Thursday, April 30, 2020

18C Jane Colden (1724-1766) 1st female American Botanist

Jane Colden (1724-1766) was described as the "first botanist of her sex in her country" by 19C botanist Asa Gray (1810-1888) in 1843. Although seldom mentioned in early botanical publications, she wrote a number of letters resulting in botanist British naturalist John Ellis (1711-1778) writing to Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) of her work applying the Linnaean system of plant identification to American flora, "she deserves to be celebrated." Contemporary scholarship also maintains that she was the first female botanist working in America. She was regarded as a respected botanist by many prominent botanists such as: John Bartram, Peter Collinson, Alexander Garden, & Carl Linnaeus. Colden is most famous for her manuscript without a title, in which she describes the flora of the New York area, & draws ink drawings of 340 different species of them.

Colden was born in New York City, the 5th child of Cadwallader Colden (1688-1776), who was a physician who trained at the University of Edinburgh and became involved in the politics & management of New York after arriving in the city from Scotland in 1718, & his wife Alice Christy Colden, the daughter of a clergyman, brought up in Scotland in an intellectual atmosphere. Daughter Jane Colden was educated at home; & her father provided her with botanical training following the new classification system developed by Carl Linnaeus.  His scientific curiosity included a personal correspondence between 1749-1751 with Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778).

Her father thought women should study botany because of "their natural curiosity & the pleasure they take in the beauty & variety of dress seems to fit them for it."  It was true that floral illustrations filled British American colonial homes on English textiles and soft paste & porcelain tableware ordered by the gentry through their factors or sent in the holds of English ships to be sold in local shops.

Moreover, he viewed such study as an ideal substitute for idleness among his female children, when he moved his family to the country in 1729. He believed gardening & botany "an Amusement which may be made agreable for the Ladies who are often at a loss to fill their time."  He went so far as to recommend that perhaps from Jane's example "young ladies in a like situation may find an agreable way to fill up some part Of their time which otherwise might be heavy on their hand May amuse & please themselves & at the same time be usefull to others."
1748-52 John Wollaston (American colonial era painter, 1710-1775) Cadwallader Colden

The family's move to a 3,000-acre estate in Orange County stimulated the botanical interests of both Cadwallader & Jane Colden. Cadwalleder Colden had been the first to apply the system of botanical classification developed by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (Linnaean Taxonomy) to an American plant collection & he translated the text of Linnaeus’ books into English.

A letter of 1755 from Colden to Dutch botanist Jan Gronovius (1666-1762) her father explained. "I have a daughter who has an inclination to reading and a curiosity for natural philosophy or natural History and a sufficient capacity for attaining a competent knowledge. I took the pains to explain to her Linnaeus' system and to put it in English for her to use by freeing it from the Technical Terms which was easily done by using two or three words in place of one. She is now grown very fond of the study and has made such progress in it as I believe would please you if you saw her performance. Tho' perhaps she could not have been persuaded to learn the terms at first she now understands to some degree Linnaeus' characters notwithstanding that she does not understand Latin."

Jane Colden far surpassed her father's idleness theory. She was the 1st scientist to describe the gardenia. She read the works of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) in translation, and she mastered the Linnaean system of plant classification perfectly. She cataloged, described, & sketched at least 400 plants. She actively collected seeds & specimens of New World flora & exchanged them with others on both sides of the Atlantic.

Due to the lack of schools & gardens around the area, her father wrote to Peter Collinson, where he inquired about getting sent "the best cuts or pictures of [plants] for which purpose I would buy for her Tourneforts Institutes & Morison’s Historia plantarum, or if you know any better books for this purpose as you are a better judge than I am I will be obliged to you in making the choice" in order for Jane to continue her studies of botanical sciences.

In addition to obtaining books & illustration samples for his daughter, Cadwallader also surrounded her with like-minded scientists, including Peter Kalm & William Bartram. In 1754, a notable gathering with South Carolina scientist Dr. Alexander Garden (1730-1791) & William Bartram sparked Jane's interests even more & allowed the fruition of the collaboration & friendship between Jane & Garden to flourish. Garden, an active collector of his local flora, later corresponded with Jane, exchanged seeds & plants with her, & instructed her in the preservation of butterflies.  Garden wrote in a letter to British naturalist John Ellis (1711-1778) in 1755, that Jane Colden “is greatly master of the Linnaean method, and cultivates it with assiduity.” 

Of his daughter, Cadwallader wrote in a 1755 letter to Dr. John Frederic Gronovius, a colleague of Linneaus, that she possessed "a natural inclination to reading & a natural curiosity for natural philosophy & natural history." He wrote that Jane was already writing descriptions of plants using Linnaeus' classification & taking impressions of leaves using a press. In this letter, Cadwallader sought to earn her a position with Dr. Gronovius sending seeds or samples.

Between 1753 & 1758 Colden cataloged New York's flora, compiling specimens & information on more than 400 species of plants from the lower Hudson River Valley, & classifying them according to the system developed by Linnaeus. She developed a technique for making ink impressions of leaves, & was also a skilled illustrator, doing ink drawings of 340. For many drawings she wrote additional botanical details as well as culinary, folklore or medicinal uses for the plant, including information from indigenous people.

