Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Two Famous California Horticulturalists

In 1907 George C. Roeding and Luther Burbank were somewhat equally famous, at least on the front page of the Pacific Rural Press, March 16, 1907. How is it that Luther Burbank is the only one who remains on the public mind?

The 1907 New Products of the Trees catalog contains these two photos and the same "Meeting of the Ways".

The following is the text from the California Fruit Bulletin:


We give on this page portraits of two men distinguished in California horticulture and whose names are very familiar to our readers. These portraits will assist them in connecting names and faces. Of Mr. Burbank the public knows too much to make it necessary for us to indulge in comments; the public knows, indeed, many things of Mr. Burbank which Mr. Burbank does not know of himself. This is the penalty of having one's name and work juggled with by rhapsodists and sycophants until a discriminating reader begins to doubt everything that is written. We do not propose to add to the confusion by undertaking either analysis or characterization but we are going to follow this showing of Mr. Burbank's portrait in coming issues with pictures and descriptions of some of the new things which he is now opening to the public and in the value of which he is confident enough to allow them to speak for him in the years to come.

The other portrait presents the face of one of the most energetic, indefatigable and at the same time one of the most genial and companionable of our California professional horticulturists, Mr. George C. Roeding of Fresno. Mr. Roeding has built up a great nursery business by most devoted and self sacrificing enterprise. Although his general aspect and outline have some suggestions of the bon vivant, his character is quite otherwise, for he is one of the most tireless and persistent workers known to us and most diligent in pursuit of an end —having courage to pursue what seems great and promising, though many may have failed to attain it. The demonstration of the value of the Smyrna fig and how it is to be attained in California is the kind of arduous undertaking which commands Mr. Roeding's energies and this is only one of the creditable things he has done.

But, asked the reader, why are these two men so unlike in face, race and phases of horticultural activity joined upon this page? It is trade which connects them for Mr. Burbank is a high-class horticultural producer who has no time to think about marketing many of his wares and Mr. Roeding is a high-class horticultural merchant who only needs to know that he has a good thing to give the world no rest until it has some of it. The association seems very rational and natural and therefore it easily comes about. Mr. Burbank has designated Mr. Roeding as the sole introducer and distributor of some of his most unique productions of which we shall have more to say in later issues.

The interesting thing just at this moment is for what specific reasons are these men assocated? A publication just issued jointly by the two makes it unnecessary to remain in doubt. The preface to the publication is entitled: "The meeting of the Ways" and is signed by both parties. Who wrote it we do not know. It praises Burbank too much to be written by him and we are left in doubt whether Mr. Roeding or our old friend H. W. Kruckeberg of Los Angeles, who is a sort of literary executor for him, if a very much alive man can have one. However, it does not matter much, the writing discloses the motive of both men not to be engaged in anything which is not sound and promising. We shall give this declaration in the writers' words:

"The creation and introduction of new plants and trees is a matter that has occupied the mind of man for centuries; indeed, it is safe to say, that not a single fruit of commercial value is a product of its native jungle. With the advance of civilization, man's wants have become multiplied and diverse in character, which fact has at all times and ages called into play the best endeavors of the race. This striving for perfection has necessarily put upon the market much of a meretricious character by those possessed of ambitions tinctured with a love of money rather than merit. Nevertheless, from a horticultural point of view, everything of value gives emphasis to man's intervention with the ways of nature and his unconquerable desire to 'do better.' Thus the Washington Navel orange was once a 'new fruit,' which has added millions to the pomological wealth of California; the same is true of the Burbank potato, the Elberta peach, the Wickson plum, the Bartlett pear, and countless other fruits and plants too numerous to mention. Because the unscrupulous, the over sanguine, the illiterate, boom a 'new thing' of little or no value, shall we taboo all 'new' things in horticulture? To do so is to place an embargo on progress, and to say to the world, 'Perfection is here, hence further improvement is impossible.'" "It is in this broad practical way, and purely on economic grounds, that Luther Burbank has spent his life in the creation and exploitation of new things in fruits, flowers and plants. By nature his is the creative faculty—the trend of mind that conceives, creates, executes in the realm of plant life. This being true and his work becoming so vast, it is not at all surprising that he should leave to others the work of 'bringing out' his creations to the trade. Appreciating this his friends have long contended that he should be relieved of this phase of the business, so as to afford wider scope for his scientific and experimental work."

"In this connection, the Fancher Creek Nurseries were approached with a view to introducing the Burbank creations to the trade. Accordingly an arrangement covering a series of years has been entered into between Mr. Burbank and this establishment whereby we become the commercial propagators and distributors of new plants and fruits known to possess real values of the first rank that he may put out from now on. We say 'values of the first order' advisedly, for we have too high a regard for the horticultural interests to place anything on the market of a meretricious character; an opinion that Mr. Burbank not only endorses, but insists must be carried out to the letter. Hence our descriptions will always be found conservative and to the point; the conditions of climates and soils governing the habit of the new introduction will be found based on experience, lucid in expression, true to the facts, and conservative In their deductions."

Mr. George C. Roeding of Fresno.
Mr. Luther Burbank of Santa Rosa.


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