that Uncle Sam paid about $228 for what I got from the Congressman for $75.

"I have had queer experiences sometimes. Not long ago we decided to buy a lot of lentil seeds, in order that farmers in this country might make experiments in growing lentils, which are a profitable and useful crop in Europe. Incidentally, it was very desirable to know something about this vegetable, in order that we might give information as to the methods of cultivating it and ways of preparing it for the table. We had no knowledge on the subject, but I learned that a certain physician in charge of a sanitarium at Battle Creek had grown lentils and knew all about them. So I wrote to him. His reply was delayed for some time, which was not surprising in view of what I subsequently learned. Evidently he did not possess the information, for he wrote to the Scientific American to get it. The Scientific American referred the matter to its Washington correspondent, suggesting that he go to the Department of Agriculture for advice.

"Meanwhile I had been looking up lentils on my own account. I got a lot of valuable data from Vilmorin, the eminent French seedsman. In short, I had the material all ready for the correspondent of the Scientific American when he called. He sent it to his paper, which forwarded it to the physician at Battle Creek, without telling him where it came from. The physician thereupon sent back to me my own answers to my own questions.


“The alleged reason for distributing seeds gratis among the farmers is that they may have an opportunity to obtain new and fresh varieties, tending to the improvement 0t agriculture. Of course, as a matter of fact, the whole business is for political purposes solely. Congressmen find it useful to throw sops in the shape of free seeds to their constituents. Hence the enormous annual appropriations for this purpose. The appropriation last year was $160,000. The truth is that the farmers have opportunity to get the best seeds of all sorts in the open market. Such seeds may be purchased in the stores of every city, town and village throughout the country. In fully four fifths of the towns of a population of more than 200 there are merchants who make a specialty of garden and field seeds in bulk or in packages. There are, more over, 152 seeds men in the country who issue catalogues that are mailed to farmers and gardeners in all the States.

For a long time past the department has been used as a dumping ground for seedsmen who had stocks of seeds which they were afraid to send to market gardeners or other good customers. The practice of the department until recently has been to divide up the appropriation among the seedsmen, who charged pretty much what they chose. Under the present Administration this matter has been reformed, and we purchase our seeds from the lowest bidders, requiring that they shall come up to a certain standard and be free from seeds of weeds and the larvae of injurious insects.

"It would be an extremely useful thing to the farmers if Congress would appropriate $15,000 for the purpose of making tests of varieties of seeds and naming them, in order that the present confusion and multiplication of alleged varieties might be done away with. The results obtained could be published in a series of farmers’ bulletins."

The following condemnation is four years later and  is by the Hon. J. Sterling Morton, referred to by the previous writer...
...Go Morton!!!


From Hon. J. Sterling Morton, 
Ex. Secretary of Agriculture
Arbor Lodge, Nebraska City. ) Otoe County, Neb.

Responding to yours of yesterday:— Gratuitous, promiscuous distribution of seeds among a few of the seventy odd millions taxpayers of the United States, at the expense of all the taxpayers, is an undemocratic, anti-republican misuse and waste of money. Taxation should be equal, but it is unequal when the majority are forced to pay for free seeds for the minority. 

If there was any excuse at all for the custom when Mr. Ellsworth inaugurated it, it was in the intent as stated by the law—to introduce new, valuable and rare varieties of seeds from foreign lands to the United States. But, after a half century, an advertisement—by the Secretary of Agriculture—asking for proposals to furnish rare and valuable seeds not common to this country, induced no offers of such seeds. And so, under the advice of the Attorney General of the United States, that Secretary of Agriculture bought no seeds for Congressional or other free and promiscuous dissemination.  

Then Congress, under the hypnotism and direction of Senators from Missouri, Kansas, Dakota, Nevada, and other States, distinguished for their speedy germination of economists and law-givers, amended the seed scattering statute so as to compel the Department of Agriculture to purchase ordinary garden seeds for free sowing by Congressmen among their respective constituencies to the amount of one hundred and thirty thousand dollars worth each year.  