On January 20, 1756, Peter Collinson (1694-1768) wrote to John Bartram that "Our friend Colden's daughter has, in a scientific manner, sent over several sheets of plants, very curiously anatomized after this [Linnaeus's] method. I believe she is the first lady that has attempted anything of this nature." 

Colden participated in the Natural History Circle where she exchanged seeds & plants with other plant collectors in the American colonies & in Europe. These exchanges within the Natural History Circle encouraged Jane to become a botanist.

Through her father she met & corresponded with many leading naturalists of the time, including Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778). Carolus Linnaeus knew of Jane's work.  He corresponded directly with her father; and in a 1758, letter to British naturalist John Ellis (1711-1778) tells Linnaeus that he will let Jane know "what civil things you say of her."  One of her descriptions of a new plant, which she herself called Fibraurea, was forwarded to Linnaeus with the suggestion that he should call it Coldenella, but Linnaeus declined calling it Helleborus (now Coptis groenlandica).  Collinson reported to Carolus Linnaeus, "Your system, I can tell you obtains much in America. Mr. Clayton and Dr. Colden at Albany of Hudson's River in New York are complete Professors....Even Dr. Colden's daughter was an enthusiast."   He later wrote to Linnaeus, that  Jane Colden “is perhaps the first lady that has so perfectly studied your system. She deserves to be celebrated.” 
In 1756 Colden discovered the Gardenia & proposed a name after the prominent botanist Garden. In her manuscript she wrote that this plant was without an Order under the Linnaean system. In her description Colden wrote, " The three chives only in each bundle, & the three oval-shap'd bodies on the seat of the flower, together with the seat to which the seeds adhere, distinguish this plant from the hypericums; & I think, not only make it a different genus, but likewise makes an order which Linnaeus has not."  However, the name was not allowed because an English botanist named John Ellis had already named the Cape jasmine as Gardenia jasminoides, & was entitled to its use because of the conventions of botanical nomenclature.
1963 Reprint of the British Museum copy of Jane Colden's manuscript

Colden's manuscript, in which she had ink drawings of leaves & descriptions of the plants, was never named. Colden's original manuscript describing the flora of New York has been held in the British Museum since the mid-1800s. Her manuscript drawing consisted only of leaves & these drawings were only ink outlines colored in with neutral tint. Her descriptions  were "excellent-full , careful, & evidently taken from living specimens."  Colden's descriptions include morphological details of flower, fruit, & plant structure, as well as ways on how to use certain plants for medicinal or culinary purposes. Some of the descriptions include the month of flowering & the habitat where they are found.  Latin & common names for the plants are given.

In her section "Observat" (now known as observations) she pointing out to Linnaeus that "there are some plants of Clematis that bear only male flowers, this I have observed with such care that there can be no doubt about it." This shows the long hours she spent doing observations, which were consistent, accurate & replicable.

Colden married Scottish widower Dr. William Farquhar on March 12, 1759. She died in childbirth only 7 years later at the age of 41, along with the newborn. There is no evidence that she continued her botanical work after her marriage.

Her work on plant classification was noted in a Scottish scientific journal in 1770, 4 years after her death. Americans did not become aware of Colden's manuscript until 75 years later, when Almira Lincoln stated that another female botanist before her was the first American lady to illustrate the science of botany.  In spite of all of Colden's accomplishments, she was never formally recognized during her lifetime by having a plant named after her. The genus Coldenia is named after her father.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Gardener, Nurseryman & Seed Dealer - Thomas Bridgeman 1786-1850

Thomas Bridgeman –(1786-1850)–New York City, New York–
1843 The Fruit Cultivator’s Manual by Charles E. Weir (American artist, 1823-1845)

Thomas Bridgeman was born in Abingdon, England, and sailed for America c 1820-24. He had married Catheine Hannah Eastmond on May 23, 1807 at St. Helena's Church in Abingdon, England.  At least 3 of his children, Thomas, Deborah, & Amelia were born in England. He opened a seed store in 1824.

Bridgeman was an English gardener, who came to New York in 1824, leased land on what is now 874 Broadway, where he built greenhouses & 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."  See: Meehans' Monthly: A Magazine of Horticulture, 1899.

Thomas Bridgeman authored
The Young Gardener’s Assistant (1832)
Florist’s Guide (1835)
The Kitchen Gardener’s Instructor (1836)
The Fruit Cultivator’s Manual (1844)
The American Gardener’s Assistant (1867) with his son, Alfred Bridgeman

The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste from of 1858 reviewed a late edition of the Young Gardener's Assistant with these details:
"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..." 

The 1885 edition of New York's Great Industries reported:
"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." 

In 1913, Volume 17 of Horticulture Magazine from the Horticultural Publishing Company in Boston offered these intriguing details, "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."

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Garden to Table - America's Earliest Cookbook Author

Woman Bundling Asparagus, 1771, John Atkinson (British artist, fl 1770-1775)  

Amelia Simmons. American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life. By Amelia Simmons, an American orphan. Hartford: Printed for Simeon Butler, Northampton, 1798.

