Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Early American agriculture
 Search for new crops, 1770-184...
 Federal promotion of crops
 Leadership of the patent office,...
 The commissionership, 1862-89
 Main importations
 Lesser importations
 Plant introduction under Rusk and...
 Bonanza years
 Introductions of the twentieth...

Group Title: America's crop heritage;
Title: America's crop heritage : the history of foreign introduction by the Federal Government
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00089530/00001
 Material Information
Title: America's crop heritage : the history of foreign introduction by the Federal Government
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Klose, Nelson
Publisher: Iowa State College Press
Place of Publication: Ames, Iowa
Copyright Date: 1950
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00089530
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: 01319498 - OCLC

Table of Contents
    Half Title
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
    Table of Contents
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
    Early American agriculture
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Search for new crops, 1770-1840
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
    Federal promotion of crops
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
    Leadership of the patent office, 1836-62
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
    The commissionership, 1862-89
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
    Main importations
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
    Lesser importations
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 92a
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
    Plant introduction under Rusk and Morton
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
    Bonanza years
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
    Introductions of the twentieth century
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 124a
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 132a
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
Full Text


Howard Dorsett and David Fairchild (seated) worked together for twenty
years, trying to increase the number and improve through introductions the
quality of the fruits and vegetables of the United States. (From The World Was
My, Garden by David Fairchild, Chas. Scribner's Sons.)



The History of
Foreign Plant Introduction
by the Federal Government

Associate Professor of Social Sciences
Central State College


Copyright 195o by The Iowa State College Press.
All rights reserved. Composed and printed by
The Iowa State College Press, Ames, Iowa, U.S.A.


It is now sixty-one years since my uncle lit the candle in the
North Hall at Ames that I have carried and still carry-the candle
of Plant Introduction. It was in that autumn of 1888 that I came
to stay with my uncle, Dr. Byron D. Halsted, and he taught me
how to grow pollen grains of the long and the short stamens of
the buckwheat flower. Professor Buel was still alive and I, a
boy of scarce 19, used to listen to his quaint accounts of how
the Russian apples were introduced. I really began my career
in this North Hall on the campus of the Iowa State Agricultural
College, although I graduated from the Kansas State Agricultural
College of which my father was president.
I see myself tagging my uncle in the fields and prairies of
Iowa or listening to my aunt as she played Beethoven's sonatas
in the little red brick house there on the campus. That was
sixty-one years ago. Sixty-one years of romantic life-with useful
plants always as the golden thread that ran through it all.
I think youths of this new era will get from reading this book
the notion that to "work" with plants as the Plant Introducers
have done is not really work at all but intense interest-absorp-
tion, in a world that lives and changes every instant of time.
This account presents the facts as they have come down in
stories and personal narratives relating to the first arrivals of
foreign crops in the United States. The author has distributed
credit for these first introductions and it seems to be the instinct
of human beings to accord credit to whoever is first to do a thing,
no matter how many people took part in the later development
of that thing-be it a crop or an invention. But we cannot
overlook those persons who sent in foreign seeds that had promise
of proving valuable as additions to the varieties or species of


plants in cultivation in this country. Over 160,000 such entries
were recorded and may be found in "Plant Inventories of the
Section of Seed and Plant Introduction of the Department of
Agriculture," which my colleagues and I-especially the late
O. F. Cook and P. H. Dorsett and Walter T. Swingle, who is
still living-took great pains to record.
I am still so in the habit of writing out and exploring for
new plants that life holds the freshness which comes to those who
play with living rather than inanimate objects and to whom the
future events have greater attractions than have the events of
the past.
I hope this book will touch the lives of many thousands of
men and women who were still unborn in 1898, but who are
wondering what kind of cultures the humans inhabiting the
globe will build during their lifetimes. They cannot build
without plants the beautiful world of our dreams.


The Kampong
September, 1949


Through a historical account of the introduction of America's
present crops, this book endeavors to close a gap in the story of
American economic development. It is intended primarily to
unfold to the general reader the origin of familiar agricultural
products, but also it may serve as a text for courses in agricultural
history. Students of economic history and the various plant
sciences should find it a useful reference. It is my hope that it
will afford an insight into the ancient process of cultural trans-
ference-the contributions of other ages and countries to America.
The study illustrates how young and growing nations progress
by adopting the tools of economic production from older nations.
The search for and introduction of agricultural plants by the
United States Government and other agencies, exhibits this
borrowing process, and reveals America's agricultural debt to
foreign countries.
Plant introduction by individuals and agencies other than
governmental is necessarily slighted, because the records of
individual efforts are scantier and less reliable. The work of
the Federal government in this field has been more significant
because it was better organized and because more adequate
records of introductions have been kept.
The introduction of seeds and plants for the development of
new crops or superior varieties of established crops has been
emphasized more than the methods of selection, breeding, and
adaptation. Particular attention has been given to the organiza-
tion, aims, methods, and effects of Federal plant introduction
prior to the establishment of the Bureau of Plant Industry.
The Library of the Department of Agriculture at Washington,
D. C., which houses the greatest collection of documents on


agricultural history to be found, supplied much of the material
for this book. Supplementary information was found in the
manuscript archives of the Patent Office and the Departments
of Agriculture, Navy, and State. I also consulted sources in the
Library of Congress. Other bibliographical references will be
found at the end of each chapter.
I wish to acknowledge here the assistance I received from
Dr. W. P. Webb, chairman of my supervising committee for
the doctoral degree, and other members of the committee at the
University of Texas who gave much time to reading and helpful
criticism in the first preparation of this work as a doctoral
dissertation. Dr. Wood Gray, George Washington University,
and Mr. B. Y. Morrison of the Bureau of Plant Industry gave
valuable guidance and useful information. I also frequently
consulted Dr. Everett E. Edwards of the Bureau of Agricultural
Acknowledgements for criticism, suggestions, and information
also are due to Mr. Marshall Townsend, Mr. Merritt Bailey,
Dr. Earle D. Ross, and Dr. Max M. Hoover of Iowa State
College, and to Mr. C. O. Erlanson, Assistant Chief of the Divi-
sion of Plant Exploration and Introduction. I am grateful to
Dr. David G. Fairchild for permission to use several photographs
he made; and I am indebted to my wife for her assistance in
proofreading and invaluable cooperation.


February, 1950


1. Early American Agriculture
Methods and terminology .
Colonial introductions . .
Introductions of the eighteenth century .
Contributions of individuals
Public experimentation and exploration

2. Search for New Crops 1770-1840
Introductions by statesmen . .
Benjamin Franklin .
George Washington .
Thomas Jefferson .
Work of agricultural societies .
Dr. Henry Perrine .

3. Federal Promotion of Crops
The Treasury Circular of 1819 .
The Treasury Circular of 1827 .
Assistance of the Navy . .
Diplomatic assistance .

. 13
. 13
. 15
. 16
. 19
. 20

. 26
. 27

4. Leadership of the Patent Office 1836-62 *
First agricultural appropriation ...
Work of the Patent Office .. ..
Agriculture under the Department of the Interior .
Separate crop histories . .
Miscellaneous introductions . .

5. The Commissionership 1862-89 ..
Aims and methods of the commissioners .
Horace Capron .
Frederick Watts. .
William Le Duc ... . .
Norman Colman . .
International exchange of plants .

6. Main Importations .........
Wheat and small grains . .
Oats . .. .
Fiber crops .. . .. .
Grapes .
Citrus fruits .
Tea ..

S 2
S 4
S 7
S 9
. 10



S 66

Contents x

7. Lesser Importations ... 86
Sugar crops . 86
Fruits .. 89
Vegetables 90
Tropical plants . 91
Pasture and forage crops 92
Trees .. 94

8. Plant Introduction Under Rusk and Morton 97
Distribution of seeds and plants . . 98
Promotion of special crops 101
The Division of Pomology 105
Fiber and forage crops.. 107

9. Bonanza Years .. . 109
Problems facing agriculture . 109
Work of plant explorers .. .. 111
Fairchild and Lathrop. 113
Niels Hansen . 114
Mark Carleton 115
Seaman Knapp 118
10. Plant Introduction of the Twentieth Century 120
Search for new crops .. 120
Introductions by Meyer . 122
Significant introductions 1901-13 . .. 125
The war years 136
Looking to the future 139


Early American Agriculture

PLANT INTRODUCTION has played a significant role in the growth
of American agriculture. It has wrought tremendous changes in
the American landscape, and has added many new food elements to
our diet. As the dean of American plant explorers, Dr. David G.
Fairchild, once wrote: "The era of pork and hominy has passed for-
ever in this country, but so short a time ago that our fathers refer
to it as the time of plain living."
The importation of new agricultural plants has been a constant
necessity in America, from the first attempt of the Europeans to
settle here until the present day. Although the colonies teemed
with plant life, the Indians cultivated few crops in comparison
with the wealth of plant life which the immigrants brought with
them. Even today it is estimated that we have in America only
a fourth of the plant resources of Europe and not more than a
tenth of those in Asia. This enormous reserve of plant life is a
challenge to those who hold that the diminishing food supply of
the world, in face of an increasing population, is a threat to our
A list of the fruits, vegetables, and small grains brought to this
country from the Old World would include most of our familiar
market and garden varieties.1 Henry A. Wallace, as Secretary of
Agriculture, said that of our seventy-eight leading crops in 1937,
only about ten were native to the United States. Maize, or corn,
and the "Irish" potato are probably the outstanding contributions
of the Indians to American agriculture. The Indians used many
SThe fruits include apple, pear, quince, loquat, peach, certain plums, apricot,
orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, kumquat, fig, olive, pomegranate, mango, pineapple,
date, European grapes, currant, and the more important mulberries. The vegetable
crops would include onions, lettuce, cabbage, asparagus, eggplant, muskmelon, water-
melon, cucumber, okra, beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, celery, kale,
collard, kohlrabi, leek, parsley, parsnip, peas, radish, salsify, spinach, and turnips.

America's Crop Heritage

other plants whose cultivation awaited "discovery" by the plant
explorers sent out from Europe. Seeds and cuttings of many of
these native plants were sent to Europe for trial before they were
brought back to the North American colonies for cultivation.2
Some of them have been adapted to our agriculture through the
persistent efforts at adaptation by the settlers. Many others are
tropical plants not suited to the temperate zone. (1)

In discussing plant introductions, we are interested chiefly in
living flora imported for agricultural or other economic uses,
rather than for botanical purposes. The returns to society from this
work are comparable to the benefits derived from scientific inven-
tion and discovery. Frequently the discovery of a single useful
plant is of sufficient value to offset the expense and labor of col-
lecting many hundreds of worthless introductions.
Plant introduction has been practiced since the dawn of agri-
cultural history; but to be successful, it requires a knowledge of
the methods of cultivation, harvesting, and uses of plants. In
increasing farm production, superior plant varieties are factors
that need to be considered along with tillage, rotation, fertilizers,
and irrigation. Recent methods of introduction are based on
plant breeding according to the relatively new laws of genetics.
Even these efforts, however, depend heavily upon a wealth of
plant stocks for the factors not already present in our native
or acquired flora.
Breeding experiments seek to develop such qualities as resist-
ance to disease and insects; indifference to cold, aridity, heat, and
wind; and tolerance of peculiar soil conditions such as acidity
and alkalinity. The extension of the harvest season-and changes
in the character of the product such as color, size, shape, flavor,
and strength-are also factors. Other changes bring about advan-
tages in handling the plants from planting to marketing, or make
possible the extension of the crop into new areas.
The traditional means of improving plants is by selection;
and skilled breeding, or hybridizing, has helped to create new
'Among these are the agave, arrowroot, many varieties of kidney and lima beans,
cacao, chili pepper, cashew nuts, cherimoya, cocoa, cotton (Gossypium barbadense),
gourds, guava, Jerusalem artichoke, manioc or cassava, mate or Paraguay tea, papaya,
peanut, pineapple, prickly pear, pumpkin, quinoa, squash, sweet potato, tobacco,
and tomato.

Early American Agriculture

plants almost according to need. The work of testing and breed-
ing plants for particular climates, soils, or commercial uses is
known as adaptation.
Acclimatization was often used synonymously with the term
introduction in the nineteenth century. Many experimenters
believed that plants could be inured to cold and adapted to sur-
vive in temperatures lower than those found in the original
environment. So strong was this belief that as late as 1882,
Alphonse De Candolle, a noted Swiss botanist, considered it
necessary to refute this view. De Candolle is recognized as the
greatest modern authority on the origin and distribution of
cultivated plants. As professor of botany and director of the
Botanical Garden at Geneva, he published many works on botani-
cal subjects.3
The acquisition of new territories by the United States opened
up regions of new climates and soils, and intensified the search
for new plants. During this period vast areas of land were
coming into cultivation by the settlers moving westward. The
task of finding crops that might be grown in these regions fell
first upon the Patent Office and later upon the Department of
Agriculture. Many crops were imported and tried for a time, only
to be found unsuited to the land and climate or inferior to native
Since very early times, rulers interested in the prosperity and
independence of their governments have favored plant intro-
duction. An inscription found in Mesopotamia tells of Sargon
crossing the Taurus Mountains to Asia Minor and bringing back
specimens of trees, vines, figs, and roses for acclimatization in his
country about 2500 B.c. The earliest recorded account of an
expedition organized for the collection of plants is that of Queen
Hatshepsut of Egypt who sent ships to the "Land of Punt" in
East Africa in 1500 B.c. to procure the incense tree. At Kamo-

3 In his famous Origin of Cultivated Plants De Candolle concluded that: "I have
not observed the slightest indication of an adaptation to cold. When the cultivation
of a species advances toward the north . it is explained by the production of
early varieties, which can ripen before the cold season, or by the custom of culti-
vating in the north in summer, the species which in the south are sown in winter ..
the northern limits of wild species...have not changed within historic times al-
though the seeds are carried frequently and continually to the north of each limit.
Periods of more than four or five thousand years, or changements of form and
duration, are needed apparently to produce a modification in a plant which will
allow it to support a greater degree of cold."