Immediately the Secretary of Agriculture complied with the amended law, and carload after carload was delivered to Senators and Representatives from the storehouses of Landreth Sons.  Enough was delivered to cost the Government tens of thousands of dollars for their transportation through the mails—enough to illustrate the absurdity of the gift-package enterprise. But the old-fashioned method of buying seeds in bulk, shipping them into the Department at Washington, and then employing "the sisters, the cousins and the aunts" of statesmen to make paper pockets, fill them with seed and paste them, was abolished. This erasure of a patronage which furnished two hundred persons with places on the payrolls was a shock to many affectionate and benevolent legislators, who regarded the seed division as the most fitting place upon which to billet "relations," both near and remote.  

The denunciations of the effacement of so many places for planting favorites and incompetents where they would yield a salary, illumine numbers of the Congressional Record, and are really among the choicest reading of that encyclopedia which contains so much majestic misinformation. However, under the amended law there were more seeds and fewer jobs for distribution. Under the old system all the dead, ungermanitivc refuse of the seed dealers of the country was sold to the Department, and there packed and labeled at an expense generally equal to, and often more than, the cost of the seed. And all the money thus invested was, as a rule, wasted. 

Under the new method the seedsman who has the contract must put up his own name on each packet. That fixes the responsibility for the quality sent out. Moreover, under the new system there is scientific and vigorous inspection by a seed expert of the Department, by which the germanitive and pure quality of the seed is determined. Under the old way there was no scientific inspection.
But the old way and the new way arc bad ways. There is no reason why the Government should distribute new or old varieties of vegetable and flower seeds gratuitously among the people any more than there is reason for its sending gifts of the eggs of improved poultry, or donations of bulls, boars and stallions among the farmers of the United States.  

The practice is an outrage upon those who raise seed to sell. It is an outrage for the Government, under any sort of an administration, to put public funds into seed gratuities which are to be distributed in competition with the legitimate producers and dealers in the same article.  

But it is particularly, glaringly, grotesquely inconsistent for a party which preaches "protection" against the importation of the products of "pauper labor," and which, under the great revenue-rendering Dingley Bill, puts a big duty on foreign garden seeds, flower seeds, and bulbs bred in ignorance from the pauper fields of Europe, to back with the National Treasury the indiscriminate distribution of seeds without price, seeds Congressional, seeds Departmental, in competition with seeds for sale by honest, hard-working seed producers and dealers, who are not foreigners but citizens of the United States, whose "infant industry" asks no protection except from competition with the donations of a putrid paternalism. 

J. Sterling Morton. 

[The editor of Our Visitor trusts every reader will, after reading this article, write a letter to his Congressman or Senator insisting on the repeal of this law, which is an outrage, and always has been.]

1898 - Our Horticultural Visitor, Volume 4

The following articles  might be of interest to you.

Against Free Seeds

The American Seed Trade Association which met in Cincinnati last June, adopted resolutions denouncing the present method of free distribution of seeds by the government as unfair to the taxpayers in the United States at large, unfair to the seed trade and extravagant and wasteful use of public money to the extent of $300,000 annually. 

Farmers in the United States now are generally able to buy their own seed.
1895 - Our Horticultural Visitor: A Quarterly Journal Devoted to the                   
Horticultural Interests of Illinois in General and the Southern Portion in Particular

Here is a late opinion from 1897,  Ranche and range. (North Yakima, Wash.)


1906- from somewhere.  I forgot to note where!

Bristol, Pennsylvania, April 3, 1909
At a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Wholesale Seedsmen’s League in New York City, April 1st, the following motions were offered and passed, and on the next day mailed to the President of the United States and the Secretary of Agriculture. 
Secretary, Wholesale Seedsmen's League.