Biography of Amelia Simmons

Very little is known of Amelia Simmons, the author of the first American cookbook. She seems to have appeared for the publication of American Cookery and then disappeared back into obscurity. There may be a faint clue to her identity in the title page reference to herself as an "American Orphan," followed by a discussion of the trials of orphanhood in the preface. She may have been unmarried, had little education, and was quite possibly illiterate. She writes of "those females who have parents, or brothers, or riches," and how female orphans may be "reduced to the necessity of going into families in the line of domestics," from which one may infer that she was employed as a cook. Her lack of education evidently led to some intrigue and a loss of control over the book's content: two different versions of the first edition appeared in 1796, the second of which is supplemented by what food historian Mary Tolford Wilson describes as "a sheet of obviously dissimilar paper" on which is printed an "Advertisement." It states:

The author of American Cookery, not having an education sufficient to prepare the work for the press, the person that was employed by her, and entrusted with the receipts, to prepare them for publication, (with a design to impose on her, and injure the sale of the book) did omit several articles very essential in some of the receipts, and placed others in their stead, which were highly injurious to them, without her consent-which was unknown to her, till after publication.

She then lists the corrections to the specific recipes. In Rice Pudding No. 2, for example, just 1/2 pound of butter and eight eggs should be used, not 1 pound butter and 14 eggs as originally stated. (Note: If you check her Rice Pudding No. 2 recipe in this 1798 edition, as well as the other recipes she cites as erroneous, you will find the errors remain uncorrected. Unfortunately for the users of her books as well as for Amelia Simmons's reputation, her attempts at rectification never completely caught up with the printings of her original recipes," writes Wilson in her introduction to the 1958 facsimile of the 1796 first edition, which does contain the list of errata and corrections.)

To make matters worse, when the second edition of American Cookery was published (not in 1800, as commonly noted, but in 1796, as per the findings of bibliographer Eleanor Lowenstein), Simmons claimed to have been shocked to find material in the first edition that she did not write, and had not authorized.

Nearly the whole of seventeen pages in the first edition, was filled with rules, and direction, how to make choice of meats, fowls, fish, and vegetables: this is a matter, with which, the Authoress does not pretend to be acquainted, much less to give directions to others; nor does she consider any way connected, with that branch which she has undertaken which is, simply to point out the most eligible methods of preparing those various articles for the tables when procured. This was done by the transcriber, without her knowledge or consent; and may with propriety be considered as an affront upon the good sense of all classes of citizens.

She goes on to say that her audience, whether city or country folk, know the difference between good and bad market produce, and do not need a guide for such matters. This sentiment may seem puzzling to a modern audience which will find the first seventeen pages of American Cookery (included in this 1798 first edition, of course) to be an informative, useful guide similar to passages found in modern cookbooks as well as cookbooks from the nineteenth century. It apparently, however, was not the work of Simmons.

Although she may not have been an authority at judging market meats, fish and produce, her book certainly establishes Simmons as a skillful cook: as food historian Karen Hess points out, she often calls for a variety of herbs in her cooking, as well as wine, and sets down "extraordinarily fine roasting techniques, English techniques that were admired even by the French." Since English culinary tradition formed the basis of early American cooking, this naturally follows; colonists brought over family recipes (and the well-to-do would ship bound cooking books) from England, and had no opportunity to purchase an American-published cookbook until 1742, when a Williamsburg printer, William Parks, published an American edition of the British cookbook, The Compleat Housewife. Though Smith excluded recipes with ingredients unavailable in America, the chosen recipes continued the same English tradition of cooking. When, in 1772, Susannah Carter published The Frugal Housewife in Boston, she made no concession for American ingredients or habits. Although Simmons "borrowed" heavily from Carter, copying word for word her entire section on creams and syllabubs, she incorporated common early American foods - cornmeal, pumpkins, and molasses -- into these English traditions. Most notably, she was the first cookbook author to use the leavening agent pearl ash, which is derived from leaching large amounts of wood ash, and was common in early America because of the proliferation of timber operations.

Where was Amelia Simmons' home? Some say Hartford, since the book was first published there. In late Colonial times, however, the Albany area was a center for the production of potash, i.e., the unrefined source of the pearl ash used in Simmon's recipes. Hess, seeing this as a clue, suggests Simmons may be from the Albany area or somewhere in the Hudson River Valley. Though American Cookery was initially published in Hartford, the second edition was published in Albany in the same year. Several later places of publication centered around the Hudson River Valley, namely one in Albany in 1804, Troy in 1808, Poughkeepsie in 1815 and New York in 1822. Though other copies hailed from other locales, this cluster of publishers may suggest a meaningful connection with the author. Hess also points out that American Cookery uses a number of Dutch words common to the Hudson River area at that time. These words are slaw, from sla, meaning salad, and cookey, from koekje, meaning cookie (the British would use the phrase "small cake.")

