Thursday, July 31, 2014

Who was the mysterious feminist seed dealer & marketing genius Miss Carrie H. Lippincott?

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1891

The C. H. Lippincott Seed Company was the 1st seed company in the United States to be founded & managed by a woman, Carrie H. Lippincott (1863-1941) .  Carrie Lippincott had been born in in the middle of the Civil War in Burlington, New Jersey, in September of 1863.  Her father was Joseph P Lippincott, a tailor & merchant, born in New Jersey in 1821.  When he was 27 in 1848, he married Martha Abigail H Moore, who also was born New Jersey in June of 1829.  

Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1893

Carrie Lippincott was the youngest of their children & was still living at home with her parents in 1880.  By 1888, the Minneapolis City Directory showed Carrie living at 305 South 11th Street in Minneapolis.  When her father died, Carrie, her mother, her sister, & her brother-in-law moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1896

The unmarried Carrie Lippincott opened her flower seed business in Minneapolis in 1896, when she was 33 years old.  The seed business blossomed & was housed in a 2-story brick building next to the home she shared with her older sister Rebecca (1849-1944) & her husband Henry B. Kent (1852-1935) & their teenage daughter Florence (1883-1980) & with the Lippincott girls' widowed mother Martha at 319 & 323 Sixth Street South, in Minneapolis.  Sister Rebecca Lippincott had married Henry B Kent in 1878 in Bloomfield, Essex County, New Jersey. Henry was a carpenter in Bloomfield in 1880.

The Lippincott sisters lived here with the brother-in-law, teenage neice, & widowed mother

Apparently, Carrie Lippincott issued her 1st seed mail catalog in January of 1896.  She also advertised in the local Minneapolis Journal for several years.  From March through April, 1896, Miss C H Lippincott advertised nasturtiums, sweet peas, & lawn grass for sale at her seed store in the Minneapolis Journal.  She also advertised, "The most magnificent catalogue free on application." Several of her ads boasted, that she had "The Best Flower Seeds." 

Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1896  This catalog seems to connect the Chinese Primroses for sale to a celebration of the immigration into America of the late 19C.

An article in the October 19,1896 Minneapolis Journal reported that, "When Miss C H Lippincott, the florist, issued her 1896 catlogue of flower seeds last January, she offered $200 in cash prizes for the largest blossoms raised from the seed of her "Royal Show Pansies," to be divided into twent prizes.  This was the largest sum of money ever offered in a similar contest."  The contest drew 5,000 pansies submitted by 750 competitors from across the nation. The article concluded, "The contestants represented nearly every state in the union and demonstrated to Miss Lippincott that advertising pays when intelligently done."

Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1898

Carrie continued to place ads in the local paper.  The following year on April to May, she advertised sweet peas & nasturtiums along with a supply of lawn grass. for sale in the same local Minneapolis newspaper. 

Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1898

Carrie Lippincott apparently was a woman who liked to be in control & who feared little.  She made the local newspaper again on Monday, April 5, 1897, when a man was bound over to court for burglary.  He was identified by Miss Carrie Lippincott as the man with whom she had a tussle in the hall of her brother-in-law's house on Sixth Street.  Police noted that man had several prior charges of burglary & blowing up safes in Minneapolis.

Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1899  This catalog is intriguing because of it blatant orientalism.  The Orient, including present-day Turkey, Greece, the Middle East, & North Africa, exerted its allure on many Western artist's imagination in the 19C.  Harem scenes evoked a sense of cultivated beauty & pampered isolation to which many Westerners aspired.

In 1891, Carrie Lippincott began calling herself  “The Pioneer Seedswoman of America.”  Unique among seed companies, she specialized in flower seeds, & targeted female clientele.  Her greatest contribution to the seed trade industry was her gift for marketing. In the 1880’s, most seed packets from most seedhouses looked the same. The packets were printed on medium bond manilla paper with the text in black ink, perhaps with a little color on the vegetable or flower illustration. The farm-oriented catalogs appeared with big 8x10 illustrations featuring fruits & vegetables on their covers & in interior illustrations.  Lippencott's seed catalogs & advertisements revolutionized how garden seeds were sold. Her catalogs featured images of children, women & flowers giving her an edge with women customers among her competition. 

Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1899.  This catalog is particularly interesting because of the use of Japonisme.  The French term Japonisme, 1st used in 1872, refers to the influence of Japanese art, culture, & aesthetics, which occurred in Europe & America after the 1848-1854 period, when after more than 200 years of seclusion, foreign merchant ships of various nationalities again began to visit & trade with Japan.

A quote from one contemporary publication said “the key to her success is prompt service, best seeds, reasonable prices, beautiful flowers, by a woman.”  Contemporary accounts of her business highlight that her 25 seed order clerks were women & that she often employed housewives to grow out seed stock on their farms & backyard gardens.  In 1894, she adopted the practice of listing the number of seeds per-packet, so her customers could plan their gardens beds more accurately.  By 1896, Carrie's business claimed to have received 150,000 orders.

Among her employees were Samuel Y. Haines (1853-) & his young wife Charlotte.  When Sam Haines had applied for a passport in 1895, he stated, that his occupation was seedsman.  By July 1896, Sam Haines, whose family had also come from Burlington, New Jersey & married into the Lippincott family there, was a full-time employee handling the advertising, which was the core of her success.  

An interview with Carrie Lippincott & Haines in the July 8, 1896, issue of Printers' Ink, a journal for advertisers, paints a picture of a woman deeply involved in the operations of her business, so much so that all pieces of mail have to be opened before her eyes.  "She is the original pioneer seedswoman - a real woman, arranging all the details of a large business herself."  

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1899

Once again on April 20 & 27, 1900, she advertised in the Minneapolis Journal, admonishing her clients that was "time to give your lawn attention."  She was still selling lawn grass seed, sweet peas, & naturtiums at her store.  

By 1900, the entire family was working in Carrie's seed enterprise. Working with her mother & sister & brother-in-law, she created a thriving trade based on hard work & her shrewd sense of marketing. Her 5-inch by 7-inch catalogs were colorful sales tools infused with Carrie's personal touch. Carrie tried to make her customers feel that they were part of her family.  In her chatty catalog greetings each mailing, she updated her customers on the doings of her family, in fact, she referred to the catalogs as annual "Greetings."  The catalogs' colorful lithographed covers, usually depicted idealized children surrounded by colorful flowers.  They looked more like the chromo lithograph greeting postcards of the day rather than typical sales catalogs.

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1901

Customers who received orders from the company found packages artfully tied with beautiful blue ribbons.  Each order contained a handwritten card which simply said, “Yours for Fine Gardening, C. H. Lippincott.”  By 1898, she owned an operated the world's largest seed house specializing in flowers & was printing a quarter of a million copies of her catalog. Competitors took note, & soon here colorful graphic designs & personalized practices were being copied by other seed sellers. 

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1902

Lippincott’s approach to marketing through her emphasis on a woman-owned company that catered to other women, led to at least 2 other seed firms in Minneapolis to conduct seed distribution business under women’s names. Their catalogs were also similar in size & used colorful graphic images.  Lippincott knew that men controlled these nearby companies, & she was right. Her 1899 catalog stated “it is a peculiar thing in this day & age that a man should want to masquerade in woman’s clothing.” 

Jessie R. Prior's Catalog 1901

Jessie Prior's husband had operated a seed business in Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis, for 5 years, before a seed catalog using her name appeared in 1895. There was quickly talk among their competitors, that the use of Jessie's name was only a marketing gambit.  Jessie Prior's extant catalogs are silent on the gender issue. Jessie did apply for membership in the all-male American Seed Testing Association in 1903, however, only to be turned down ostensibly because she was a woman.

Miss Emma V. White, 1900 catalog

Miss Emma V. White, also of Minneapolis, apparently took up the mail-order seed trade in 1896, imitating Lippincott's catalog format. Actually, Emma White was listed as a boarder at the home of Alanson W Latham & his wife in 1900.  Latham just happened to be Secretary of the Minnesota Horticultural Association.   He was so well known for his horticultural exploits, that the University of Minnesota chose him as one of 4 "Master Farmers" noting that "Mr Latham, who is secretary of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, is known as an authority on grapes, and has been active in horticultural work."  

The cover of the White 1900 catalog had an illustration which featured an obvious imitation of Palmer Cox's popular "Brownies" characters. In the early years, the White catalog often used pixie figures to dance around the flower art in her illustrations, which differentiated them from the more straight-laced visuals of both the Priors & Carrie Lippincott. Her photo was printed in the catalogs.

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1903

Lippincott began publishing her picture in her catalog beginning in 1899, explaining that "a number of seedsmen (shall I call them men?) have assumed women's names in order to sell seeds." 
White countered a few years later with the protest, "I am a real live woman & I give personal attention to my business." 

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1904

Carrie was on the 1900 federal census with her family in Minneapolis, & on the 1905 voter list there.  The Minneapolis City Directory showed her seed business at 4410 Harriet Boulevard.  She was listed until 1909, in the city directory, as a seed dealer. 

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1905

But, by 1910, Carrie Lippincott, her sister Rebecca & her brother-in-law Harry, & her widowed mother, now 80 years old, had moved to Saint Croix, Wisconsin.  

Photographs of Lippincott's Seed Store were printed on the back Carrie Lippincott's 1914 catalog. At this time her business address was 208 Locust Street in Hudson, Wisconsin.

