Friday, April 28, 2017

Watermelon History...really...

I was watching Mind of a Chef when this popped up!  Luckily this section was posted on YouTube.

Do I believe this history of the watermelon?  I don't know.  
I think  a little research would be interesting. 

Watermelons mentioned are the Lawson, the most desirable, and also the Carolina Sweet and Mountain Sweet.  Another history on the NPR site of the Lawson, (also called the Bradford melon) gives more information from the Bradford family. It's a great article, well worth reading!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

1824 - Thomas and Alfred Bridgeman, Seedsmen, of New York

This charming woodcut is from Thomas Bridgeman's 1835 Florist's Guide.

I first heard of the seedsmen, father and son, Thomas and Alfred Bridgeman from this article.

Early New York Florists  (from 
American Florist 1913)

One of the older florists recently recalling the flower trade of this city in the sixties (1860s) said that business was better then than now. He cited the prices paid for large decorations in those days as being higher than now. From the difficulty experienced in securing flowers, it would naturally seem to be the case. Men would be started very early in the morning and cross the Hudson to New Jersey, and then in some instances take the stage, until they reached the greenhouses. They were not always fortunate in securing flowers but in any event it was near noon before they got back to New York.

 Nearly all the New York florists had at that time small greenhouses and gardens of their own. A florist who's advent into the business in this city seems to have been at a date beyond the memory of any one now in the trade, was Isaac Buchanan, who was located on Seventeenth street, west of Broadway.  There are men now in the business who worked for him but nobody seems to remember just when he came here. Some think that it was he that erected the first greenhouse in this city. He seems to have been a prosperous florist, as it is said that he owned and lived in a four-story brownstone residence.’
  • David Clarke, whose sons continue the business which he founded came here in 1849 and immediately started in business for himself, eventually locating on what is now Broadway, but was then called the Bloomingdale road.
  • J. N. Hauser located on what is now Fiftieth street. His sons are yet active in the business.
  • Thomas Bridgeman was both a florist and seedsman on Eighteen street and the name “Bridgeman's Seed Warehouse" has existed for business purposes until a very recent date.
  • John B. Nugent had greenhouses at Fourteenth street and Second avenue. He is the father of John B. Nugent, Jr., the senior member of the firm of Young & Nugent, and is now an aged man.
  • Others of the old florists were Hauft Bros. This firm still exists; formerly located at Broadway and Third street;
  • D. Wilson, Fourteen street east of Sixth avenue;
  • Klunder & Long, N. E. corner of Broadway and Second street;
  • Wm. Brower, Broadway and Twenty-third street.
  • Other florists of former days of whom little is now remembered were Buist, Gableson, “Scotchy” Reed and Riddit. 
It would indeed be a novelty to find a greenhouse and garden at the present time at the places they were found fifty years ago.

The “wholesale store" of those days was a basket or a box with a strap attached for convenience in carrying. We hear much complaint at present of low prices and poor business, but harking back to the old days we believe that many of our present day florists do not realize how well off they are. If there were no other considerations, the multiplication of facilities for doing business is a great compensation for an occasional surplus. We would say that the actual labor is but as child's play, compared to what it was in the earlier years of the flower industry.

First, the father, Thomas.   What a wonderful engraving from the The Fruit Cultivator’s Manual!  The artist is Charles E. Weir.  I think Weir only lived to age 22, 1823-1845. This portrait is from 1843.
"Thomas Bridgeman was an English gardener, born in Berkshire, who came to New York in 1824, leased land on what is now 874 Broadway, and at once built greenhouses, and sold seeds. 
Like so many of the gardeners of the Old World, at that date, he was a man of broad intelligence, and he wrote valuable works on fruits, vegetables and flowers. His “Young Gardener’s Assistant” (published in 1829) went through several editions, and has a good sale even unto this day. He died in 1850."  
source: Meehans' Monthly: A Magazine of Horticulture, 1899

A little more background surfaced in the Boston publication Horticulture which  proudly reported:
The British Encyclopedia of National Biographies says that Thos. Bridgeman who settled in New York in 1824 and wrote on horticulture is a descendant of the Bridgeman who planned the Kew Gardens and who is mentioned by Horace Walpole in his “Memoirs” as the one who revolutionized landscape gardening in England and who was a friend of Alexander Pope.

Thomas Bridgeman had two sons both of whom made a name in horticulture, Andrew as a plantsman and Alfred as a seedsman.  W. A. Bridgeman, who is responsible for the elegant window displays in the Thos. F. Galvin store on Tremont street, Boston, is a son of Andrew Bridgeman. “Blood will tell.”