Finally, there is the question of whether Simmons made money from this book. Though it is impossible to say, she may have been a shrewd, business-minded author who founded a marketing strategy with the words of her title: "Adapted to this Country, and All Grades of Life." Not only was this the first cookbook to incorporate popular and plentiful American foods into a traditional cookbook, but it was affordable to many. It sold for two shillings and threepence (the equivalent of about $1.75 today), and contained just 47 octavo pages printed on durable rag paper. The first edition was published "For the Author." which probably meant that Simmons paid the printing costs and kept the sales profits and the publication rights. The book did sell well, for Simmons writes in the 1796 second edition preface that "the call has been so great, and the sales [of American Cookery] so rapid that [the author] finds herself not only encouraged but under a necessity of publishing a second edition." The second edition was widely reprinted but some were possibly unauthorized, because Amelia Simmons' name did not always appear on the title page. Then there were the outright piracies of the work, like the 1805 book, New American Cookery . . . By an American Lady, published in New York, which tacked on some original material, and the 1819 book, Domestic Cookery by Harriet Whiting, which was published in Boston and was devoid of any new material, not even the corrections Simmons called for back in 1796. It is fair to say that Simmons probably made some money, and was probably cheated of some money too. Her book remains an historical marker in American cookery, just as her life story remains a question mark in American biography.  From The Historic American Cookbook Project: Feeding America

Hopley, Claire. "American Cookery," American History. 31, no. 2 (May 1, 1996):16 - 19, 65 - 66.
Ridley, Glynis. "The First American Cookbook," Eighteenth-Century Life. 23, no. 2 (1999): 114 - 123.
Simmons, Amelia. American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life. By Amelia Simmons, an American orphan. Hartford: Printed for Simeon Butler, Northampton, 1798.
----------. American Cookery . . .Hartford: Hudson & Goodwin, 1796. Facsimile, with introduction by Mary Tolford Wilson, New York: Oxford University Press, 1958.
----------. American Cookery . . . Albany: Charles R. and George Webster, 1796, second edition. Facsimile, with introduction by Karen Hess, Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books, 1996.
von Biel, Victoria. "Profiles in Cooking: Amelia Simmons," Bon Appetit. 43, no. 10 (October 1, 1998): 73, 76 - 77.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Plants in George Washington's Gardens - Chicory

George Washington experimented with chicory as a field crop. This blue-flowered perennial is common as a roadside weed, but has a long history of being used as an edible or fodder. Latin Name - Cichorium intybus  Also Known As Wild Endive, Succory, Coffeeweed.  Arthur Young had sent GW the seeds of Cichorium intybus in January 1791. Young praised the plant, known as chicory, succory, or wild endive, as an “admirable grass which I beleive will prove more beneficial than Lucern or any other” (Arthur Young to George Washington, 25 Jan. 1791).   

George Washington wrote to to William Pearce, 18 January 1795. "There is a grass, or rather a substitute, which was sown opposite to Stuart’s house at River farm, called chicorium or chicory, which from Mr (Anthony) Whiting’s dislike to it, was neglected. If any of it remains, I desire you will save all the Seed you can from it the coming season. There is, or was some of it also in the little garden by the Salt house. I have lately had a character of it from some English G⟨ardene⟩rs who are well acquainted with it, which has convinced me that to cut & feed it green, in the manner of Lucern or clover, that it is a valuable thing for soiling either horses or cattle, especially the former.  GW’s “small” or botanical garden, which he often referred to as “my little garden,” was located a short distance west of the mansion between the upper garden & the north lane. Here GW conducted experiments in cultivating both ornamental & useful plants for his estate. Part of the 4–acre vineyard enclosure, south of the lower or kitchen garden, served as an orchard & fruit garden, while the other section was an experimental garden.

On 12 Sept. 1795 Thomas Jefferson wrote to GW that he was giving alfalfa or lucerne up because, even with manuring, he had experienced less success with it than with chicory.  

For George Washington's correspondence, see the National Archives website Founders Online.  Portrait of Washington by Folk Artist Tim Campbell of Keene, NH. To learn more about this plant, see George Washington's Mount Vernon Plant Finder App.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Garden Structures & Ornaments - Cooking the Birds in the Dovecote - Warning - Cock-birds..are quarrelsome

Interior of a kitchen with woman plucking poultry. Attributed to Justus Juncker (1703 - 1767, German artist)

The American Domestic Cookery by Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell New York 1814

"Pigeons: Bring two young ones at a time: and breed every month, if well looked after, and plentifully fed. They should be kept very clean, and the bottom of the dovecote be strewed with sand once a month at least. Tares and white peas are their proper food. They should have plenty of fresh water in their house, Starlings and other birds are apt to come among them, and suck the eggs. Vermin likewise are their great enemies, and destroy them. If the breed should be too small, put a few tame pigeons of the common kind, and of their own colour, among them. Observe not to have too large a proportion of cock-birds: for they are quarrelsome, and will soon thin the dove-cote.

"Pigeons are fond of salt, and it keeps them in health. Lay a large heap of clay near the house, and let the salt-brine that may be done with in the family be poured upon it.

