Nineteenth Century Ads Included Factory Images

Nineteenth Century Ads Included Factory Images

Recently I traveled to the Boston Athenaeum to see a new Exhibit they had promoted.

The exhibit, called Collecting for the Boston Athenaeum in the 21st Century, included prints and photographs.

Without doubt this was one of my favorite exhibits because it included chromolithographs of factories from the nineteenth century. Then it was a common practice, especially after 1850, for companies to promote their business with an illustration of their factory or headquarters.  These illustrations would appear in trolleys, stores, and on buildings.

My favorite was the 1891 chromo of the Boston Belting Co. [below]

Boston Rubber Company 1890 [Boston Aethaneum]

Boston Rubber Company 1890 [Boston Athenaeum]

The nineteenth century seed companies and nurseries scattered across the country followed suit.

They wanted customers to know they were dealing with a substantial company and so a chromo of their warehouse and seed company, even their box company, was not uncommon.

Here is a chomolithograph of the D. M. Ferry Seed Co in Detroit from 1897. [below] Notice the size of the buildings.

Ferry Buildings 1887 small

D. M. Ferry and Son Company, 1897 [Courtesy Cornell University]

At the same time the chromo of the company’s factory and  warehouse formed a bit of advertising.

The customer thought, of course, that such a big company must have a worthwhile product to sell.

Why would he or she not order seeds from such an establishment as Ferry?  After all, the company could afford this factory and warehouse.

A new exhibition called Art on Tap at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend, Wisconsin includes this poster made from an early chromolithograph by the Miller Brewing Company. [Below]

Even the nineteenth century beer giants advertised with images of their factories.

Miller Brewing Co. Factory Scene, self-framed lithograph on tin, The H.D. Beach Co., 1905, From the collection of Robert and Debra Markiewicz

Miller Brewing Co. Factory Scene, self-framed lithograph on tin, the H.D. Beach Co., 1905. From the collection of Robert and Debra Markiewicz.

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18th Century England Collected American Plants

18th century England collected American plants

It is June and the flowers of the rhododendron seem to be putting on an extraordinary show this year.

In fact wherever I see rhodies right now, the flowers are stunning.

At one time the English garden included a special area called the “American garden” where such plants as our rhododendrons took center stage. The English loved them.

American plants filled this garden.

Mark Laird writes in the book Flora Illustrata, “[From the eighteenth century] the impact on gardening in Rhododentron, Mountain AmericanEngland was profound and led, among other things, to shrubberies – eventually called ‘American gardens.’ These were ‘theatres’ or display plantations of acclimatized woodsy plants, especially ericaceous plants such as Rhododendron and Kalmia.”

In both the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries the English sent plant collectors around the world in search of plants for their gardens.

Ships sailed to South America, Africa, Asia, and of course, North America carrying horticultural collectors in search of new and unusual plants.

Two rhododendrons blooming in my garden

Two rhododendrons blooming in my garden

Laird writes that the exchange of plants with England effected the nursery business in this country. If the English liked the plant, it was more likely to appear in the nursery trade here.

He said, “The introduction of American plants to Europe changed the nature of landscape gardening in England, with explorations having an equally profound effect on the nursery trade and horticultural activities in the early Republic.”

Though the English loved and knew our plants, that was not the case with American gardeners.

Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly in the June issue of 1870: “It has often been a source of wonder, that the idea that the most beautiful of all American ornamental plants – the Rhododendron – could not be grown in its native country, should ever prevail; yet so universal is this belief, that though persistent efforts have been made by enthusiast nurserymen, like Parsons of Flushing, and Hovey of Boston, to introduce it to public notice, and to show that they can be as well grown as any other plant, only a few yet realize the fact; and thousands of our readers do not know what a rhododendron is.”

So you might say that at one time American plants were treasured more by the English than the American gardener.

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Victorian Flower Fascination Continues

Victorian flower fascination continues.

Victorians loved their flowers. The showier, the brighter, the better.

So argues Nicolette Scourse in her book The Victorians and their Flowers.

The basis of that devotion to flowers stems from the view that flowers express a link to the Creator.