View entire
Thomas Bridgeman had a store at 17th Street and Broadway in New York City where he sold seeds.  I found no catalogs issued by Thomas.  His publications are: 
  • The Young Gardener’s Assistant (1832)
  • Florist’s Guide (1835)
  • The Kitchen Gardener’s Instructor (1836)
  • Report of the Committee On Horticulture (1844)
  • The Fruit Cultivator’s Manual (1844)
  • The American Gardener’s Assistant (1867)  (completed by his son, Alfred Bridgeman)

His son, on the other hand, has some catalogs on the internet starting with this one from 1871.  There should be earlier ones as his father dies in 1850.  He references his father's business as starting in 1824.

Here is a description of Alfred's business from 1885.

Alfred Bridgeman, Importer, Grower and Dealer In Vegetable, Farm and Flower Seed, No. 37 East 19th Street.— 
Among the old established houses which have been identified with the growth and development of the metropolis and which have kept pace with the improvement and progress of the time, is that of Mr. Alfred Bridgeman, importer, grower and dealer in vegetable, farm and flower seed.  
This business was established in 1824, and has always enjoyed a career of prosperity. The house was for many years located at No. 876 Broadway, and some time ago was removed to the present elegant quarters. The premises now occupied are of modern construction and are artistically finished in a most pleasing manner. 
A large and valuable stock is carried and a business is done which extends to all points in the United States. Mr. Bridgeman is an old resident of this city, and is one of our old time merchants. During a long and busy career he has always maintained the principles of integrity and honorable dealing. He has always taken an active interest in every movement that has for its object the advancement and welfare of his fellow citizens, and is esteemed by all with whom he has had business transactions.    

More telling of the general history of the business is this article from The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste of 1858 where they were reviewing a new edition of
the Young Gardener's Assistant. 

This is an original work, by the late Mr. Bridgeman, which has long kept its place as a standard book in the gardening world, and, with McMahon's (published in Philadelphia), continues to be the guide to the novice no less than the practiced hand. 
We like to record the success of practical men. In the case of the Messrs. Bridgemans, we find an industrious and thoughtful father successful through a lengthened career, and leaving his sons established in the same business and in the someplace, after his death. 
Nos. 876 and 878 Broadway, New York, are now the property of the two sons, Andrew and Alfred. The seed department is managed by Alfred, and the greenhouses by Andrew Bridgeman, in two well-built stores, with their dwellings above. 
The business was first commenced in 1828, by the father, and continued by him until 1850 (the period of his decease), when the sons erected two four-story houses, well adapted to their objects; the southerly one is devoted to the sale of vegetable, herb, flower, and grass seeds, horticultural books, and garden tools and implements; the walls are plastered on all sides with cement, and the floor is of concrete, making it secure from dampness and the attacks of vermin. In the house devoted to the plant department, the basement is divided into a flower-room for keeping and making-up cut flowers, and a packing-room and general stowage; the store is appropriately fitted up with shelvings, counters, &c, and floored with encaustic tiles; in connection with it is a greenhouse, eighteen feet wide and one hundred and thirty feet long. A neat fountain with gold fishes in the front part, attracts much attention from the Broadway loungers. 
This greenhouse is heated by two of Hitching's hot-water apparatus, advertised in this journal, and which Mr. B. assures us answer admirably. 
The country establishment is at Astoria, where there is a fine propagating house, five greenhouses, two rose-houses, one rose pit, and about forty sashes of frames for violets, pansies, &c. The grounds are ornamented with different varieties of fruit-trees, and are occupied principally in growing roses, ornamental and flowering shrubs, fruit, herbaceous and greenhouse plants, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, &c. &c.  Mr. B. is prepared to execute orders to any amount for forest trees, dwarf pears, &c.
In the city store will be found one of the finest collections of bulbous roots; a number of each kind are potted for those who desire to have them already started —a convenience which many salesmen cannot afford. Here will also be found fancy flower-pots, bulb-glasses, and baskets for flowers, of which latter ornaments they fill innumerable orders during the winter season, as well as hand-bouquets and designs for parties and suppers. The greenhouse in the city is filled with plants suited for private houses during winter, and, in spring, they are replaced with bedding-out plants, for which the establishment is famous throughout the Eastern and Middle States. 
This sketch of the business of two brothers in the heart of New York, realizes an agreeable picture, and is an example of exactly what we like to see. To minds imbued with a love of nature's gifts, and, of course, admirers of the floral world, it would seem to us to afford an amount of enjoyment which few other occupations can give. We record it for the encouragement of those who may now be struggling with economy and industry to found similar establishments elsewhere. There is not a city in our land where equally persevering attention and honesty may not bring like results.

This letterhead is from the 1880s.  It was printed with the date 188_, to be filled in.

The interior of this 1902 catalog is as artistically boring as the cover.  The new century brought the end of the age of great seed catalogs.