Gardening for Profit
Philadelphia seed dealer and nurseryman Bernard M’Mahon’s main motive for writing the 1806 American Gardener's Calendar was to expand his profitable nursery enterprise, which supplied seeds & plants to many gardeners up & down the Atlantic coast, from gentry to artisan. Almost all of America’s earliest indigenous gardening books served as the liaison between the nurseryman & an emerging middle-income group of home gardeners.
As increasing leisure time & interest in gardening grew, there were not enough trained professional gardeners to go around nor excess funds to employ them. A new how-to-do-it manual was just what the country needed.
English gardening books, American gardening books, plants & other supplies, & the practice of gardening itself fit into the new nation’s burgeoning capitalistic fervor at the end of the 18th century. In addition to professional gardeners & seed dealers & nurserymen like M’Mahon, whose numbers grew quickly after the Revolution, non-professional gardeners of every stripe often sold nature’s products to gain extra income.
George Washington encouraged his gardener to sell extra nursery stock for a profit, one-fifth of which he allowed the gardener to keep.
Nobleman Henri Stier, who had fled Belgium during the French Revolution, had a bulb sale, when he moved back there from Annapolis in 1803. Once he had returned to Belgium, he bought bulbs in Europe & shipped them to his old Chesapeake neighbors.
Annapolis craftsman William Faris, in his fiscal account book for October 23, 1799, noted receiving the substantial sum of $40 for tulip bulbs from John Quynn. Fellow Annapolitans Alexander Contee Hanson & Thomas Harwood, & Captain John O’Donnell from Baltimore visited his garden to mark tulips & hyacinths that interested them; after the blooms faded Faris dug up the marked roots & sold, or traded, them to the gentlemen.