Scourse writes, “It had been an accepted  fact ‘that the most highly adorned productions of Flora’s kingdom were called into existence’ only at the appearance of man and his intellect capable of contemplating floral beauty.”

Now that we have begun our summer adventure in the garden which, of course, includes cultivating flowers, whether perennial or annual, you see how important a role flowers play in the garden.

Victorian Flowers

Victorian Flowers from the Burpee Seed Catalog of 1887

We love our flowers today as much as the Victorians.

Scourse writes, “In some aspects we still view flowers and nature in very much the same way as the Victorians: we thrill at the exotic, the macabre and the concept of wilderness (still in the comfort of an armchair, albeit via a different medium). Sentimental renderings of rustic cottage gardens, ‘laughing streams, and flower-bedecked fields,’ harvest mice and pastel-tinted, honeysuckle hedgerows still abound, together with nostalgia for a pre-Industrial lifestyle.”

Right now garden centers and nurseries abound in colorful selections of flowers, eager to go home with us.

Flowers still impact your eyes, your nose, and even your touch.

The Victorian fascination with flowers continues.

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Victorian Flowers Decorate Forever Stamps

Victorian flowers decorate forever stamps.

Recently I bought first class stamps at our local post office, something I have done many times.

This batch of stamps however surprised me. Victorian flowers decorated each stamp in the packet I received.

Each stamp looked like a work of art. That’s what they were: botanical art from the late nineteenth century.

The U.S. Post Office used chromolithographs of flowers from the seed and nursery catalogs from the 1880s into the twentieth century for these new stamps, just issued in January.

stamps 2016

Depicted on the stamps, top row from left:corn lilies, tulips, stocks, roses and petunias. Pictured bottom row from left: tulips, dahlias, japanese Iris, tulips and daffodils and jonquils. [Courtesy of the US Postal Service]

The late nineteenth century was a time when many businesses used chromolithographs to promote their products in ads, catalog covers, trade cards, and posters. The garden industry was no different, including in the catalog brightly colored chromos, as they were called, depicting their flowers. Often the artist responsible for these images was never named.

The images on these stamps come from the seed and nursery catalog collection at the New York Botanical Garden, one of the largest such archives in the country.

Botanical art on stams 2016

An example of the botanical art on new first class stamps, issued in January 2016.

No surprise that I have been using the stamps for the past few weeks.

These stamps provide a lesson in garden history by focusing on the botanical art used to sell flowers in Victorian America.

We now have them thanks to the U.S. Post Office.

U.S. Post Office

U.S. Post Office

 

 

 

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Victorian Garden Ads Seldom Depicted Women Working

Victorian garden ads seldom depicted women working.

Recently I received this photo in a press kit to promote a new garden tool. Notice the woman here is raking in the garden while her son observes his mother’s work. [below]

[Courtesy of PR Newswire]

Women depicted as gardeners who were actually working in the garden was something I did not see very often as I read dozens of nineteenth century seed and nursery catalogs in doing research for my book.

I saw many illustrations of women, often cutting flowers to take into the house.  Sometimes women appeared as players in a lawn game like croquet.

Susan Groag Bell wrote an article called “Women create gardens in male landscapes: A revisionist approach to eighteenth-century English garden history.” It appeared in the journal Feminist Studies.

There she said “The discussion of gardening by women in the nineteenth century is not in the landscape books of the period, but rather in their letters, garden notebooks, botanical paintings, and embroideries. From these texts we know that women were actively involved in gardening.”

English writer Jennifer Davies in her book The Victorian Flower Garden does mention Victorian suburban women gardeners as a target audience for garden products.  She says, “Manufacturers were not slow to identify a new market in suburban lady gardeners. Advertisements for lawn mowers appeared with the wording ‘suitable for a Lady’ or with an illustration of a lady pushing a mower.”

Most of the illustrations of women in Victorian American seed and nursery catalogs did not show a woman at work in the garden. Notice the woman in this 1888 catalog illustration from Boston’s Rawson Seed Company. [below]  She’s cutting flowers.

Rawson_1888_garden very small

Illustrations similar to this Rawson image appeared frequently in the catalogs in Victorian America.