"Bay salt and cummin seeds mixed, is a universal remedy for the diseases of pigeons. The back and breasts are sometimes scabby: in which case, take a quarter of a pound of bay salt, and as much common salt, a pound of fennel seeds, a pound of dill seed, as much cummin seed, and an ounce of sassafras; mix all with a little, wheaten flour, and some fine worked clay; when all are well beaten together, put it into two earthen pots, and bake them in the oven, when cold put them on the table in the dove-cote; the pigeons will eat it, and thus be cured."

Saturday, April 25, 2020

1790 Labor - Contract to manage Farms & Gardens at Mount Vernon

East Front of Mount Vernon by Edward Savage (American, 1761 - 1817), c. 1787-1792

George Washington offered Anthony Whiting the position of manager for Ferry and French’s plantation in April 1790, and George Augustine Washington signed an indenture with him on 20 May.  When George Augustine Washington died in early 1793, Whiting took over the management of Mount Vernon for the few months remaining until his own death in June 1793.
West Front of Mount Vernon by Edward Savage (American, 1761 - 1817), c. 1787-1792.

On 20 May 1790 George Augustine Washington completed an indenture with Anthony Whitting on GW’s behalf:

“Articles of Agreement made and entered into this twentieth day of May one thousand seven hundred and ninety between Anthony Whiting late Manager of the Estate of the deceased General Cadwalader (but at present of Alexandria Virginia) of the one part, and George A: Washington of Mount Vernon in Virginia in behalf of the President of the United States, of the other part; Witnesseth that the said Anthony Whiting for the wages and other considerations hereafter mentioned doth agree to serve the said President for the space of one year to commence the first day of June next as an Overlooker of his two Farms, which are united and distinguished as the Ferry & Frenches, and that he will faithfully & diligently attend to the duties thereof; using his best skill to carry into effect the present rotation system of Cropping practised on the said Farms, or such other course as shall be approved by the said President through his agent George A: Washington. 

That he will hold it as an incumbent duty to suggest such changes and alterations in the present system of management as to him shall appear better calculated from the soil or other circumstances to promote œconomy and to encrease the profits of the Farms, but to make no actual change therein without permission; as matters for some time have been tending to the present mode, and ought not to be departed from but under the ful’est conviction of the superior advantages of an other; and in the accomplishment of whatever plan shall be adopted 

That he will use every possible œconomy consistent with good management in the execution

That he will be particularly attentive to the Negroes which shall be committed to his care—to the work Oxen and Horses—to the stock of every denomination—and to all the Tools and impliments of husbandry of every sort belonging to the Farms entrusted to his care--

That he will be particularly attentive to the Inclosures endeavouring as far as time and the means with which he may be furnished will admit, to substitute Ditching and Hedging to dead fences--

That he will see the labourers at their work as soon as it is light in the morning, and (unless he is called of for other purposes benificial to his employer or absent with leave if for purposes of his own except on Sunday when he may occasionally go to Church, and as he will not be allow’d to keep a Horse the use of one belonging to the Farms will be granted when necessary—) 

That he will always be with the people while they are at their labour, as the only sure means of geting the business done and the work properly executed without punishment—

That he will consider it as an essential part of his duty—by this close attention to see that the work is carried on with diligence and propriety especially the Plowing part of it, as the goodness of all Crops depend materially upon the preparation that give birth to them—

That he will pay the utmost attention to the Stocks of every kind, will use every endeavour to encrease and properly distribute the manure on the Farms, and also will improve to the best of his judgment the implements of husbandry necessary thereto—and will instruct as occasion may require, and opportunities offer the labourers therein how to Plow, Sow, Mow, Reap, Thatch, Ditch, Hedge &c., in the best manner—

That he will have proper attention given to the Ferry and a regular return with the proceeds rendered once a week (Saturday) with a report of the labour of the People, the encrease and decrease of the Stock, the receipts and disbursement &c. (a form of which will be furnished with a plan of the Farms—). 
1797 George Washington visits the field hands Colored Lithograph

The retail of liquors is particularly restricted as such a practise must be attended with pernicious consequences, and to avoid enumeration it is only necessary to observe that no emolument will be allow’d but what will hereafter be specified nor no departure from this agreement, as dismission or the claim of the penalty will be resorted to—Lastly if instead of being confined to the cares of those Farms it should be found from circumstances, more expedient to remove and extend his superintendance, that he is still to be governed by the principles here mention’d, although his attention will be more divided and in either case is to consider himself under the controul of the said George A: Washington who acts agreeably to directions received from the said President, And will conduct himself soberly honestly and with the most exemplary industry. 

In consideration of services thus fully and faithfully performed on the part of the said Anthony Whiting the said George A: Washington for and on behalf of the said President of the United States doth agree to allow the said Anthony Whiting the sum of forty Guineas per annum, to commence the first day of June next—Will allow him three hundred weight of Pork and one hundred weight of Beef at killing time but such provision as may be furnished untill that time will be deducted therefrom, if in Bacon such a proportion as shall be deemed equivalent—also f⟨our⟩ hundred weight of Flour distinguished as midlings—the use of a Cow—the privelege of raising Fowls for his own consumption, and the use of a Boy or Girl which can be most conveniently spared to cook &c. And in case his superintendance should be extended will allow him the use of a Horse to enable him to discharge with more convenience & facility, the business which will be required of him. For the true and faithful performance of this agreement the parties each to the other doth hereby bind themselves in the penal sum of One hundred Dollars, the day & year first written."