America's Crop Heritage

Mura in the province of Wakayama, Japan, there is a monument
to one Taji Mamori who went to China in 61 A.D. on an imperial
order to bring back citrus fruits to Japan. He spent nine years
on this project and the monument records, "How magnificent is
the result of Taji's work." (2)
The introduction of new crop industries is necessarily a
responsibility of governments. Plant exploration and introduc-
tion is generally too costly and risky an undertaking for individ-
uals. A great deal of time and effort must go into a plant before
the grower can realize a profit, and even then he is not well
protected by patent laws. While individuals have made many
contributions to plant introduction, the recognition by govern-
ments of the importance of this work is largely responsible for its
effect on agriculture.
America's adoption of European crops began with the second
voyage of Christopher Columbus to found the colony of His-
paniola (Haiti). Columbus brought with him livestock and the
seeds of many Spanish crops, as well as sugar cane from the
Canaries. Cane thrived so well in the new colony that the sugar
industry spread rapidly to Cuba, Mexico, and other provinces
of the New World. The Spanish conquerors brought with them
many introductions which later found their way into the United
States. Cultivation of figs, dates, grapes, olives, and pomegranates
dates back to the founding of the Spanish missions in New
Mexico and California. The Spaniards also gave us such crops
as alfalfa, lemons, oranges, and ginger.
Lyman Carrier, in Beginnings of Agriculture in America,
quotes an English fisherman's letter published by Hakluyt, con-
cerning the fisherman's experiences in Newfoundland in 1578.
The letter stated: "I have in sundry places sowen Wheate, Barlie,
Rie, Oates, Beanes, Pease and seeds of herbs, kernels, Plumstones,
nuts, all of which prospered as in England."
Several explorers have mentioned such instances of sailors'
testing European plants in American soil. Cartier recorded that
on his voyage to Canada in 1541, his men sowed European cab-
bage, lettuce, and turnips. The chronicles of Sir Humphrey
Gilbert's Expedition to Newfoundland in 1583 show that peas
were sown and harvested. Carrier suggests the possibility that

Early American Agriculture

some plants mistakenly considered native to America may have
been preserved by the Indians or may have grown wild until
"discovered" in later years.
A variety of the common agricultural crops of Europe were
planted during the founding of the American colonies. Guinea
corn, a sorghum plant grown on plantations in the South prior
to the Civil War, was called "guine Corn" in the West Indies in
1601. It flourished in the summer of 1671 along with cotton
and indigo on the Ashley River in South Carolina. The common
use of Guinea corn in Africa, and as a food on slave ships,
makes it seem probable that it was brought in with slaves at an
early date.
During their first two years at Jamestown, the colonists tried
planting European crops. The plants did not mature because
they were started too late in the season, and by 1609 most of the
colonists were concentrating on Indian methods of agriculture.
William Strachey, in writing of his travels through Virginia from
1610 to 1612, stated that the natural Virginia tobacco was inferior
to varieties brought in from the West Indies. (3) Carrier attri-
buted the importation of the improved tobacco seeds to Sir Walter
Raleigh who brought them from Trinidad via England in 1595.
John Rolfe first cultivated tobacco in Virginia in 1612.
Silk production began its long, unavailing struggle for a place
in American agriculture in 1621, when England encouraged mul-
berry planting in Virginia in order to feed the silkworm. Five
years later, the Dutch West India Company was sending samples
of wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, beans, and flax back to the
West India Company in Holland. Three hundred trees were
shipped to Massachusetts Bay in 1630 to promote orcharding
there.4 Hemp was among the first plants, and was used along
with flax for sails and cordage for shipping. But there was no
surplus for export. Further efforts were made in 1658 to promote
silk production, and in 1661 the cultivation of flax and hemp was
stimulated as part of the colonial mercantilistic policy of encour-

'In Massachusetts the Endicott expedition for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in
1628 was directed to take with it seeds of wheat, rye, barley, oats, beans, peas, stones
of peaches, plums, cherries, and seeds of filberts, pears, apples, quince, and pome-
granate, woad seed, saffron heads, licorice seed, madder roots, potatoes, hop roots,
hempseed, flaxseed, and currant plants. By 1630 such vegetables as cabbage, turnips,
lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions, peas, and beans had been introduced into the
gardens of Massachusetts.

America's Crop Heritage

aging crops thought to be of value to the empire. By 1679 the
Dutch had introduced clover; and orchards planted to apples,
peaches, pears, and cherries were thriving. There is also some
evidence of the introduction of clover about 1615.
Many accounts of the introduction of rice varieties in South
Carolina are questionable, but the proprietors of South Carolina
wrote in 1677 that they were trying to get rice seed for distribu-
tion. Rice was first planted in the area about 1688, and during
the next decade the rice industry was encouraged by the appear-
ance of new, superior varieties. These introductions, probably
from many parts of the world, led to an era of experimentation
in the eighteenth century. (3) The rise of the rice industry,
like that of the cultivation of tobacco in Virginia, marked the
beginning of a successful colony in South Carolina. During the
eighteenth century rice became an exportable commodity much
in demand in England. Later, John Bradby Blake brought the
upland rice from Canton to Charleston in 1772. Rice culture
was inaugurated in Louisiana by the "Company of the West" in
Many pasture and forage crops were introduced during the
colonial period. Bent grass, had become a wild pasture grass
by the middle of the seventeenth century. Millet, a rather com-
mon crop of Old World origin, was probably brought in at a
very early date. Pearl millet is thought to be a native of Africa,
and was brought to America by slaves. It was noticed growing
in Jamaica on Negro plantations in 1689 and was later grown
by slaves in the South. The common millet was grown in Massa-
chusetts in 1637, and a hundred years later, planters were fatten-
ing poultry on it.
Cowpeas are mentioned by the earliest writers on American
products. They were grown in New England before 1663, in
South Carolina before 1682, and were found in North Carolina
about 1700. Sloane, the English botanist, noted the black-eye
pea in 1707 and called it the "Calavance." Alfalfa was un-
doubtedly brought in by Columbus in 1493. Its early history,
which is confused with that of lucerne and bur clover, is im-
possible to unravel. It was grown in Georgia in 1735 and four
years later was found growing in South Carolina. Red clover was

Early American Agriculture

noted in cultivation for hay near New York in 1749 by Peter
Kalm, but it probably was brought in before this by early
colonists in Maryland.
Bluegrass was identified in Montreal by Kalm in 1751. It was
probably taken by the French a half century earlier to Indiana
and Illinois and spread from there to Ohio and Kentucky.
Orchard grass, not considered of special value in England, won
popularity in America where its cultivation seems to have started
in Virginia prior to 1760. Nut grass was growing in the colonies
before 1775. The nuts on its roots made it desirable for hogs,
but it is now considered a pest in the South. At the same time,
crab grass was grown in the southern colonies.5
Indigo cultivation for dye had been encouraged for at least half
a century before it was grown to any considerable extent. It
apparently awaited the arrival of superior varieties and favorable
market conditions to assume economic importance. The success-
ful cultivation of indigo was assured when George Lucas, gover-
nor of the island of Antigua in the West Indies, sent some seeds
to his daughter, Miss Eliza Lucas. Her experiments in 1742 were
so successful that in a few years the production of indigo became
one of the main industries of South Carolina. In later years,
cotton, also of West Indian origin, supplanted indigo as an
important staple. (3)
Sugar cane was introduced early in the eighteenth century
into Louisiana, but almost a century of experiment and trial
passed before sugar was successfully produced. Some of the first
experiments were made between 1726 and 1744. The intro-
duction of 1751 was instrumental in bringing about the com-
mercial production of sugar in Louisiana. It arrived in a troop-
ship carrying sugar cane sent by the Jesuits at San Domingo, to
other Jesuits in Louisiana. Many difficulties were encountered
in attempting to produce sugar from the transplanted cane, and
it was 1794 before the first successful crop of sugar was produced
commercially in Louisiana by Etienne de Bore.
Cotton was not cultivated commercially in the United States
until about 1770. Some 138,328 bales of the Sea Island variety
In 1782 Thomas Jefferson listed some of the forage crops of Europe which
were grown in Virginia during his lifetime: lucerne, St. Foin, burnet, timothy,
orchard grass, red, white, and yellow clover, greensward, bluegrass, and crab grass.

K& 34

C- y

4 s






Early American Agriculture

were exported from the United States in 1792, but the invention
of the cotton gin in 1795 made it possible to use the upland or
short staple cotton commercially. The upland cotton (Gossypium
hirsutum) is of Mexican origin. The seed of the variety, Gossy-
pium barbadense, usually regarded as native to the West Indies,
received its commercial name because it thrived in the Sea
Islands and the coastal region of the Southeast. (1)

John Bartram is credited with starting the first botanical garden
in America, on the banks of the Schuylkill River three miles
above Philadelphia, in 1730. A diligent collector, Bartram trav-
eled widely, studying American plants and selling seeds and
plants to finance his work. During his lifetime, several other
well-known private gardens were developed in eastern Pennsyl-
vania. (4) In 1728, Bartram began the exchange of trees and
plants with distinguished friends abroad. His son, William,
continued his father's botanical work.6 In an extensive tour of
the South he recorded evidence indicating the early importation
of many common fruits by early colonists in the deep South.
George Robbins of Easton, Maryland, imported the seeds of
the peach and the pear in 1735. The Linnean Botanic Garden
at Flushing, Long Island, founded about 1730, tried to procure
foreign and native plants, especially grapes. As a commercial
firm under the Prince family in the early nineteenth century,
this same garden did much to introduce and popularize various
new plants.
Henry Laurens imported to Charleston in 1755, olives, capers,
limes, ginger, Guinea grass, the Alpine strawberry, red rasp-
berries, and blue grapes. From southern France, Laurens im-
ported apples, pears, plums, and white Chasselas grapes. The
notable garden of Charles Drayton, containing many foreign
plants, also was located in Charleston. At St. Paul's, William
Williamson tended a garden planted with native and foreign
flowering trees and shrubs. Many of the well-known gardens of
SAt Charleston, South Carolina, he found large plantations of European mul-
berry. In Savannah, William Bartram found fruit trees and flowering shrubs. On
the site of Frederika, the first English town in Georgia, he saw peach, fig, pome-
granate, and other plants growing among the ruins. Near the St. John's River in
Florida orange groves were found flourishing from trees brought by the early Spanish
settlers. Alabama had apple trees planted by the French. On Pearl Island near New
Orleans he found peaches, figs, grapes, plums and other fruits; and near Baton
Rouge, William Bartram saw a garden with many curious exotics.

America's Crop Heritage

lower South Carolina were founded in colonial days, and alien
plants were shipped in by sea from the West Indies.
A colony of 1,500 Greeks, Italians, and Minorcans was estab-
lished at New Smyrna, Florida, in 1767 by Andrew Trumbull.
The colony produced sugar and indigo, and cultivated the vine,
fig, pomegranate, olive, orange, and other tropical fruits. In 1769,
Benjamin Coates of Salem, Massachusetts, advertised garden seeds
imported from London. George Heusler, a well-trained German
gardener, did much to promote gardening in New England.
William Hamilton of Philadelphia collected curious exotics, or
foreign plants, and in 1784 imported the Lombardy poplar.
Early agriculturists included the introduction of foreign plants
as an important part of their work to promote agriculture. The
first organized efforts along this line began with the formation
of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture in 1785.
Seven years later, a similar society was formed in Massachusetts;
and in 1795 the Agricultural Society of South Carolina was
incorporated. (5)

The earliest record of organized public efforts to encourage
crop cultivation in this country, is found in the annals of the
experimental farm established in 1699 on the banks of the
Ashley River in South Carolina. This farm was set up by the
Lords Proprietors to test the adaptability of agricultural crops.
They recommended that wine, oil, silk, indigo, tobacco, hemp,
flax, and ginger be grown for export. After two years of trial,
sugar cane and cotton were reported unable to withstand the
South Carolina winters. The cotton that failed was a perennial
variety. Some annual varieties were tried as early as 1682, and
more than a century later they helped to make South Carolina a
profitable cotton growing area.
The Trustee's Garden of Georgia, a government experimental
farm at Savannah, was laid out in 1733. This garden was planned
in England prior to the colonization of Georgia. One of its
primary purposes was to make Georgia a center of silk produc-
tion, since the native mulberry trees flourished there. Each male
inhabitant was required to plant 100 European white mulberry
trees supplied by the trustees.
In the spring of 1733, a ten-acre plot was set aside by General
James Oglethorpe as an experimental garden for botanical pur-

Early American Agriculture

poses and for testing agricultural plants. This garden continued
as a public institution up to the Revolutionary War. Although
silk production was later subsidized, only rice and indigo became
staple crops. Many tropical plants were found to be unsuited
to the Georgia climate. (6)
The famous Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in west London,
made many contributions to America through its pioneer work
in plant introduction. Founded in 1760, the garden was dedi-
cated to botanical study by the British royal family, and assisted
in the spread of valuable plants among the British colonies.
George III increased the original nine acres in 1772, and the Earl
of Bute was made scientific advisor. On the death of Bute, Sir
Joseph Banks became director. Banks held his post for forty-eight
years, and became known as the guiding genius of Kew. He sent
the first professional plant hunter, Francis Masson, to Africa in
1772. For three successive years Masson returned to Africa where
he collected about a hundred new species of plants. He later
explored for many years in the West Indies and South America.
Plant explorer, David Nelson, took part in the explosive drama
of the mutiny on the Bounty. On a previous voyage in 1771,
Nelson had been a member of Captain Cook's third expedition,
exploring for plants in Tasmania. The ill-fated Bounty expedi-
tion was sent out to introduce the seedless breadfruit tree into
the West Indies as food for slaves. Nelson died from exposure
after the mutineers had captured the Bounty and set him adrift
in a small boat with Captain Bligh.

