University of Delaware Library
Bookmark and Share

The Seed and Nursery Trade

After the Civil War, upstate New York became a center for the production and distribution of nursery stock and seeds to farms and settlements that were just opening up in the West. Along with the horticultural production there developed a related industry, the printing of colored fruit and flower prints designed to help nurserymen and their traveling salesmen sell plants. The typical plate showed a brightly-colored, scientifically accurate image of a flower, tree or fruit accompanied by a brief description. The plant seller could purchase the plates he currently needed.

Specimen Book of Fruit
The Specimen Book of Fruits
and Flowers and Ornamental
, 1872.
Kurze praktische Unleitung zum
Blumenmalen mit Uquarell-Farben
, 1844.

The earliest plates were lithographically printed and hand-colored or printed using a stencil with details individually painted by hand. In the 1870s, chromolithographic printing produced brightly colored images more inexpensively. By the 1890s photography had replaced lithography and within a few years the sample book was replaced by other types of advertising.

Special Collections owns over a hundred sample books representing many different formats, printing techniques, and companies. They have been used not only for University of Delaware classes but also by landscapers and historic preservationists to determine what plants would have been available in a particular region at a specific time.

  • Salesman's display catalog with colored photo plates, ca. 1890.
  • Salesman's display catalog with hand-painted plates, ca. 1870.
  • D.M. Dewey.
    The Specimen Book of fruits and Flowers and Ornamental Trees. Rochester: D.M. Dewey, circa 1872.
  • Arkansas Valley Nurseries.
    Nursery Sample Book. Rochester, NY: circa 1898.
  • Joseph Prestele.
    Kurze praktische Unleitung zum Blumenmalen mit Uquarell-Farben. Friedberg in der Wetterau: Druck und Verlag von Carl Bindernagel, 1844.

This page is maintained by Special Collections.

  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014