Resolved, That the Board of Directors of the Wholesale Seedsmen's League deplore the constantly, increasing tendency to swell the amount expended by the United States Department of Agriculture for the purpose of purchase and distribution of common varieties of garden seeds. 

The Board respectfully suggests to the President of the United States and the Secretary of Agriculture that a considerable saving or retrenchment in the expenses of the Government could be made by the abolishment of such appropriation without in any way impairing the effectiveness of the Department of Agriculture; and that a further considerable saving to the Government could be effected by relieving the Post Office Department of the expenses incurred in the carrying and distribution of the enormous quantity of franked seeds sent out by the Department of Agriculture. 

The Board is of the opinion that the free distribution of common varieties of garden seeds and field seeds is of no practical value to the farmers and gardeners of this country, but, to the contrary, is a downright injustice and restraint of trade inflicted upon the seed business. The Board believes that a continuance of this practice certainly does not tend towards the best development of the nation, as it encourages a dependence upon the Government, which is entirely foreign to the feelings and patriotism of the American people. 

Resolved, That while the Wholesale Seedsmen's League, as an organization, and its members individually, raise no objection whatever to the fair testing of seeds of grasses, clovers, and other farm seeds, for the purpose of determining if they are adulterated or misbranded, the Association and its members do object to the methods of the agents of the Department of Agriculture of the United States in obtaining Such samples for test, as being unfair to the seed merchants and growers, in that the merchants and growers have no knowledge that the samples so reported upon actually came from them.   It seems to the Seedsmen's League but fair that the agent obtaining the samples should leave the merchant or grower a portion of that identical sample under Governmental seal, as provided in the case of testing milk, fertilizers, etc., under the laws of the State of New York and other a States.

1909 - Horticulture, Volume 9

From Washington comes the news that the senate committee on agriculture has eliminated the appropriation to provide garden seeds for members of congress to distribute to their constituents. 
But don’t become unduly excited.  Several chances there will be to restore the provision. We’ll probably get our free seeds again next spring. 

Last year after the senate had passed the agricultural appropriation bill without free seeds the item was reinserted by the conference committee and passed both houses—hence the free seeds we have just planted. 

This hoary graft, retained because of its supposed vote getting power has long been a reproach. Now it is a joke of enormous proportions as well. It does seem that congress should have honesty enough and sense enough to drop it.
1914 - The Nebraska Farmer, April

It lasted until 1924.
Langley free-seed bill : hearings before the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, Sixty-eighth Congress, first session on H.R. 602 ... a bill authorizing the distribution of free seeds, January 16 and 17, 1924

Sunday, March 12, 2017

1886 - A Visit to Hiram Chapman's Farm

Hiram Chapman made a market for his seeds by wisely capitalizing on the extreme
interest farmers and beekeepers had in creating honeybee pasturage at that time.  I wrote about the interest (well deserved) in his Chapman's Honey-plant the other day.   Echinops sphaerocephalus is now on MY list of plants to add to the garden!  I wish I had acres to play with, but my plantings are more to satisfy my curiosity than to supply a significant amount of nectar to my bees.  Sort of an amuse-bouche rather than an all-you-can-eat buffet for my bees. :-)  

While the major story below does not mention his seed sales, here are two brief mentions from 1888.
Published in 1888 in Gleanings in Bee Culture: 
We have added to our list of five cent packages of honey-plant seeds the mellissa, or bee-balm, described on page 816, and the Chapman honey-plant, or globe thistle. We can furnish the seed of the latter in quantities at friend Chapman's prices, which he quotes as follows: Four ounces, $1.00; ten ounces, $2.00; one pound, $3.00.

Friend Chapman sends us the following:
A. I. Root :—The Chapman honey-plant has been placed upon the "free list".  All persons desiring the Seed can procure it by addressing Hon. Norman J. Colman, Commissioner of Agriculture; or should they desire a larger quantity than the Department of Agriculture furnishes, for experimental purposes, undoubtedly they can get it through their representative in Congress. I have been paid for the seed I furnished the Department, and I want the tax-payers to get the benefit due them. It is to be hoped that all readers of your journal will take advantage of the opportunity, and receive free some of this seed, and not permit it to waste in the Seed Department at Washington.