Prior to the American Revolution, the British were interested
in introducing agricultural crops into the colonies. John Ellis
in his first book, published in 1770,7 told how to pack seeds to
prevent them from spoiling on long sea voyages. Ellis depended
especially on packing the seeds in beeswax.
At that time, it was thought best to procure seeds from the
resident-factors in China. China was considered-as it still is-a
rich source of new plants. Missionaries were mentioned as able
to give information on where to secure the most valuable seeds

'Directions for Bringing Over Seeds and Plants . with a Catalogue of Such
Foreign Plants as are Worthy of Being Encouraged in Our American Colonies ....
Ellis' second book was titled Some Additional Observations on the Method of
Preserving Seeds from Foreign Parts, for the Benefit of our American Colonies-
with an Account of the Garden at St. Vincent....

America's Crop Heritage

and how to forward them. Ellis listed many plants which he
hoped would be tried in the American Colonies. In his next
book, published in 1773, Ellis gave some more information on
plant introduction in the British Colonies.

I must further add, that there is at present a laudable spirit among many of
the curious East-India captains, who are determined if possible, to bring over olive,
plants of the true black pepper, the Cassia Lignea, the Rattan, and true walking
Cane, Mangos and Mangosteens, Cardamums, Sago Palm, Sappan-tree the Assa
Foetida, and to search for the valuable spices near some of our settlements; so that
in a few years, I hope... our Colonies in North-America and the West Indies, will
be in possession of all the useful plants of the East, as well as those of the Spanish
and Portuguese settlements in South America.

Ellis made special mention of John Bradby Blake, resident-
factor in China, who brought upland rice to South Carolina
from Canton, and also credited him with bringing over "Cochin
China Rice," seeds of the "Tallow tree," a single gardenia, and
other curious and useful seeds from Canton. Ellis mentions
rhubarb as having been sent into North America for introduction
a year or two previous to 1773.
Although some of the plants native to America are of economic
importance today, the European immigrant brought with him a
much greater store of plant life. While most of our leading field,
fruit, and vegetable crops were introduced during colonial times,
much work remained to be done in finding varieties suited to
special needs and growing conditions. The development of
present day crops is due in a large measure to the successful
importation of foreign plant varieties.


1. Edwards, E. E., and Rasmussen, W. D., A Bibliography of the Agriculture of the
American Indian. USDA, Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Miscellaneous
Publication 447, 1942.
2. Ryerson, K.A., "History and Significance of the Foreign Plant Introduction Work
of the United States Department of Agriculture," Agricultural History, VII, July,
3. Gray, L. C., History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 186o.
Carnegie Institute Publication 430, Washington: 1933.
4. Earnest, Ernest, John and William Bartram, Botanists and Explorers. Philadel-
phia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940.
5. Benson, A. E., History of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Norwood,
Massachusetts: Plimpton Press, 1929.
6. Holland, J.W., "The Beginning of Public Agricultural Experimentation in
America: The Trustees' Garden in Georgia," Agricultural History, XII, July, 1938.
7. Wright, Richardson, The Story of Gardening. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co.,

A 2-

Search for New Crops 1770-1840

M ANY OF AMERICA'S early statesmen were sharply aware of the
agricultural problems facing the young, growing nation. Men
like Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, John Quincy Adams, and
William H. Crawford took an intelligent interest in the develop-
ment of agriculture, and were constantly striving to promote the
economic interests of the nation. They enjoyed associating with
scientists and enlightened agriculturists, and cooperated with the
work of agricultural and scientific societies.
Franklin's intellectual drive and broad interests brought him
recognition as one of the busiest men of his time. This same
activity and curiosity led him to consider agrarian problems, and
he did much to promote agriculture at home and abroad. While
in England from 1764 to 1775 as an agent of the colony of
Pennsylvania, he carefully observed farming methods and sent
back many plants to his friends in America.
As Carl R. Woodward says in his book, Meet Dr. Franklin (1),
". on excursions about the countryside to seek relaxation from
the formalities of court and tension of diplomatic circles, Franklin
was quick to perceive new varieties of plants, along with new
ideas of culture, to pass on to his American friends. On one
occasion he sent John Bartram from England seeds of new
varieties of turnips, cabbage and peas; again he forwarded to his
wife some naked oats, recommended for oatmeal, and some Swiss
barley, 'six rows to an ear,' with the request that she divide it
among his friends Hugh Roberts, Samuel Rhoades, John Bar-
tram and others ... then it was Penshurst peas, and again a new
sort of beans that he sent home across the water."

America's Crop Heritage

Franklin is definitely known to have sent to this country two
vegetables which are of economic value today, rhubarb and
Scotch kale. John Ellis considered rhubarb among other crops
as "worthy of being encouraged in our American colonies," and
in 1773 remarked that it had been sent to America within the
last three years. This probably refers to the seed Franklin
obtained in 1772 in Scotland and sent to Bartram in Philadelphia.
Franklin wrote concerning this, the first rhubarb on record in

I hope the Rhubarb you have sown and distributed will be taken care of.
There seems to be no doubt of its doing well with us as in Scotland. Remember
that for Use the Root does not come to Perfection of Power and Virtue in less
than Seven Years. The Physicians here who have try'd the Scotch, approve it
very much, and say it is fully equal to the best imported. (2)
Franklin's name is linked with the history of three field crops
which achieved economic importance: upland rice, broom corn,
and soybeans. In England he expressed a desire to have upland
rice from China tried out in America. Dry rice was sought so
that rice cultivation might be extended into upland areas. (3)
Franklin is credited with being the first to introduce broom corn
culture into America when his "shrewd eye found a single seed
on an imported broom." He became enthusiastic over the soy-
bean as a result of his membership in the French Academy of
Sciences. Soybeans sent from China to France as early as 1740
were grown after 1779 in the famous Botanic Garden of Paris.
From France, Franklin sent some of the seeds to the United States,
but the soybean did not find a favorable reception until the
technology of the twentieth century demanded it.
The culture of grapes, hemp, flax, and silk interested Franklin,
but it is not known whether he procured any new stocks for
propagation in America. He took an active interest in the
growing of Rhenish grapes and worked to promote wine produc-
tion through the culture of satisfactory varieties. For friends in
France, he procured from Pennsylvania, scions of the Newton
Pippin apple as well as hickory nuts, walnuts, and chestnuts.
Franklin believed there were great possibilities in America
for silk and often encouraged its cultivation. Silk producers
faced the problem of importing new varieties of trees, such as the
mulberry, for feeding the silkworm. The British Government
offered a bounty for silk produced in the Colonies, and similar

Search for New Crops 1770-1840

bounties were offered by the Pennsylvania and New Jersey
assemblies-through Franklin's influence, it is thought. While
in England, Franklin gathered information on silk for the
Colonies, and, in 1773, auctioned off a shipment of American

Washington is credited with no "first introduction," probably
because he did not go abroad as Franklin and Jefferson, and
did not indulge in the same scientific interests. However, he is
thought to have made the first recommendation that a branch
of the National Government be organized to care for the interests
of farmers. Washington's letters show that he wanted plants
for trial and for the improvement of his estate at Mount Vernon.
In them, he comments on agriculture in Virginia and its depend-
ence upon Britain for leadership in that field.
A letter Washington wrote in 1786 requested Arthur Young,
an English agriculturist of Bury in Suffolk, to procure for him
"implements of husbandry, seeds, 8cc." This letter, which was
addressed to Wakelin Welch of London, Washington's business
agent in England, reveals that Young had offered to procure
these articles for Washington. He accepted because Young was
careful that the seeds were "good of their several kinds; a thing
of much consequence, and which does not often happen with
seeds imported into this country from Europe."
Washington asked Welch to have the captain of the vessel
keep the seeds in the cabin and out of the ship's hold where
they would heat and spoil. (4) The next day Washington wrote
Young himself, listing the seeds and implements he desired:

A little of the best kind of cabbage-seeds, for field culture
Twenty pounds of the best turnip-seeds, for ditto
Ten bushels of sainfoin-seeds
Eight bushels of the winter vetches
Two bushels of rye-grass seeds
Fifty pounds of hop clover-seeds

He also wanted burnet, if Young thought it valuable as an
early food, or any other kinds of grass seeds of value, especially
for early feeding or cutting.
Several months later, Washington again wrote Young request-

America's Crop Heritage

Eight bushels of what you call velvet wheat, of which I perceive you are
an admirer
Four bushels of beans, of the kind you most approve for the purposes of a
Eight bushels of the best kind of spring barley
Eight bushels of the best kind of oats and eight bushels of sainfoin seed.

The first shipment of seeds arrived in a damaged condition.
Apparently the captain of the vessel did not have the space or
the desire to share his cabin with the twenty-one bushels of seeds
Washington had ordered.
The Board of Agriculture of London sent Washington seeds
of the perennial succory brought over from France by Arthur
Young. In the winter of 1789, Washington received gooseberry
plants from William Persse of Ireland. He thanked Persse for
these, and acknowledged his obligation for Persse's offer to send
"other natural Productions" of Ireland. Five thousand white thorn
plants sent from England in 1794 for planting hedges arrived in
late spring. Only a few survived, and they were not thrifty. The
same year, Washington ordered thirty-nine varieties of tropical
plants, including the breadfruit tree (an economical food in the
West Indies for feeding slaves) from the trustees of the Botanical
Garden of Jamaica. Washington's third misfortune in his efforts
to procure seeds and plants from overseas occurred when the ves-
sel carrying this order was lost at sea. His interest in these plants
had been that they would "combine utility, ornament, and amuse-
Washington, and other persons of ample means, used green-
houses to protect tropical plants for botanical and experimental
purposes. Since the glass structures maintained sufficiently uni-
form conditions of heat and moisture, they were used to grow
grapes for wine. "The orangery" was a name often given to glass
structures used to protect citrus fruits before they became avail-
able on the market at popular prices.

Jefferson's interest in agriculture was more profound and prac-
tical, more extended and continuous in time than either Frank-
lin's or Washington's. In Jefferson's philosophy, the agrarian way
of life was the basis of national economic and political sanity.
Long residence on the estates of Shadwell and Monticello gave
him the opportunity to practice and experiment with various

Search for New Crops 1770-1840

plants. Jefferson's Garden Book, kept from 1776 to 1824, attests
to his persistent, practical research for improved crops. According
to the records, Jefferson took more advantage of his foreign resi-
dence to study European agriculture than did Franklin. Jefferson
shared his plants and his discoveries, and went to considerable
trouble to find promising new plant crops to introduce.
Aid to Agriculture-Jefferson believed that agricultural societies
should experiment with new crop productions and bring them
to the attention of their members. "In an infant country, as ours
is, these experiments are important. We are probably far from
possessing, as yet, all the articles of culture for which nature has
fitted our country." He realized that "to find out these will require
abundance of unsuccessful experiments. But if, in a multitude of
these, we make one useful acquisition, it repays our trouble." It
was not the duty of the Federal Government, but "perhaps it is the
peculiar duty of associated bodies, to undertake these experi-
ments." (5)
In this letter to William Drayton just quoted, Jefferson offered
his whole-hearted cooperation to the South Carolina Society for
the Promotion of Agriculture. This institution, established in
1785, was the first agricultural association incorporated in the
United States to provide a farm for testing introduced seeds and
cuttings. The members were especially active in testing the olive
and grape, but only the olive gave promise. ". . I shall be atten-
tive to procure for them the seeds of such plants, as they will be
so good as to point out to me, or as shall occur to myself as worthy
of their notice." Jefferson was active in the Albemarle Agri-
cultural Society, organized in 1817 by his neighbors in the county
where some of his own farms were located. He was made a member
of many others because of his help in securing new plants.
Seed Collections-Jefferson was active during the greater part
of his life in collecting and exchanging seeds and plants with per-
sons abroad. He gathered prized field crops from all over the
world for trial at Monticello. Jefferson also collected domesticated
trees and shrubs, both native and foreign, which were able to with-
stand the Virginia winters. American agriculturists at first looked
to Europe and especially to England for leadership. Many of the
settlers sent to the Old World for plants, animals, implements,
and agricultural information. Jefferson imported not only seeds,
but also the English methods of cultivation and general agricul-
tural practices.

