Thursday, June 4, 2020

19C Seed Dealer & Nurseryman John Lewis Childs (1856 –1921)

John Lewis Childs (1856 –1921) was a horticultural businessman who founded Floral Park, New York.  Childs was born in Maine, & grew up in Buckfield.  Childs married in New York, in 1886, to Carrie Goldsmith & had 4 children: Vernon G., Norma D., Lyon L. & Carlton H.  His career in horticulture began in 1874, when he took a job with C. L. Allen of Queens. Soon afterwards he began buying land in nearby East Hinsdale, Queens County, near other nurseries. Within 5 years of building his own seed & bulb business, Childs was responsible for building more than 20 buildings in Floral Park, including hotels, lumber mills & his own printing press.
History of Long Island: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time-1903 reports that "The year after Childs moved to New York he rented a few acres of ground a mile & a half from Queens, on the railroad line, & began business as a seedsman & florist.

"The total sales from his 1st catalogue or price-list—a publication of 8 pages—was barely $50, & it was 5 years before his business showed signs of rapid growth, but after that his trade increased extensively. Childs then purchased the land he occupied & from time to time added to it. The railroad company soon established a new station on his premises, which at Childs' request was called Floral Park. It became necessary to build bulb & seed houses, greenhouses, dwellings & a large store to accommodate his business. His mail became so large & important that the government established a post office at his place...Childs gives close attention to... the publication of the "Mayflower," a magazine of great value to any engaged in floral culture...

"...Floral Park is located on Long Island, fifteen miles from the heart of Brooklyn, & is now partly included in the territory recently annexed to New York City... The gardens at Floral Pork cover almost 200 acres, all in flowers. These gardens border on the Long Island Railroad for a distance of more than a mile... The land is perfectly flat, of a sandy nature & particularly well adapted to gardening.

"Childs receives & ships on an average several tons of mail matter each day...The great seed & florist business is accommodated with a railroad station & freight office close at hand. There are 30 trains each way per day to & from the heart of the city, both to & from the New York & Brooklyn divisions, also telegraph & telephone connections with all parts of the country, & several express companies receive & deliver goods.
The main building is an immense 4 story & basement building, built of brick & iron, & consequently fire proof... In this building arc located all the business offices, the seed department, which occupies the entire 3rd floor, & the packing & mailing department, which occupies all of the 1st floor as well as the great brick packing room in the rear of the building.

The Seed House No. 2. is a frame building.with a large amount of floor space, used for storing, cleaning & drying seeds & for making boxes, it is located about 500 feet from the brick building, &, like it, has an immense cellar for bulbs & a large range of greenhouses connecting with it in the rear.

The Bulb House is a large brick building 100 by 40 feet, 3 stories & a basement, used solely for storing bulbs. During the late fall & winter it is filled with gladiolus bulbs from top to bottom, which the late winter & spring sales reduce. The small bulbs which are not sold are planted in the spring & again fill this immense building when harvested in the fall.

The greenhouses are very extensive & are divided into four sections or blocks. There is a set of five large houses, some of which are 200 feet feet long by twenty feet wide, in the rear of the great fire-proof seed house ; a set of 9 houses in the rear of seed house No. 2: in another location there is another set of 8 houses, & on the lawn there is another set of 8 fancy houses used largely for rare & fancy plants.

There is a complete system of brick cold sheds connected with the packing department of the big seed house. In these sheds large quantities of shrubs, fruit trees & hardy perennial plants are stored that they may be available for filling...orders at any time during the winter. Besides the buildings above mentioned there are 15 or 20 more of various sizes, which are used for various purposes in connection with the business. One of these is a large farm house, with barns & stables, where the horses which are used on the place are kept.  Childs also has a steam lumber & planing mill, with all the necessary machinery for preparing lumber for building purposes...

Childs' foreign trade is so extensive that he has an agent in Liverpool & one in Auckland. New Zealand. All orders for England, Ireland & Scotland are packed separately & sent to the Liverpool agent, who forwards each parcel to its destination. All shipments for Australia & New Zealand go through the Auckland agency in like manner. Goods for Newfoundland go through the shipping agent at St. John.  Childs also has a great number of customers in the different European countries—in Africa, India, China, Japan, South America, Mexico. West India Islands...

The lawns at Floral Park surrounding Childs' residence & seed stores cover an area of nine acres & are artistically laid out & beautifully stocked with rare trees, shrubs & plants. There are over 300 different varieties of flowering shrubs. The lawn also contains several beautiful summer houses or pagodas, fountains & an artificial aquarium for rare water lilies. The trial & experiment gardens which Childs conducts for himself & the "Mayflower" are very extensive. All sorts of seeds, plants, fruits & vegetables are tested, various experiments made, diseases & insects treated. The state of New York has also established its trial & experiment gardens at Floral Park, on Childs' premises, & the 2 working in harmony afford the most complete & scientific establishment of the sort in the country.
Three catalogues are issued each year at a total cost, when mailed, of about $9,000. A regular spring catalogue is issued on the, 1st of January, is sent to all regular customers, & requires an edition of 500,000 copies. On the 1st of February a 500,000 edition catalogue of specialties & novelties is issued, & on the 1st of September appears the full catalogue of hardy bulbs for fall planting & winter blooming.

All the work of printing is done on the presses of the "Mayflower." & thus there is a great economy in the cost of issuing the catalogues. Fifteen years ago the first number of the magazine "Mayflower" appeared.  It is a monthly magazine devoted to flowers & gardening... A substantial brick building, 150 feet long by 40 feet wide, was erected & fitted with all modern machinery for the publishing business. The power is furnished by a powerful steam engine & light by an electric dynamo in the building. Seven presses of various sizes are employed, one of which is a &16,000 rotary Web, capable of printing & folding eighty thousand copies of the "Mayflower" per day. The other machinery consists of 3 trimmers or cutters, 5 stitching machines, 2 folding machines, a grinder, a powerful steam pump & a complete electrotyping outfit...
From January until June & from September until December are the busy months at Floral Park. During ibis period of 9 months it is not unusual for Childs to receive as high as from eight to 10,000 letters in a single day. The work of shipping & filing the letters is most complete & systematic, so that if references at a later date is wanted for any order previously received it can be made in about a minute. An experienced artist is constantly employed at Floral Park in sketching & photographing flowers & plants, drawing designs for cuts & painting for colored plates...