And here is the good story about Chapman as a farmer that was a fun to read.  It gives a feel for the times and the people involved in beekeeping and farming. It was written by Amos I. Root in 1886 for his journal Gleanings in Bee Culture, Vol. 14 in the midst of an ongoing conversation about whether it made economic sense to devote land to bee plants.  

The article was part of a series where A. I. Root visits well known bee people's farms and apiaries.  I have added the photos; there were no illustrations in the original.  And I edited out a fair amount of preaching. Root was a pious man who spread the word rather thickly.
I AM invited to meet a body of bee-men at to see the Chapman honey-plant in full bloom in York State; and as it is somewhere near father Cole's "Home on the Hillside" I propose to see the "New Agriculture" also, and so off I start this Monday morning, July 26. 

My first move is to call at the Town-Hall and be one of the first to cast a vote for the closing of the saloons in Medina. Thank God that I have at length that privilege, as one of his people, as in our text.  Then Maud takes me in the buggy to a station 12 miles away. Maud is getting to be a horse-woman, and handles Meg nicely, even if the men-folk have let her run away so many times we feared she was spoiled.   Meg went up to a watering trough: and before I knew it Maud hopped out and let down the check, instead of letting me do it. She explained that Meg would put back her ears and bite at me if I went near her, and so I stayed in the buggy.
 Meg even goes better when Maud has the lines, and I begin to suspect there is a sort of freemason understanding between them.  Perhaps Meg means to say by actions, "I have had too many masters; that is why I ran away so many times. I like Maud, and she likes me (she gives me my clover and things), and I want her to handle me."   All right! I am quite willing, if you only make the train between you.
LOC image

We pass through a small town; the storekeepers, grocers, etc.. are sitting out on the walk in easy-chairs, waiting for customers. They might be doing worse; but ought any of God's people, in these days of such great possibilities, to be sitting and waiting for any thing?  Why can't they jump up and push something!  Farmers along the road, many of them, seem content to raise the same crops (no better) that they have done year after year. Why, I couldn't live if I were not pushing on to something new, as each season comes around. In regard to waiting for customers—how can great strong men sit and wait? I would a hundred times rather follow a plow or a cultivator than to sit before a store waiting for some one to come to be waited on.

Out of town we find great fields of tobacco. While I admire the soil, and the wonderful vegetable growth these plants are making with their broad green leaves as high as the fence. I can not see how any who call themselves God's people can give their best land, and their very best manure in raising a narcotic with which to poison their fellow-men. I know it sometimes brings money; but is getting money ever to come before doing right?

Maud remarks, that the tobacco-raisers never seem to have nice houses and barns, even if the business is profitable.I bid good-by to Maud (and Meg) just ten minutes before train time, so Meg has held her reputation. 

It costs $1.25 per day extra to ride in a drawing-room car; but if I don't ride in such car I could not have the nice little table on which I am now writing to you. The roads are full of muddy water, and it is running down in muddy streams, all through Ohio and Pennsylvania, although I have not seen a drop of rain fall.  Innumerable gardens flit by us, but nothing in any of them is ahead of our own at Medina, unless it is rutabaga turnips in Pennsylvania. Next year I will try raising some so early they may be a yard across in July. Buckwheat is looking finely with the recent rains. Some of it is already in bloom, but not a tobacco-plant is to be seen in the whole country.

Olean, N. Y., is an astonishment and a wonder. Huge oil-tanks, big enough to contain large
Tank City near Olean, New York.
buildings, cover the summits and sides of the hills, and dot the valley by the hundreds, and may be thousands. Surely this must contain oil enough to light the world; in fact, Olean takes its name from oleum, meaning oil.  This oil is one of God's latest and brightest gifts to light up "Our Homes " so beautifully and at so little expense. ...