By 1910, Carrie replaced her brother-in-law in the census as the head of the household & owner of a seed business.  Her brother-in-law is listed as manager of the seed business.  In Wisconsin, they employed a Norwegian woman named Eda to tend house & help care for the elderly family matriarch.

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1907

Carrie's personal touch apparently appealed to her mostly female customers. In 1911, she wrote in her catalog, "I wish it were possible for me to write a personal letter to all who have written me such pleasant & encouraging letters this past year. But that is impossible for I have received hundreds of them, & I thank you all for my mother, my sister & myself…"  Her 1911 catalog was advertising seeds from their Hudson, Wisconsin, location.

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1908

The following year, Carrie Lippincott returned to Minnesota & once again was listed in the 1915-1917 Minneapolis City Directory as a seed dealer at 3149 Holmes Avenue.  

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1911

The 1920 census shows that the Lippincotts & Kents had moved back to Minneapolis permanently after the death of their elderly mother.  By this time, Carrie was still listed as the seedswoman, & Harry Kent was listed as a florist.  She appeared in the 1922 Minneapolis City Directory as a florist at 3010 Hennepin Avenue.  The 1923-1929 city directories, Carrie Lippincott was listed as a florist at 4445 Washburn Avenue South & at 3010 Hennepin Avenue.

 Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 

By 1930, both Carrie's sister & her husband were listed in the census with no occupation, but Carrie was still listed as the manager of the "florist" company.  In the 1934 Minneapolis City Directory, Carrie was a florist at both 3116 Hennepin Avenue & at 4145 Washburn Avenue.  In 1937-1939, Carrie was listed in the city directory at 5301 Xerxes Avenue South, but her occupation as a florist had ceased.  

Miss C H Lippincott Catalog 1905

By 1940, Carrie H. Lippencott & her sister Rebecca were living in the Minneapolis Jones Harrison Home for the Aged which is 80 acres on Cedar Lake dedicated to serving the elderly at 3700 Cedar Lake Avenue.  Carrie Lippincott died there on November 4, 1941, and was buried in the Minneapolis Lakewood Cemetery.

See an article on Miss C H Lippincott by here.

See mention of Miss C H Lippincott in the Landreth Seed Company history here.

Read the 1901 Lippincott catalog here.

Read the Smithsonian Library's biography of Carrie H. Lippincott here.

David Christenson, "Old Seed Catalogs Combined Science, Marketing, & Printing Arts"
See The Three Seedswomen here.

See the Anderson Horticultural Library at the University of Minnesota here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Philadelphia Seed Dealer & Nurseryman - Robert Buist 1805-1880

Robert Buist 1805-1880 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Buist was born near Edinburgh, Scotland, November 14, 1805. He was trained at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and sailed to America in August 1828.

When he arrived in America, he was employed by David Landreth, and then took employment with Henry Pratt who owned Lemon Hill which was probably one of the finest gardens in the U.S. at the time.

He formed a partnership with Thomas Hibbert in 1830 in a florist business in Philadelphia. They imported rare plants and flowers, especially the rose.

After Hibbert’s death he began a seed business, along with the nursery and greenhouse business. The business in Philadelphia started out as Robert Buist's Seed Store, selling gardening supplies, potted plants, shrubs, small fruits, and rose bushes. By 1837, the growing business relocated to 12th Street below Lombard; and in1857, the company moved to a location on Market Street.  And in 1870, it expanded to 67th Street near Darby Road. The Buist farm, Bonaffon, was located in the section of Philadelphia through which Buist Avenue now runs.

Alfred M. Hoffy, lithographer. View of Robert Buist’s City Nursery & Greenhouses. Philadelphia Wagner & McGuigan, 1846.

Buist if often credited with introducing the Poinsettia into Europe, after he saw it at Bartram's Gardens in Philadelphia.  During Buist’s early training at the Edinburg Botanic Garden, he met James McNab, a scientist & artist who eventually became the garden’s director.  In the early 1830s, McNab traveled to America with retired nurseryman Robert Brown to study plants native to the United States. While in America, McNab visited his friend Buist in Philadelphia. When McNab met with Buist in 1834, he gave the Poinsettia plant to him to take back to Scotland. The garden’s director, Dr. Robert Graham introduced the plant into British gardens.

Buist was reknown for his roses & verbena.  He was also the author of several books & many catalogues of his plant offerings.  Among his books are The American Flower-Garden Directory (1832); The Rose Manual (1844, 6 editions); and The Family Kitchen-Gardener (c1847).

Buist was obsessed by roses.  Gardener & plant historian Alex Sutton tells us that Buist sailed to Europe every year or two to buy new rose hybrids being developed in Europe.  He purchased much of his stock from M. Eugene Hardy of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. In 1832, Buist saw 'Madame Hardy' for the first time and he wrote: "Globe Hip, White Globe, or Boule de Neige of the French, is an English Rose raised from seeds of the common white, a very pure white, fully double and of globular form. A few years ago it was considered 'not to be surpassed,' but that prediction, like many others, has fallen to the ground, and now 'Madame Hardy' is triumphant, being larger, fully as pure, more double, and an abundant bloomer; the foliage and wood are also stronger. The French describe it as 'large, very double pure white, and of cup or bowl form."  Buist introduced 'Madame Hardy' in Philadephia to his customers, many of whom must have been Philadelphia matrons, as he called them his Patronesses.

In 1839, Buist visited another of his suppliers, Jean-Pierre Vibert, of Lonjeameaux, near Paris, where he found 'Aimee Vibert'. He brought this rose back with him to Philadephia and wrote: "Aimee Vibert, or Nevia, is a beautiful pure white, perfect in form, a profuse bloomer, but though quite hardy doe snot grow freely for us; however, when budded on a strong stock it makes a magnificent standard, and blooms with a profusion not surpassed by any."

Seed storage warehouse of Philadelphia seedsman Robert Buist. From an 1891 wholesale seed catalog

In his catalog of 1872 Buist wrote “Three of the celebrated ‘Gordon’s Printing Presses’ are kept constantly at work on seed bags, labels, and other printing matter required in our business, and the stock of type and other printing material we use is equal in extent to that required by some of our daily papers...“When we established ourselves in 1828, the Seed business in this country was in its infancy, the trade was really insignificant in comparison to what it is in the present day.”

He was active with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, treasurer from 1858-1862 and vice-president for twenty-two years. He died in Philadelphia, July 13, 1880.  The family business was carried on by his son, Robert, Jr.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nurseryman - W Atlee Burpee 1858-1915

W. Atlee Burpee–(1858-1915)–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The W. Atlee Burpee & Company was founded by W. Atlee Burpee in 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Atlee was born in 1858 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

At fourteen years of age, Atlee’s hobby was breeding chickens, geese and turkeys. He corresponded with poultry experts worldwide and wrote scholarly articles in poultry journals. With a partner in 1876, the 18 year old Atlee started a mail-order chicken business in the family home with $1,000 loaned to him by his mother.

Poultry farmers from the Northeast knew of his business, and he soon opened a store in Philadelphia, selling not only poultry but also corn seed for poultry feed. It wasn’t long before his customers started requesting cabbage, carrot, cauliflower and cucumber seeds.

In 1878, Burpee dropped his partner and founded W. Atlee Burpee & Company, mainly for garden seeds, but poultry wasn’t dropped from the Burpee catalog until the 1940s.

By 1888, the family home, Fordhook Farms, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was established as an experimental farm to test and evaluate new varieties of vegetables and flowers, and to produce seeds.

Before World War I, Atlee spent many summers traveling through Europe and the United States, visiting farms and searching for the best flowers and vegetables. Atlee shipped many of the vegetables and flowers he found to Fordhook Farms for testing. Those plants that survived were bred with healthier types to produce hybrids better suited to the United States. Fordhook Farms was the first laboratory to research and test seeds in this way. Fordhook Farms specialized in testing onions, beets, carrots, peas and cabbage.

In 1909, Burpee established Floradale Farms in Lompoc, California, to test sweet peas, and Sunnybrook Farms near Swedesboro, New Jersey tested tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and squashes.

In his travels, Atlee met Asa Palmer, a Pennsylvania farmer who raised beans, and who thought he had one plant that was resistant to cutworms. Burpee turned this bean plant into what is now known as the Fordhook lima bean, one of the company’s most famous items.

Another successful plant was the Golden Bantam sweet corn that the farmer William Chambers of Greenfield, Massachusetts had grown before his death. A friend of Chambers found some of the sweet corn seeds and sold Burpee seeds of the corn, and in 1902, Golden Bantam was featured in a Burpee catalog.

Before 1900 most people thought that yellow corn was fit only for animals, so in order to change their customers minds, many farmers slipped Golden Bantam corn in with the white corn they were selling. Within a few years, people in the United States were converted to yellow corn.

Iceberg lettuce was introduced in 1894 and named for its crispness. A key in Burpee’s business was the 1863 free delivery system, that required post offices to deliver mail to residents’ homes, and in 1896, free delivery was extended to rural areas. This allowed his catalogs to be delivered directly to people’s homes.

Thousands of letters were received annually from Burpee’s customers thanking him for his seeds. Burpee knew that the key to his business was advertising and the catalog was his advertising medium.

In his first year of business, his catalog was 48 pages, but by 1915 his catalogs were 200 pages and he distributed a million catalogs. Burpee personally wrote most of the copy of his catalogs. Burpee set up an advertising department and offered cash prizes for the best advertisements. This competition is what originated the slogan “Burpee Seeds Grow” in 1890.