America's Crop Heritage

For a period of twenty-three years, Jefferson received annually
a box of seeds from his friend Thouin, Superintendent of the
Garden of Plants at Paris, containing exotic plants thought suit-
able for the Virginia climate. Jefferson sent these seeds to public
and private gardens in other states for many years, but in 1826 he
proposed that they be utilized by a new school of botany at the
University of Virginia. He also suggested that a botanical garden
be started, and proposed that the professor make a list of trees and
plants to be introduced before taking measures to secure them.
Promotion of Rice-Jefferson regarded his efforts to introduce
the olive and the dry, or upland rice, as his most worth-while
achievements in plant introduction. While in Paris in 1787, he
became interested in rice after seeing large quantities consumed
in France. He traveled to southern France to study the agriculture
and to secure the Piedmont rice grown in Lombardy. Jefferson
considered it different from the rice grown in the Carolinas and
hoped to increase the demand for rice by increasing the varieties
in the markets. At the same time, he secured rice seeds from the
Levant at Marseilles and forwarded these to America. When he
learned of the dry rice, he made arrangements to get some from
Cochin, China, for trial "the young Prince of that country. .having
undertaken that it shall come to me." (5)
Jefferson shipped a quantity of Egyptian rice seed to Charleston
in 1788. He dispatched two shipments, hoping that at least one
of them would arrive unspoiled and in time for planting. Two
years later, Jefferson secured a barrel of heavy upland rice from
equatorial Africa. He hoped the upland varieties might replace
the wet rice and the malarial pestilence that accompanied its
cultivation. From Charleston some of the upland rice was sent to
Georgia. In reviewing his plant introductions shortly before his
death, Jefferson recalled that his rice had spread over upper
Georgia, but he did not know to what extent it came to be
grown in South Carolina. (6)
Next to a grain for bread, Jefferson considered an oil crop as
especially worthy of introduction into a new country. "The olive
is a tree the least known in America, and yet the most worthy
of being known. Of all the gifts of heaven to man, it is next to
the most precious, if it be not the most precious." He was impressed
with the pervasiveness of the olive in Mediterranean cookery and
thought that it might claim a preference even to bread. Jefferson
thought the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture in South

Search for New Crops 1770-1840

Carolina should undertake the introduction of the olive and
offered his services to William Drayton in securing plants. He had
a number of olive plants sent from France in 1789-90 for South
Carolina and Georgia.
Miscellaneous Introductions-The search for suitable pasture
and cover crops in the South is an old one. In 1786 Jefferson sent
Drayton seeds of the sulla of Malta, or Spanish St. Foin, a legume
belonging to the same family as clover and alfalfa. In a letter to
the editor of the American Farmer of May 2, 1820, Jefferson wrote
that the consul at Leghorn, Italy, had sent him some of the seed,
Italian clover, which was arousing some interest at that time.
He considered it the same as the sainfoin grown in the Mediter-
ranean region. Thirty-five years before, Jefferson had procured
some of the clover seed from Malta and sent it to the Agricultural
Society of South Carolina. They found it less advantageous than
the Guinea grass, and did not pursue its culture.
Jefferson sent a parcel of acorns from the cork oak to South
Carolina in 1787. No successful plantings came from these seed
which were probably received in a non-viable condition, but
Jefferson continued his efforts to introduce cork for another
forty years. In 1803 he sent to Europe for grains of a wheat said
to withstand the attacks of the Hessian fly.' However the wheat
he received later that year and distributed among his friends
never proved equal to this requirement.

Agricultural societies during the nineteenth century performed
much the same functions for agriculture that Federal and state
governments later did in communicating agricultural information
to each other and exchanging seeds and plants. The first agricul-
tural periodical published in the United States, the Agricultural
Museum, devoted much space to the work of agricultural societies.
Activities of the Columbian Agricultural Society of Washington
and the Berkshire Agricultural Society of Massachusetts were fre-
quently reported upon. As the earliest recognition of Russian
wheats, the Agricultural Museum noted in July, 1811, that Cas-

1This tiny midge or fly is very destructive to wheat in the eastern United
States. Wheat growers in the nineteenth century were continually searching either
for wheat varieties that would resist its ravages or the means to prevent its
attacks. It is said to have been brought to America in the straw used for horse
feed during the Revolution by the Hessian mercenaries of George III.

America's Crop Heritage

pian, Persian barley, and Mammoth rye were distributed by Joel
Barlow to members of the Columbian Agricultural Society.
The Albemarle Agricultural Society of Virginia, the best known
of these societies, may be considered as typical of such organizations
at that time. Among the thirty organizers in 1817 were Thomas
Jefferson, two later governors of Virginia, a future senator and
justice of the Supreme Court, and many statesmen, physicians,
lawyers, and farmers. Later, James Madison joined and was chosen
first president. Excerpts taken from the minutes of the society
show that shipments of seeds were frequently received from abroad
and distributed among the members for trial.
The South Carolina Agricultural Society was the leader of the
interest in foreign plant introduction in that state. The society
appointed a committee to consider what beneficial effects would
accrue from the introduction of foreign seeds, plants, and imple-
ments of husbandry. In 1823 the committee pointed out that in
their state such profitable crops as rice, indigo, and cotton had
resulted from plant importation. Further introductions, they
felt, might produce new crops for sale as well as for provisions
and not merely for domestic consumption. The appointment of the
committee probably resulted from the general uneasiness over
a surplus of cotton, with resulting low prices for land and the
cotton crop.
The Society thought that a new staple might be substituted for
cotton, and a recommendation was made that a committee of three
be appointed to introduce such seeds and plants as would be desig-
nated by the society as of possible value for the state. This was to
be done by corresponding with consuls of the United States and
other persons in foreign lands and with officers of the Navy. An
appropriation of $200 was to be made annually from the society
funds to meet such expenses. The seeds and information acquired
were to be distributed gratis to members.
In New York, The Genessee Farmer of 1836 praised the farmers
of Monroe County for presenting a petition to the New York
legislature for an appropriation to aid a state agricultural insti-
tution at the head of the county agricultural societies. The money
was to be spent for premiums for agricultural products and for
procuring useful seeds for public distribution.
The history of tropical plant introduction during the second
quarter of the nineteenth century is largely the story of Dr.

Search for New Crops 1770-1840

Henry Perrine, physician and plant enthusiast. His role was that
of an agricultural pioneer working for the development of the
newly-acquired Territory of Florida. Perrine's work came at a
time when new crops were needed to diversify and bolster the
agriculture of the South-before the Federal Congress had begun
to bureaucratize this work in 1839.
Perrine's interest in the introduction of tropical plants began
while he was in Cuba in 1826 recuperating from an illness. Here
he observed agricultural practices, compiled statistics, and drew
some favorable conclusions about the prospects of tropical agri-
culture in Florida. When Perrine was appointed the United States
consul to Campeche, Mexico, in 1827, he began an intensive
campaign to export Mexican plants, especially the fiber-producing
He gave unstintingly of his services as a doctor to the Mexicans,
hoping to persuade them to part with their jealously-guarded
seeds and plants. Although the natives appreciated Perrine's help
during epidemics of yellow fever and cholera, they repeatedly
defeated his efforts to ship live plants or seeds out of Mexico. The
farmers disliked losing a valuable market for their crops by assist-
ing in the development of a rival crop industry abroad. Often the
seeds were reported either not ready to gather or already lost.
Transportation of plants was delayed so that they died on the
way out of the country. When plants did reach the United States,
frequently there were no facilities for their care.
Perrine wrote letters to the newspapers in an attempt to interest
the public in the cultivation of tropical plants. He made experi-
mental shipments of the century plant (Agave americana) and
other plants to friends in New York and New Orleans.
Perrine hoped to obtain a land grant from Congress, or to get per-
mission to purchase land in Florida and there set up an experi-
mental farm for tropical plants and seeds. He expected the results
of his farm would extend the cultivation of tropical plants north-
wards, and hoped to find some profitable crops that would attract
settlers to Florida. His plan was based upon the belief, common at
that time, that tropical plants could be gradually acclimated to
the colder temperatures of the north. Such plants, Perrine thought,
would utilize the sterile, swampy, pestilential lands of southern
Florida. What the soil lacked, he explained, the air and moisture
would supply to the plants he sought to cultivate. Perrine felt
that this combination would be so successful that in a few years

America's Crop Heritage

the West Indies would be smuggling in lower priced sugar from
the United States!
Work With Plants-Perrine was quite interested in agaves,
particularly the Agave sisalana. Many species of these plants were
common in Mexico and Central America and one species, the
century plant, could be used in more than a dozen different ways.
Perrine claimed to have invented a method of separating the
fibers from the leaves of the Henequen Agave, commercially
known as Sisal Hemp, by means of rotary scrapers. This invention,
which he compared to Whitney's cotton gin, he expected would
revolutionize agriculture.
A great many tropical plants other than the agaves attracted
Perrine's attention. He thought of the logwood tree in Yucatan
and suggested that a monopoly on logwood be established by
plantings in America. The demand for vegetable dyes caused him
to study many other dye-producing plants. Among these were the
cochineal cactus with its insect parasite which produces a reddish
dye, the "shrub Indigo," the common indigo of Tabasco, and a
tree indigo. He sent seeds of these and of nankeen colored cotton,
the India rubber tree, the "Pasture tree," a soap tree (its sapona-
ceous fruit was used as a substitute for soap), the "Purgative Pin-
ion," "Spanish Cedar," a large ground gourd, tree-cotton, and
The House and Senate each originated bills in 1838 for a land
grant to Perrine and each published a Report on his activities. (7)
The grant became a law in July of 1838. Perrine and his associates
were awarded a township of 23,040 acres in any portion of the
public lands below twenty-six degrees north latitude. It was to
be occupied within two years and each section had to be occupied
within eight years from the date of the location of the tract by an
actual settler cultivating useful tropical plants-otherwise the land
would be forfeited.
Perrine apparently planned to spend the rest of his life on his
plant work at Indian Key, a twelve-acre island in Florida where
his land grant was located. Against the advice of the Secretary of
War who warned him that the Seminoles were rising, Perrine
landed his family on Indian Key, Christmas morning of 1838. Six
months later Perrine was shot, and his home and valuable notes
on his work burned by a Seminole war party. (8) Most of Perrine's
plants were destroyed during the massacre, but some of them were
later carried off by Army officers to greenhouses in the North or

Search for New Crops 1770-1840

to Army posts to be used as ornamentals. Perrine had imported
nearly 200 varieties of tropical plants and made sisal plantings on
every section of the grant before his death. This was the last land
grant made by Congress for the purpose of encouraging plant
Perrine's zeal often led him to make overly enthusiastic state-
ments about his work, and it is doubtful if he ever would have
achieved the results he dreamed of. His attitude in plant intro-
duction, as in medicine, had been philanthropic. The location
of his land was an excellent choice climatically, for the present
tropical plant introduction garden of the Department of Agri-
culture at Coconut Grove, Florida, is located next to the site of
his grant.
1. Woodward, Carl R. "Benjamin Franklin: Adventures in Agriculture," Meet Dr.
Franklin. Philadelphia: The Franklin Institute, 1942.
2. Smyth, Albert Henry, The Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin. New York:
MacMillan, 1905-07.
3. United States Patent Office, Annual Report, 1853, p. 165.
4. Knight, Franklin, editor. Letters on Agriculture from George Washington .
to Arthur Young.
5. Lipscomb, A. A., and Bergh, Albert E., Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Wash-
ington: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904-05.
6. Padover, Saul K., The Complete Jefferson, Containing His Major Writings,
Published and Unpublished, Except His Letters. New York: Duell, Sloan and
Pearce, Inc., 1943.
7. 25th Congress, 2nd Session, House Report 564. February 17, 1838; to accompany
bill H.R. No. 553, and Senate Document 3oo, March 12, 1838; to accompany
Senate bill No. 241.
8. Walker, Hester Perrine, "Massacre at Indian Key, August 7, 1840, and the Death
of Dr. Henry Perrine," The Florida Historical Society Quarterly, V. July, 1926.