Now the train clatters along part way up the range of hills, and a beautiful valley is spread out before us. Villages, with their clean white churches; shops and stores, and many pretty houses, with well-kept gardens, ...
It has been raining, and so the white clothes are, many of them, still on the line, telling of patient, hard-working mothers, and of many little ones to be cared for.  ...

I am much impressed with the looks of the country and people in the vicinity of Chautauqua; an atmosphere seems to pervade the whole country round about;  ...  The fields are covered with beautiful grain and garden-stuff of all kinds.

The sight of Wellsville, Allegany Co.. N. Y., with its beautiful residences and thriving
This is Wellsville now! (For sale, too.)
business places, reminds me again of our text; and when I go into the house to sit down at the "Home on the Hillside" (after having explored said hillside pretty well) I discover a clean bright fire burning in the grate. As the air is a little bit chilly after the rain, and my feet are somewhat damp from my explorations over the soft soil along the hillside, the warmth seems quite comfortable; and then I discover that it is from natural gas.

"Why, dear friends, is it possible that this is natural gas, and nothing more?  And then I inquired, " And does it really give
Also, Wellsville. Photo by bfanton.
sufficient heat for the most severe winter temperatures?"

In answer to the question, the good lady of the house simply touches a lever with her foot, near the fireplace, and in a second every thing round about the grate is full of flame, and the heat pours forth in such a volume that I feel abundantly satisfied it is equal to zero weather. When the fire-bricks back of the grate began to look as if they would soon be red hot, another touch of the lever with the foot and the fire is as gentle in a second as a lamb.

Of course, I was up in the morning before anybody else (as usual), and the roaring of the fire, soon after, in the kitchen stove aroused my curiosity. Yes, they were getting breakfast with natural gas, in the same way; and when the breakfast was cooked, down went the heat instantly; no wood or coal to be lugged in; no ashes to be carried out, no smoke or litter. The stove looked as clean and innocent as if it were standing in a hardware store, nicely blacked up so as to show off to passers-by. This great and wonderful gift has all this while been slumbering in the bowels of old Mother Earth, waiting for the intelligence of man to let it out and do his bidding. Gas-pipes run along the streets of Wellsville, on top of the ground. There is no need of burying them, as the gas does not freeze up. ...

It is July 27th, in the afternoon, and I am waiting for the train at a country store. They said there was not any place to get supper at the station; but I almost always find suppers, and good ones too, and I did this time. One of the young men who clerked at the store invited me to go home with him to supper, if I would put up with what happened to be on hand. We had a very nice supper, including raspberries and cream, and ice-cream for dessert, even in an out-of-the-way country place. The grounds about this home were beautiful and tasty, and every thing bore evidence of culture and intelligence inside.  ...

NOTE!  To see what is probably this very store, go to this site! How cool is that?!

Pretty soon a pair of horses drew up to the country store, attached to a somewhat odd looking wagon. The wagon was sent by friend Chapman to get the bee-men who were to be at his convention the next day. Friend Chapman has a market-garden, so the storekeeper told me, and this was one of bis market-wagons. Although be is not so much of a market-gardener as he used to be, he has, in years past, made lots of money in the business. I felt glad I had come.

The town of Versailles, Cattaraugus Co., N. Y. is a very pleasant and romantic spot. A great river pours over the rocks, and lulls us to sleep with its roaring. A large flouring-mill, right in the center of business, and many things about the town, reminded me of the village where I lived when a boy. In the evening, boys and girls collected about the post office to get the latest news. Asa matter of course, the girls were dressed in warm-weather costumes, and some of them were very pretty; ...

Next morning, with Prof. McLain, our friend L. C. Root, W. T. Falconer, of Jamestown, N. Y., and some others whose names I have forgotten, it was my pleasure to go out among the honey-plants, even before the bees had commenced working.  Friend Chapman is a genius, and, like many other geniuses, is somewhat eccentric, he has about 175 hives of bees; and although he is progressive enough to have planted fully two acres of the Chapman honey-plant (with enough more that will have blossomed next year to make ten acres) he does not use a movable-comb hive—says he does not want any. 