Mount Vernon tells us that "following Whiting's death, when George Washington was searching for a replacement, he wrote glowingly about his former farm manager. Washington explained that, "The death of my late Manager, Mr. Anthy. Whiting, making it necessary for me to look out for some person to supply his place. . .In fine, if I could [find] a man as well qualified for my purposes as the late Mr. Whitting (whom I presume you know, as he managed an Estate of Gen. Cadwallader's in your neighborhood for some years) I should esteem myself very fortunate."

"Several months later, while instructing Whiting's replacement about the duties of the job, it was obvious that Washington's feelings had shifted significantly with new information. Washington wrote that, "Nothing will contribute more to effect these desirable purposes than a good example, unhapply this was not set (from what I have learnt lately) by Mr. Whiting, who, it is said, drank freely, kept bad company at my house and in Alexandria, and was a very debauched person, wherever this is the case it is not easy for a man to throw the first stone for fear of having it returned to him. . ."

"Moreover, Washington expressed his opinion that Whiting's lack of attention to details were problematic, explaining that "Mr. Whiting did not look more scrupulously into the conduct of the Overseers, and more minutely into the smaller matters belonging to the Farms; which, though individually may be trifling, are not found so in the agregate; for there is no addage more true than an old Scotch one, that 'many mickles make a muckle.'"

Research plus images & much more are available from Geo Washington's (1732-1799) home Mount Vernon website, 

Gardening Books in Early America - Owned by Richard Henry Lee 1732-1794

Richard Henry Lee. National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC.
Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794), planter and Virginia statesman, the originator of the resolution for independence in the Continental Congress and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Lee was born at Stratford Hall, Westmoreland County, Virginia.  
Lee was educated at Wakefield Academy in England. From 1758-1775, he served in the House of Burgesses, and sat in the Continental Congress from 1774-79, 1784-85, and 1787. He also sat in the Virginia legislature in 1777, 1780, and 1785. He sat in the Virginia constitutional ratification convention in 1788 (opposing ratification), and was elected to the first U.S. Senate, serving from 1789 until 1792. 
Dating to the late 1730s, Lee's birthplace Stratford Hall and its outbuildings are remarkable examples of colonial Virginia architecture. The site of a large 18C tobacco plantation was the home of 2 signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Below is The Octagon from Stratford Hall.
Lee had 4 surviving children with his 1st wife, Anne Aylett (1738-1768) and 5 children by his 2nd wife, Anne Gaskins Pinckard. Lee died at his Westmoreland County plantation Chantilly in 1794. Listings for Lee's library are taken from the probate inventory of his estate on 1 August 1794. 

Lee's Books on Landscape, Garden, & Farm

The gardeners dictionary ... containing the methods of cultivating and improving the kitchen, fruit and flower garden by Philip Miller

The gardeners kalendar; directing what works are necessary to be performed every month in the kitchen, fruit, and pleasure-gardens, as also in the conservatory and nursery by Philip Miller

New principles of gardening or, The laying out and planting parterres, groves, wildernesses, labyrinths, avenues, parks, &c. after a more grand and rural manner, than has been done before; ... by Batty Langley

Clavis Anglica linguae botanicae; or, A botanical lexicon; in which the terms of botany, particularly those occurring in the works of Linnaeus, and other modern writers, are applied, derived, explained, contrasted, and exemplified by John Berkenhout

Georgical essays: in which the food of plants is particularly considered. And a new compost recommended upon the principles of vegetation by Alexander Hunter

Medicina Britannica; or A treatise on such physical plants, as are generally to be found in the fields or gardens in Great Britain ... Together with the observations of the most learned physicians ... communicated to the late ... Mr. Ray, and Dr. Sim. Pauli by Thomas Short

Thursday, April 23, 2020

History Blooms at Monticello - Green Nutmeg Melon

Green Nutmeg Melon (Cucumis melo cv.)

In 1811 Thomas Jefferson sent seed of the popular Nutmeg Melon, “which I know to be fine,” to his son-in-law, John Wayles Eppes. Mentioned in Bernard McMahon’s The American Gardener’s Calendar, 1806, this aromatic, oval-shaped melon with heavily netted skin and sweet, green flesh, was commonly distributed by American seed merchants. Fearing Burr wrote in Field and Garden Vegetables of America, 1863: “[when] the fruit is perfectly ripe, it is of most delicious excellence and deservedly ranked as ‘one of the best’.”

For more information & the possible availability for purchase
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

History Blooms at Monticello - Guinea Bean or Snake Gourd

Guinea Bean or Snake Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria var.)

