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Chromos Proved Essential in Nineteenth Century Garden Advertising

Any business owes its success to a multitude of causes.

One of them has to be integrating the latest communication technology. Today that might mean social media.

In nineteenth century America that meant chomolithography to illustrate the company’s products.  The seed and nursery industries were at the forefront of employing chromolithography for their advertising.

Henderson illustrated flwoers, but also the lawn in this catalog cover.
The Peter Henderson Company illustrated tulips in its catalog cover of 1892.

Lithograph companies spread around the country after 1850.  The garden industry used their services as, for example, was the case in Rochester, New York, home to the famous Dewey lithography firm and several others.

Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly in 1880: “We believe the money spent in printer’s ink for the two pages a colored plate occupies, would not be half as telling as the colored illustrations of the thing itself.  We have no doubt this style of advertising will grow.”

And grow it did.

Most seed and nursery catalogs employed chromolithograph artwork to sell seeds and plants.  Some, like the Rochester seedsman James Vick, also sent chromo illustrations of flowers as a premium to his customers for buying his seeds.

In the process of employing this newest form of advertising, the garden industry has given the world illustrations that have become heirloom treasures of color, illustrations people still appreciate to this day.

Today when people think about nineteenth century seed and nusery catalogs, the color illustrations in the catalogs often come to mind.

Does that happen to you?

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