Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fig Mysteries

Painting by Mrs. Henry W. Kruckerberg, 1902?
from The Smyra Fig at Home and Abroad
Henry Kruckerberg published stuff like
the Proceedings of the California Association of Nurserymen.
Here he is next to George C. Roeding in 1911.
Perhaps Mrs. Kruckerberg turns up
in some of these CAN photos as well.
Original painting is in the Roeding Archives.

John Rock, George Roeding, Gustav Eisen, James Shinn: These are names that are part of our local fig stories.

Quotes are intriguing: "Rock (according to Eisen) was the “owner of the largest assortment of fig varieties collected in one place."

Where did those figs go?

Other local mysteries are "Who was first to solve the mystery of caprification of the Smyrna fig?" If you listen to the descendants of the Shinn and Roeding families, this still hasn't been answered. Apparently there is a hand-written unpublished 75-page document written by George Roeding that will answer this question (BR).

When Gustav Eisen mentions the people who he has worked with, why does he leave out George C. Roeding? We know they worked together closely on the mystery of caprification. And he's mentioned many times in his book, This Fig. But no thanks? What's the scoop on that? The Roeding family says that Eisen was the first orchard manager for Fancher Creek. (BR)

Then here was a really enticing tidbit in Condit’s “Fig Varieties”:

"A prized possession of the library of the University of California Citrus Experiment Station at Riverside, is the record book containing penciled notes as well as outline drawings made by John Rock and Gustav Eisen of these figs as grown at Niles and at Biggs. Subsequently, the collection was transferred to the United States Plant Introduction Garden, near Chico, where the author made notes on the varieties in 1916, 1918, and 1921. Cuttings of most of the varieties were established in a plot at Fresno in February, at Riverside in 1928, and again at Fresno in 1950. Numerous introductions have been made from other parts of the United States and from foreign countries, mostly through the Division of Exploration and Introduction, United States Department of Agriculture."

Why did a notebook from Rock & Eisen end up at Riverside?

In the Finding Aid "Guide to the University of California, Riverside, Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station records", it mentions "Papers and correspondence of Gustav Eisen regarding figs. Received by Dr. I.J. Condit from Ernest Braunton. Turned over to the library on November 17, 1942. 1873-1942.".  Same Ernest Braunton who was the Landscape Architect for a portion of the Santa Ana Botanic Garden? 

So I will be sorting this out in this blog by organizing all of the literature that's out there. This will be quite messy for a while. Has someone already sorted this out?

Gustav Eisen
  • The Fig: Its History, Culture, and Curing: With a Descriptive Catalogue of the Known Varieties of Figs, 1901...Eisen leaves out any mention of Mr. George Roeding in his preface but mentions "assistance from Mr. EW Maslin, Mr. Felix Gillet, Mr. George O. Mitchell, Mr. John C Jones, Mr. GP Rixford, and Dr. WJV Osterhout. I am especially indebted to Mr John Rock of Niles without whose assistance this bulletin could never have been published in its present form. Besides his own collection of figs he has also cared for that imported by the United States Government from the Royal Horticultural Society of London both collections having been at my disposal for experiment and study." ....and "Among California importers John Rock stands most prominent. He has imported figs at various times from foreign countries and possesses now the most extensive collection on the Pacific coast. The trees are at Niles, Cal. not far from San Francisco. Of the earlier importations there is no record but in the spring of 1883 he received from Thomas Rivers & Son the following figs Barnissotte Grise, Angelique, Col di Signora Bianca, De Constantino, Negro Largo, Early Violet, Lardaro, Black Marseilles, Drap d'Or, White Genoa, Bondance Precoce, Brown Ischia, Prolific, Monaco Bianco, Brunswick, Bourjassotte Grise, Rocardi, Col di Signora Nera, Grosse Grise Bifère, Royal Vineyard, Hirta, Brown Turkey, Ronde Violette Hative, White Marseilles, Bourjassotte Blanche, White Ischia, Du Roi (fig. 8), Agen, Dorè Norbus, Pasteliere, Raby Castle, Bourjassotte Noire, Grassale, Black Ischia, Ronde Noire. In 1889 he received the following figs from a house in Provence, France: Salette, Martale, Rosso di Mensigila, Grosse Violette, Des Dames, Biànca Morcati, Angelique, Avarcugo, Crovere, De Calabria, À Feuilles Trilobes, Courcourelle, Giallo Verde, Giallo Rotondo, Negrondo, Madalena, Aubique Leroy, Ronde Rouge de Provence, Imperial, Rolandina, Turco di Constantinople, Mascula. In the fall of 1890 the Department of Agriculture at Washington, D. C, sent to Mr. Rock the Trojano, Dottato, Brizanzola, and Guigliana; and from a local nurseryman were received in 1891 the Capri, Smyrna, Verdale Longue, Cernica, Zemitza, etc.

    "Felix Gillet, of Nevada City, Cal., has at various times imported from France figs of the following varieties : Pagaudiere, Noir Moutier, Buissonne, Madeleine Blanche, Grosse Marseillaise, Datte, De Versailles, Franch Paillarde, Napolitaine, Verdale. These were imported in 1874. The following varieties were sent to Mr. F. Gillet from the United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C, and are now being tried by him: Dalmatino, Broghetto, Rubaldo (undoubtedly Rubado), San Piero, Dottato, and San Vito."

Ira J. Condit
  • FIG VARIETIES: A MONOGRAPH "Rock was the “owner of the largest assortment of fig varieties collected in one place." 
  • "Fig Culture in California", 1933
  • "Fig Culture in California", 1936
  • "The Fig", 1947
  • "The Fig", 1947, p. 59 (reference from Figs4FunForum) "Collections of Fig Varieties:Variety collections of figs have been established and maintained in many places. Notable among such collections, especially for California growers, is the Chiswick collection, maintained until recently in the glass houses of the Royal Horticultural Society of London, England. In 1894, scions of each variety, about 66 in all, were secured by the United States Department of Agriculture under Plant Introduction (P. I.) numbers and forwarded to California, where they were successfully grafted into old trees in the orchard of the California Nursery Company at Niles. Subsequently the collection was transferred to the United States Plant Introduction Garden at Chico. According to J. C. Shinn (1892), the University of California had, at its various stations, about 60 varieties of figs available for distribution. A variety orchard including all the available kinds from the Chiswick collection as well as numerous other kinds, was established in 1928 at the University of California Citrus Experiment Station, Riverside. This collection now includes 145 distinct varieties of caprifigs and edible figs as well as several thousand seedlings."
  • "Fig Varieties: A Mongraph", 1955
The Press
  • "Fig Growing in California III", Pacific Rural Press, June 12, 1897, "Grafting the fig is successfully practiced in California by a method invented by Mr. John Rock. It is the only method of fig grafting that has proved reliable, practical and of real value there.", 
  • "An Expedition After the Blastophaga" Pacific Rural Press, Sept. 3, 1898, "Private attempts by Mr. Roeding and J. C. Shinn of Niles to establish the insect have failed", 
E.J. Wickson

George Roeding
James Shinn
The Evening Bulletin

G.P. Rixford

Too Good to Miss

The Chiswick Fig Collection

Catalog comments

Historical Studies

Several pictures of the fig trees at the California Nursery in Niles are in The Fig.

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