Shall I tell you how he markets his honey? Well, he markets it a good deal the way he does garden-stuff. He has it stored in large boxes. He puts these boxes into his wagon, and drives to some town when there are many people on the streets. Then he cuts out his honey in chunks, puts 10 lbs. in one of a lot of cheap tin pans bought for the purpose, and tells the passers-by, "Here, you can have ten pounds of this beautiful nice honey, tin pan and all, for an even dollar."  The price is so low, and friend Chapman is such an old hand at the business, that he sells out his whole load in a couple of hours, and goes home with his pocket full of dollars.  It is cutting down prices, I know; but it is his way of doing. 

Well, I was a little incredulous about finding that 175 colonies could gather honey enough from two acres from any plant so the bees would store honey in sections. By the way, friend Chapman now uses one-pound sections in place of the large boxes he formerly used; but his hives are still box hives; that is, the brood apartment is. The honey-plants stand in long rows, and are cultivated like other market-garden stuff the first year. When they first begin to bloom, but little attention is given them. The plant is so hardy that he says the drought killed all the weeds, but did not hurt the plant, and I guess he is right about it. They were growing finely on hard hillside gravel. 

Friend Chapman has, however, some beautiful land for market gardening, and I think he had the finest patch of cantaloupe muskmelons I ever saw in my life. Although there were several thousand hills, each hill was planted under a box perhaps a foot square and six inches high. Over this box a pane of glass is laid. Melons used to be one of his great specialties, before they brought in so many from the South; but he still makes considerable money from them yet.

At one side of the house, and near the street, I noticed, under a grove of maples, some queer-looking tables painted white. One table was square, with an opening inside, where a workman could stand; the other table was round, with a similar opening. Both tables were surrounded with beautiful maple-trees, evidently planted expressly for the benefit of the tables, for those around the square table were planted at regular distances, in the form of a square; those at the round table in the same way, only they were in the form of a circle. Some of these trees were eight or ten inches in diameter. 

Friend Chapman remarked, in answer to the question, that these tables were for washing and packing garden-stuff. They did excellent service on this 28th day of July, for our bee-convention. Seats and chairs were arranged for the company. Sections of honey, gathered from the Chapman honey-plant, were on the tables—enough for all. An organ placed on the porch, a little on one side, was well supported by singers of no mean talent; and between the speeches we had good music. 

The audience was mostly composed of the people from the country round about—friends of Mr. Chapman, and anybody who cared to come, who bad heard of his famous honey-plant. Prof. McLain spoke first, and gave us many facts that were new and valuable. He is employed by the U. S. government, as you may know, to investigate and develop whatever is worthy pertaining to bee culture. Our friend L. C. Root also gave us one of his happiest talks, and I felt sorry all through it that we could not have had a shorthand writer to give it in full to our nation of bee-keepers. Your humble servant spoke briefly between the two. He tried to tell the people of God's various gifts to mankind; of the honey to be had for the gathering; of the fruits of the soil, and, later, of the oil and gas of which I have spoken before, and finally of the new honey-plants that bear honey of such quality and quantity that it will pay to raise them for the honey alone.  I spoke of the way in which God seems to call us to exercise our talents and abilities in different field. and of the peculiar way in which these calls sometimes come. 

Friend Chapman, with his oddities, feels called upon by some invisible power to use his rare skill in market gardening, toward introducing and disseminating this wonderful new honey-plant. Prof. McLain had told us that its name is Echinops sphaerocephalus signifying "round - headed hedgehog" and that the place of its nativity was in the south of France. 
How should it come here? Even friend Chapman could not tell us, further than that he presumed it was among some specimens be had collected while on a visit to Florida or the Bermuda Islands. 