Federal Promotion of Crops

government played only a minor role in the promotion of agri-
culture. The search for new plant varieties during this era was
largely in the hands of individuals and farmers' associations. How-
ever, agriculturists realized that they could not cope with the
problems of importing and disseminating new varieties and con-
ducting experimental work without government aid. Organizations
like the Berkshire Agricultural Society made repeated demands
for Federal assistance. The grain and sugar interests wanted
government help in the importation of new seed stocks.
The first move by Congress to encourage the introduction of
new agricultural products was the Act of May 1, 1802. John James
Dufour and his associates were authorized to purchase up to four
sections of land, northwest of the Ohio River between the Great
Miami River and the Indian boundary line, at the rate of two
dollars per acre, "in order to promote the culture of the vine
within the territory of the United States." This act was passed in
response to the demands of many men for an American wine indus-
try, and to help overcome serious difficulties encountered in grow-
ing the European grape in the eastern United States.
After operating for a number of years, Dufour reported that
he had succeeded in making wine of good quality. However, he
and his associates ran into financial difficulties. In 1813 they
applied to Congress for a remission of their debt or an extension
of time for payment. The Committee on the Public Lands of the
House reported on Dufour's lack of success ". .owing to many
difficulties and embarrassments incident to their new establish-
ment, the length of time which must elapse before vine-dressers

Federal Promotion of Crops

can receive a reward for their labor, together with some mis-
fortunes peculiar to themselves." In 1818 Congress granted Dufour
and his associates a five-year extension on their lands, but the
project was never successful. (1)


A group of French emigrants known as the Tombigbee Associ-
ation settled in western Alabama in 1819 to raise grapes and olives.
The government had granted the association four townships of
92,160 acres, with the stipulation that at least one acre of each
quarter section was to be planted in vine. Five hundred olive
trees also were to be planted in the settlement unless it were found
impossible to grow the olive in that climate.
The land selected was near the junction of the Tombigbee and
Black Warrior rivers. It sold for two dollars per acre, and the fail-
ure of any one of the emigrants to pay for his land was cause for
forfeiture of the benefits of the grant to all the settlers. This pro-
vision of the law was finally repealed after repeated complaints
by the emigrants. A Treasury Department report in 1822 showed
that eighty-one families had actually settled by that time, with
2,500 acres under cultivation, and 10,000 vines planted.
The young colony soon ran into difficulties and many of the
colonists failed to live up to their contracts with the government.
An inspection of the project by the Treasury Department revealed
that members of the association were composed chiefly of refugee
military officers and merchants, with little knowledge of agricul-
ture. The region selected was a wilderness, and hunger forced the
settlers to cultivate food crops instead of the grape and olive. (2)
A lack of roads and other transportation facilities limited the
settlement temporarily to small lots around the town of Aigleville
(Eagleville). Exorbitant prices for corn and foodstuffs charged by
their American neighbors soon exhausted the settlers' funds.
Squatters moved into the settlement and threatened the most
violent vengeance on those who should interfere with them. There
was trouble in clearing the land for planting the vine and olive.
The cuttings arrived out of season from Europe and died. The
olive was peculiarly unsuccessful. Each winter's frost killed the
tree except for the roots, and these put up fresh shoots which in
turn were frozen the following winter.
The settlers were given several extensions of time on the pay-
ments for their land, but the project never succeeded. Further

America's Crop Heritage

attempts to establish the vine and olive in the southeastern part
of the country continued for two generations with little success.

William H. Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury, attempted to
stimulate interest in plant introduction with the Treasury circular
of 1819. This document called for the assistance of naval and con-
sular officials in foreign countries in sending to this country what-
ever plants or seeds they might deem of value to American farmers.
Found in the archives of the Treasury Department, this circular
states clearly the problem and its relations to American agricul-
ture at that time:
The introduction of useful plants, not before cultivated, or of such as are of
superior quality to those which have been previously introduced, is an object of
great importance to every civilized state, but more particularly to one recently
organized, in which the progress of improvements of every kind, has not to con-
tend with ancient and deep rooted prejudices. The introduction of such inventions,
the results of the labour and science of other nations, is still more important,
especially to the United States, whose institutions secure to the importer no ex-
clusive advantage from their introduction. Your attention is respectfully solicited
to these important subjects.
The collectors of the different ports of the United States will cheerfully co-
operate with you in this interesting and beneficent undertaking, and become the
distributors of the collections of plants and seeds which may be consigned by you
to their care. It will greatly facilitate the distribution, if the article shall be sent
directly to those sections of the Union, where the soil and climate are adapted
to their culture.
At present, no expense can be authorized, in relation to these objects. Should
the result of these suggestions answer my expectations, it is possible that the
attention of the national legislature may be attracted to the subject, and that
some provisions may be made, especially in relation to useful inventions.
I have the honour to be, very respectively, sir, your most obedient servant.

One introduction which may be attributed to this circular was
the work of Consul Appleton in Italy. He sent in "barrels of the
Lupinella" of Italy, which was received and distributed by Craw-
ford. Very little was actually accomplished by the circular, however,
because no money was authorized for the work.
In addition to this circular, Crawford's interest in agriculture
is recorded by the Southern Cultivator of Augusta, Georgia. A
letter from a correspondent reporter that Crawford, while Secretary
of the Treasury, procured seeds of the doub grass and of the teak
tree from India. He sent them to Thomas Spalding, Sapelo Island,
Georgia, who convinced himself that doub grass was identical
with the Bermuda grass introduced in Colonial days.

Federal Promotion of Crops

The second Treasury circular was largely the work of John
Quincy Adams. Months before this circular was issued, Adams
noted in his diary that he had discussed the matter at some
length with friends and ". .thought we might venture upon some
small expense to collect certain specific seeds or plants and have
them planted in the garden of the Columbian Institute." Adams
suggested to Southard, Secretary of the Navy, that a circular letter
be sent to the captains of our public ships requesting that they
lend their assistance in cooperation with the consuls to effect the
object. He also recommended that an alphabetical list be made of
the plants recommended for importation, their uses and the coun-
tries from which they would be procured.
As in the previous circular, no expense could be authorized,
but the hope was expressed that Congress might make some pro-
vision to defray expenses incurred.1 The second circular went into
much more detail than did the first. Information on the cultivation,
the preferred climate and soil, the propagation, and the uses of
each plant was requested. Southard endorsed the circular with a
request for cooperation addressed to the ships of the Navy. Detailed
directions for putting up and transmitting seeds and plants accom-
panied the circular. These were necessary to insure the live arrival
of seeds and plants in the United States from distant overseas
Probably such materials were to be sent to Washington to be
placed in the government botanic garden, which Adams is sup-
posed to have established for receiving and distributing them.
This was the nucleus of the botanic and propagating gardens which
were greatly expanded a quarter century later. (3)

Before a special office for plant introduction was established,
the Navy had greater opportunities to render voluntary assistance
in this work than did any other department of the government.
Captains of merchant and naval vessels often owned farms, and
used their positions to bring livestock and plants from abroad for
trial. Navy Captain Jesse Elliott, for example, overindulged his
interest in foreign livestock to the extent of giving his animals
preferred passage aboard ship to the discomfort of his men. The
'See Appendix Sections I, II, and III.

America's Crop Heritage

resulting complaints led to a court martial for Elliott and the
issuance of a general order forbidding the transportation of live-
stock aboard public vessels.
The Navy kept a squadron in the Mediterranean, and many
plant items were sent back from that region. The orders of the
Navy Department to Commander William Crane in 1827, furnish
a typical example.

It will probably be in your power, while protecting the commercial, to add
something to the agricultural interests of the nation, by procuring information
respecting valuable animals, seeds, and plants, and importing such as you can,
conveniently, without inattentions to your more appropriate duties, or expense
to the Government. There are many scientific, agricultural, and Botanical institu-
tions, to which your collections might be profitably intrusted, and by which what-
ever you procure will be used to the most extensive advantage of the country.
Among those is the Columbian Institute of this city.

In 1824, Captain John Harris, USN, brought seeds of the large
type of lima beans from Peru. The bean became quite popular in
subsequent years. The American Farmer published instances of
clover and alfalfa importations by naval officers. Ballard, a captain
with the Mediterranean Squadron, brought about five bushels of
lupinella from Italy and distributed it among friends near
Annapolis. Commander Jacob Jones sent a keg of alfalfa seed from
Valparaiso in 1827 to John S. Skinner, a postmaster and editor
of the American Farmer.
Skinner, a former naval officer, was with Francis Scott Key at
the bombardment of Fort McHenry and is said to have had a part
in writing the National Anthem. For nearly half a century he en-
listed the aid of prominent naval officers in bringing foreign live-
stock and seeds into America. The seeds Skinner received were
liberally distributed under his frank as postmaster.2
The House of Representatives passed a Resolution in 1830 re-
questing the assistance of the Navy and our officials in foreign
countries in securing new varieties of sugar cane and other plants
suitable to the American soil and climate. Under Lieutenant-
Commandant Boerum, the West India Squadron procured several
varieties of sugar cane from the Island of Trinidad. These cut-
tings were brought to Pensacola and distributed by the governor
of Florida.
'Skinner's editorial in appreciation of the services of naval officers ma) be
found in Albert Lowther Demaree, The American Agricultural Press, 1819-60. New
York: Columbia University Press, 1941. Pp. 253-54.

Federal Promotion of Crops

This expedition, sent out in 1838, was the first major effort
made by the Navy to encourage plant introduction. Commander
Charles Wilkes headed the expedition which cruised the Pacific
from 1838 to 1842 under orders to secure any noteworthy new agri-
cultural plants. The botanist, William Rich, accompanied the
expedition to collect botanical specimens, agricultural seeds, and
Other nations, particularly France and England, had long been
dispatching botanists on plant explorations. In 1821 the French
Government sent a corvette under Samuel Perottet to collect a
load of rare plants and seeds including the Morus multicaulis from
the Philippine Islands and parts of Asia.3
Introductions From Madeira-All the information available re-
garding seeds and plants brought back by the Wilkes Expedition
comes from two volumes of the original letters from members of
the expedition to the Secretary of the Navy. A shipment of fifteen
kinds of plants, roots, and seeds was made to John McArau of
Philadelphia, from Funchall, Madeira, in 1838. Another box of
seeds collected at Madeira, with directions for planting, was sent
from Rio de Janeiro. To Buist, a florist at Philadelphia, Wilkes
sent "Box No. 5" which contained seeds from Madeira, St. Iago,
and the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro. There were also roots of various
Brazilian plants. A box of seeds was delivered by the Navy agent
at Philadelphia to John Kann, who distributed them to members
of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society.
Early in 1840, William Rich shipped to Boston two cases of
seeds given him by the Government Botanic Garden of Sydney,
New South Wales. Some of the seeds were from "rare if not new
plants." Rich requested that these be placed in the hands of per-
sons who would take proper care of them.
Fiji Tomatoes-In October of that same year, Wilkes sent James
Paulding, then Secretary of the Navy, twenty-eight papers of seed
including some of a tomato from the Fiji Islands. These tomato
seed had no visible effect on our tomato culture, but a variety of
some significance did come from the Fijis in 1862. Most of the
seeds in the papers from the Fijis came from ornamental shrubs
I The Morus multicaulis, the mulberry for feeding the silkworm, caused great
speculation in America for many years during the first half of the nineteenth cen-

America's Crop Heritage

and trees. These were distributed to ten different individuals in
the eastern part of the country. About the same time, Titian R.
Peale, "Scientist," sent flower seeds from Honolulu to his family in
the United States.
On November 9 Wilkes wrote that he had shipped aboard the
Lausanne consigned to the Navy agent in New York, seeds and
roots, flower seeds, and "1 box Sandwich Island wheat." Joseph
Drayton, also a member of the expedition, sent watermelon and
muskmelon seeds from Tonga Taboo and the Sandwich Islands to
a friend in New Jersey. Wilkes later wrote:
I have the honor to inform you that I have sent to New York per ship Lausanne,
one of Wards boxes with living plants from the Figi Islands ... and have requested
the Navy Agent to hold them subject to your orders. . Much time has been
consumed in gathering and preserving these seeds, and it will be a loss of credit
to the Expedition if it should fail to benefit the Country by the introduction of
the many new and valuable plants among this collection.
The farm papers of the time show that other Navy officers were
sending back seeds of plants expected to be useful to the farmer.
An African maize, reported as an excellent cattle feed (possibly
a grain sorghum), was sent back from the coast of Africa. From
Italy, Commodore Charles Stewart brought back an "Etrurian
wheat." Daniel Zollickoffer, who tested seeds of this new wheat,
wrote the farm papers that it was a superior introduction, and
anticipated that the country would owe its gratitude to Stewart.
The Wilkes Expedition was not expected to spend all its time
on agricultural objectives, and no instance of a first introduction
can definitely be attributed to its members. Seeds and plants col-
lected were placed for trial with reputable horticulturists. Botani-
cal collections brought to Washington by the expedition made it
necessary to construct a greenhouse in 1842. This later became
known as the Botanic Garden.

A decade after the return of the Wilkes Expedition, a planter
from Louisiana wrote the Patent Office calling attention to the
degeneration of sugar cane in his state. He suggested that the
situation could be remedied by procuring some seed of new
varieties from a foreign country, through the help of our foreign
consuls and naval commanders.
The Secretary of the Navy, William Graham, initiated this
work by ordering the East India Squadron to secure sugar cane
cuttings and samples of whatever other plants and seeds they might

Federal Promotion of Crops

find during their tour of duty. The Sloop of War Marion was to be
held in readiness to rush the collection back to the states. The
idea of securing sugar cane was probably suggested by Leonard
Wray's book, The Practical Sugar Planter, published in 1848.4
This book called attention to the Salangore cane, which Com-
mander Aulick had direction to secure at Penang, off the west
coast of the Malay Peninsula. Aulick also was instructed to give
special attention to procuring seeds of the tea plant. He reported
in the winter of 1852 that he had obtained cuttings and roots of
the Salangore cane as well as a few samples of the Otaheite and
Mauritius canes which some of the Penang planters preferred to
the Salangore.
The Marion was immediately ordered to take passage home,
and another ship of the squadron, the St. Mary's was instructed to
secure an additional supply of the Salangore sugar cane seed. When
the Marion arrived home, the roots and cuttings were found to be
decayed and worthless. Aulick assured the Secretary of the Navy
that the plants had been packed by persons highly recommended,
and had been well cared for while on board his ship. Specific in-
structions, however, were given for packing future shipments.
Later that same year the St. Mary's arrived in Philadelphia with a
cargo of cane.