Today in selling tools for the garden, women are often depicted as actually working in the garden like digging a hole, weeding, or planting.

The change is not in a woman’s work in the garden, but in the advertiser’s image of woman as gardener.

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Catalogs Kept 19th Century Gardener Informed

Catalogs kept 19th century gardener informed.

Rosedown in southern Louisiana is now a public garden, open for all to see the work of nineteenth century gardener Martha Turnbull.

There Martha kept a dairy of her work in her garden, spanning the years 1836 through 1894, which is the subject of the book The Garden Diary of Martha Turnbull Mistress of Rosedown Plantation edited and annotated by Suzanne Turner.

Turnbull book cover LSUpressNineteenth century seed and nursery catalogs helped Martha keep informed about the newest and latest in gardening.

Turner writes,  “Despite the relative isolation of Martha’s gardening pursuits at Rosedown, through journals and nursery catalogs she was able to stay in touch with the mainstream of American horticulture and floriculture.”

That was the goal of the owners of the seed and nursery companies: to keep their customers up to date with the newest flower and vegetable on the market.

Rochester, NY seedsman James Vick wrote in December, 1878, “Knowing the desire of our readers to learn something about everything that is new and good, even though they may not be able to possess all, we now give descriptions of a few very interesting and valuable plants.”

Here is Vick’s catalog from 1872. [below] He published several catalogs every year.

11. 1872 coverVick saw the goal of his catalog to teach his customers.

In 1880 one of his customers wrote these words to Vick, “From you I have acquired and put in practice much valuable information concerning the cultivation of flowers.”

In that same spirit Martha Turnbull also learned much from garden catalogs.

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The English Garden Inspired America’s Downing

The English garden inspired America’s Downing.

America’s early landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852) drew heavily

Andrew Jackson Dowing

Andrew Jackson Dowing

on the writing of English landscape gardeners in his own work.

He also recognized that a professional gardener was not to be found on American soil.

Downing lamented that Americans knew little about designing and caring for a garden in the classic English meaning of the term.

He wrote, “We never remember an instance of an American offering himself as a professional gardener.”

Americans knew how to farm, but next to nothing about the ‘refined’ operation of the garden.

So where did Americans learn how to garden? From the English, of course.

He wrote, “We may, therefore, thank foreigners for nearly all the gardening skill that we have in the country, and  we are by no means inclined to underrate the value of their labors.”

He wrote these words in his article “American versus British Horticulture” in his magazine The Horticulturist in June of 1852. [below]

June 1, 1852

June 1, 1852

He wrote, “No two languages can be more different than the gardening tongues of England and America.”

Downing had been a fruit grower in New York. He sold his part of the business to his brother so he could devote his time to pursuing his goal of making American home landscapes reflect a sense of artful rural taste.

He wrote for the wealthy whose property spread over acres as well for the middle class gardener who had only an acre. His books like A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening and his magazine made him famous.

Downing’s primary guide was John Claudius Loudon, England’s most important garden writer and landscape gardener in the first half of the nineteenth century.

 

 

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Exhibits Awarded at Tropical Plant Show in Florida

Exhibits awarded at Tropical Plant Show in Florida

Recently through the kindness of the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association, I attended the Foliage Plant Industry Exhibition in Fort Lauderdale.

Exhibitions offer people like nursery owners and growers, and also garden writers, a chance to see what is new from the green industry, and take in the exhibits at the Show.

Plant Exhibitions have long been a tradition in the garden industry.

At the 50th anniversary of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society on September 12, 1879 Boston horticulturist Marshall Wilder (1798-1886) said, “Hothouse orchids were hardly known here half a century ago; yet at almost every exhibition now they surprise and delight us by some new and wonderful form, or gorgeous color.”

Wilder credited the Exhibitions with their ability to showcase new plants.

At the FPIE in Florida two exhibits received awards worth mentioning here.

For its exhibit centered on the theme of the board game Monopoly the United Nursery  won the top award. Dozens of hibiscus plants lined the edge of the game. [below] Hibiscus continues as the major seller for this and many other Florida growers. 