The 1891 catalog was the first to feature engravings made from photographs, and by 1901 this process was done by machines. Burpee’s move to photography changed the whole industry and the hand-drawn illustration in catalogs disappeared. In another break with tradition, Burpee eliminated cultural information and put in testimonial letters and plant descriptions.

At Atlee’s death in 1915, the company had 300 employees, and it was the largest seed company in the world. At that time the Burpee company distributed over 1 million catalogs a year and received 10,000 orders a day.

Information from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries research.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rochester, New York Seed Dealer James Vick 1818-1882

Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873, issued quarterly, pp. 132.

This article was written by seed dealer James Vick (1818-1882) of Rochester, New York, in  pages 21-24 of Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873.

 Store Front Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


It is acknowledged that I have the largest and best regulated retail Seed House in the world.  It is visited by thousands every year from all parts of this country, and by many from Europe, and 1 take pleasure in exhibiting everything of interest or profit to visitors.  As hundreds of thousands of my customers will probably never have the opportunity of making a personal visit, I thought a few facts and illustrations would be interesting to this large class whom 1 am anxious to please, and be, at least, an acknowledgement of a debt of gratitude for long continued confi­dence, which I can feel, but not repay.

Inside the Store Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873

Two Catalogues are issued each year, one of Bulbs in August, and on the first of December a beautiful Floral Guide:, of 130 pages, finely illustrated with hundreds of engravings of Flowers and plants and colored plates. Last year, the number printed was three hundred thousand at a cost of over sixty thousand dollars. In addition to the ordinary conveniences of a well regulated Seed House, there is connected with this establishment a Printing Office, Bindery, Box Making Establishment, and Artists’ and Engravers’ Rooms. Everything but the paper being made in the establishment.

Vick Store and Processing Center on State Street in Rochester, NY 1873 Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide 

To do this work fully occupies a building four stories in height (besides basement) sixty feet in width, and one hundred and fifty feet in length, with an addition in the upper story of a large room over an entire adjoining block.


The large basement is arranged with immense quantities of drawers, &c., for storing Bulbs.  Here, too, are stored the heavier kinds of Seeds, in sacks, &c., piled to the ceiling.  The heavier packing is also done here.


The first floor is used entirely as a sales-shop, or “store,” for the sale of Seeds, Flowers, Plants and all Garden requisites and adornments, such as baskets, vases, lawn mowers, lawn tents, aquariums, seats, &c., &c.  It is arranged with taste, and the songs of the birds, the fragrance and beauty of the flowers, make it a most delightful spot in which to spend an hour.

The Order Room Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


On the second floor is the Business and Private Offices, and also the Mail Room in which all letters are opened. The opening of letters occupies the entire time of two persons, and they perform the work with astonishing rapidity – practice making perfect – often opening three thousand in a day.  After these letters are opened they are passed into what is called the Registering Room, on the same floor, where they are divided into States, and the name of the person ordering, and the date of the receipt of the order registered.  They are then ready to be filled, and are passed into a large room, called the Order Room, where over seventy-five hands are employed, divided into gangs, each set, or gang, to a State, half-a-dozen or more being employed on each of the larger States.  After the orders are filled, packed and directed, they are sent to what is known as the Post Office, also on the same floor, where the packages are weighed, the necessary stamps put upon them, and stamps cancelled, when they are packed in Post Office bags furnished us by Government, properly labeled for the different routes, and sent to the Postal Cars.  Tons of Seeds are thus dispatched every day during the business season.

The Packing Room Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


Here is the German Department, where all orders written in the German language are filled by German clerks; a Catalogue in this language being published. On this floor, also, all seeds are packed, that is, weighed and measured and placed in paper bags and stored ready for sale.  About fifty persons are employed in this room, surrounded by thousands of nicely labeled drawers.


On this floor are rooms for Artists and Engravers, several of whom are kept constantly employed in designing and engraving for Catalogues and Chromos. Here, also, the lighter seed are stored.  In a large room adjoining, is the Printing Office, where the Catalogue is prepared, and other printing done, and also the Bindery, often employing forty or fifty hands, and turning out more than ten thousand Catalogues in a day. Here is in use the most improved machinery for covering, trimming, &c., propelled by steam.

The Bindery Wood engraving from Vick's Illustrated Floral Guide for 1873


The immense amount of business done may be understood by a few facts: Nearly one hundred acres are employed, near the city, in growing flower seeds mainly, while large importations are made from Germany, France, Holland, Australia and Japan.  Over three thousand reams of printing paper are used each year for Catalogues, weighing two hundred thousand pounds, and the simple postage for sending these Catalogues by mail is thirteen thousand dollars.  Over fifty thousand dollars have been paid the Government for postage stamps last year.  Millions of bags and boxes are also manufactured in the establishment, requiring hundreds of reams of paper, and scores of tons of paste-board.  The business is so arranged that the wrappers are prepared for each State, with the name of the State conspicuously printed, thus saving a great deal of writing. as well as preventing errors.

I had prepared several other engravings of German Room, Printing Office, Artists’ Room, Counting Room, Mail Room, Post Office, &c., but have already occupied quite enough space give readers somewhat of an idea of the character of my establishment.  Another year, I may give further particulars.  James Vick

Seedsman James Vick (1818-1882)

James Vick was one of the merchants who dominated the floral nursery industry in New York in the 19C. James Vick was born in Portsmouth, England on Nov. 23, 1818.  In 1833, at the age of 12, he arrived in New York City to learn the printing trade.   By the time he moved to Rochester, he had acquired skills as a printer & writer.

In 1837, he moved with his parents to Rochester, New York, where he set type for several newspapers & journals. In 1849, James Vick was elected corresponding secretary of the Genesee Valley Horticultural Society. From 1849 through the early 1850s, Vick edited & then bought the popular journal The Genesee Farmer in 1855.  He later owned part of a workers’ journal and helped to found Frederick Douglass’s North Star.

Vick’s house in 1871

With Vick as editor, the publication became more elegant & circulation rapidly increased.  A year later he sold out to Joseph Harris.  On the death of A. J. Downing, James Vick bought "The Horticulturist" & moved it to Rochester in 1853.  For for 3 years he published this with Patrick Barry serving as Editor. It was devoted to horticulture, floriculture, landscape gardening, & rural architecture.

About this time, Vick started to grow flowers & began sending seeds out by mail to the readers of his publication.  Vick also started importing seed stock. In 1855, he established a seed store & printing house in Rochester for his growing mail order business.  In 1856, Vick started "Rural Annual and Horticultural Directory".  The first half was a seed catalog & the second a list of nurserymen.  This was taken over in 1857 by Joseph Harris who continued it until 1867.

Vick's Home on the South Side of East Avenue in Rochester, NY. 1877

With Vick’s knowledge of chromolithography & printing, he produce a catalog & later a monthly magazine.  The first, "Floral Guide and Catalogue" was printed in 1862.  His "Floral Guides" provided gardening advice, quality color prints, & reached a circulation of 250,000.  He entertained his readers with anecdotes, published letters he had received, & had a special section for children.

By the 1870s, as many as 150,000 catalogs were sent out each year.  A staff of more than 100 worked in the office & packing house.  There were over 75 acres of seed gardens scattered about the city.  In 1878, Vick started a paper, "Vick’s Illustrated Monthly" which was published by the Vick Seed Company in Rochester & in Dansville until 1909.  This magazine was sold by subscription.  Vick also printed a set of chromolithograph prints which were either sold or offered as premiums with large orders.

The Seed House of James Vick 1881 From Commerce, Manufactures & Resources of Rochester, NY

Vick was one of the most successful American horticultural seedsman, writers, & merchandisers of his day.  The Vick Seed Company continued into the 20C before being sold to the Burpee Seed Co. 

Thanks to the Smithsonian Libraries Biographies of American Seedsmen & Nurserymen 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Gardeners - Tasks of Garden Laborers & Entrepeneurs

Definitions of Garden Laborers

As gardening evolved in the British American colonies & in the independent new republic, the tasks & classifications garden labor became more specific.

By the time John Claudius Louden published his 1824 An encyclopaedia of gardening: comprising the theory & practice of horticulture, floriculture, arboriculture, & landscape-gardening, including all the latest improvements; a general history of gardening in all countries; & a statistical view of its present state... many definitions of those involved in gardening had become fairly universally accepted on both sides of the English-speaking Atlantic.

In this essay, I will attempt to use Louden's descriptions of garden positions as closely as possible. That means that you will encounter some amazing punctuation and sentence fragments, but I am trying to keep the tone of Loudon's early 19th century definitions. Where the definition in America differed from the English usage, I have altered the description to reflect American usage.

Garden Laborer. Garden laborers are the lowest grade in the scale of working gardeners. In 18C America, they are usually a convict or indentured servant or slave, male & female. They are occasionally employed to perform the common labors of gardening, as trenching, digging, hoeing, weeding, &c. Men for the more heavy, & women for the lighter employments. Most garden-laborers have not received any professional instruction, farther than what they may have obtained by voluntary or casual observation. In all gardens where 3 or 4 professional hands are constantly employed, some laborers are required at extraordinary seasons & tasks. In the larger gardens of the 19th century American south, most garden laborers are enslaved African Americans.