One of the duties of the Perry Naval Expedition, sent to Japan
in 1853 to open that country to trade with the United States, was
to exchange agricultural implements and seeds with the Japanese.
Dr. James Morrow accompanied the expedition as the represent-
ative of the Agricultural Division of the Patent Office and
recorded in his Journal detailed information. Morrow was in
charge of American agricultural implements and seeds to be ex-
changed and his instructions were to ". .carefully note and collect
all indigenous vegetable products within your sphere of operations,
with a view to their introduction into the United States, preserv-
ing seeds and dried specimens of as many plants as possible." 5
An oversight occurred in the instructions, for no funds were pro-
'A Complete Account of the Cultivation and Manufacture of the Sugar-cane,
according to the Latest and Most Improved Processes. "Describing and comparing
the different systems pursued in the East and West Indies and the Straits of
Malacca, and the Relative expenses and advantages attendant upon each: Being the
result of sixteen years' experience as a sugar planter in those countries."
'See Appendix IV for full text of this letter of instructions from Edward
Everett of the State Department.

America's Crop Heritage

vided for purchasing plant materials. The Interior Department,
however, did authorize necessary expenditures for collecting and
shipping the sugar cane cuttings to the United States. Morrow's
first opportunity to buy seeds came at Hong Kong. He notified
Perry of his lack of funds, and Perry gave him a small advance until
he could receive further instructions.
Chinese Seeds-Morrow's Journal records that his first collection
was a small box of flower seeds secured in September, 1853. These
he sent to the president of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society.
At Macao, in October, Perry instructed Morrow to precede him to
Canton and to collect as many seeds as possible. They were to be
put aboard the clipper ship Coarser which was to return the sick
of the squadron to America. Morrow collected vegetable seeds
from the vicinity of Canton and field seeds of rice, beans, and
wheat from a northern province. Along with two other shipments
these were sent to New York and Philadelphia. These shipments
from around Canton also included tea seed, cotton, Chinese cab-
bage, and varieties of such common vegetables as cabbage, turnips,
greens, peas, and beans.
The Japanese Emperor sent Morrow a small bag of thirty kinds
of garden seeds from the Imperial Gardens at Tokyo. Barley,
wheat, turnips, and various other garden seeds were procured in
Japan at other times. In the spring of 1854 Morrow sent large
papers of seed to the Department of the Interior. Other packages
were sent to the seedsmen, Landreth and Buist of Philadelphia,
and to gardeners in South Carolina. Morrow obtained large quanti-
ties of field, garden, and flower seeds in Simoda Bay. These are
listed and described as "White Pease, Black beans, Red beans,
Buck-wheat, Broom corn, Small red beans (soya), Large white
pease, Small white pease." Rice, wheat, barley, and a number of
vegetable and flower seeds were procured at the same time. That
summer, Morrow potted some plants among which were three
persimmons and a honeysuckle.
Plant Spoilage-Morrow's attempts to bring back living plants
must have been particularly exasperating. Many of his plants died
on the way down from Japan to China. At first he had no glass
cases for their protection, and the plants were badly wilted at
sea by salt water and wind. The Navy apparently had neither the
space to shelter the plants nor an understanding of their needs.
Seeds were exposed to rain, and plants subjected to salt spray or

Federal Promotion of Crops

placed in unsuitable locations. At Macao, Morrow ordered four-
teen cases constructed for his plants, and those put in jars soon
When glasses in the cases were found broken, more plants were
secured in Java. Sugar canes obtained there by the Lexington
were stowed in glass cases. Many of these plants were brought
through safely, and in 1855 Congress appropriated $1,500 for the
erection of a suitable house for the Japanese plants. Four plants
each, of several kinds of persimmons, tangerines, kumquats, roses,
and ornamentals were brought back. Tobacco and cotton seeds
from the island of Mauritius were forwarded to the Patent Office.
The ship Plymouth arrived at Norfolk in January, 1855, with four
boxes of sugar cane seedlings of Salingore and Mauritius and three
barrels of the best wheat of Cape Town.
About the same time that Perry was in Japan, Lieutenants
Page and Donaldson abroad the Water Witch engaged in a recon-
naissance of the Paraguay River. They collected seeds and botani-
cal specimens which they forwarded to the Patent Office. Among
these seeds was the math, or Paraguay Tea-the familiar beverage
of the Paraguay River region.
Another expedition contemporary with these voyages was the
John Rogers Surveying Expedition to the North Pacific Ocean.
Charles Wright, botanist of the expedition, collected many seeds
which he sent to the Botanical Garden and the Smithsonian Insti-
tute at Washington. Wright, however, was primarily interested in
collecting botanical specimens, and there is no record of any
significant plant introduction resulting from either of these expe-
In an attempt to secure viable sugar cane cuttings, the Patent
Office sent the Naval barque Release to South America in 1856.
Previous attempts to collect the cuttings in the East Indies had
not been successful because most of the cargo died during the
long trip home. The expedition was given an appropriation of
$10,000 and relieved of regular naval assignments in order to
hasten the return of the cuttings. The Patent Office hoped that
this importation and another from China would completely change

America's Crop Heritage

the cultivation of sugar cane in the United States. At that time
the trip was unique because the Release was the first American
naval vessel sent out on a purely agricultural mission.
Lieutenant C. C. Simms was placed in charge of the Release,
with Townend Glover of the Patent Office heading the agri-
cultural activities. These instructions for the voyage, from the
Commissioner of Patents, form an accurate description of the
expedition's work.

. you have been selected to go to South America to procure a fresh supply
of the Cuttings of the Sugar Cane for . experiment in our Southern States ....
The United States Brigg "Release" has been fitted out by the Navy Depart-
ment . .you will please repair on board, forthwith, providing yourself with the
necessary provisions for your support, for two months to be paid for out of your
regular salary.
You will receive . adequate means and personal directions for the procure-
ment, packing, transportation, and delivery of the Canes . you are requested
to proceed in the "Release," with all possible dispatch to the port of Georgetown
in Demarara, and procure as many cuttings of the most healthy and hardy varieties
of the Sugar Cane which grow in that region, as can be safely packed in the
boxes provided for that purpose, and cause them to be compactly stowed, below
deck, in said vessel, which will then proceed to the port of La Guayra, in Venezuela.
You will next proceed to the most elevated regions of Caracas, where the Sugar
Cane is successfully grown and obtain as many bundles of Cane Cuttings as can
be safely stowed in any place which may be unoccupied in said vessel, and then
proceed directly to New Orleans, where you will receive further orders.
Should you find it convenient to procure any valuable seeds which would be
likely to thrive in any part of the United States you are hereby authorized to
purchase a small quantity of each kind for experiment from the funds which
will be placed in your hands by Mr. Browne.

On February 7, 1857, The New Orleans Picayune reported the
Release had arrived ". .with over 1,000 boxes of cane cuttings,
plantain, banana, eddo and other plants including buck yam roots.
The cuttings had been made with a great deal of care, and several
planters who examined those not in boxes, expressed themselves
highly pleased ...."
Cane Borers Imported-Great benefits were expected to accrue
to the sugar interests. But several days later, the cane cuttings were
found to be badly infested with the cane borer. One planter who
inspected the cuttings thought only one box in six of any value.
But he took some home which he intended to plant at a distance
from other canes to prevent infestation! The Plaquemine Sentinel
reported this planter brought them a piece of the cane through
which the borer had made a perfect road or tunnel. Some judged
the enterprise a failure and said it was "worse than that if it intro-

Federal Promotion of Crops

duces the terrible borer worm into Louisiana." The Patent Office
reported in 1857 that the cuttings were thriving and were expected
to compensate amply for the introduction.
Glover, who procured the canes, came to America from England
in 1836 to engage in agricultural experiments. He eventually be-
came an entomologist in the Department of Agriculture and later
taught at Maryland Agricultural College. His importation of
additional cane borers into Louisiana is a commentary upon the
rudimentary state of entomology and plant quarantine in his day.

Diplomatic officials also were called upon to procure plant
introductions while residing in foreign countries. The many
separate instances of such assistance do not tell a connected story.
But they do show the devotion of many of the consuls to the im-
provement of national agriculture, and indicate that the Patent
Office never expected to operate without the consuls' support.
In 1849, John Davis, the consul at Canton, China, sent seeds to
America. These had been given to him by S. Wells Williams, a
prominent missionary and linguist, who later served as interpreter
for the Perry expedition to Japan. Williams obtained this supply
from another missionary who in turn had received them from
a Chinese physician. Davis sent a second box of seeds to the Patent
Office in June of 1849 which he had also received through Wil-
liams. During the summer and autumn of that year, Williams con-
tinued to gather seeds for the Patent Office, including Japanese
persimmon, olive, watermelon, and muskmelon seeds.

An American consul at Panama in 1851 made an enormous
contribution to the agricultural wealth of the United States, prob-
ably without suspecting the significance of his act. This consul,
whose name is not known, sent a small quantity of potatoes from
South America, the original home of the "Irish potato," to the
Reverend Chauncey Goodrich, of Utica, New York.
Goodrich's interest in potato breeding sprang from the wide-
spread want and suffering in Europe and the crop failures in
America due to the severe epidemic of potato rot during 1843-47.
He attributed the blight to long-continued asexual propagation,
which he thought had weakened the vigor and disease resistance

America's Crop Heritage

of the tubers. Sexual reproduction should rejuvenate the potato.
Goodrich allowed the potato flowers to pollinate naturally, and in
this way crossed the old seed stocks with the new potatoes from
South America. Rigid selections of superior plants were made
from hundreds of seedlings.
Special Varieties-He called one of the South American potatoes
the "Rough Purple Chili," believing it had come from that
country. "From naturally fertilized seed balls of this variety, pro-
duced in 1852," the potato authority, Stuart, tells us, "he grew
some seedlings in 1853; and from this lot one was selected as
worthy of propagation." This seedling was introduced in 1857
under the name of "Garnet Chili." This variety and other natural
hybrids selected by Goodrich were the breeding stocks of numer-
ous successive potato breeders. Most of the 200 or more potato
varieties found today in the United States descended from the
original consignment by the unknown consul in Panama. (4)
Many other American consular officials cooperated in securing
seeds for the Patent Office. Charles Huffnagle, the consul at Cal-
cutta, sent a shipment of Dacca cotton seed to Edmund Burke in
1849. John P. Brown, of the United States Legation at Constanti-
nople, complied with Mason's request for 100 bushels of the best
flint wheat of Turkey. All of the consuls were expected to gather
information on the agriculture of the countries where they were
stationed. Chile and Peru were looked upon as sources of valuable
seeds, especially of wheat, alfalfa, and beans, and special attention
was given to the exchange of seeds with those countries. Several
varieties of pepper, beans, and corn were received from Callao,
Peru, in exchange for American seeds sent there. From Algeria,
12,000 pounds of wheat were procured by the American consul,
John J. Mahony. Two Wardian cases of plants of great economic
value were sent from Ningpo, China, by D. S. MacGowan in 1856.
The Consulate-General of Egypt sent a quantity of seeds of differ-
ent kinds collected there during his residence. Townsend Harris,
Minister-Resident at Yedo, Japan, sent a box of various seeds to
the Patent Office in 1861.
Japanese Contributions-Robert H. Pruyn, Minister-Resident at
Tokyo in 1862, sent eighteen boxes of upland rice and grape
cuttings from the government of Japan to the Department of
Agriculture. Both items were quite welcome-the rice because

Federal Promotion of Crops

of the loss of the southern supply during the Civil War, and the
grape cuttings in view of the efforts to found a native wine industry
in the eastern United States. Commissioner Newton was notified
that another shipment of 900 choice grapevines had been sent
by the Japanese government. Pruyn also tried to procure sorghum
seeds. Newton expressed the widespread interest in the agricul-
tural plants of Japan when he wrote:

Our people look upon every natural production of this description . with a
more lively interest than upon similar articles from any other country; believing
as they do, that they are actual and rare acquisitions-unexpectedly coming from
a hitherto unknown and inaccessible country-capable, perhaps, of improvement
in our soil and climate, under the progressive ideas of our people.
Thomas Hogg, American consul in Japan from 1865-75, sent
Japanese plants to America to be propagated by Parson's Nursery
in Long Island; one of these was a hydrangea.6 Other consuls
sent seeds and plants to friends or brought them back occasionally
with the idea of capitalizing on them. Plant introduction by diplo-
matic officials became less important when the Department of Agri-
culture expanded its activities and depended more upon its own
agents for plant materials.

1. 6 U.S. Statutes at Large, 47-48.
2. 3 U.S. Statutes at Large, 374, 667; 17th Congress, Ist Session, Senate Document 70.
3. USDA Annual Report of the Commissioner, 1866.
4. Stuart, William, The Potato: Its Culture, Uses, History and Classification. 3rd
edition revised, Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1928.

"Isaac Newton revealed that Hogg sent choice grape cuttings packed carefully
to his brother in New York. At the same time he sent grape cuttings to the
Department of Agriculture with little preparation and care. Newton, jealous that
the department should have the honor of first introducing valuable new plants,
resented this partiality to a commercial firm to the disadvantage of the nation's
agriculturists. Newton wrote Hogg expressing his disappointment with his action.


