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By the late 19th Century Garden Catalogs also Sold Social Class

Today you accept advertising as a fact of life.

In the late nineteenth century advertising as we know it today appeared and spread across the country.

The ad sold a product but also with that product a feeling, a hope, or a dream.  The advertiser connected the product with an image that would make the consumer feel the purchase was worthwhile.

The seed and nursery industries of that period sold garden products in the same way.

The garden industry, epecially in its catalogs which were considered advertising,  also sold an image of a person, a home, a landscape that were each important to the culture. They helped to shape the culture in that way.

Stephen Fox in his book The Mirror Makers: A History of American Advertising and its Creators wrote about late nineteenth century advertising in America. He said, “Ads necessarily reflected the times, and as an independent force that helped shape the times.”

Notice this catalog cover  from the Crosman Brothers Seed Company in Rochester, New York [below].

Catalog cover of the Crosman Brothers Seed Catalog of 1894 [thanks to New York Botanical Garden]
Catalog cover of the Crosman Brothers Seed Catalog of 1894 [thanks to New York Botanical Garden Library] 
 A child from an upper class family appears on the cover. We know her social status from her clothes, which include both a fancy hat and a pair of dark gloves.

She just might  be reading a Crosman catalog. If you look closely, you can see the front cover.

As Fox would say, Crosman also sold social class.

Thus by the late 1800s gardening for the middle class meant Crosman seeds.

Its cover image sold seeds but seeds for a particular class of customer. Or, if you bought the company’s seeds, you could feel like a member of this class.

What do you think about this catalog cover?


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