Apprentice Gardener. Youths intended for serving to learn the trade of gardener, are placed under master or tradesmen gardeners, for a given period, on terms for mutual benefit: the master contracting to supply instruction, & generally food & lodging, or a weekly sum as an equivalent; & the parents of the apprentice gardener granting the services of the latter during his apprenticeship as their part of the contract. The terms agreed on is generally 3 years; or more if the youth is under 16 years of age but whatever may be the period, by the laws as to apprentices it must not extend beyond that at which the youth attains the age of manhood. Few can expect to attain to the rank either of master-gardener or tradesman, who has not served an apprenticeship to the one or the other. In general, it is preferable to apprentice youths to master-gardeners, as their the labor is less than in tradesmen's gardens, & the opportunities of instruction is generally much greater.

Journeyman Gardener. The period of apprenticeship being finished, that of jouneyman commences, & ought to continue till the man is at least 25 years of age. During this period, they ought not to remain above 1 year in any one situation; thus, supposing they have completed apprenticeship in a private garden at the age of 21, & that the ultimate objective is to become a head-gardener, they ought first to engage themselves a year in a public botanic garden; the next year in a public nursery; that following, they should again enter a private garden, & continue making yearly changes in the most eminent of this class of gardens, till they meet with a situation as head gardener. The course to be followed by an apprentice intended for a tradesman-gardener is obvious; having finished his period in a private garden, let him pass through a botanic & nursery garden, & then continue in the most eminent of the class of public or tradesmen's gardens, to which they are destined.

Garden Foreman. In extensive gardens where a number of hands are employed, they are commonly grouped or arranged in divisions, & one of the journeymen of longest standing is employed as foreman to the rest. Wherever 3 or more journeymen are employed, there is commonly a foreman, who has a certain extent of authority at all times, but especially in the absence of the master. This position confers a degree of rank to the garden foreman for the time being, but none afterwards.

Master Gardener. A journeyman has attained the situation of master gardener, when they are appointed to the management of a garden, even if he has no laborer, apprentice, or journeyman under him; but he has not attained to the role of head-gardener till having been a year in such situation. Afterwards should they be obliged to work as journeyman once again, they still retain the rank & title of master-gardener but not of head-gardener.

Head Gardener. A head gardener is a master who has apprentices or journeymen employed under him. Out of a supervising position & working again as a journeyman, they retain the rank & title of master-gardener, but not of head-gardener.

Nursery Foreman. The nursery foreman is entrusted with the numbered & priced catalogues of the articles dealt in; authorized to make sales; entrusted to keep an account of men's time, & as a consequence, this entitles the holder to the rank of head-gardener, while so engaged, & to that of master-gardener ever afterwards; the same may be said of foremen in public botanical gardens & other public gardens.

Traveling Gardener. Traveling gardeners are sent out as a collectors of plants along with scientific expeditions; they are generally chosen from a botanic garden; & their business is to collect gardening productions of every kind, & to mark the soil, aspect, climate &c. in which they have been habituated.

Botanic Garden Director or Curator. Botanic curators superintend the culture & management of a botanic garden; maintain an extensive correspondence with other botanic curators; exchanges plants, seeds, & dried specimens, so as to keep increasing their garden's collection of living plants & herbarium siccum.

Public Gardener. Gardener employed to oversee the gardens & grounds at a publicly-owned building or a facility operated for the good of the public, such as a church or hospital or institution.


Jobbing gardener. The jobbing gardener makes & tends gardens, & keeps them in repair by the month or year under a contract. Generally they use their own tools, in which they are distinguished from the serving gardener; & sometimes they supply plants from a small scale-garden of their own.

Contract Gardener. Contracting gardeners, or new-ground workmen, are jobbers on a larger scale. They undertake extensive works, such as forming plantations, pieces of water, roads, kitchen gardens, & even greenhouses, hot-houses, & other garden structures & buildings.

Seed Grower. Seed-growers are as frequently farmers as gardeners; they contract with seed-merchants to supply certain seeds at specified rates, or to raise or grow seeds furnished to them by the seedsmen on stipulated terms.

Seed Merchant. Seed merchants sell incidental seeds at their place of business, where they carry other products for sale as well.

Seedsman. A seedsmen deals in garden seeds & other garden products. Generally they combine the seed business with that of nurserymen or florists, but sometimes they confine themselves entirely to dealing in seeds wholesale or act as agents between seed growers & nurserymen.

Herb Gardeners. They grow herbs, either the entire herb, as mint, or particular parts, as the bulb of lilium, & the flower of the rose for medical purposes, or for distillation as perfumery.

Physic Gardeners orHerbalists. They grow herbs for the purpose of medicine, or perfumery, but also collect wild plants for these purposes. Formerly, when it was the fashion among medical men to use indigenous plants as drugs, this was a more common & important branch of trade. Now, they have commonly shops appended to their gardens, or in towns, in which the herbs are preserved, & sold in a dried state.

Collectors for Gardens. The first variety of this grouping is the gipsy-gardeners, who collect haws, acorns, & other berries & nuts, & sell them to the seedsmen; the next are those who collect pine & fir cones, alder-catkins, & other tree-seeds, which require some time, & a process to separate the seeds from their covers, & clean them before they can be sold; & the highest variety are those gardeners who establish themselves in foreign countries, & there collect seeds & roots, & prepare dried specimens of rare plants for sale.

Orchardist. Orchardists of the simplest kind are such as occupy grass-orchards, where they produce is chiefly apples, pears, & plums, for cider or kitchen-use; the next variety occupy cultivated orchard-grounds where fruit-shrubs, as the gooseberry, currant, strawberrry, &c. are grown between the fruit-trees; & the highest variety occupy orchards with walls & hot-houses, & produce the finer stove-fruits & forced articles.

Market or Truck Gardeners. Market gardeners grow culinary vegetables & also fruits; the simplest kind are those who grow only the more common hardy articles for the kitchen, as cabbage, pease, turnips, &c. a higher variety grow plants for propagation, as cauliflowers, celery, & artichoke-plants, & pot-herbs, as mint, thyme; & the highest variety possess hot-beds & hot-houses, & produce mushrooms, melons, pines, & other reed articles & exotic fruits.

Florist. Florists are either market florists who grow & force flowers for the market, & those who grow only hardy flowers to be cut as nosegays, & those who deal chiefly in exotics or green-house plants to be sold in pots. Another is the select florist, who confines himself to the culture of bulbous-rooted & other select or florists' flowers, who has annual flower-shows, & who disposes of the plants, bulbs, tubers, or seeds.

Botanic Gardener. Botanic gardeners devote themselves exclusively to the culture of an extensive collection of species for sale; these may be limited to indigenous kinds. Botanic gardeners also collect & dry specimens of plants, & also of mosses, fungi, alga & offer them for sale: to this they often join the collecting of insects, birds, & other animals.

Nurserymen. Their business is to originate from seed, or by other modes of propagation. Every species of vegetable, hardy or exotic, grown in gardens, to rear & train then for sale, & to pack or encase them, so as they may be sent with safety to distant places. The nurseryman is commonly also a seed-grower, & is generally a seed-merchant, supplying his customers annually with what seeds they require for cropping their gardens as well as with the trees they use in stocking them. The simplest variety of nursery-gardener is he who confines himself to the rearing of hedge plants and forest trees; the highest is he who in addition to all the hardy trees & plants, maintain at the same time a collection of tender exotics.

Friday, July 25, 2014

18C-early19C Seed Dealers & Nursery Owners from the Philadelphia to Williamsburg

Emerging Seed Dealers & Nursery Owners

The method of selling seeds & plants changed dramatically in the Mid-Atlantic & Upper South after the Revolutionary war. The growth of urban economies gave rise to new commercial gardening ventures, nurseries & seed stores, operated by professional gardeners who initially imported & then grew their own seed & plant stock. (The Middle Atlantic & Upper South usually includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., & Virginia, but I am seldom able to be all-inclusive of the region in my research.)

Americans, who had traditionally lived on farms & plantations, were moving to the towns & opening up shops to take part in the growing urban economies. They had smaller properties on which to grow their food, but now they also had access to the public farmers markets which sprouted in most urban areas. They were acquiring enough money & stability to plant pleasure gardens on their grounds.

Some of the new professional shopkeepers & artisans also retained staffs to lay out & maintain the gardens of others under contractual agreements. Even rural gardeners, who had traditionally saved seeds & traded seeds & plants with neighbors & friends on both sides of the Atlantic, began to patronize capitalistic seed merchants & nursery owners.

These garden businessmen aggressively advertised their wares to a public increasingly concerned with the status of the ornamental, in addition to utilitarian aspects of their gardens. Leisure time was growing in the new nation, & both the gentry & their less wealthy neighbors could now find the time to indulge in an avocation such as pleasure gardening.

Nurserymen & Seed Dealers in New York

As early as February of 1734, John Miller "gardner at the old Bowling Green" was offering "the best kinds of garden seeds, of several sorts" for sale in The New-York Weekly Journal.  Near the junction of what are now Greenwich & Warren Streets in New York City was the Bowling Green Garden, established there soon after the opening of the 18C. It was on a part of the Church Farm, quite out of town, for there were no streets then laid out above Crown, now Liberty Street, on the west side of the town & none above Frankfort on the east.  By January of 1737, Miller was advertising the results of his gardening efforts in the same publication, offering for sale, "dried Herbs of several sorts, to wit, Sage, Time, Savery, &c."  On March 29, 1738, it took fire & in a few minutes was completely consumed. Miller, who was then living in it, saving himself with difficulty.  But, by April of 1740, Miller had expanded his merchandise and his method of selling to both the retail and the wholesale market even further, advertising in the same newspaper, "At the sign of the Thistle and Crown, near Spring Garden or at the old Bowling Green, several Sorts of Garden seeds at Reasonable Rates, either by Wholesale or Retaile, and also young fruite Trees of several sorts." 