Leadership of the Patent

Office 1836-62

PRIOR to the agricultural appropriation of 1839, the govern-
ment had made several sporadic attempts to encourage plant im-
portation. In revising the tariff regulations in 1816, Congress per-
mitted foreign plants and trees to enter duty-free. Efforts were
made in 1822 to use the Mall, an area of 200 acres between the
Capitol and the Washington Monument, as an experimental farm
for propagating new seeds and plants. Dufour and Perrine had
received land grants to carry on their work, and a committee on
Agriculture was created in the House in 1820 and in the Senate in
The grant of 1839, however, was the first significant Federal
achievement in the field of agriculture. It called for an appropri-
ation of $1,000 from the Patent Office funds to aid in collecting
and publishing agricultural statistics and for the collection and
distribution of seeds. Known as the Agricultural Division of the
Patent Office, the new bureau came under the jurisdiction of the
State Department. This work of handling new seeds and plants
was considered a function of the Patent Office because of the
department's concern with new discoveries and inventions.
Oliver Ellsworth, head of the Patent Office during this period,
was instrumental in securing the appropriation of 1839. In the
first Annual Report of 1837, Ellsworth recommended the establish-
ment of a "depository" for new varieties of seeds and plants until
they were distributed. Introductions brought in by the Navy had
often failed for the lack of a regular means of distributing plant
materials left with customs collectors. Although no immediate
action was taken by Congress, Ellsworth continued to receive and

Leadership of the Patent Office

distribute improved varieties of wheat, corn and other seeds. Dis-
tribution of the seeds was done under the postal frank of friendly
members of Congress. This was the beginning of the congressional
practice of free seed shipments to constituents.
In January of 1839 the chairman of the Committee on Patents
in the House wrote Ellsworth for information on the collection
and distribution of seeds and plants and the gathering of agricul-
tural statistics. Ellsworth strongly advocated an appropriation for
this work. President Van Buren also recommended the appropri-
ation in order to widen the scope of the Sixth Census by the collect-
ion of agricultural information. Ellsworth's testimonials from
farmers, particularly those regarding improved Indian corn, had
made evident the benefits to be gained by planting better varieties.
The appropriation was passed in the Act of March 3, 1839. (1)
Because it focused Federal attention on the place of agriculture in
our economy, this act led to the establishment two decades later
of a Department of Agriculture.


During his term as Commissioner, Ellsworth solicited the aid of
the diplomatic corps and the Navy in collecting seeds for the
Patent Office. The farm press recognized him as a benefactor and
credited him with making great efforts to secure new plants. (2)
The original appropriation was duplicated in 1842 and increased
gradually in succeeding years until 1848, when the bureau re-
ceived $3,500 for its annual budget. A tariff act in 1842 further
encouraged plant introductions by exempting foreign garden
seeds from duty. (3)
The Patent Office Report of 1845 praised consuls abroad for
procuring seeds and information, and requested more funds to
continue purchases. Difficulty in establishing agencies abroad for
the collection of new seeds had hindered the work of introduction,
and varieties frequently had been distributed to parts of the
country where they could not grow.
A record distribution of more than 60,000 packages of seed was
made in 1847. Some of these seeds were presented by the Minister
of Agriculture and Commerce in France, through the efforts of
Alexandre Vattemare, promoter of international plant exchange.
C. F. Hagedorn, the Bavarian consul at Philadelphia, imported
seeds from his government. The Bavarian Government had re-

America's Crop Heritage

quested him to establish an exchange of plants between the Royal
Botanic Garden and the botanical garden in America. (4) By
1848, more than 250,000 packages of seeds had been dispersed,
and reports of poor seed germination, which became common in
later years, were being received.
The Patent Office Reports of 1847-48 indicate that the govern-
ment wanted more information on wheat, especially imported
varieties. Multicole rye was imported from France in 1843 for
trial, and the Commissioner of Patents attempted to get enough
seed of the Mark Lane Express barley from England to distribute.
That same year, the Patent Office planned to distribute seeds of
some very hardy varieties of Hungarian tobacco procured by
Charles L. Fleischmann. The attention of the public was also
invited to a new, successful Turkish tobacco.

A Congressional Act in 1849 transferred the Patent Office from
the Department of State to the new Department of the Interior.
With this, the reorganized Agricultural Division of the Patent
Office achieved enough prominence to make a separate Annual
Report of its activities. These reports continued until the work
was absorbed in 1862 by the newly created Department of Agri-
The chief concern of the Agricultural Division continued to
be the introduction of seeds and plants. Charles Mason, Com-
missioner of Patents from 1853 to 1857, proved unusually resource-
ful in this work. Mason felt more keenly than his predecessors the
need for a vigorous program of plant introduction. The Report
for 1854 showed that earlier commissioners had allocated a con-
siderable share of their appropriations to the work of plant dis-
semination. But Mason felt that the prime object in expending
this money was "the introduction and naturalization of new and
useful vegetable products, hitherto unknown in the United
States." Mason believed that "the advantage resulting from the
introduction of a new commodity of average utility for consump-
tion or commerce is of more value to the country than the
acquisition of a new province."
The Report for 1861 reflected the attitude of another com-
missioner who favored plant introduction. D. P. Holloway, who
was also a prominent agricultural editor, spoke out for this work

Leadership of the Patent Office

because "great diversities of heat and cold, ardity and moisture,
desolation and extreme productiveness, these very contrasts open
up a wide field for scientific investigations, to ascertain what crops
and modes of culture are best adapted to all these diversities."
The commissioners also urged that the vitality and productivity
of plants propagated by buds or cuttings should constantly be
increased by the dissemination of new seed stocks.
Foreign Seed Buyers-Among those plants commanding the
interest of the Patent Office, tea and the Chinese sugar cane
received the greatest emphasis. An agent of the office went to
Europe in the fall of 1854 to procure seeds of grains, grasses, and
leguminous plants direct from the growers. At the same time, the
dissemination of choice varieties found within the United States
was not neglected.
D. J. Browne, agricultural expert, made two trips to Europe to
procure seeds from reliable sources, and spent large sums of money
with the principal foreign seed establishments. This buying pro-
gram was severely criticized by dealers in America, and a Senate
committee's investigation followed. Browne's activities were above
criticism, however, and his work in Europe makes him our first
accredited agricultural explorer.
As in earlier years, considerable attention was directed to viti-
culture in conjunction with experiments to promote a domestic
wine industry. Temperance, the argument ran, would be encour-
aged by substituting wine consumption for distilled and "fac-
titious" liquors. An assemblage of citizens from most of the states
and territories met at the Patent Office on January 3, 1859. They
supported the program, and resolved themselves into an "Advisory
Board of Agriculture of the Patent Office."
New Plants From Asia-The vast vegetable resources of eastern
Asia received much attention during the nineteenth century as
sources of new plants for America. In 1856 the minister to China
was requested to procure seeds and plants up to the value of
$1,000. The similarity of the climate of the eastern United States
and regions of Central Asia led the commissioner to believe
Chinese crops would thrive in America. Long a rich source of
plant life, Central Asia was still an unexplored region and appealed
to gardeners because of its rare plants of high value.
The Navy brought sugar cane cuttings from islands in the
Pacific area, but the amber sorgo, tea, and many other plants




Leadership of the Patent Office

came from China. For improved varieties of the common field
and vegetable crops the Patent Office turned to Europe. England
and France were considered sources of improved varieties of bread
grains, but after 1850 the search was extended, and small grains
were procured from Poland, Algiers, and the borders of the Black


By 1850 more than 80,000 packages of seeds were being dis-
tributed annually, although the budget for all agricultural activi-
ties was only $4,500 per year. Congress first made specific provision
for collecting and distributing seeds in 1852, and in 1854 increased
the annual appropriation for agricultural work to $25,000. (5)
This increased appropriation during Mason's term made it
possible to enlarge the program of distribution, and in 1861
2,474,380 packages of seed were sent out, including 15 varieties of
garden and 230 of flower seeds. Mason proposed to send many
small packages to a large number of people. He believed this
policy would give the new plants a better trial in every section,
and the laws of chance would place them in many conscientious
hands. Mason secured his mailing lists by requesting postmasters
to send him the names of persons likely to give the seeds a fair trial.
Agricultural societies requested seeds for distribution among their
members. The legislature of South Carolina appropriated $5,000
a year for experiments with plant materials.
Seed Firms Employed-With more funds at its disposal the
Patent Office for a time was able to send its own agents to Europe
in search of seeds instead of having to depend entirely upon the
Navy and the State Department for help. In 1855, however,
arrangements were made with the seed firms of Vilmorin-Andrieux
in Paris, Charlwood and Cummins in London, Ernest Von Spreck-
elsen and Company in Hamburg, and William Skirving in Liver-
pool to supply foreign seeds. The French and the English concerns
continued to fill large seed orders for the government for more
than ten years.
Congressmen continued to assist in seed distribution by send-
ing parcels to their constituents, and would not limit the benefits
of the system to experimentation. Consequently, many of the seeds
distributed were those of the ordinary field and garden crops.
The government purchased large quantities of these common

America's Crop Heritage

seeds from European firms for distribution, and in 1856 flower
seeds were also sent out. Congress appropriated $75,000 for agri-
culture in 1856, and a report of the purchases made with this
money show that the bulk of it was spent on seeds of the com-
monly-grown crops.
Imported seeds were admitted duty free by the Treasury De-
partment, and they came in so frequently that Mason requested
that a general order covering all such shipments be issued so that
the Patent Office would not have to make out a separate authori-
zation on each shipment.
Following Mason's term as commissioner, the work of the Agri-
cultural Division was subject to the alternate expansion and re-
trenchment of its budget caused by political changes. In fact,
Mason felt it necessary to temper the generosity he had displayed
earlier. Individuals receiving seeds were reminded that they were
public servants, working for the common good. Free seed dis-
tributions had caused some persons to look upon the Patent
Office as a common seed store for planting their vegetable gardens.
Mason, who was charged with collusion with seed dealers, felt that
the government should take care lest the people come to look upon
it as a fountain of favors and benefits. His criticism did not become
valid, however, until the government quit confining itself to the
introduction and distribution of new and important plants.
Economy measures in 1859 cut the appropriation for the Agri-
cultural Division so much that only projects already under way
could be continued. Commissioner William D. Bishop recom-
mended that the money be used only to distribute varieties not
previously introduced. There was also the problem of government
competition with industry. Actually the seed distributions by the
Patent Office had promoted the sales of commercial seed firms
by calling the farmers' attention to the utility of fresh plant stocks
and a variety of crops. However, the government did not wish to
compete with the efforts of the seed dealers who by this time were
established in all the principal cities.
For many years growers pondered the question of raising tea in
America in order to relieve the dependency upon foreign sup-

Leadership of the Patent Ofice

pliers. They believed that if this important staple could be pro-
duced at home, it would improve the balance of trade and national
self-sufficiency. A new crop industry would employ more labor,
increase the national wealth, and add diversity to southern agri-
First Plantings-The first known tea grower in America was
Andre Michaux, the French botanist. Michaux set out tea plants
around 1800 on the banks of the Ashley River, about fifteen miles
from Charleston. Niles' Register reported in 1823 that genuine
Hyson tea had been successfully cultivated in North Carolina from
a viable seed found among tea leaves. This is surprising, since at
a later date it proved impractical to import viable tea seeds be-
cause they frequently turned rancid during the long ocean voyage.
In November of the same year, a large bed of tea shrubs was
reported growing in Louisiana, and Niles' Register recorded that a
specimen of Southern tea was found to be palatable and refresh-
Even at this time there was some doubt about the success of
tea growing in America due to the large amount of cheap labor
needed for its cultivation. Tea said to compare favorably with the
best China varieties was reported in Louisiana in 1825. The
successful cultivation of the tea plant for more than fifteen years
in South Carolina was announced in 1828. Such reports were not
widely available, however, as evidenced by the fact that the editor
of the Genesee Farmer hoped in 1837 that some enterprising ship-
masters would introduce tea from China.
Government Interest-America's desire to grow tea grew out of
the successful cultivation of the plant by the British East India
Company in the middle of the nineteenth century. Dr. Junius
Smith was the first to experiment seriously with tea growing for
agricultural and commercial purposes. He selected a farm in the
foothills of western South Carolina as the preferred climate for
the tea plant, and in 1848 imported plants of seven-years' growth
from London and India. The Patent Office took an immediate
interest in Smith's work and recorded the introduction in antici-
pation of the future interest this "enterprising projector" would
arouse. Smith also promoted his own publicity through the farm
papers. The Department of the Interior asked the Navy to secure
some tea seeds from the East Indies in 1851, but the effort did
not succeed.