While traveling it had been his habit to save specimens of plants. Well, after these dried-up specimens had lain a long time in an old sack in the garret, or some such place, Mrs. Chapman suggested, like a good housewife, that it might as well be thrown away or burned up. Accordingly the sack was turned inside out, and shaken on one corner of the garden. Finally this queer plant came up, and friend Chapman noticed how eager the bees were to visit it. 

Mr. Hubbard, a neighbor of his, who has been assisting him in his experiments with his honey-plant, told us, in a brief little speech, that he just counted, for an experiment, the bees that visited a single ball of the Chapman honey-plant during just one day. How many bees do you suppose came to this one blossom, or ball of blossoms? Well, it was 2135. 
Of course, an assistant watched the blossom while be got his dinner and supper.

 To further test the quantity of honey secreted, some paper bags had been tied over the blossoms, two days before the convention. These papers were taken off, and the balls seemed as if they had been dipped in honey —good thick honey too. Since coming home I have tried the same experiment. The honey, as it first oozes from the nectaries, is first thin, like sweetened water; but during 48 hours of our hot July and August days it becomes as thick as honey in the comb. The flavor is a very pure sweet—much like simple syrup, only it has a slight flavor, which we all pronounce very pleasant. I think it will rank equal to white clover or linden. In closing my talk I spoke of all these valuable qualities belonging to this plant, and repeated my text in connection with the thought of God's promises and purposes to us his children. 

As friend Chapman has expended a good deal of money experimenting with this plant, he prefers to control the sale of the seed—at least for several years. This year it will be offered in packages of half an ounce each for $1.00. No smaller quantity is to be sold. Below we give a cut of it.

In regard to the plant (to the right) I submit the following letter from friend Cook:

Dear Mr. Editor:—You will remember that Mr. Chapman, of Versailles, N. Y., exhibited at the Detroit meeting a honey-plant which he said commenced to bloom just at the close of the basswood season, and was of rare excellence as a honey-plant, both as regards quantity and quality of honey which is furnished. 

          Video of bees working basswood.
Upon examinationI found this to be Echinops spherocephalus of Central France. I am indebted to Dr. W. J. Beal for the determination. 
Through the kindness of Mr. Chapman I secured a number of the plants in the spring. These were set out the last of April, and though the season has been terribly dry they have grown on light sand most vigorously;  are magnificent plants, and are loaded with globe-like flower-heads. The plant looks some like a thistle, as we might expect, as it is a composite plant. The flowers opened July 30, and each ball has a great many flowers, each of which must be visited many times a day by the bees; indeed, the flowers are alive with bees from early morn till late in the evening. Surely this thing of beauty is a joy in a double sense. A. J. Cook.Agricultural College, Mich. July 23, 1886

The name is from the Greek, echinops, signifying hedgehog, and the plant is almost exactly like a big thrifty thistle, only it bears round balls, as seen in the engraving. The latter part of the name means "roundheaded." Now, if this plant furnished honey right along, day after day, for as many months as the figwort does, it would probably be ahead of any plant known on the face of the earth. The spider-plant furnishes a larger quantity of nectar, but it is secreted only in the night, and gives us nothing in the daytime. It is also so thin and watery that the amount of saccharine matter is probably not as great as in the Chapman plant. 

 The Chapman plant yields honey about 20 days; but by mowing off the tops it can easily be made 20 days later; it is also much hardier than the spider plant, and would probably grow on poor soil where even the figwort would not amount to much. There have been more bees at work on our patch of figwort for the last 60 days than I ever saw anywhere on the Chapman honey-plant; but the honey is not nearly so thick as that from the latter. 

It may be a nice point to determine which plant would be most profitable. The Chapman plant will continue to blossom and yield honey for three years, after it is once started. Dr. C. C. Miller, who has experimented considerably, can probably aid us right here; and in any case we can thank God for this new revelation in regard to the possibilities of cultivating plants for honey alone. Of course, friend Chapman's bees were not all at work in sections; but colonies having young queens just commencing to lay were storing at a pretty fair rate, and the sections of honey placed on the table for examination were taken from one of these colonies.

