Seed Company Advertising
by Pat Laffin

What better way to spend a sunny spring afternoon at the turn of the century, when all the morning chores had been completed, than to sit on the veranda and leaf through a multitude of seed catalogues? It was not uncommon to find four- or five-color plates of some species of flowering plant in each publication. Some of the most colorful and profusely illustrated lithographs appear in the catalogues such as John Lewis Childs of Floral Park, New York and Wm. Henry Maule of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Most of the larger seed companies did their own printing, while smaller companies employed others to do this work.

All seed companies did not sell seed packets, which were introduced by the Shakers. Many companies shipped seed in bulk or only sold plants and bulbs. For collectors, there are some companies that have beautiful 150-page catalogues, yet have no seed packets; while others have scores of packets, yet the catalogues (if any) are lacking in illustration and information. Jerome B. Rice, having a variety of beautiful packets, did not publish catalogues; while John Lewis Childs, with his catalogues containing numerous chromolithographed plates, did not print a large amount of packets. What few Childs’ packets remain, tend to be plain, with no illustrations. The same is true for Wm. Henry Maule’s company.

Aside from catalogues and packets, collectors can find an array of other advertising items, including yet not limited to posters, broadsides, displays, tradecards, postcards, blotters, billheads, advertising envelopes and booklets, and of course, the boxes with those fabulous interior labels that were designed to be given away after the packets were sold. Many schools gave these boxes to children for fund raising, to sell the packets, and keep thereafter. Others were used for counter-top sales in general stores.

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