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Bedman Brothers Company records

Owner:
Bedman, John  Search this
Bedman, James  Search this
Bedman, Joseph  Search this
Bedman, Frank  Search this
Bedman, Charles  Search this
Founder:
Bedman, William  Search this
Creator:
Bedman Brothers Rahway, New Jersey.  Search this
Bedman Brothers  Search this
William Bedman Seed Company (Rahway, New Jersey)  Search this
Investor:
Thorburn, James  Search this
Names:
Bedman Brothers  Search this
Extent:
8.5 Cubic feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Negatives
Brochures
Price lists
Account books
Administrative records
Correspondence
Photographs
Artifacts
Leaflets
Clippings
Ledgers (account books)
Scrapbooks
Purchase orders
Pamphlets
Date:
1859 - 1984
Summary:
The Bedman Brothers Company Records collection focuses primarily on the business and financial transactions of Bedman Brothers seed company of Rahway, New Jersey, and includes accounting ledgers, purchase orders, price lists, miscellaneous business and family correspondence, and various brochures, pamphlets and leaflets related to horticultural topics. Other holdings in the collection include World War II ration stamps and two scrapbooks, one of which contains many late nineteenth and early twentieth century chromo-lithographed trade cards (primarily from the sewing, clothing, and floral industries). The other scrapbook holds news clippings from the Civil War period. Seperated materials include seed gathering equipment used by field workers.
Historical note:
The William Bedman Seed Company of Rahway, New Jersey was established in 1843 by William Bedman with the support of James Thorburn, a Manhattan seed purveyor. The firm, later called Bedman Brothers, was principally a wholesale mail order seed company that sold to consumer-end seed houses such as Vicks, W. Atlee Burpee, and George J. Ball. Bedman Brothers became known for its production of salvias (sage), including the development of 'Bonfire' or Clara Bedman sage variety. The company continued after William Bedman's tenure under the leadership of his sons Charles, James and John. The business ended after the death of Joseph Bedman, William's grandson, in 1962.
Separated Materials:
Assorted nursery and trade catalogs and price lists from the Bedman Brothers records were transferred to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History Library, Horticulture Trade Catalogs Collection.
Provenance:
Donated to the Smithsonian Office of Horticulture (later Horticulture Services Division) in 1984 by Gladys and Florence Whitehead, great-granddaughters of William Bedman.
Restrictions:
Access to original images by appointment only. Researcher must submit request for appointment in writing. Certain items may be restricted and not available to researchers. Please direct reference inquiries to the Archives of American Gardens: aag@si.edu.
Rights:
Archives of American Gardens encourages the use of its archival materials for non-commercial, educational and personal use under the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. Use or copyright restrictions may exist. It is incumbent upon the researcher to ascertain copyright status and assume responsibility for usage. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by Archives of American Gardens.
Topic:
Mail-order business  Search this
Seed industry and trade  Search this
Seeds -- Processing -- Equipment and supplies  Search this
Salvia  Search this
Flowers  Search this
Horticulture  Search this
Genre/Form:
Negatives
Brochures
Price lists
Account books -- 19th century
Administrative records
Correspondence
Photographs
Artifacts
Leaflets
Clippings
Ledgers (account books)
Scrapbooks
Account books -- 20th century
Purchase orders
Pamphlets
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Bedman Brothers Company Records.
Identifier:
AAG.BED
See more items in:
Bedman Brothers Company records
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Gardens
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aag-bed
Online Media:

W. Atlee Burpee & Company records - Accretion 1, Part 1

Creator:
W. Atlee Burpee & Co.  Search this
Burpee, W. Atlee (Washington Atlee), 1858-1915  Search this
Burpee, David  Search this
Wm. Henry Maule (Firm)  Search this
Extent:
2.25 Cubic feet (2 boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Business records
Correspondence
Pamphlets
Trade catalogs
Date:
1882-1980
bulk 1890-1930
Summary:
The W. Atlee Burpee & Company records - Accretion 1, dated circa 1882-1980, document the firm's business activities developing plant varieties and marketing and selling seeds. They include seed trial records, administrative files, seed catalogs, promotional and instructional materials, awards, reference materials, and other items relating to the company and some of its competitors.
Scope and Contents:
This accretion to the W. Atlee Burpee & Co. records documents aspects of the W. Atlee Burpee & Co., a mail-order seed company based in Philadelphia that was founded in 1876 by W. Atlee Burpee. It includes seed trial records; administrative and personnel records; trade literature (published by both the Burpee company and a few of its competitors); awards and certificates received by the company; and a few personal papers of David Burpee, W. Atlee's son and business successor.
Arrangement:
Collection is arranged into four series:

Series 1: Plant/Farm Related Material

Series 2: Business Records

Series 3: Awards and Certificates

Series 4: Burpee Family Papers
Biographical / Historical:
Washington Atlee Burpee (1858-1915) began a mail-order poultry and livestock business in 1876 in Philadelphia, which he soon expanded to include corn seed for chicken feed. In 1878, he founded W. Atlee Burpee & Co. to sell livestock and vegetable, fruit, and flower seeds through the mail. His company went on to become one of the most notable seed distributors in the world.

In 1888, W. Atlee bought a tract of land named Fordhook Farms in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It was initially established as an experimental farm to test and evaluate new varieties of vegetables and flowers and to produce seeds for the mail-order market. Burpee spent many summers traveling throughout the United States and Europe visiting farms and searching for the best flowers and vegetables. Certain plants he found were shipped back to the firm for testing and propagation; other seeds were obtained through contracts with growers throughout the U.S., a practice common in the seed industry at that time. Promising varieties were bred with healthier specimens to produce hardier hybrids that were more resistant to disease. Other Burpee trial grounds were later established at Sunnybrook Farm near Swedesboro, New Jersey, and at Floradale Farm in Lompoc, California (1909/1910). The company went on to purchase more land for farming in California, and established sales branch headquarters in Sanford, Florida (c. 1930s), Clinton, Iowa (1942), and Riverside, California (1949).

W. Atlee Burpee married Blanche Simons (1863-1948) in 1892. They had three sons: David (1893-1980); W. Atlee Jr. ("Junior") (1894-1966); and Stuart Alexander (1901-1934). Both David and Junior attended the Blight School in Philadelphia for elementary school and Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana for preparatory school. While they both attended Cornell University as undergraduates, they left before graduating due to W. Atlee's poor health. Junior married Jeanetta Lee (1893-1981) in November 1916, and they had two children: W. Atlee III (1917-1971) and Jeanette (1919-2002). David married Lois Torrance (1912-1984) in 1938, and they had two children: Johnathan (b. 1941) and Blanche (b. 1943). Stuart Alexander was apparently born with a disability; according to census records he worked on farms during his lifetime.

David Burpee took over the family business upon his father's death in 1915; Junior served as treasurer of the firm once he returned from military service. At that time, the Burpee company had 300 employees and was the largest mail-order seed company in the world. It distributed over one million catalogs a year and received on average 10,000 orders a day. Under David's tutelage, the company adapted to contemporaneous shifts in business and advertising methods, advancements in plant science, ever-changing consumer demands, and two World Wars. In response to food shortages experienced during World War I, the Burpee company helped promote a "war gardens" campaign that evolved into a "victory gardens" campaign during World War II.

Both W. Atlee and David used their position as head of a major seed house to lobby congressional debates in regard to two topics: postage rates (W. Atlee) and the designation of a national floral emblem for the United States (David). Additionally, both men belonged to the Union Club of Philadelphia and The Canadian Society of Philadelphia (which W. Atlee helped found), and served on the boards of directors for hospitals and other charitable organizations. Both father and son were politically aligned with the Republican Party.

