Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Horticultural Wishbooks

Catalogs, a window to the past

I love to look at old catalogs.  You get to see the ordinary or the fleeting or exactly what you got for Christmas back in 1965.  It was a big deal to get that Christmas Sears Roebuck catalog  each year. We called it the wishbook.  Indeed, the old catalogs give us a view into the lives of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. What were some of those things used for?  You could buy anything in there. I always wish I could still order out of the catalog. Maybe there is a Sears Hazelton house kit languishing in some warehouse waiting for me.

Old seed catalogs are great wishbooks, too.  You see varieties that are hard or impossible to find now. You see trees that must have been just introduced to California.  All kinds of wondrous stuff.
I found several places online that have scanned in old catalogs and looked for the California Nursery Company catalogs.

Digitized plant and seed catalogs from the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Trade Literature Collections Online, Seed and Nursery Catalogs currently does not have any California Nursery Company catalogs, but there are many other interesting catalogs.  Marca L. Woodhams, Smithsonian Institution Libraries says in the introduction "The real gems of the collection date from 1830 to the 1930s and are both beautiful and important multidisciplinary historical documents. The seed trade catalogs document the history of the seed and agricultural implement business in the United States, as well as provide a history of botany and plant research such as the introduction of plant varieties into the United States. Additionally, the seed trade catalogs are a window into the history of graphic arts in advertising, and a social history, through the text and illustrations, showing changing fashions in flowers and vegetables." Agreed! There is also a good list of references that might lead to other places to find California Nursery catalogs.

Digitized plant and seed catalogs from the New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden Mertz Digital Collection has early plant and seed catalogs from all over that you can read online.

Other collections

California Nursery Company Catalogs

The California Nursery Company Catalogs 1893 to 1922 are available to view from the Mertz Digital Collection.  I scanned through some of them to find some interesting pictures. 1913-1914 and 1914-1915 don't have any pictures. 1915 has some interesting pictures.

Not all issues are scanned there.  Here is 1906-1907 from the Sonoma County Library, Sonoma Heritage Collections.

From Mertz, in the earliest catalog 1893-1894, here are some of the apple varieties that you could order:
Delicious sounding names like Sops of Wine, Chenango Strawberry, Red June, Keswick Codlin, Hubbardston's Nonsuch, Twenty Ounce, Mother, Red Bietigheimer, Rambo!

Remember that the California Nursery Company provided palm trees and conifers for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition?  The 1915 Catalog has an especially fancy cover.  They must have bust the budget and used many pictures of plants and the nursery.   (Note: The catalog reader is a bit quirky to get past page 97, but just hit close like it says and you get into the other sections.)
The back cover has a picture of one of their award winning displays:
Our Exhibit of 100 species and Varieties of Conifers
Panama-Pacific International Exposition
Awarded Medal of Honor
Inside on page 128, there is a note that they have won three medals:

On the grounds of the California Nursery park, near the main office, there is a large Bunya-bunya.  It is huge and its cones are huge.  Everything about it is huge.  

The catalog mentions the Bunya bunya (Auraucaria bidwilli) and other Araucaria. Some of the other Araucaria are:
Bunya-bunya, Brazilian Pine, Norfolk Island Pine

    Look at those little Norfolk Island Pines.  
    Someone must have a 100 year old pine 
    obtained from California Nursery.

Shinn's Nursery

From December 1875 California Horticulturist and Floral Magazine, vol. V, No. 2 

John Rock's Nurseries Catalogs:

  • 1873, 1880, 1882, 1885, 1888 (UC Davis)

1871 Daily Alta California

Volume 23, Number 7642, 23 February 1871

From Pacific Rural Press, Volume 33, Number 2, 8 January 1887
similar ad in Volume 32, Number 17, 23 October 1886

From Pacific Rural Press,Vol. 36, no. 26 December 29, 1888

The California Nursery Catalogs:

Check here at Biodiversity Heritage Library and at for additional catalogs periodically.
  1. 1887-1888 (Google books, not online) Bancroft has it.
  2. 1888-1889 (Internet Archive), nice pear etching, no names attached to catalog.
  3. 1890 (UC Davis and UC Berkeley)
  4. 1891-1892 (Internet Archive), various nice fonts for title
  5. 1892? (Biodiversity Heritage Library), color grape, line drawings of fruit
  6. 1893? (Biodiversity Heritage Library), line drawings of trees, roses, toddlers.
  7. 1893-1894 (Mertz) John Rock (President), R.D. Fox (Vice-President), John H. Henn (Secretary), Directors (Rock, Fox, Meherin, Henn, Sanborn, Landers, Uslar)
  8. 1894-1895 (Internet Archive
  9. 1895? (Biodiversity Heritage Library)
  10. 1897-1898 (Biodiversity Heritage Library) Directors (John Rock, R.D. Fox, Thomas Meherin, John Henn, H.M. Sanborn, Wm. J. Landers, E.E. Uslar)
  11. 1898? (Biodiversity Heritage Library)
  12. 1899 - Thomas Mehrin - SF (Internet Archive)
  13. 1901-1902 (Biodiversity Heritage Library)
  14. 1901-1902 (Internet Archive) Phylloxera Resisting American Grapes
  15. 1902 (Internet Archive) Palms & Evergreens Manager (John Rock), short, no pics.
  16. 1902 (BHL) Fruit Trees, cover with pictures of trees
  17. 1903? (Biodiversity Heritage Library) nice line drawings and some photos.
  18. 1902-1903 (Biodiversity Heritage Library)
  19. 1903-1904 (Biodiversity Heritage Library) Award for Jordon Almonds, American Pomological Society.
  20. 1904 (Biodiversity Heritage Library) Bulbs for fall planting and Spring flowering.
  21. 1904-1904 (Biodiversity Heritage Library) has announcement of John Rock's death
  22. 1905-1906 (Biodiversity Heritage Library) Photos of Medal awarded, Paris Exposition on front and Washingtonia sonorae on back
  23. 1906 (google books, not online) No. 4 Catalogue of Phylloxera-resisting American Grapes
  24. 1906-1907 (American Libraries) W.H. Landers (President), H.W. Meek (Vice-President), John H. Henn (Secretary), W.V. Eberly (Manager), Directors (Landers, Palmanteer, Meek, Hammond, Stone, Henn, Hosmer)
  25. 1907-1908 (Biodiversity Heritage Library)
  26. 1908-1909 - (Internet Archive
  27. 1908-1909 (Internet Archive) Ornamental Tree and Plants. Lots of pics, Lippia
  28. 1909-1910 (Internet Archive) Fruit and Ornamental Trees...
  29. 1910-1911 (Mertz) Egbert B. Stone (President), A.C. Hammond (Vice-President), John H. Henn (Secretary),  Directors (Hawley, Henn, Hammond, Landers, Stone, Sims, Eberly), ship Western Pacific and Southern Pacific.
  30. 1911-1912 (Mertz) Egbert B. Stone (President), A.C. Hammond (Vice-President), John H. Henn (Secretary),  Directors (Hawley, Henn, Hammond, Landers, Stone, Sims, Eberly), ship Western Pacific and Southern Pacific.
  31. 1912-1913 (Mertz) Egbert B. Stone (President), A.C. Hammond (Vice-President), F.W. Hosmer (Secretary),  Directors (Hawley, Henn, Hammond, Landers, Stone, Sims, Eberly), ship Western Pacific and Southern Pacific.
  32. 1913-1914 (Mertz) W.H. Landers (President), A.C. Hammond (Vice-President), F.W. Hosmer (Secretary), W.V. Eberly (Manager), couldn't find shipping.
  33. 1914-1915 (Mertz) W.H. Landers (President), A.C. Hammond (Vice-President), F.W. Hosmer (Secretary), W.V. Eberly (Manager), couldn't find shipping
  34. 1915           (Mertz), if coming to nursery, take Southern Pacific to Niles.
  35. 1915-1916 (Mertz) W.H. Landers (President), A.C. Hammond (Vice-President), F.W. Hosmer (Secretary), W.V. Eberly (Manager). picture of horses.
  36. 1916-1917 (Mertz) W.H. Landers (President), A.C. Hammond (Vice-President), F.W. Hosmer (Secretary), W.V. Eberly (Manager) 
  37. 1917-1918 (Mertz) W.V. Eberly (Manager), some pictures of trees.
  38. Spring 1918 (BHL) W.V. Eberly (Manager) bear head logo, many photos of workers, water supply, moving palms with horses. Nine horses digging roses.
  39. 1919          (Mertz) This catalog has many very beautiful pictures of fruits and the fields and includes a picture of moving palms for PPIE. 40 H.P. engine.
  40. 1921-1922 (Mertz)
  41. 1924 (google books, not online) Budwood, Scions and Cuttings (embracing Over 1000 Varieties)From Record Performance Fruit Trees : Covering a Period of Ten to Fifty Years in the Test Orchards Founded by John Rock on the Grounds of the California Nursery Company : and Also in Record Bearing Orchards and Vineyards Under the Personal Observation of George C. Roeding in Various Portions of California for More Than a Third of a Century
  42. 1924, 1926, 1927, 1929, 1930 (Online Archives of California, not scanned, located at UCLA)
  43. 1924-1933 (UC Davis)
  44. 1939 (Alameda County Library has copy)
1915-1916 catalog has horses
1915-1916 catalog has horses
From 1904-1905 catalog

The main driveway to our nursery, lined on each side with Phoenix canariensis.
The hill in the distance, half a mile from our north line,
is largely responsible for the fertility of the soil.
1919 catalog

From 1915-1916 Fancher Creek catalog

Fancher Creek Catalogs

Other nursery catalogs
Other interesting books
  • The history of the California Fruit Growers Exchange / by Rahno Mabel MacCurdy (Hathitrust)
Nursery catalogs that were used by John Rock 1903

Graphics and photos in catalogs
Early California Nursery ads
From Los Angeles Herald, Volume 3, Number 103, 28 January 1875
wrong nursery?

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