Robert Prince, of Flushing, New York, established the Prince Nursery in 1737. It operated for 130 years, until about 1865. It was a major commercial nursery responsible for importing plants from Europe & sending American plants abroad. The nursery grew fruits & roses, producing many of the grafted apple, pear & cherry trees found in the early Northeastern orchards.

William Prince (1725-1802), the second proprietor of the Prince Nursery, is often considered to be the true founder of the nursery. The first known advertisement of the nursery was dated September 21, 1767. The nursery’s earliest catalog, published in 1771, was a broadside featuring a large selection of fruit trees. William was the first to grow pecan trees for sale; in 1772, he planted 30 nuts from which he grew 10 plants.

Under William the business grew rapidly until the Revolutionary War. During the Revolutionary War, British General Lord Howe ordered the protection of the Prince Garden & Nursery. Over 10,000 grafted cherry trees had to be sold to be used in barrel manufacturing during the war. After the war the orchard was rebuilt. In 1789, George Washington visited the nursery.

At the death of William Prince (1725-1802), the Prince Nursery was divided between his two sons, William & Benjamin. William Prince (1766-1842) was the 3rd proprietor of the Prince Nurseries. He continued the work of his father introducing foreign trees & plants & creating new varieties from seed. The Lombardy poplar was imported by this nursery. Catalogs were issued regularly from 1815 to 1850. William was one of the founders of the New York Horticultural Society (1818).

Many shrubs & flowers from the Lewis & Clark expeditions were sent to the Prince Nursery for propagation & distribution. Before the death of William, the nursery business was taken over by his sons, William & Benjamin. William called his part of the nursery, the Linnaean Botanic Garden & Nursery, & Benjamin called the original location The Old American Nursery.  In 1827, the nursery contained more than a hundred species of Australian plants, & a year later it had more than 600 kinds of roses. In 1828, William Prince published a Treatise on Horticulture.

William Robert Prince (1795-1869) was the fourth proprietor of his family’s nursery. He was a botanist & plant explorer as well as a nurseryman. As a young man he went on plant-collecting expeditions in the eastern states, & in 1849 & 1850 he collected plants in California. He devoted his life to grape culture & the improvement & distribution of native grapes. William Robert, along with his father, published A Treatise on the Vine 1830; A Pomological Manual in 1831; & Manual of Roses in 1846.

Seed Dealers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From the middle of the 18C on, gardeners close to Philadelphia could take advantage of local seed & nursery businesses. Although many believe that David Landreth (1752-1836)(who opened his nursery & seed business in 1784) was the first dealer in the area, he was not. John (1699-1777) & William (1739-1823) Bartram had been selling & exporting seeds & plants since the middle of the century from their 1728 botanic garden at Kingsessing just outside Philadelphia. Another early gardener in Philadelphia was James Alexander, who sold vegetable & herb seeds imported from London in Philadelphia in 1751.

From the 1750s through the 1770s, the most successful Philadelphia seed merchant was a Welsh woman, Hannah Davis Dubre (1723-1776) (sometimes spelled Duberry), of the Northern Liberties area two miles from the Philadelphia city limit, on the Wissahickon Road. She & her husband, Jacob Dubre (1719-1768), married in Philadelphia in 1758, & owned 33 acres, which later increased to 50 acres, with a bearing orchard of grafted fruit trees, some meadow land, a large brick house & detached brick kitchen with a pump just outside the door, a barn & several other outbuildings, & a large kitchen garden that included many asparagus beds.

Even after her husband’s death in 1768, “the widow Dubre” kept her garden & business going. From 1754 through 1775 she offered locally grown seed & fruit trees on both a retail & a wholesale basis. She warranted her seeds as “fresh & good: & sold large quantities to local shopkeepers for resale to their clients & to exporters for trade out of the country."
Before 1770, she kept agents in town, including John & Samuel Bissell, John Lownes, & Ann Powell near the Work House on Third Street, to supply both retail & wholesale customers who did not want to travel the 2 miles out of town to visit her plantation. After 1770, she used James Truman, a butcher & meat curer in Elbow Lane near the Harp & Crown Tavern, as her city agent.

By 1766, she was advertising that she could fill large orders for “Captains of Vessels” for exportation to the West Indies “on the shortest Notice.” Over a twenty-year period, Hannah Davis Dubre expanded her operation from a small local seed concern to a large-quantity supply business catering to merchants & international traders.

Peter Crouwells & Co., Gardeners and Florists, in Philadelphia, advertised seeds, bulbs, & roots for sale as far away as the Viginia Gazette in 1786.

In 1780, David Landreth & his family left England for Montreal, Canada, where he intended to establish a seed business. Fairly quickly, the harsh Canadian climate forced him to reconsider; and he relocated to Philadelphia. On January 7, 1784, Landreth started his first garden center on High Street, which is now 1210 Market Street. He chose Pennsylvania; because people appeared to have more free time there, & he believed Philadelphia was the center of wealth & sophistication in the United States. David Landreth was joined in Philadelphia seedstore by his brother Cuthbert Landreth (1746-1828) in 1789.

Landreth's Bloomsdale Farm Circa 1847

Initially, Landreth sold seeds in the Gray's Ferry area of  Philadelphia & to several nearby estates; but his business and his reputation grew steadily and soon he numbered George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and even Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother who married a Baltimore belle) among his customers.  

Landreth’s Bloomsdale Farm 1852

Landreth once extended George Washington 30 day's credit on his unpaid bill. Jefferson in great detail describes his purchases from the Philadelphia brothers in his Monticello diaries. He purchased & planted various fruit trees at his famous Virginia estate after visiting the horticultural hothouses located in Gray's Ferry.

Traveling Seed Dealers

The independent seed dealers & nursery owners converging on the mid-Atlantic area immediately after the Revolution usually were immigrants rather than native-born & European rather than English. A Frenchman, Peter Bellet, was one of the first commercial seedsman & nurseryman appearing in Maryland’s written records specifically offering garden plants & seeds directly to the public.

Bellet’s evolution from itinerant seed peddler to economically successful nursery owner typified the general trend of commercial seed & plant marketing during this period. Beginning as a traveling seedsman based in Philadelphia, where he operated a seed store, Bellet eventually settled in Williamsburg. He continued to advertise throughout the mid-Atlantic after his relocation to the old Virginia capital & sold plants to Maryland & Virginia gardeners for twenty years.

As a traveling seed salesman, Philadelphia-based Peter Bellet advertised in Baltimore in December of 1785, that he was visiting the French section of the town for a brief period & had for sale an extensive variety of flowers & seeds “not know before in this country.” Bellet was lodging in the hear of the town, at The Sign of the Lamb tavern on Charles Street, where he offered prospective customers a printed catalogue listing the names & colors of his bulbs, which were imported from Amsterdam. He carried more practical kitchen garden seeds with him as well.

Bellet’s first Maryland advertisement reflected the preference for Dutch flowers among the middle & upper economic groups in the early republic. Bellet also brought with him “elegant artificial flowers & feathers suitable for the Ladies.” Bellet called himself a “florist & seedsman” on this trip & advertised his flowers as “rare & curious.”

Anatony Antonini, selling artificial silk flowers adorned with birds cast in wax John Thomas Smith. Vagabondiana. London, 1817

Seedsman Bellet’s plant stock became more expansive during successive selling trips. On a journey through the mid-Atlantic almost ten years later, in early 1793, Bellet advertised roots & seeds “collected from Europe,” & he offered to send orders to Europe as well. At this point, Bellet was still based in Philadelphia & had entered into partnership with another European seedsman, M. Kroonem.

They were also promoting stock that was more difficult to move from place to place than seeds & bulbs, such as trees & shrubbery, & had begun cultivating their imported European seed in Philadelphia soil. Bellet was offering a surprising number of varieties of flowers, especially roses, for sale. Bellet & Kroonem called themselves “florists, seedsmen, botanists, & gardeners” &, as Bellet had done earlier, advertised their extensive plant varieties as “curious.”

On this selling trip, his first taken as a partner, Bellet traveled his usual loop from Philadelphia to Baltimore to Richmond & back. In Richmond he took lodging at Hyland’s Tavern, where he again had on hand a free printed catalogue of his stock for prospective clients. To earn enough to support himself, Bellet also hired out to graft & inoculate trees & lay out flower gardens as reasonable rates. His partner, Kroonem, remained in Philadelphia to mind the store & tend to the nursery garden.

Dealers near Richmond, Virginia

In this bustling new capitol, Richmond, Peter Bellet had competition for the gardening business. In the spring of 1791, Southgate’s General Store advertised fresh, imported garden seeds. Twenty years earlier, garden seeds were being offered at Campbell's Store in Richmond, and also at Miles Taylor's Store in 1775. Taylor was selling seeds imported from Italy.

In the 1760s, William Wills of Richmond & his asscociate John Donley in Petersburg, offered imported garden seeds for sale at their stores. Also in Petersburg, A. Adams advertised seeds that he had for sale in the Virginia Gazette and Petersburg Intelligencer on February 24, 1797. In 1798, Stratchan & Maury of Spotsylvania County were offering grafted apple trees for sale in the same publication. Joseph Davenport offered seeds for sale in his Petersburg store in 1803. By 1803, Samuel Bailey was selling grafted apple trees in New Kent County.

