Saturday, February 20, 2016

1908 - Cover Art from Miss Emma White's Seed Catalog

It is February 20, 2016.   It was 60ยบ F. outside today!!

I am done with winter even though I fear it is not done with Connecticut...but who knows?! 

Anyway, I am in the mood for flowers and I just found this lithographed cover from Miss Emma White at the MERTZ DIGITAL COLLECTIONS.  I love the stippling.

Join me in dreaming of summer :-)

Friday, February 19, 2016

1887 - Accolades for Mr. Livingston

This article re-visits the redoubtable Mr. Livingston, a man who features highly in tomato history. It is always nice to find a man who was honored in his lifetime.  For more interesting information  check out this group of posts.

Back when I was discovering his story I hadn't seen this particular piece from Gardening magazine that looks back on Mr. Livingston's accomplishments from the perspective of 1897, a few decades since his beginning to change the tomato world.  

(Speaking of "a few more decades", I have included this article in clearer type from an OCR version at the end of this page for people with eyesight like mine!)

We are in the habit of indulging in hearty congratulations over the advanced conditions of our modern horticulture.   Such effusions are as cheap as they are appropriate. But it is well, now and then, to take a look backward and recall some of those to whom the goddess of horticulture is indebted for her present exalted position. 
When we do this, we discover that the number who have put forth earnest, systematic and persistent efforts to the real foundation work in horticulture is not large, nor have such always been most rewarded.  We owe a tribute of praise to every worker who has spent years of patient care and selection in seeking to improve the products of our orchards and gardens.  It is this sort of work that really builds up horticulture, and this class of workers that most deserves our recognition and encouragement. 
Mr. A. W. Livingston of Des Moines, Iowa, whose portrait appears on this page, emphatically belongs to this class of horticultural workers, and his successful labors in improving the tomato have made his name well-known to those who are interested in gardening.   Indeed, to him we are indebted for many of our best market tomatoes.   The introduction of the Paragon, Mr. Livingston‘s first success (about t867), may be said to have marked an era in the culture of the tomato. 
Previous to that time we scarcely possessed a variety of this fruit suitable for extensive shipping, and few varieties were sufficiently smooth and solid to make them worthy of culture, even in the family garden.   But since the dissemination of the Paragon, Acme, Perfection and Favorite, all Mr. Livingston's productions, the tomato has rapidly increased in importance, until it now ranks among our prominent market and garden products.   
Mr. Livingston was born in the year 1821, in Franklin County, 0., a few miles from the city of Columbus. The surrounding country was then a wilderness, and his parents were able to give him few advantages.   After the age of ten years his schooling was limited to a few winters, and when he attained his majority he hired out at such work as came to hand “by the day, job or any other way."  He soon married and rented a farm, on which he lived eleven years, during which time he was able to save sufficient to purchase 50 acres for himself, and soon commenced the culture of garden seeds. 
Even before this time, he had begun to turn his attention to improving the tomato. To use his own words, “ I commenced selecting the smooth specimens, and after fifteen years of untiring effort, I found myself no nearer my object of getting a perfect tomato than when I began. my plan and selected from smooth dwarf varieties, having a certain peculiar kind of seed, with no rough fruits on the vine, and by careful selection, in five years, I was able to send out a fine, large, smooth. red tomato, that bears not a single rough fruit, which I named the ‘ Paragon.'" 
Those who have attempted to develop new varieties of fruit or vegetables will be able to appreciate something of the patience required to continue one's efforts for twenty consecutive years before sufficient success is attained to warrant an introduction. Contrast this with the record of some of our seedsmen.   Instead of patiently working in their own grounds to produce superior new varieties and refusing to introduce a sort that has not sterling merit,  they have grasped at novelties wherever they could find them and have pushed them industriously.   A comparison of the Turk’s Cap and President Garfield tomatoes with any of Mr. Livingston's offers a case in point.
The Paragon was soon followed by the Acme, a tomato of equally regular form with a purplish red skin.  By this time it was apparent that a tougher skin was demanded for shipping purposes, and the Perfection was developed to satisfy this want.   The Favorite was offered as having special value for canning, owing to the solidity of its flesh and the fewness of its seeds.   Mr. Livingston’s more recent introductions are in any sense superior to the Perfection and Favorite.   The color of the Beauty is extremely brilliant, however, while its quality is probably unsurpassed among the purplish red tomatoes.  
For many years Mr. Livingston’s introductions were regarded as standards among tomatoes and they are still in high esteem.   During the last few years many valuable sorts have been put out by other parties, some of which bear too close a resemblance to the Perfection and Favorite to be regarded as distinct.
We think that Mr. Livingston merits the recognition of progressive horticulturists for his persevering efforts to secure new varieties of real merit.   To say that a seed grower has introduced half a dozen or more novelties is not particularly to his credit, but to say that he has originated some truly valuable acquisitions, and that he spent twenty years on the first, is to make him eminently worthy of our esteem.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

12/5/1905 - Postcard of the F.B. Mills Seed House in Rose Hill, New York

The writing on this postcard makes it special to me.  I didn't know about the "company boarding house".  I assume for workers of the F.B. Mills company?  Have to find out!