The firm reorganized its governing structure in 1917 at which time it changed its name from W. Atlee Burpee & Co. to W. Atlee Burpee Co. Burpee's acquired three seed companies between 1878 and 1970: Luther Burbank Seed Company, James Vick's Seeds, Inc., and the William Henry Maule Company. David Burpee sold the company to the General Foods Corporation in 1970 and served as a consultant for the business until 1973. The Burpee brand was bought by its current owner, George J. Ball, Inc., in 1991.
Related Materials:
Burpee seed catalogs donated to the Smithsonian in 1982 by the W. Atlee Burpee Company can be found in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History Branch Library Trade Literature Collection.
Restrictions:
Access to original images by appointment only. Researcher must submit request for appointment in writing. Certain items may be restricted and not available to researchers. Please direct reference inquiries to the Archives of American Gardens: aag@si.edu.
Rights:
Archives of American Gardens encourages the use of its archival materials for non-commercial, educational and personal use under the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. Use or copyright restrictions may exist. It is incumbent upon the researcher to ascertain copyright status and assume responsibility for usage. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by Archives of American Gardens.
Topic:
Seed industry and trade  Search this
Mail-order business  Search this
Gardens -- United States  Search this
Business  Search this
Agriculture  Search this
Horticulture  Search this
advertising  Search this
Vegetables  Search this
Flowers  Search this
Trial gardens  Search this
Genre/Form:
Business records
Correspondence
Pamphlets
Trade catalogs
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, W. Atlee Burpee & Company Records.
Identifier:
AAG.BUR1
See more items in:
W. Atlee Burpee & Company records - Accretion 1, Part 1
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Gardens
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aag-bur1

W. Atlee Burpee & Company records

Creator:
W. Atlee Burpee & Co.  Search this
Burpee, W. Atlee (Washington Atlee), 1858-1915  Search this
Burpee, David, 1893-1980  Search this
James Vick's Sons (Rochester, N.Y.).  Search this
Wm. Henry Maule (Firm)  Search this
Extent:
201 Cubic feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Advertising
Business records
Correspondence
Account books
Pamphlets
Trade catalogs
Date:
circa 1873-1986
bulk 1890-1930
Summary:
The W. Atlee Burpee & Company records, dated circa 1873-1986, document the firm's business activities developing plant varieties and marketing and selling seeds. They include accounting records, seed trial records, seed contracts, sales records, inventories, office correspondence, seed catalogs, promotional and instructional materials, advertisements and advertising reports, contest letters, daybooks, photographs, reference materials, and other items relating to the company and some of its competitors.
Scope and Contents:
This collection documents W. Atlee Burpee & Co., a mail-order seed company based in Philadelphia, from its early beginnings in 1876 when its founder, W. Atlee Burpee, started in the agricultural business, to the 1970s when his son, David Burpee, sold the family's then-global company. The collection also includes personal papers of the Burpee family dating back to the mid-nineteenth century.

Business-related content in the collection consists of crop propagation and management records; company correspondence; administrative and personnel records; advertising files; legal papers; property records and plans; reports, studies, and technical data; notes and drafts; files on professional outreach activities and events; trade literature (published by both the Burpee company and a number of its competitors); and awards and certificates received by the company. Significant topics documented in these files include the development of notable flower and vegetable novelties introduced by the company; the impact of World Wars I and II on gardening and the global seed trade; advertising strategies, technology, and innovation; and David Burpee's involvement in the national floral emblem congressional debate.

The Burpee family papers consist of personal files unrelated to the company's business operations. This includes records generated by W. Atlee's father (David Burpee, 1827-1882) and grandfather (Washington L. Atlee, 1808-1878), as well as W. Atlee's wife, Blanche (1863-1948); David Burpee (1893-1980) and his wife, Lois (1912-1984); and W. Atlee Burpee II (1894-1966). There are genealogical surveys conducted on both the Atlee and Burpee families as well as clippings about family members. W. Atlee and David Burpee's series are the most extensive and cover their involvement with numerous clubs and societies such as the Canadian Society of Philadelphia, the Union League of Philadelphia, and, for David Burpee, his involvement with Pearl S. Buck's Welcome House charity. The series include personal correspondence; financial, accounting, and tax records; files generated during vacations; reference material; and will and estate papers.

The Burpee collection also has a large number of images related to the Burpee business and family in a variety of formats including photographs, film and glass plate negatives, and advertisement mock-ups. Other formats include architectural and site plans, original artwork for advertisements, films, cassettes, audio tapes, and ephemera.
Arrangement:
Collection is arranged into six series:

Series 1: Plant/Farm Related Material

Series 2: Business Records

Series 3: Material Published About the Burpee Company

Series 4: Awards and Certificates

Series 5: Photographic and A/V Materials

Series 6: Burpee Family Papers
Biographical / Historical:
Washington Atlee Burpee (1858-1915) began a mail-order poultry and livestock business in 1876 in Philadelpia, which he soon expanded to include corn seed for chicken feed. In 1878, he founded W. Atlee Burpee & Co., the primary focus of which was to sell vegetable, fruit, and flower seeds through the mail. This company would go on to become one of the most notable seed distributors in the United States.

