I spent an afternoon recently at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society at Elm Bank in Wellesley,Massachusetts.The Library had made available to me a selection from their amazing collection of seed and nursery catalogs. I wanted to see the catalogs by the Philadelphia seedsman Robert Buist (1805-1880).
What amazed me is how much the cover of the catalog changed over a period of fifty years from 1828 when the company was founded. Over that
time more printing and publishing innovations entered the culture. By the 1890s it was a different world. The mass media culture, especially through advertising in magazines and newspapers, impacted every business.
In the early years of the company the catalog cover featured mostly text, and by the end of the century the cover became a blast of color chromolithography.
As with any business, the seed and nurseries industries like Buist had to keep up to date in order to attract customers.
By the end of the century the companies were mailing out hundreds of thousands of catalogs.
Bigger catalogs with more color followed, as did of course more merchandise for the American gardener.