SEED AND NURSERY TRADE
The history of the seed and nursery trade is thoroughly documented in the horticultural collections of the University of Delaware Library in trade catalogs, sample books, original illustrations, posters, advertising circulars and broadsides, seed packets, trade cards, and other ephemera. Foremost among these materials are the collections of seed catalogs and nursery sample books. Special Collections' holdings in seed catalogs comprise the serial publications of over 700 American and European seed houses and nurseries from the late eighteenth century to the present, with a concentration in the years between 1870 and 1930. The collection contains catalogs for over 600 firms across the United States, particularly from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Michigan, and Illinois, and a representative collection of over 100 European seed catalogs. Holdings include runs of well-known seed catalogs produced by the W. Atlee Burpee Company (1881-1981), Ferry & Co. (1874-1913), James John Howard Gregory (1869-1933), Peter Henderson & Co. (1872-1947), and James Vick (1866-1900), and examples of notable and obscure seed growers.
An outstanding major resource for the study of the nursery trade in the United States is a group of nearly 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 illustrating fruits, flowers, shrubs, and trees that were selected by nurserymen to represent their stock. Most of the nursery plates in this collection were produced in Rochester, New York, an early center for horticultural publishing and illustration due to the large number of major nurseries in the area. These books were used by nurseries throughout the country. Nurserymen would select the plates they wanted from the horticultural printer's catalog of prints, bind them in leather, and stamp the finished volume with the name of nursery. The sample book could then be used as a lavishly illustrated catalog of the nursery's stock both at the nursery and by salesmen travelling the countryside as the nursery's representatives. Although sample books were compiled from commercially produced plates, each volume is unique to the nursery it represents, demonstrating the range and specializations of the nurseryman's stock and the tastes and preferences of his clientele.
Several companies that contributed to the early development of illustration for the nursery trade represented in this superb collection of nursery sample books include the Rochester lithographers and publishers D. M. Dewey, Rochester Lithographing Company, Stecher Lithograph Company, and Vrendenburg & Co.; and E. B. and E. C. Kellogg of Hartford, Connecticut.
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Newark, Delaware 19717-5267