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Catalog Data

John Chatillon & Sons  Search this
Brass, iron
10 1/2 × 1 3/4 × 3 in. (26.7 × 4.4 × 7.6 cm)
Seed industry
New York, New York, United States
ca. 1887
Victorian (1837-1901)
Hanging scale component. The body of the object is made of iron with brass ring attached at the top to a hole in the back of the piece. A brass hook is attached at the bottom of the piece of iron as well. The piece is labeled "John Chatilla & Sons Makers, New York USA. Not legal for use in trade. 25 lb. limit." Scales, such as this one, were vital to the seedsman’s business. Guessing and inaccurate measurements could hurt a company’s credibility or their profits. Using a sale, a seedsman could guarantee that every seed packet was honestly and accurately measured and that there would be no loss to the company through overweight packets containing too many seeds, and no unfairness to the customer for under filled packets.
Label Text:
Saving seeds is done both industrially for agriculture and gardening, but it is also done by amateur gardeners. Seed saving was the traditional way farms and gardens had maintained themselves for the last 12,000 years. In the nineteenth century, the commercial seed industry replaced most grassroots seed-saving practices. Rather than collecting and processing their own seeds, gardeners and farmers shifted to purchasing seed annually from seed suppliers. Seed harvesting is a carefully-timed and labor-intensive process, and many farmers and gardeners found relying on the seed industry to do this work for them much easier and more cost effective. The seed industry was essentially a centralized supply collected from individual raisers and sold to both local retailers and directly to the public. Seeds were grown on farms, harvested, dried, and cleaned. They were then sorted, categorized, stored, packaged, described, and mailed. These time- and labor-saving steps made the product of seedsmen more convenient and thereby more valuable than those saved from the previous year’s plants. This elevated their products over what could be found in one’s back yard. Originally in America, seeds had to be imported from Europe for agriculture and gardening, and not surprisingly, the long voyage by ship across the ocean compromised many of the seeds and stunted their successful cultivation. As early as 1780, the seed industry was established in America, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was in full swing. The seed industry sold to home gardeners, professional florists, and market growers through stores as well as mail-order through catalogs.
brass (alloy)  Search this
iron  Search this
scales (weighing devices)  Search this
agriculture  Search this
horticulture  Search this
seed  Search this
Seed industry and trade  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of Frances Jones Poetker.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens