The snow’s been collecting on the garden and the blooming season seems very far away. Of course the seed catalogs have started trickling in already (January is ‘seed month’ in the industry) and by Valentine’s Day gardeners have piles of choices.
Appalachian gardeners during the 1930s could count on catalogues from Stark Brothers Nurseries, Thompson & Morgan, and the grandfather of seed catalogs, Burpee’s.
“W. Atlee Burpee, who founded the Burpee firm, was a cousin of the California plant wizard Luther Burbank. In Burbank’s lifetime the Burpees bought seed from the little firm Burbank maintained to help finance his experiments. W. Atlee Burpee began his business in 1878. It gained prestige by introducing the sweet pea from England and more prestige by developing new varieties which were shipped back to England.
“The present Burpee, David, a man of medium height and thinning hair, became president of the company in 1915 after the death of his father. Born in Philadelphia in 1893, he attended Cornell’s agricultural college, from which he was called home by his father’s illness. During the War he set up sample gardens, encouraged people to grow their own food. The War stopped shipments of bulbs, so he grew fine Dutch bulbs in the U. S. Carefully and in person he oversees the operation of the Burpee farms, Fordhook Farms (named for the ancestral Burpee estate in England) at Doylestown, Pa., and Floradale Farm in Santa Barbara County, Calif.
“In person, too, he follows many of the 20,000 experiments made yearly by the Burpee organization. He advocates Federal patents for the protection of flower experimenters. He lives at Fordhook Farms while his younger brother, Washington Atlee Burpee Jr., treasurer of the company, lives on fashionable Delancey Street in Philadelphia.”
Time magazine, Sep. 21, 1931