By 1888, Burpee's family home, Fordhook Farms, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was established as an experimental farm to test and evaluate new varieties of vegetables and flowers, and to produce seeds. Burpee spent many summers traveling throughout the United States and Europe, visiting farms and searching for the best flowers and vegetables; certain plants he found were shipped to Fordhook Farms for testing. Plants that survived were bred with healthier specimens to produce heartier hybrids that were more resistant to disease. Other Burpee trial gardens were established in Lompoc, California and near Swedesboro, New Jersey.

Burpee's son David took over the family business upon his father's death in 1915. At that time, the Burpee Company had 300 employees and was the largest mail order seed company in the world. It distributed over one million catalogs a year and received as many as 10,000 orders a day. In response to food shortages caused by World War I, the Burpee Company helped promote a "war gardens" campaign that evolved into a "victory gardens" campaign during World War II. Both were aimed at city dwellers and instructed them on how to grow vegetables for their own consumption to aid in the war effort.

Sometime in the 1930s, the Burpee Company entered into a business relationship with the James Vick's Company of Rochester, New York. In 1947, Burpee purchased the assets of and rights to the use of the name of the Wm. Henry Maule Co. In 1970, Burpee was sold to General Foods; the corporate headquarters moved from Philadelphia to Warminster, Pennsylvania in 1974. David Burpee remained a consultant for the company until his death in 1981. In 1991, the Burpee Company was acquired by George J. Ball, Inc.
Related Materials:
Burpee seed catalogs donated to the Smithsonian in 1982 by the W. Atlee Burpee Company can be found in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History Branch Library Trade Literature Collection.
Restrictions:
Access to original images by appointment only. Researcher must submit request for appointment in writing. Certain items may be restricted and not available to researchers. Please direct reference inquiries to the Archives of American Gardens: aag@si.edu.
Rights:
Archives of American Gardens encourages the use of its archival materials for non-commercial, educational and personal use under the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. Use or copyright restrictions may exist. It is incumbent upon the researcher to ascertain copyright status and assume responsibility for usage. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by Archives of American Gardens.
Topic:
Seed industry and trade  Search this
Mail-order business  Search this
Gardens -- United States  Search this
Business  Search this
Agriculture  Search this
Horticulture  Search this
Vegetables  Search this
Flowers  Search this
Trial gardens  Search this
Victory gardens  Search this
Contests  Search this
Genre/Form:
Advertising
Business records
Correspondence
Account books -- 19th century
Account books -- 20th century
Pamphlets
Trade catalogs
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, W. Atlee Burpee & Company Records.
Identifier:
AAG.BUR
See more items in:
W. Atlee Burpee & Company records
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Gardens
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aag-bur
Online Media:

W. Atlee Burpee & Company Seed Contests, 1924-1925

Creator:
W. Atlee Burpee & Co  Search this
Physical description:
5 boxes
Type:
Advertising
Business records
Correspondence
Photographs
Place:
United States
Date:
1924
1924-1925
Topic:
Horticulture  Search this
Business  Search this
Mail-order business  Search this
Seed industry and trade  Search this
Flowers  Search this
Contests  Search this
Gardens  Search this
Vegetables  Search this
Local number:
AAG.BUR.ContestLetters
Restrictions & Rights:
Access to original documents by appointment only. Researcher must submit request for appointment in writing. Certain items may be restricted and not available to researchers. Please direct reference inquiries to the Archives of American Gardens: aag@si.edu
Archives of American Gardens encourages the use of its archival materials for non-commercial, educational and personal use under the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. Use or copyright restrictions may exist. It is incumbent upon the researcher to ascertain copyright status and assume responsibility for usage. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by Archives of American Gardens
See more items in:
W. Atlee Burpee & Company Records, circa 1873-1978, bulk 1890-1930
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_arc_367582

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