The spring of 1792, a seed dealer named Minton Collins was importing flower roots and seeds from London & offering them for sale at the Shot Factory, at Richards Denny’s store near the market house, & at James Dove’s on the main street. In the fall of 1792, Collins consolidated his stock at Denny’s store & had imported new seeds & flower roots to sell to his growing clientele. By the next spring, he had collected enough capital to open his own shop, devoted solely to garden stock. In 1793, Collins introduced the West India Burr Gherkin (Cucumis anguria), a pickling cucumber plant, originally brought from Angola to the Caribbean by slaves.

Collins’ Seed & Flower Store sat on the north side of Main Street between the post office & the bridge over the James River. He sold retail to the general public & wholesale, or at least “upon moderate terms,” to country shopkeepers from surrounding Virginia communities. By the turn of the century, Collins was also receiving seed from the northern states & had customers in Richmond, Norfolk & Portsmouth.

West India Burr Gherkin, a pickling cucumber

Dealers in Fredericksburg, Virginia

Another businessman, George French, appeared on the scene in 1798, importing seeds from London for sale in nearby Fredericksburg. The competition in the Richmond & Fredericksburg area may have nudged Peter Bellet to look for a more permanent & lucrative base of operation.

Apparently, on one of his trips to Richmond, Bellet ventured east to Williamsburg & found the quiet of its ordered streets & gardens a great relief from the mud & hassle of Philadelphia & Baltimore. In late 1793, he dissolved his partnership in Philadelphia & moved to a 5-acre plot in Williamsburg.

After Peter Bellet settled in Williamsburg, he immediately expanded his stock & began referring to himself as a nurseryman, & from that point on, he ceased proposing to lay out & tend the gardens of others. In the winter of 1799, he advertised from his property on Gallows Street, now known as Capitol Landing Road, that he was still selling imported flower bulbs.

Bellet quickly fit into the Williamsburg community. Local gardener Joseph Prentis was one of his early customers. Prentis’s brother-in-law, Peter Bowdoin wrote from his plantation, Hungars, asking him to purchase plants for a friend at Bellets nursery & offering to expedite the transaction: “My boat will go to the Capital Landing for the purpose of bringing a number of Trees from Bellets.” Bowdoin also asked Prentis to give him plants from his personal garden but added, “if you have not as many to spare as will make fine beds, supply the deficiency from Bellets.”

Dealers in Williamsburg, Virginia

Bellet was not the town’s first seed merchant or seed trader. John Custis (1678-1749) was a prominent citizen of Williamsburg with an impressive garden. He sent seed to John Bartram, the Philadelphia naturalist & botanist. Bartram told Peter Collinson that Custis’ garden was 2nd only to that of John Clayton, the English born Virginia naturalist of Gloucester County. Custis also sent seeds across the Atlantic to Peter Collinson (1694-1768), who was a wealthy English Quaker woolen merchant & botanist.

Williamsburg gardeners Thomas Crease & James Nicholson, who worked consecutively at the college of William & Mary from 1726 until 1773, supplemented their income by selling seeds & plants grown in the college’s botanical & kitchen gardens, as did James Wilson after 1779.

Terraced Kitchen Garden at the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg

William Smith advertised trees he was growing in his nursery in Surry County in the 1755 Williamsburg newspaper, as did Thomas Sorsby of Surry County in 1763.

Orchardist William Smith offered, "Hughs’s Crab, Bray’s White Apple, Newton Pippin, Golden Pippin, French Pippin, Dutch Pippin, Clark’s Pearmain, Royal Pearmain, Baker’s Pearmain, Lone’s Pearmain, Father Abraham, Harrison’s Red, Ruffin’s large Cheese Apple, Baker’s Nonsuch, Ludwell’s Seedling, Golden Russet, Nonpareil, May Apple, Summer Codling, Winter Codling, Gillefe’s Cyder Apple, Green Gage Plumb, Bonum Magnum Plumb, Orleans Plumb, Imperial Plumb, Damascene Plumb, May Pear, Holt’s Sugar Pear, Autumn Bergamot Pear, Summer Pear, Winter Bergamot, Orange Bergamot, Mount Sir John, Pound Pear, Burr de Roy, Black Heart Cherry, May Duke Cherry, John Edmond’s Nonsuch Cherry, White Heart Cherry, Carnation Cherry, Kentish Cherry, Marrello Cherry, Double Blossom Cherry, Double Blossom Peaches, Filberts Red & White."

Nurseryman Thomas Sorsby had available, "Best cheese apple, long stems, Pamunkey, Eppes, Newtown pippins, Bray’s white apples, Clark’s pearmains, Lightfoot’s Father Abrahams, Sorsby’s Father Abrahams, Lightfoot’s Hughes, Sorsby’s Hughes, Ellis’s Hughes, New-York Yellow apples, Golden russeteens, Westbrook’s Sammons’s, horse apples, royal pearmains, a choice red apple, best May apples, Sally Gray’s apple, Old .England apple, green apple, Harvey’s apple, peach trees [Prunus persica], and cherry trees."

In 1759, the Governor's Palace gardener placed the following ad in the Virginia Gazette,"Just imported in the Good-Intent, Capt. Reddick, and to be sold Cheap, for ready Money, by the Subscriber, living at the Palace, in Williamsburg; where Gentlemen may depend on being well served, with the following Garden-Seeds, by - Their humble Servant, Christopher Ayscough.

"Six-week Peas, Charlton Hotspur Peas, Marrowfat Peas, Nonpareil Peas, Spanish Morrotto Peas, Sugar Dwarf Peas, Windsor Beans, Long-poded Beans, White Blossom Beans, Green Beans, Nonpareil Beans, large English Turnip, early Dutch Turnip, early Dutch Cabbage, Sugar-Loaf Cabbage, Battersea Cabbage, large Winter Cabbage, Red Cabbage, Yellow Savoy Cabbage, Green Savoy Cabbage, early Colliflower, late Colliflower, Colliflower Brocoli, Purple Brocoli, curled Colewort, Scarlet Raddish, short-topped Raddish, white Turnip Raddish, black Turnip Raddish, white gass Lettuce, black Gass Lettuce, brown Dutch Lettuce, Nonpareil Lettuce, Silesia Lettuce, white curled Endive, white Spanish Onion, English Onion, Leek, Chardoon, Italian Celery, white Mustard, Garden Cresses, Winter Cresses, Charvel, Clary &c."

In Williamsburg, shipments of seeds arriving from England were also sold in local shops. In 1773, a Virginia Gazette notice announced, "JUST arrived, in the Unity, Captain Goosley, and to be sold at John Carter's store, for ready Money, a Variety of fresh GARDEN SEEDS, namely, Early Golden Hotspur Peas, Early Charlton Peas, Ledman's Dwarf Peas, short Sugar Peas, Dwarf Marrow Peas, Long Pod Beans, Windsor Beans, Canterbury Dwarf Kidney Beans, Silver Skin Onion Seed, Carrot Seed, white round Turnip Seed, Salmon Radish Seed, Spinnage, solid Celery, curled Parsley, curled Cress, Early Dwarf Sugar Loaf Cabbage, large ditto, large English Ditto, best Colliflower Seed, purple and green Brocoli, white Coss Lettuce, Silensia."

When early peas became the rage in the 1770s, 2 stores in Williamsburg, Greenhow StoreRobert Nicolson Shop, which did not often sell seeds, offer peas for sale among their general merchandise lines.

James Wilson was the gardener at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg. In 1774, he placed an ad in the local paper, "Just Imported, and to be SOLD by JAMES WILSON, Gardener at the College, the following SEEDS, which are all fresh and the best of their Kinds,

PEASE - Earliest, best Charlton, Golden Hotspur, Nonpareil, Marrowfat, Green Rouncival, Spanish Moratto, and Glory of England.

BEANS - Mazagon, Long Pod, Windsor, Early Hotspur, and White Blossom.

CABBAGE - Early Yorkshire, Early Bottersea, Early Sugar Loaf, White Dutch, Red, and Large Hollow.

TURNIP - Early Dutch, Norfolk Early Green, and Round Red.

RADISH - Salmon, Short Topped, White Spanish, and Black-

Green and Yellow Savoy, White and Purple Brocoli, Early and Late Cauliflower, Red and White Beet, White Mustard, Round Leaf and Common Cresses, Solid Celery, London Leek, Early Carrot Skiret, Lettuce Seed of all Sorts, fine Spinage Seed, Cucumber Seed of Different Kinds, and a great Variety of other Seeds, too tedious to mention."

When gardener James Stewart, who was also a dyer & weaver, returned in 1775 from several months in England, he offered seeds & roots of dye plants for sale to his fellow Virginians with instructions on their cultivation & the manufacture of dyes for linen, cotton, & woolen fabrics.

Joseph Hornsby, who lived in Williamsburg in the Peyton Randolph house from 1783 until 1796, purchased from Bellet just before moving to Kentucky. When he decided to move West, Hornsby began gathering up seeds & small plants from his own garden & sorting them into labeled bags. Those plants that he could not easily remove, he purchased from Bellet to plant in his new garden in Kentucky. In his Diary of Planting & Gardening, in March 1798, he reported that he had sown the seeds from Bellet, & “the Plants were very fine.”

Bellet used the same technique to sell his flower stock. He appealed to the immediacy of the senses rather than the memories of his prospective customers, in the days before color-illustrated advertising. Bellet also offered flowering shrubs & ornamental trees as well as more practical fruit trees & vegetable seeds.

