Friday, January 17, 2020

A splash of color ... in your mailbox ~ by Kristine Raymond

With springtime still several months away - at least, according to the calendar - it's time for seed catalogs to begin their annual arrival to mailboxes around the country.  Aside from the fact that most annuals are planted when the danger of frost has passed, I think the publishers of said periodicals mail them during the winter months to add a punch of color to the dreary, gray days of the new year. 

Anyone else want to order one of everything?  Just me, then?

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The first commercial seed company was founded in 1784 by David Landreth, an immigrant from England who set down roots (pun totally intended) in Philadelphia.  Along with his brother, Cuthbert, he built his seed company into an empire that's still in operation today.  Along with printing one of the first seed catalogs in the country, the seeds that Landreth sold also traveled south to George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and west in covered wagons across the rivers and prairies to untamed lands.

Over the next few years, other mail-order seed companies began sprouting up. 
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Milo T. Gardner, Dexter M. Ferry, and Eber F. Church started M.T. Gardner & Company (later known as Ferry-Morse) in 1856.

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In 1868, a fifteen-year-old boy by the name of George W. Park, wanting a little pocket money, took out an advertisement for $3.50 in The Rural American, an investment that returned $6.50 in orders.  Thus began Park Seed, a company that's still in business today.

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In 1876, a name most home gardeners are familiar with, W. Atlee Burpee, started his own mail-order business selling fancy poultry after borrowing $1000 from his mother.  But as more and more requests flooded in from farmers wanting seeds to plant in their gardens, Burpee recognized the opportunity and expanded his catalog's offerings, and by the 1880s, his was the fastest growing mail-order seed company in the world.

To this day, Burpee's colorful catalogs grace the tops of kitchen tables and nightstands everywhere.

Even places like Seed Savers Exchange, founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, got its start thanks to earlier generations.  The company launched with two varieties of seeds handed down by Diane's grandfather, whose parents brought them from Bavaria in 1870 when they immigrated to America. 

With careful cultivation and mindfulness, the rich legacy of our ancestors can live forever.


Julie Lence said...

Interesting topic, Kristine. The few times I have bought seeds at the store, I never paid attention to the company name. Will have to look next time I'm at Lowe's.

Alicia Haney said...

This is very interesting and informative, I enjoyed reading about the different seed companies, we always get catalogs and we have bought from different catalogs and will continue to purchase from them. My husband grows the veggies and I plant the flowers. Thank you so much for sharing your post. Have a Great weekend. God Bless you.

Kristine Raymond said...

Julie - I don't buy a lot of seeds through mail order anymore but I love browsing the catalogs. Burpee is one of my favorites. I never heard of Landreth's before researching for this post so I'm definitely going to check out their site.

Alicia - I'm glad you liked my post. Don't the pictures in the catalogs give you Spring Fever? They do me. You have a wonderful weekend as well.