Seedsman Mr. Mills Moves, and Then His Building Moves

This was a fun post to find information for because what I found was so darned unexpected!!

Frank Mills opened a western distribution center in Washington, Iowa in addition to his Rose Hill, New York Fair View seed farm.

I found the building has its own Facebook page!  The story of what a dedicated group of people are doing with the building makes interesting reading.

Here is the building on the move in 2014.  You'll find more of the story on their Facebook page.

Monday, February 15, 2016

1896 - Seedsman F.B. Mills: Bird's Eye View Mills' Rose Hill

Before you read a glowing biography of Mr. Mills and his business acumen below,  have a look at these samples of his 1896 and 1901 catalogs.  

 I am a sucker for any bird's eye view and this one is a lot of fun.  

"His is strictly a mail-order business, and its requirements were such that the government, on November 5, 1895, established Rose Hill post-office with F. B. Mills as postmaster. "

The illustrations of all the departments of his business is fascinating to look at as well.  They are relatively inexpensive catalogs, in that there is no color in 1896 and only the cover in 1901.

The 1901 catalog:

Of added interest to me is the engraver and possibly artist of some of these engravings.  Albert Blanc of Philadelphia is an artist I really admire for his horticultural engravings.  Check out his is a sort of "Where's Waldo?" hunt on many engravings when you are looking for a signature, but Blanc is usually easy to spot.

FRANK B. MILLS, was born in the town of Marcellus, Onondaga county, August 3, 1866, and is a son of George C. and Eliza Mills, who reside on a fine farm at Rose Hill, in the southern part of the town. His early life was passed on the homestead, where he developed a decided inclination for producing and classifying the seeds of various plants and vegetables, at which he became an expert while yet a mere lad. 
His spare time from work and school was spent in the garden, where be thoroughly familiarized himself with every plant that chanced to meet his notice. By the time he had finished his education he had acquired a wide and practical knowledge of almost every seed grown, not only in this country, but in the world, and he at once determined to apply that knowledge to production and distribution. This proved to be the beginning of a business scarcely equaled elsewhere in the State, a business, in fact, that ranks high among the largest concerns of the kind in the country. 
He had become the possessor of a small hand printing press capable of printing an ordinary page at each impression, and with this, at the age of less than twenty-one, he began, in 1887, to print his first catalogue. He did all the work alone, from setting the type to mailing the modest book, of which about 8,000 copies were issued and sent out. During that year be secured 118 customers. From this small commencement the business has steadily and rapidly increased in volume and extent until it now forms one of the largest and most complete establishments of its character in the United States. He has now over 400,000 customers, whose orders come from every habitable part of the globe—from Canada, South America, and Europe, from Asia, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, -—requiring about half a million catalogues annually for distribution. 
Mr. Mills has a number of large and convenient buildings and several greenhouses devoted exclusively to the business, and all have been erected within the last four or five years. To these and especially to the greenhouses he is constantly adding; each year is increasing the extent and magnitude of an already mammoth concern. He has a large seed farm, of which several acres are devoted entirely to testing every variety of seed he sells, and nothing is shipped away until it is thoroughly tried and fully equals every requirement. In this way Mr. Mills has established a name and business which ranks him among the few great seedsmen of the United States.
 It is doubtful if a concern of equal magnitude has ever sprung into existence in the short time in which his has been prosecuted, and all this is due to the indomitable energy, the systematic methods, and the close personal supervision of the proprietor. He is the founder of a business of which not only Onondaga county but the State of New York may be well proud. 
As an auxiliary to his adopted calling, and as a means of disseminating valuable and practical knowledge among the thousands of gardeners and horticulturists throughout the country, Mr. Mills established in December, 1894, an illustrated monthly entitled “Success with the Garden," which has begun what promises to be an auspicious career. 
His is strictly a mail-order business, and its requirements were such that the government, on November 5, 1895, established Rose Hill post-office with F. B. Mills as postmaster. He resigned this position in 1897, and was succeeded by his brother William E. Mills. 
His residence, the finest in the town and one of the handsomest in the county, was completed in 1893, and with all his other buildings is pleasantly located on Fairview Farm at Rose Hill in the south part of Marcellus. 
Mr. Mills was married, June 16, 1892, to Miss Grace Ackles, daughter of Samuel Ackies, 0f Spafford.

Onondaga's CentennialGleanings of a Century, Volume 2, 1896