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Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Seed Catalogs Have Long Histories
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
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Looking Back - Mountain Home Magazine
Joyce M. Tice
February 2007

It’s February, and I know that you gardeners are going through your seed catalogs and dreaming of your next garden which will be better than the last. By September or October we are often tired of our gardens, tired of working so hard, and glad to see the first frost take it all away so we can go inside and do something else. By December, when the shortest day is over and the days start to lengthen, we get the first symptoms of Spring Fever. We start watching the mail box for our seed and nursery catalogs, and we start planning all over again.

Do you know that some of the seed catalogs we receive have long histories? Our great grandparents may have received catalogs from some of the same companies that we do. In the 1890s scrapbooks that I wrote about here a couple of months ago, I found beautifully colored Burpee catalog pages showing bright red tomatoes and colorful sweet peas or pansies.

1876 - Burpee is a fine example of the longevity of seed companies. Seed companies and nurseries, by their nature, must be built over a long period of time, and many pass along family lines for generations. J. Atlee Burpee, at the age of eighteen in 1876, founded the still thriving Burpee seed company. In 1884 he produced a catalog, and by 1915 over a million of them were sent out to potential customers. Fordhook, the experimental seed development station for Burpee, has produced many new seed varieties.

1870 - The 2007 R. H. Shumway catalog from Wisconsin proclaims its 137th year. The introductory letter is signed by R. H. Shumway III, a descendant of the company’s founder. Since about 1999 Shumway has been under common ownership with the Jung Seed Company, also of Wisconsin. Jung is celebrating its centennial this year.

1907 - John William Jung, like Mr. Burpee, had an early interest in plants. In 1905 he went to work for another seed company and learned how NOT to run a company. In 1907, he published his first catalog from a bedroom in his parents’ house. The company is now run by grandchilden of the founder.

Closer to home, the Miller Brothers nursery in Canandaigua NY is well knows for its fruit trees, and it is near enough that many of us drive there in the spring for our stock. The present owners claim descent from Great-Great Grandfather Miller who started the nursery over a century ago right where it is now on the lake. They are family owned since 1934, which is probably their incorporation date.

1868 - Park Seed Company now in South Carolina dates back to 1868. George Watt Park grew up on a farm in Libonia, Pennsylvania. He grew flowers as a child, and at age sixteen he printed up a list of seeds for neighbors and friends. In 1868 his first real Park Seed catalog was eight pages. He started a gardening magazine, and in 1877 it had a circulation of 20,000 paying subscribers. A late life marriage moved him and his company south, and his widow ran the company after his death. It is now owned and operated by granddaughter Karen Park Jennings.

1816 - Stark Brothers Nursery in Missouri, known for its fruit trees, originated in 1816 when James Hart Stark and other pioneers from Kentucky moved to Missouri. He took with him a small bundle of apple tree scions and from that the nursery was begun.

It’s inspiring to see businesses started so long ago still thriving in our fast-paced and ever-changing world where most new businesses don’t last ten years. Congratulations and best wishes to them all. I will continue this article on my website with even more long lived nursery and seed companies. http://www.joycetice.com/jmtindex.htm

Actually I will continue this, just not today. There are many seed companies that we all know whose history is very long and very interesting.
2008 Continuation

1879 - Harris Seeds in Rochester, NY was started by Englishman James Harris in 1879. For its frist  hundred years the company was family owned and is now run by long time Harris Seed employees.
 
 

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Published On Tri-Counties Site On 04 FEB 2007
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice
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The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933   histcent83@gmail.com