University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Trade Catalogs at the University of Delaware Library:

Horticulture, Gardening, and Agriculture

One of the great strengths of the University of Delaware's Special Collection is its horticulture collection. Ranging from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, the collection encompasses botany, medical botany, landscape architecture, gardening, and commercial farming. Major emphasis is on the development of American horticulture and its European roots. Rare runs of early agricultural and horticultural society reports and periodicals, unique copies of seed catalogs issued by short-lived firms, nursery plate books, trade catalogs and advertising ephemera are included. The collection is particularly strong beginning in the 1820s, with the enormous increase in American horticultural publishing and continuing through the golden age of American horticulture in the decades after the Civil War. Seed and nursery catalogs bring the collection up to the present day with a particular focus on Delaware and regional companies.


Andrieux, Sieur.
Catalogue De Toutes Sortes De Graines, Tant Potageres, Que Legumes, Salades, Graines De Fleurs... Des plus Excellens Fruits, Les plus Rares & Les plus Estimes, Qui Si Cultivent. Paris: s.n., 1766.

A very early and rare seed catalog. The origins of the company, known as Vilmorin-Andrieux, go back to the beginning of the eighteenth century. The owners held royal appointments and the firm supplied seeds and plants for the gardens of the Tuileries.

Andrieux, Sieur.
Catalogue Raisonne‚ Des Plantes, Arbres & Arbustes Dont on Trouve Des Graines, Des Bulbes & du Plant Chez Le Sieur Andrieux, Marchand Grainier-fleuriste & Botaniste du Roi. Paris: s.n., 1771.

Andrieux gives here the Latin names for all the plants which he is offering for sale. The catalog includes seeds for making wine.

Nursery Sample Books

The University of Delaware Library holds over 100 nursery sample books dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the first decade of the twentieth century. These unique sample books contain watercolor and stencil paintings, hand-colored lithographs, chromolithographs, and photographic plates depicting flowers, shrubs, and trees that were selected by nurserymen to represent their stock. The sample books were compiled from commercially-produced plates, but each volume is unique to the nursery it represents. The sample books were used both at nurseries as catalogs of their stock, as well as by salesmen traveling throughout the country. Rochester, New York, which was the home of a number of major nurseries, became an early center for horticultural publishing and illustration.

D. M. Dewey, Agent.
Dewey's New Catalog of Colored Plates, Fruits, Flowers, etc. Rochester, N.Y.: D. M. Dewey, 1867.

Ellwanger & Barry's Mount Hope Nurseries.
[Flower, Fruit, Tree, and Shrub Color Plates]. Rochester, N.Y.: Mount Hope Nurseries, 1871.

Tobacco Advertising Posters

Almost from their inception, tobacco companies have been highly competitive and creative in their advertising. These colorful advertising posters, which date from the 1870s, are masterpieces of design, printing, and presentation.

W. Atlee Burpee & Co.
Burpee's Farm Annual. Philadelphia: the Company, 1886.

The most famous name in seeds has been producing catalogs for both farmer and gardener for well over 100 years. Business was primarily by mail order from their seed warehouse in Philadelphia. According to the 1886 catalog, they received thousands of mail orders a day for millions of packets of seeds.

J.A. Everitt Seed Co.
Annual Catalogue of Celebrated Seeds 1891. Indianapolis: The Company, 1891.

The map on the cover is explained inside: "The circle is 500 miles from Indianapolis at any point. This circle includes nine-tenths of the farming population of the country, all of whom we can supply quickly with seeds, by mail, express or freight."

The Dingee & Conard Co.
The New Guide to Rose Culture 1889. West Grove, Chester Co. Pa.: The Company, 1889.

The Company, now called Conard & Pyle, is still a thriving business in West Grove, Pennsylvania.

The Yokohama Nursery Co. Ltd.
1919 Descriptive Catalogue of The Yokohama Nursery Co., Ltd. Yokohama, Japan: The Company, 1919.

The cover is made of handmade Japanese paper and bound with yarn ties. In addition to a wide variety of flowering and evergreen trees, the company advertised dwarfed trees for miniature rock gardens.

The Holmes-Letherman Seed Co.
Holco Quality Seeds. Canton, O.: The Company, 1928.

This eye-catching cover with its unusual two-color printing and simplified drawing has an almost storybook quality.

Agricultural Implements

Isaac Greaves.
Catalog. Sheffield, England: Printed by Bell & Tompkin [ca 1840].

This simple price list contains finely detailed copperplate engravings of shears, rakes, and hoes.

Ralph & Co.
Descriptive Catalogue of Agricultural and Horticultural Implements: and of Machinery, Field and Garden Seeds, Fruit and Ornamental Trees, Domestic Animals, Fertilisers, &c. New York: The Company, 1852.

This early catalog includes dozens of detailed illustrationsof their equipment in use, giving scholars valuable information on antebellum farm life.

Parker & Gannett.
Agricultural Implements, Seeds, Woodenware and Fertilizers: Wholesale & Retail. Boston: The Company, 1883.

Hitchings & Co.
Commercial Rose and Green Houses: Also, Conservatories Palm Houses, Vineries, Etc.: Structural Iron Work for Horticultural Buildings ... New York: Hart & Von Arx, printers [1892].

The list of patrons for whom this company built greenhouses includes the U.S. Botanic Garden, Mt. Holyoke College, and the homes of J. Pierpont Morgan and William Du Pont.

Prairie State Incubator Company.
Illustrated Catalogue: 1898. Homer City, Pa.: The Company, 1898.

Color illustrations within the catalog show interior and aerial views of a number of large poultry farms across the country. Also included are more than a hundred photographs of the company's customers with names and addresses.

S. L. Allen & Co.
Planet Jr. Farm and Garden Implements. Philadelphia: The Company, 1914.

This catalog was published by the Planet Jr. parent company, S. L. Allen & Co.; however, its striking chromolithographed covers bears the name of a distributor, Burnett Bros.

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