Monopoly set the theme for this exhibit of Hibiscus plants

Monopoly set the theme for the United Nursery Exhibit of Hibiscus plants

Another grower the J. Berry Nursery from Texas won an award for its city view. When you stand in front of the Exhibit, you are looking at the view of skyscrapers from a rooftop garden.

Again a row of hibiscus, here in gray planters, set the stage for the scene. [below]

 

Skyscrapers form the background for this exhibit

Skyscrapers form the background for this J. Berry Nursery Exhibit

It was fun to see what growers are offering, but also I enjoyed the chance to take in some award-winning design ideas by some of the growers.

 

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Orchids Grow on Trees

Orchids grow on trees.

In the mid 1700s orchids arrived from tropical areas around the world to find a new home in England and France. Thus began the European gardener’s fascination with cultivating this exotic flower. It would not be long before the orchid also arrived in America.

A few days ago I attended the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a trade show for the green industry. The show included over 400 growers, many from southern Florida, with about 16,000 attendees who were mainly garden center owners in search of plants.

Chris Beyter, from Ball Horticultural in Illinois, said, “Tropicals are popular today, especially orchids and succulents.”

It was thus no surprise that I saw many orchid varieties, including Jay Marrero’s, from Florida orchid grower Silver Vase. He told me, ”We are creating a demand for orchids.”

If cared for correctly, the orchid flowers will bloom for three to five months.

The day before the Show a garden tour bus took us to a Miami garden where I saw an orchid growing on a tree in the front yard of a home. [below] I couldn’t believe it. It was a beautiful sight.

 

In this Florida front yard you can see orchids on this tree

In this Florida front yard an orchid grows on this tree.

Orchids do not grow in soil but prefer a growing medium like Leca, a clay material in the shape of small brown colored balls that look almost like marbles.

Unfortunately, many people over water an orchid, the major problem in growing the plant.

In the wild you find the orchid growing between rocks and on tree trunks – vertically.

Victoria Zemlan in her article “By Hook by Crook: The Plunder of Orchids for the New World” says “Now, we can buy inexpensive orchids in almost any nursery, home improvement center, or grocery store, but 19th century orchids were an extravagance reserved for the nobility.”

This flower provided many hours of pleasure to gardeners in nineteenth century America who could afford both the greenhouse and a garden staff to tend to them.

But now any gardener can grow them. Zemlan says, “Orchids haven’t lost their allure — Americans now spend more on orchids each year than on any other houseplant.”

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Men and Women of the Cloth Love the Garden

History shows us that men and women of the cloth love the garden.

From the middle ages cloistered nuns and monks, behind garden walls, taught us the importance of herbs for medicine and the kitchen.

Later in England clergymen played an important role in the history of the English garden. They may have introduced new plants, grew special plant varieties, collected plants from around the world, and perhaps exhibited plants at local flower shows.

In his magazine Gardener’s Monthly Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan in 1866 included a letter from a clergyman who lived in Adrian, Michigan. The letter addressed his fellow ministers.

The clergyman wrote: “First get Buist and Breck, take the Monthly, buy a select list of seeds and plants, and go to work. You have preached patience, practice it now.”
He recommended his fellow clergymen seek out both a Breck and a Buist seed catalog, order some seeds, and start gardening.
Catalog from the Joseph Breck Seed Company which began in Boston in 1818.]

Catalog from the Joseph Breck Seed Company

The Joseph Breck Seed Company opened in 1818 Boston. A few years later Robert Buist started his seed company in Philadelphia.  Both were well-established American garden businesses by 1866.

To this day we spread the word about gardening to our family and friends. The seed companies and nurseries that help us are the ones we recommend.

Thus the cycle continues. Our friends, in turn, recommend the same companies.

Mass marketed gardening emerged for the first time when nineteenth century seed companies and nurseries  introduced the mail order catalog as a means to connect with gardeners whether in the city, the suburbs, or on the farm.

Since all advertising, and the catalog was first and foremost an ad, sells cultural values, in the process the seed and plant merchants sold a certain style of gardening which was the English garden, especially the lawn.

When the Michigan preacher recommended the Breck and Buist company catalogs and Meehan’s magazine Gardener’s Monthly, he too promoted the English style of gardening.

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