In the fall of 1799, Bellet’s newspaper advertisements listed prices for the first time, & they noted that he was still importing seeds & plants from London. The ad promised that he would prepare a new catalogue for potential clients in the coming spring. By 1799, Bellet has also added grafted fruit trees to his stock.

Bellet’s next public notice appeared in October 1800. Now permanently settled in Williamsburg, his business was developing into a regional nursery & seed distributorship. How seeds, trees, & shrubs were shipped to mid-Atlantic gardeners who placed orders was not specified in the newspaper notices. By 1800, Bellet was collecting & saving seed from his own Virginia beds & offering them for sale to the public in addition to his usual imported seed stock. He offered to sell seed by the pound or by the box.

Nurseryman Bellet expanded his base of operations southwards to Norfolk. He completed his 1801 catalogue during the slow winter months of 1800, & offered it to prospective buyers at the store of a French merchant named Bonnard, at the Norfolk Market. Bellet advertised in the fall of 1801, that he had 8,000 growing trees for sale plus his usual supply of flower & vegetable roots & seeds. His nursery stock consisted of 1-4 year old varieties of grafted trees including 46 apples, 44 pears, 30 peaches, 18 plums, 10 nectarines, 10 apricots, 20 cherries, 4 almonds, 5 mulberries, and 5 walnuts. He had imported 80 varieties from Normandy alone.

By 1803, Bellet’s stock of fruit trees at this Williamsburg nursery had grown to 20,000; and he had regular sales agents in both Petersburg & Richmond who would accept orders for seed & plant stock. His agents in nearby towns were given their own supply of free printed catalogues. 

In an 1803 advertisement Bellet offered to sell his trees wholesale, retail & on credit. So large was his stock that he was proposing to supply “country stores” with seeds & plants for resale “on the most moderate terms.” Store owners intrigued by the idea could apply to Bellet directly at this nursery in Williamsburg or to his Richmond agent, said the ad.

Bellet had increased the size of his 5 acre nursery in 804, by buying 15 acres of adjoining land. Here he planted even more trees, but apparently his health & energy were beginning to fail. After 10 years in Williamsburg, Bellet decided to return north. In the winter of 1804, he offered for sale his 20-acre nursery of “well-manuered” land plus his gardening tools, eight slave gardeners, & livestock.

By now his stock of fruit trees had grown to 100,000, but he had allowed his seed supply to dwindle to only “a small quantity,” & he had bought no new perishable stock. Bellet’s intention was to sell his stock, slaves, & tools before May 1, 1805, or put them all up for sale at public auction on that date, after which he planned to sell any remaining plant stock “on lower terms than usual” & then more to New York State. Orders for any part of the property or the whole could be left with Bellet’s agents in Richmond or Petersburg. Bellet had sold 5 acres of his nursery & was attempting to dispose of his last two slave gardeners, when he placed his final newspaper notice two winters later, just before he died in Williamsburg.

Itinerant seed huckster Peter Bellet’s astute marketing tactics had expanded his mid-Atlantic business from a nursery of a few seedlings to 100,000 trees in little more than a decade of residence in Williamsburg.

Throughout the mid-Atlantic, private gardeners were also selling bulb stock directly out of their gardens to meet the growing appetite for flowers among their neighbors. Henri Stier, a well-to-do neighbor of William Faris, like Faris, sold tulips & other bulb plants to fellow Annapolitans by opening his garden at full bloom in the spring, so that buyers could mark with notched sticks the varieties they wanted dug from the ground after the blossoms & leaves had faded away in the heat of summer.

Dealers in Baltimore, Maryland

A second professional nurseryman from Europe, a German immigrant named Philip Walter, arrived in Maryland in 1786, a little over a year after Bellet’s first advertisement appeared. Walter wanted no part of the traveling life. He was a serious gardener who yearned to ten the land all year round.

Walter was determined to begin his American business venture as a settled commercial nurseryman specializing in orchard plants. He decided to sell his products near the busy Market House at the foot of Belvedere, the elegant estate of then-colonel John Eager Howard. Townspeople came to shop at the market on Wednesdays & Saturdays, when neighboring farmers would load up their wagons with produce to sell & journey to Howard’s Hill.

With an establishment at the market, Walter figured, clientele would be drawn continually to his location, & they would be inspired to new heights in gardening by the awesome example of Colonel Howard’s park like gardens & grounds. Walter first advertised in the spring of 1787, calling himself a seedsman & a nurseryman, but he concentrated on selling primarily orchard stock. Twenty years after arriving in the busting port town, Walter was robbed & murdered at his nursery, on Hookstown Road.

Crops maturing in Thomas Jefferson's Kitchen Garden at Monticello

While some European seed merchants & nursery owners such as Walter & Bellet decided to settle down & grow their stock in mid-Atlantic soil, others continued to import & travel. In the spring of 1790, John Lieutaud, a gardener & florist from France, passed through Maryland selling seeds, roots, & bulbs imported from France & Holland. Lieutaud used much of the same method of operation as his fellow Frenchman Bellet did on his mid-Atlantic selling rounds.

Lieutaud, who was from the province of Dauphiny, also offered the “curious” a printed catalogue. He boarded at the home of Captain Gould, on busy Charles Street in Baltimore, where potential customers could come to pick up a catalogue & , he hoped, buy seeds. To supplement his income Lietaud proposed to prune, graft, & inoculate trees “at a moderate price.”

The next European seedsman & nursery owner to appear in Maryland records was Maximillian Heuisler, in immigrant from Munich, Bavaria. While Heuisler settled permanently in Baltimore, he often made day trips to neighboring towns, such as Annapolis, to meet local gardening enthusiasts & to hawk his wares. He was a regular seed supplies to William Faris.

Heuisler personally delivered both plants & seeds to his mid-Atlantic customers. His wife never knew whether her husband would return from these trips with cash, new plants, or baskets of food: Heuisler traded for new seeds & plants to expand his varieties & stock, he sold for cash, & he accepted produce in trade.

Plant dealer Heuisler’s first advertisement as a commercial seed vendor appeared in 1791. Aggressive in advertising his wares, he was always looking for new ways to attract potential customers. He paid to have his advertising notice in the February 1795 issue of a Baltimore newspaper illustrated with a woodcut of potted plants. His nursery situated on 40 acres about 1 ¼ miles north of Baltimore on the Philadelphia Road, was depicted on an 1801 map of the town. He regularly advertised an extensive assortment of trees & shrubberies, both useful & ornamental, for mid-Atlantic “plantation,” orchard, kitchen, & flower gardens, plus fresh garden seeds of every description.

Heuisler was thought by one contemporary to be the best professional gardener in Baltimore at the end of the 18C. In 1803, Heuisler sold his Philadelphia Road nursery & established one closer to his Annapolis market, on the Portland-Ferry-Branch, near the southwest corner of Baltimore. Maximillian Heuisler died in 1816, but his son, Joseph A. Heuisler, carried on his father’s determination to build & maintain a well-respected seed & nursery business throughout much of the 19C.

At least two immigrants to Baltimore who became professional nursery owners near the turn of the century began their careers in America as gardeners under contract to busy gentlemen who had planted elaborate gardens for both food & status. Each of these gardeners saved enough capital to become successful nursery owners as the new century dawned.

One was a French immigrant, John Bastian, who had come to Baltimore to supervise the elaborate gardens at Harlem, owned by Adrian Valeck. The other was James Wilkes, who had been apprenticed as a gardener in England then immigrated to oversee the gardens of George Grundy at his country house Bolton in Baltimore, where Wilkes worked for 3 years.

When Wilkes went into business for himself in 1798, he continued to offer his services as an independent gardener, available by the day, month, or year. To further supplement his income, he worked as a part-time nursery gardener for Heuisler. By 1803, he had amassed enough capital to buy Heuisler’s Philadelphia Road nursery, when the Heuislers opened the nursery in southwest Baltimore. Wilkes sold fruit trees & a large variety of ornamental shrubbery, greenhouse plants, & seeds imported from London, the same stock that had been the basis for Heuisler’s business at that location. From 1803 until the 1820s, Wilkes sold vegetables, flowers, & exotic hothouse & greenhouse plants from his nursery.

John Bastian arrived in Maryland before 1790, & was still working as gardener for the estate of Harlem in 1802. By 1808, he had begun his own independent seed & nursery business near Baltimore, & it continued until 1839. Even when his contract to tend Harlem had ended, Bastian augmented his income by tending gentlemen’s grounds & gardens. Just as many of his European colleagues did, Bastian offered a full range of services to the mid-Atlantic gardening public, from designing to planting to “repairing.”

The most successful nursery business in the late 18C Maryland was operated by an Englishman William Booth and, after his death, his wife, Margaret. They began the business around 1793, with the sale of imported seed at two locations. Booth advertised in a Baltimore newspaper in April of 1793, that he was lodging at the home of Thorowgood Smith, Esq., in downtown Baltimore, & offering garden seeds imported from London. His second location was at Bowley’s Wharf, at the harbor, where local shopkeepers acted as his agent.

By May of 1794, Booth had accumulated enough capital to lease a house, & he moved next to one of the town’s best-known citizens, Dr. James McHenry. Although Booth did not locate near one of the town’s busy farmers’ markets, the house was just a half-mile west of Baltimore town, & his choice of location was a clever one. The popular McHenry had been George Washington’s surgeon during the Revolution & was instrumental in developing the Constitution afterwards, so travelers & neighbors often stopped to pay their respects to him. In fact, the sociable McHenry organized regular fox hunts from his grounds into the surrounding countryside.

