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English Garden Catalog Served as the Model for American Catalogs

Dreer’s catalog of 1885


I just came across the book Pages from a Garden Note-Book by Mrs. Francis King, written in 1921.  It’s focus is American gardening at the beginning of the twentieth century.

King included a wonderful chapter on seed and nursery catalogs.  Many well-known seed company and nursery owners are mentioned like Childs, Henderson, Lovett, Vaughan, and Dreer.  Originating in the nineteenth century, these companies had been in business for decades by the time this chapter saw the light of print.

The chapter title is “A Review of the American Seed Catalogue”, which was originally written by  Miss Mildred Howells in 1916, and included in this book.  King credited Howells in her introductory section called “Note”.

Howells’ essay said: “When the small blue-bound list [catalog] of Chester J. Hunt, of Montclair,[New Jersey] appeared on the gardening horizon, it was as if a new star had arisen. We look, and with reason, to the best English lists as our models of what the seed, bulb, or plant list should be; and this list of tulips and daffodils, in its completeness, its careful descriptive text, its excellent prefatory notes, and its color sense, is head and shoulders above most that we have–much more like an English list.”

Thus she compared the American seed and nursery catalog with English lists or catalogs, and seemed most content only when American gardening catalogs resembled those published by the English.


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