A member of the bottle gourd tribe, Guinea Bean bears light green, cylindrical fruits up to 5’ long with creamy-white flesh similar to squash. It was believed to originate from New Guinea, hence the name, but it is now known to hail from Africa and is also considered a traditional Italian vegetable called cucuzza. The bottle gourd may have been carried intentionally from Africa to Asia, Europe, & the Americas in the course of human migration, or by seeds floating across the oceans inside the gourd. It is proven to have existed in the New World prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. For cooking, pick the green fruits when less than 2’ long and prepare like squash.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Flower Pots, Planting Boxes & Tubs, and Vases

Garden pots as well as vases appear early in the records of the 18th century British American colonies. At Bacon's Castle inn the 1728 inventory of Arthur Allen in Surry County, Virginia, clerks recorded "2 flower potts and 2 watring potts." In 1736, another Virginian John Custis recorded in his letterbook, "6 flower pots painted green to stand in chimney to put flowers in the summer time with 2 handles to each pot."

Early depictions of flower pots in colonial American paintings were large, sculptural urns, wooden planting pots & tubs, and vases.  These types of pots were often used to grow garden plants.  Garden pots, large & small, were usually made of clay & earthenware and often left unglazed.  Most small pots had simple decoration, often in the shape of the rim.  Larger pots & urns intended to contain plants were sometimes more decorated and stylized. Large urns meant to contain plants could be made of brass, lead, marble, stone, & stucco.  During the 18th century, European garden writers suggested their use in groves, parterres, and at the end of walkways & vista views.  In colonial American paintings, artists place them indoors & on porticos in portraits.  Few landscape paintings were produced in British colonial America.
1729 John Simbert (American colonial painter, 1688-1751) Mrs Francis Brinley & son Francis

Much later in the century in 1789, at the Woodlands near Philadelphia, as he began to collect exotic plant specimens owner William Hamilton instructed, "Hilton should mark immediately on the pot of each transplanted exotic...all exotics should be arranged according to their sizes in the way I directed particularly the pots on the a warm situation screen'd from the noon day sun & gently watered every two or three soul should be allowed in the pot & Tub enclosure."

In 1790, Thomas Jefferson also described planting seeds from an exotic specimen plant from the East Indies, which he sowed, "a few seeds in earthen pots. It is a most precious thing if we can save it."

Annapolis, Maryland silversmith William Faris kept his pots outdoors in the summer and moved them in for the winter months. In 1792, he noted in his diary, "I moved the Potts into the seller for the Winter"
1731 Gerardus Duyckinck (American colonial painter, 1695-1746) Pierre Van Cortlandt

Grant Thornburn wrote of painting pots in 1801, which lead to his flourishing New York seed business, "About this time the ladies in New York were beginning to shew their taste for flowers; and it was customary to sell the empty flower pots in the grocery stores; these articles also comprised part of my stock...
1737 Gansevoort Limner (Possibly American colonial painter Pieter Vanderlyn) Young Lady With Fan

"In the fall of the year, when the plants wanted shifting prepatory to their being placed in the parlour, I was often asked for pots of a handsome quality, or better made...
1760 William Williams (American colonial painter, 1727-1791) Deborah Richmond

"I was looking for some other means to support my family. All at once it came into my mind to take and paint some of my common flower-pots with green varnish paint, thinking it would better suit the taste of the ladies than the common brick-bat colored ones.
1762 Joseph Blackburn (fl in American colonies 1752-1778) Woman

"I painted two pair, and exposed them in front of my window. I remember, just as I had placed the two pair of pots in front of my window on the outside, I was standing on the sidewalk, admiring their appearance, a carriage came along, having the glasses let down, and one lady only in the carriage. As the carriage passed my shop, her eye lit on the pots; she put her head out at the windown, and looked back, as far as she could see, on the pots...
1765 John Singleton Copley (American painter, 1738-1815) Elizabeth Oliver (Mrs. George Watson)

"They soon drew attention, and were sold. I painted six pair; they soon went the same way. Being thus encouraged, I continued painting and selling to good advantage. These two pots were links of a chain by which Providence was leading me into my present extensive seed-establishment...
1770 Daniel Hendrickson (American painter, 1723-1788) Catharine Hendrickson

"One day, in the month of April following, I observed a man for the first time selling flower-plants in the Fly market, which then stood in the foot of Maiden Lane. As I carelessly passed along, I took a leaf and rubbing it between my fingers and thumb asked him what was the name of it. He answered, a rose geranium. This, as far as I can recollect, was the first time that I ever heard that there was a geranium in the world; as before this, I had no taste for, nor paid any attention to, plants. I looked a few minutes at the plant, thought it had a pleasant smell, and thought it would look well if removed into one of my green flower pots, to stand on my counter to draw attention...I did not purchase this plant with the intention of selling it again, but merely to draw attention to my green pots, and let people see how well the pots looked when the plant was in them. Next day, some one fancied and purchased plant and pot."
 1773 John Singleton Copley (American painter, 1738-1815) Rebecca Boylston (Mrs Moses Gill)

In 1803, Rosalie Steir Clavert (1778–1821) wrote of her pots at Riversdale in Maryland, "I have arranged all the orange trees and geraniums in pots along the north wall of the house, where they make a very pretty effect, and the geraniums, being shaded, beat many more blossoms and are growing well."
1801 Rembrant Peale (American painter,1778-1860) Rubens Peale with Geranium

Practical wooden planting boxes often replaced breakable large vases in both greenhouses and home settings in the Early Republic. George Freeman (Connecticut artist, 1787-1837) Widow Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper 1816

Pots, planting boxes & tubs, and vases appear in several American paintings of the period, accompanied by the eternal question of what is real and what is simply the artist's imagination.