The social element at friend Chapman's model bee-keepers convention was a decided success; and I echoed the thought of our friend L. C. Root, that it would be an excellent thing if we could have more just such informal open-air meetings of beekeepers. "By this shall ye be known of all men, that ye have love one to another." And how better can we demonstrate to the great Father above that we are trying to look up in the spirit of our text to-day than by showing our good will to each other


1888 - Humbug? - Free Seeds from the Government

I have to admit this posting was prompted partly by wanting to share this illustration.  

Weinmann, JW, Phytanthoza Iconographia -  Echinops sphaerocephalus -Artist unknown.

A. I. Root's influential journal, Gleanings in Bee Culture, covered many agricultural and scientific topics. This opinion of the government free seed program was widely held.  While the program started with the admirable intention of exposing farmers and the general family gardener to superior varieties being developed, it grew over time into a politician's give-away to curry favor with their constituents. 
More often in my reading I come across strong opinions from reputable seedsmen who were outraged at the poor quality of seed that was sometimes accepted by the government, as well as the fact the government was competing unfairly with their business as they saw it.

Feb. 1889 - Gleanings in Bee Culture
I saw the notice last spring In Gleanings, stating that the Agricultural Department at Washington had obtained seed of the Chapman honey-plant, for distribution. I applied to our representative, and be notified me that he had never heard of such a plant, but said that he had sent my application to the department, since which time I never heard from it. Were any of your readers more fortunate?
Friend L., I can not help you any about procuring seed of the Chapman honey-plant, opposed the measure of asking the Government to buy friend Chapman's seed, at the National Convention held in Chicago; also at the Michigan State Convention at Saginaw, a year ago.
Some of the friends who were in favor of it admitted that the Government Seed Bureau was a big humbug anyway; but they gave, as an excuse, that friend Chapman might as well have some of the humbug money as anybody else. They did not state it in just that way, but it amounted to that. 
Now, the $2800 that was paid to friend Chapman for his honey-plant seed might almost as well have been thrown into the fire, in my opinion. The seed is very likely stowed away with other old rubbish, and it will probably get too old to germinate before it gets into the hands of beekeepers, if it ever does at all.
 Another thing, I do not believe that any bee-keeper wants a lot of Chapman honey-plant seed until he has first tested it by trying a five cent package; and even after it has been so tested, and the seed was wanted, I am not sure that it could be had of the Government.
Perhaps I am a little uncharitable here; but I can not help feeling indignant at this whole proceeding—not only in honey-plants, but seeds for almost all other purposes. There have been a good many complaints just like yours, friend L., that they could not get the seed of the Chapman honey-plant, even after the Government had paid $2800 for it; and it is not only this kind of seed, but seeds in general are managed a good deal in the same fashion.
Our agricultural papers have for years shown it up, and protested that our money should not be wasted in such senseless proceedings, but still it goes on. This is the first time I have publicly spoken about the matter, and perhaps I shall never have occasion to speak of it again.


As I see some complaint in Gleanings, on page 134, by A. L. Lane and you about the distribution of the Chapman honey-plant seed by the Department of Agriculture at Washington, I want to say that I too read the notice in Gleanings last spring, and I at once wrote to Hon. Norman J. Colman, Commissioner of Agriculture, at Washington, for some seed, and soon got a little package of the same.
I sowed some, and almost every seed came up all right. Some plants had, by fall, leaves 38 inches long.
I believe if Mr. Lane had applied to Hon. Norman J. Colman, Commissioner, for the seed, instead of to his Representative, he would have received some.
Jacob Ruch, Jr.
Gruetli, Grundy Co., Tenn., Feb. 21, 1889.

I had to look up Greutli to see if it was an OCR mistake!  Nope.