Initially Booth sold only seeds, which he imported from London. He worked tirelessly on the grounds & his stick during the summer, fall, & winter of 1794 & by spring of 1795, was ready for broader ventures. He placed a large notice in a local newspaper informing the public of his intention to establish a permanent nursery & seed shop on his premises adjoining the property of McHenry, with whom he had negotiated a long-term lease.

McHenry’s land & now Booth’s new shop & home were located on the road leading to the “Federal City” & to busy Frederick town. Also, access by road to the traditional Annapolis market was easier from the south side of Baltimore than from the north of the water-bound east side.

Booth had leased not only the land but also McHenry’s greenhouse & had bought all of McHenry’s hothouse plants, which he decided to offer for sale in pots. The surgeon had raised plants for medicinal use as well as botanical interest.

Nurseryman Booth had a grand design for these potted plants, & he advertised it in a Baltimore newspaper. He proposed that he ladies of the town & its environs ornament their interiors with these & other potted plants during the summer months, return them to Booth for care over the winter (for a slight fee), & receive them the following spring in “full perfection.” He had not only come up with an ingenious method for continuing to gain income from the pants after selling them, he planned to expand his clientele by appealing to the ladies & suggesting that they use plants to decorate the interiors of their homes, traditionally the real of women.

During this same period, Grant Thorburn (1773-1863), a New York store owner who would become a famous Atlantic coast seed dealer, was drawn less intentionally into the world of ladies & plants. Thorburn was born near Dalkeith, Scotland, and was employed as a nailmaker there; before he sailed for America at age 21. Thorburn arrived in New York in 1794. He sold novelties and hardware at his little store in New York City, but the he discovered that his flower pots sold better when they were painted and with flowers in them.

Until 1801, he had operated his small hardware store, where he also sold flower pots. “About this time,” he later wrote, “the ladies…were beginning to shrew their taste for flowers.” To make his pots more attractive, he painted some green & set them in a window. They were so popular that the following spring he added geraniums to his green pots, & from that point on he gave up the grocery business to become a seed & plant merchant. Thorburn began selling seeds in 1805. The G. Thorburn & Son’s catalog of 1822 was issued in pamphlet form and included illustrations. Thorburn died in New Haven, Connecticut on January 21, 1863.

Serendipity played less of a role in William Booth’s promotion of garden enterprises. Booth’s capitalistic brain had been working relentlessly during the winter of 1794-95. That spring he simultaneously announced a plan to carry on a kitchen garden business that would supply specific customers with fresh vegetables of their choice by the week, month, or year. The concept of planting pre-chosen vegetables to supply produce on a contractual basis to his clients was an inspired version of the traditional truck farming of the region. It was Booth’s clever attempt to control both his supply & demand. Booth continued his original line of business, selling seeds he imported from London, as he launched his nursery, greenhouse, & kitchen garden ventures in 1795.

Booth was soon the most successful professional gardener in Maryland. His training in Britain had been sound. The visiting English agriculturalist, Richard Parkinson, reported that booth had been a gardener for the Duke of Leeds before his arrival in America.

In addition to his many other gardening pursuits, William Booth designed & planted some of Baltimore’s most famous gardens, including the terraced falls at Hampton & those at Solomon Birckhead’s Mount Royal.

Booth’s 1801 seed & plant catalogue is the earliest one remaining from the period in Maryland & lists hundreds of plants for the kitchen garden, sweet herbs, medicinal (“physical”) plants, “seeds to improve the lands,” fruit trees, annual flowers, biennial & perennial flowers, “herbaceous plants,” bulbous roots, forest trees, flower shrubs, evergreens, greenhouse, & “stove plants,” including “a great variety of new & elegant sorts.”

Nineteenth-century Maryland historians claimed that William Booth was among “the earliest botanists, florists, & seedsmen in the United States” & that “his own grounds. . . Were celebrated for the care & exquisite cultivation with which they were kept.” Booth’s nursery was depicted on the 1801 Warner and Hanna Map of Baltimore. When Booth died in 1818, his inventory recorded a diverse stock, which were being made available to the Baltimore public at his seed store & at his 5-acre nursery. His widow, Margaret Booth, continued to operate the seed store & nursery through the 1820s.

English immigrant Booth’s attempts to appeal to a broader market were apparently successful. In September of 1799 he advertised to the public a huge collection of “rare exotic” plants, raised in a greenhouse in cooperation with other seed & plant dealers in Philadelphia & New York. The advertisement also linked the name of William Booth with some of his well-known Atlantic seaboard colleagues, David & Cuthbert Landreth in Philadelphia & David Williamson in New York, who were acting cooperatively as agents for the sale of this large collection. Also arriving in Philadelphia at the turn of the century was Bernard M’Mahon, the most important of the early 19C seed & plant dealers and garden authors.

Back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The most important of the new garden entrepreneurs was Bernard M'Mahon (1775-1816), who came to Philadelphia from Ireland in 1796, to establish a seed and nursery business. "He enjoyed the friendship of Thomas Jefferson...the Lewis and Clark expedition was planned at his house...(he was) instrumental in distributing the seeds which those explorers collected."

In 1806, M'Mahon wrote The American Gardener's Calendar, which was printed in 11 editions between 1806-1857. A Philadelphia newspaper called the book "a precious treasure" that "ought to occupy a place in every house in this country."

M'Mahon's main motive in writing was to expand his profitable nursery enterprise. Almost all of America's earliest indigenours gardening books served as the liason between the nurseryman & an emerging middle-income group of home gardeners. An increasing leisure time & interest in the craft grew, there were not enough trained professional gardeners to go around nor the funds to employ them.

By 1806, M'Mahon understood the proud new country well enough to appeal to guilt and national hubris in his efforts to sell his readers on the concept of pleasure gardening. In his introduction, M'Mahon lamented that America had "not yet made that rapid progress in Gardening...which might naturally be expected from an intelligent, happy and independent people, possessed so universally of landed property, unoppressed by taxation or tithes, and blest with consequent comfort and affluence."

M'Mahon concluded that one reason for this neglect was the lack of a proper reference book on American gardening, a situation which he volunteered to rectify. In 1804, his catalogue of seeds included 1,000 "species."

By the end of the 18C, enterprising plant & seed dealers were successfully spurring on ever-widening circles of clients to new heights of interest in plant collecting & in emerging botanical class & order delineations. They also persuaded their customers that greenhouses & stovehouses were status symbols. Their sales pitch was definitely aimed at those who would see plant collection as a reflection of their superior taste & knowledge.

Mid-Atlantic gardeners at the end of the 18C did not depend solely on seed merchants & nursery owners for their seeds & plants. In fact the gentry & the middling sorts alike were still using traditional techniques of exchanging plants. Wealthy Charles Carroll of Carrollton wrote from Annapolis to friends in England for seeds he remembered from his years of British schooling. While the Carrolls continued to buy seeds from London & the colonies, the elder Carroll instructed his son as to which neighbors would give him seeds & starts from plants he admired.

During the same period, Annapolis craftsman William Faris both bought & traded seeds & plants. On March 3, 1792, he noted in his diary, “Planted Carrots & parsnips that Mr. Wallace sent me for Seed;” & on May 5 of that year he wrote, “Doct Scott sent Me Some Carnation or rather pink plants & I sent him some Evening primrose plants.” Faris traded for or received as gifts most of his garden plants & seeds, as did the majority of gardeners at the turn of the century.

When craftsman Faris did buy seeds & plants from Baltimore, he sometimes sent cash for the garden stock by way of ship Captain John Barber, who ran an regular shuttle between Annapolis & Baltimore. Faris recorded in his fiscal accounts on March 7, 1798, “Cash sent by Capt. John Barber to Mr. C. Robinson for garden seeds-7/6.” Usually, however, Faris bough his Baltimore seeds from Maximillian Heuisler, who personally delivered them to Annapolis. The capitalistic nursery & seed business was nipping at the heels of traditional garden barter exchanges.

Some gardeners still ordered their stock directly from England, especially the gentry, like the Carrolls, who had been ordering goods from Britain through their factors for decades. Faris’s neighbor, Dr. Upton Scott made a list of flowers from the English garden periodical Curtis’s Botanical Magazine & recommended to the Edward Lloyd family, at Wye plantation on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, that “if cultivated at Wye, (they) would add greatly to the beauty & elegance of that delightful Place.” Scott advised the English dealer, “It is hoped the Nurseryman employ’d will endeavour to execute this Commission with fidelity & dispatch …under an assurance that, if he transacts the Business satisfactorily, he will have more calls upon him from this quarter of the Globe.”

But direct orders to England diminished as early mid-Atlantic seed merchants & nursery owners began to offer a wide variety of seeds & plants, both imported & locally grown, to the public. They could appeal directly to potential customers’ senses, by selling flowers at the height of their bloom, & to status seekers who were amassing plant collections, by offering unusual stock.

They also tailored their sales promotions to the changing gardening market in the region, as it expanded beyond traditional gardeners, who planted principally for sustenance, to those who planted for pleasure & status during their growing leisure time, decorating both house & grounds with plants.

Gardening for pleasure was no longer just the province of a few wealthy planters but increasingly an avocation of the expanding of artisans & merchants, who were amassing capital that they could exchange for ornamental luxuries that would proclaim their status to their neighbors. In the early years after the Revolution, these emerging groups were continually coaxed by clever entrepreneurs to dispose of their extra capital on ornamental gardening.