Friday, April 17, 2020

History Blooms at Monticello - Corn Salad

Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta)

Corn Salad, also known as Mâche and Lamb’s Lettuce, is a cool-season annual with 3” leaves that add a mild, nutty flavor to salads. Thomas Jefferson grew this European native at Monticello, and recorded saving seed in 1794. While serving as President, he noted that “corn sallad” was available in Washington markets from March 4 to April 30.

For more information & the possible availability for purchase

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Garden History - Trees-Espalier


I love the great links in this article from giving practical advise for creating espalier in home gardens and want to share it with you.

Espalier: Tips For Limited Garden Spaces

The art of espalier is a horticultural and artistic feat that requires skill and patience. It involves training various types of trees by pruning and grafting them, resulting in beautiful patterns and shapes. Originally performed in the Middle Ages, espalier is a fun and worthwhile craft that uses both agricultural knowledge and artistic technique to create a gorgeous result. The trees grown in a garden using espalier are usually much smaller than a traditional tree, making this practice ideal for smaller gardens or for garden areas in cities or patio spaces.

History of Espalier

Originally, espalier was used to form walls or dividers in Europe in the Middle Ages. The trees were also grown within castle walls in this manner in order to provide fruit within a confined space without allowing the tree to completely engulf or take over the area. Some research shows that espalier growing methods were used even further back, dating to ancient Egypt. The French word espalier traditionally referred to the trellis in which the tree was grown on. Today, the term refers strictly to the growing technique itself.

The Art of Espalier – This article discusses the art form, as well as its history.

Early Espalier – Informative photos and examples of espalier in early America and Europe.

About Espalier – An overview of the technique as well as a brief history.

Types of Espalier/History – A wonderful web page that describes the origins and forms of espalier from around the world.

Tradition – The tradition of espalier in Europe.

Types of Espalier Techniques

Most espalier trees are grown against a solid wall, usually brick or stucco. They can also be trained to grow against a trellis or other free-standing object to help hold them up. Freeform espalier is much more difficult and takes a lot more work, however espaliered trees in a garden can be quite breathtaking. In France, the technique for free flowing espalier trees is quite popular. Trees grown against a wall are more common in urban areas. No matter which technique is used, this art form can be demanding and take a lot of work, but the results are well worth it.

Training of Fruit Trees Learn more about this fun yet demanding gardening technique.

Planting and Pruning Tips – This article contains some helpful planting and pruning tips.

Technique Tips – Some tips on how to follow the on-wall technique.

Tree Shapes – This page gives some examples of various espalier tree shapes.

Types of Techniques – Discusses the various types of espalier techniques that can be used.

Types of Trees/Plants To Use

Fruit trees are the most commonly types of plants used in espalier, however Japanese Maple and other species are also a good choice. For fruit trees, apple, olive, fig, and pear tree are excellent species. Ivy is also a typically choice for espalier and can be easily trained. Flowers such as camellia, hibiscus, and magnolia are also beautiful and simple. Colorful fruit or flower producing trees give espalier a more spectacular look. Since the compactness of the trees is key, it's no wonder those during the Middle Ages chose to grow them this way in order to obtain fruit easily and in smaller confined spaces.

Species to UseThis article contains a good list of species of plants and trees that can be used for espalier.

20 Favorites – A list of 20 favorite choices of types of plants to use for espalier in any garden.

Apple Tree Espalier – This article explains how to properly grow an apple tree espalier.

Fruit Trees – Features some beautiful examples of fruit trees grown with the espalier method.

Selecting a Tree – Simple advice on choosing the right tree to espalier.

Tips for Successful Espalier

Espalier takes patience and a lot of dedication. There are some things the every day gardener can do to help ensure that their tree grows properly. The plant should only be grown from about six to ten inches away from its support at the maximum. The support can be a trellis or wall. Young plants are best because their branches can be trained. Remove any unwanted growth right away before planting, and plant the tree on the south or eastern facing side of your home or building. The side branches or shoot should be grown to at least one foot before pruning, and always prune any unwanted excess growth as soon as possible. Patience is truly the most important factor in espalier, as it can take five years or even more to get the desired look.

Starting an Espalier – Explains how to begin an espalier garden so that it is successful.

Espalier Success – One grower lists their techniques and what they did to get a healthy collection of espaliered plants.

Pruning Advice – Some information about pruning apple and pear trees for espalier.

Espalier Guide – A very informative, helpful guide to growing espalier trees, as well as diagrams.

How to Espalier a Tree – This simple guide shows how anyone can grow a tree into a beautiful espalier form.

While espalier is not a common way to grow trees, it has caught on in popularity, particularly with the growth of urban gardening in cities. This ancient technique of growing trees in a small, compact format can produce beautiful results. Espalier takes patience, dedication, and a willingness to work hard in order to get the wanted results. Time and effort are well worth it when the beautiful trees begin to take shape and grow into an amazing pattern that will beautify any garden.

This article from