America's Crop Heritage

In a report on plants worthy of introduction, Commissioner
Mason listed tea as being desirable for home consumption. Many
people believed that American growers could compete success-
fully with the Asiatics for the tea market. America had new
machinery for processing tea, a plentiful supply of skilled and
cheap slave labor, and superior transportation facilities. An article
in the Annual Report for 1855 described the Chinese methods of
cultivating and harvesting tea. As interest in the subject grew
stronger, Mason engaged Robert Fortune, a plant explorer, to
obtain tea plants from China.
Fortune had already acquired a reputation for his services to
the British Empire, exploring for three years in the interior of
China and collecting seeds and plants for the London Horticulture
Society. He also had been employed by the British East India
Company in 1848 to procure tea seeds from the Himalaya region,
and this was the beginning of a successful tea industry in northern
India. Fortune is also remembered for the many varieties of the
chrysanthemum he sent to Europe, which later found their way
into American gardens.'
At the request of the Patent Office, Fortune sailed from Eng-
land for China in March, 1858. He wrote from Shanghai that he
had made arrangements with natives for large supplies of seeds
and plants at the proper season. Commissioner Joseph Holt, who
was Mason's successor, hoped through Fortune's efforts to be able
to found a new agricultural industry in the South. Meteorological
and geological studies were made to determine the areas most
similar to the native environment of the plants to be imported.
Fortune sent tea and camphor seeds to the Patent Office and
entrusted two cases of plants and seeds to the Nabob bound for
New York. These cases contained specimens of indigo tea, the
soap bean, and the grass cloth plant. Apparently deciding that the
plants needed no further expert attention, Holt dismissed Fortune
before he could return to America.2
The tea seed, which was shipped in Wardian cases, flourished,
His various explorations are described in his three books: Three Years
Wandering in the Northern Provinces of China (1847), A Journey to the Tea
Countries in China (1852), and Yeddo and Peking: A Narrative of a Journey
to the Capitals of China and Japan (1863).
2Fortune expected to be paid six months' salary for this sudden change of
mind on the part of Holt.

Leadership of the Patent Office

and had grown to a height of eighteen inches when taken from the
original cases in Washington.3
Distribution of Tea Plants-In 1859, 30,000 well-rooted tea
plants were ready for distribution to southern growers and to
gardeners in the North who had greenhouses. The Patent Office
expected to continue supplying these plants in order to give tea
cultivation a fair trial over a period of years. Some growers were
optimistic enough to hope that the substitution of steam power
and machinery for hand labor in the preparation of tea might
eventually make it an article of export.
The dissemination of tea plants was a prominent part of the
work of the Agricultural Division until the Civil War halted
communication with the South. The Department of Agriculture
continued to propagate the plants after its formation in 1862,
and efforts to introduce the tea plant were not given up until
recent years.

During the decade preceding the Civil War, the production of
sugar from sugar cane declined sharply while prices and per capital
consumption of the product were steadily increasing. This was
due in part to the rapid degeneration of sugar cane importations-
which had to be supplanted with new cuttings periodically. The
annual consumption of cane sugar in America reached 822 million
pounds in 1855, and more than half of this had to be imported.
Sugar beets were considered impractical for our economy because
their cultivation required a lot of cheap labor. Maple sugar pro-
duction had increased, but it failed to make any appreciable dif-
ference in the shortage of native sugar.
Chinese Sorgo-To step up sugar production, the Patent Office
turned to the sorghums as a substitute for the sugar cane. The
Chinese sorgo and other sorghums aroused more interest than any
other single plant introduction during the nineteenth century be-

3The use of Wardian glass cases for transporting plants great distances at
sea came to be widely practiced soon after the discovery of their principle by a
London physician, Nathaniel B. Ward, in 1829. The Wardian case is simply a closed
glass case that protects plants from various unfavorable conditions. It protects
them from impure air, salt spray, cold air, and high winds. It maintains constant
humidity and moisture in the soil, because it permits only negligible air circu-
lation. With the advent of transportation by airplane, the Wardian cases have
become largely obsolete.

America's Crop Heritage

cause of their wide adaptability and variety of uses. Chinese sugar
cane, identical with the black amber cane commonly sowed today
as a hay crop in Texas, was first referred to by the Patent Office
in its Report of 1854 as the "Sorgho Sucre." This was the French
name for a variety sent from northern China in 1851 by the
French consul at Shanghai. At the request of his government, the
Count de Montigny had forwarded a collection of plants, seeds,
and cuttings to the Geographical Society of Paris. The seeds
were sent to the director of the Marine Gardens at Toulon.
According to the accounts, only one cane seed of the entire lot
sprouted, and the survival of this plant was accidental. Such lore
is rather common in the early history of the migration of crops
into different lands. It springs, no doubt, from the fascination of
such stories of the chance survival and reproductive capacities of
plant life.
The Patent Office took an immediate interest in the French
sorgo when it heard that the juice of the plant could be processed
to make sugar, that three crops might be taken from the same
ground in one year, and that it could be used as a forage crop. The
French also had hoped that the new plant would supersede the
sugar beet in the production of sugar and alcohol.
First Introductions-Credit for the introduction of the new
sorgo belongs to D. J. Browne of the Patent Office, who brought
over from France about 200 pounds of the seed in 1854. D. Red-
mond, editor of the Southern Cultivator, also obtained some of the
seed about the same time from the firm of Parker, White and Gan-
nett of Boston. He planted a few ounces in the spring of 1855 and
distributed seed from this crop throughout the South. Redmond
therefore claimed credit for introducing this cane into general
cultivation in the South.
Another claimant for the honor of having been the first to intro-
duce the cane to America was William R. Prince, head of one of
the leading seed and plant businesses of the time. Prince's claim
that he brought the cane in a year before either Browne or Red-
mond is accepted by Peter Collier, in charge of sorghum experi-
ments for the Department of Agriculture during the 1880's.
The Patent Office had about 175 bushels of the cane grown near
Washington in 1855, and imported another 100 bushels from
Vilmorin in France. The American Agriculturist, a leading agri-
cultural journal in the North, assisted in disseminating the cane.
Its editor, Orange Judd, distributed 1,600 pounds of seed in 1857

Leadership of the Patent Office

to some 31,000 subscribers to his magazine. Judd obtained his
seed from Vilmorin in time to grow a 75-foot row in 1856. Two
years later, Judd distributed 34,500 one-pound packages of the
seed. (6) This work helped to extend cultivation of the cane to
every portion of the country.

Five acres of land-the beginning of the Federal propagating
garden-were set aside in Washington, D.C., for the production of
cane seed. The first seed crop from this land was distributed during
1856-57. After this time the Patent Office did not make any more
general distributions of cane seed because enough seed had already
been given out to make them generally available. Subsequent dis-
tributions were mainly of special varieties, or else made for the
sake of giving something free to the voters.
Value of Sorgos-Commissioner Mason actively promoted the
Chinese sugar cane because he was enthusiastic over its many
uses. It could be employed in the manufacture of sugar, syrup,
alcohol, or beer. From the cane came a dye to make wool or silk
a permanent red or pink. Livestock ate it avidly, either dry or
green. The rapid growth and the amount of nutritious fodder
produced by this cane could not be matched by any other crop
grown on an equal space. It would also support large numbers of
livestock for the production of beef, milk, and fertilizer. Interest
in the Chinese sugar cane reached a peak in 1857. The possibility
of its extensive cultivation-up to 25 million acres-as a partial
substitute for Indian corn was foreseen.
D. J. Browne, in promoting the crop at a meeting of the United
State Agricultural Society, saw its chief value as cattle fodder and
prophesied that it would be revolutionary in this respect. Such
promotion probably was necessary to counteract the skepticism
of farmers who remembered the Morus multicaulis speculation.
Its merits for certain uses were already well established, and a
chemist worked for the Patent Office to determine the amount of
alcohol and saccharine matter in the cane stalk. Experiments in
sugar manufacture were already under way in Texas and other
The first recorded instance of the sorghum's recognition as
drouth resistant is that of a farmer at Gonzales, Texas, who found
it ".. .an important acquisition to our agricultural resources. It
stands drouth better than any other plant that I am acquainted

America's Crop Heritage

with. Its introduction into this country must produce an entire
revolution in our rural operations. Its culture will supersede that
of Indian corn."
A cursory examination of the farm papers of this time quickly
shows the interest current in the new crop and its value to almost
every section of the nation. By 1857 the Patent Office had dis-
tributed 100,000 papers of seed, and other suppliers had furnished
so much other seed that Olcott estimated 50,000 acres were culti-
vated in that year. The Patent Office reported in 1858 that the
Chinese cane had proved especially successful in the southern,
middle, and western states, and that an estimated 100,000 acres
worth two million dollars had been planted that year.
African Sorgos-At the same time that interest in the Chinese
sorgo was running high, another introduction of sorghums was
made from Natal, South Africa. These sixteen varieties imported
in 1857 were the most important group of sorghums ever brought
to America. The man responsible for their introduction was
Leonard Wray, a planter from England who discovered the varie-
ties in South Africa and took them with him to Europe before
coming to this country. (7)
Wray came to the United States at the invitation of Governor
Hammond of South Carolina. A similar invitation had been sent
to him by the Patent Office but was never received. Wray had
applied to the Patent Office for a patent on his process of making
sugar from sorgo. His arrival from Europe heightened the interest
in the production of sugar from sorgos and increased the hopes of
success. Wray at first intended to maintain a monopoly of his
plants. Either he failed to do so, or saw that the attempt would
not prove profitable. At any rate, his introductions came to be
widely grown in this country. For three decades the Patent Office,
state agencies, and individuals carried on expensive experiments
with sorgos hoping to find in them the basis of a sugar and syrup

The vigorous efforts of Charles Mason to introduce new plants
are well illustrated by the number of crop possibilities he con-
sidered and investigated. In his search for better varieties of the
commonly grown grains, a dwarf variety of Indian corn called
Forty Days Maize was re-introduced from southern Spain. It rep-
utedly ripened in forty days in the Alps, and was to be tried in

Leadership of the Patent Office

the high valleys of America where other varieties did not succeed.
This is the first instance in the United States of plant introduction
for the purpose of breeding desirable qualities of the immigrant
into the ordinary native varieties. This Indian corn was crossed
with larger sorts to improve their taste and to hasten the time of
ripening. A Cuzco corn from Peru was obtained through Vilmorin
of Paris.
Field Crops-Bald barley from Italy, giant rye from England,
and various small grains from Poland, Algiers, and the borders of
the Black Sea were imported for testing. Many legumes, forage
crops, and grasses were obtained. The problem of improving
southern pastures continued to interest farmers throughout the
nineteenth century. As with a great many plants, no details are
available about these importations. They were merely enumerated
and their separate histories swallowed up in the experiments to
find better crops.
From England the Patent Office obtained a variety of trefoil
or clover, a cow grass or perennial clover, the alsyke or Swedish
clover, a variety of red clover, two varieties each of Perennial Ray
Grass and fescue grass, Rough-stalked Meadow Grass, and Sweet-
scented Vernal. From France came two varieties of sainfoin and
rape and specimens of Vernal, burnet grass, and spurry. A variety
of alfalfa was brought from Chile.
In 1857 Wendelin Grimm, a German immigrant farmer,
brought with him to Minnesota from Baden the valuable alfalfa
to which he gave his name. This hardy type occupied over 700,000
acres in 1930. A white lupine from southern Spain and a yellow
lupine from Germany were imported for forage and soiling.
M. B. Bateham, editor of the Ohio Cultivator, called attention
to his importation of the alsike clover in 1839 from an agricultural
society in Scotland which in turn had received it from Sweden.
Like other farm papers, the Ohio Cultivator imported and dis-
tributed many field and garden seeds.
Vegetables-The Patent Office imported new varieties of peas
and beans from England, France, and Germany in 1854. Chick
peas and lentils came from Spain and France. Twenty-six varieties
of turnips came from Charlwood and Cummins of London with
the condition that they be distributed in every state and territory,
and a report published on the results. The variety names resem-
bled the descriptive names given to turnips by present day seeds-

America's Crop Heritage

Several varieties each of nearly two dozen familiar garden
vegetables were imported from England, France, and Germany.
Irish potatoes were again brought from England and Germany.
The Chinese yam brought in from France was proposed as a substi-
tute for the Irish potato because of the potato blight then raging.
By 1857 it was well adapted and proved to be a possible substitute
for potatoes. The Patent Office expected immediate adoption of
the earth almond, or chufa, imported from southern Spain as a
feed for cattle and hogs.
Opium-Import statistics were often used by the Patent Office
to prove that certain items should be produced in the United
States for the home market. One such suggestion was that opium
be produced to supply the $400,000 market in this country. A
variety of the common or Opium Poppy was distributed in the
South and proved easy to cultivate in that region. Directions for
cultivating and processing the extract were printed and the experi-
ences of growers related.
Liquorice roots were imported and distributed in the middle
and southern states to supply the $300,000 import market which
existed. The Report of 1854 carried an article on the cultivation
and preparation of the plant, and growers reported successful
cultivation of the roots.
Grapes-The Patent Office printed long articles in support of
the current experimentation with grapes. But failure of the
European varieties caused growers to turn to the native grapes.
Plant explorers were sent to Texas, Arkansas, and some of the
northern states in 1857-58 to collect cuttings of native varieties
for trial. Twelve thousand vines were ready for distribution from
both foreign and native stocks in 1858.
The possibilities of growing figs and olives in the South were
studied in 1859 and American consuls were to procure seeds and
cuttings. Cork production would provide an auxiliary industry to
wine culture. Thus wine, grapes, figs, cork, and olive oil were
expected to become staple crops for the South.
Cork Oak-Acorns of the cork oak, an evergreen tree grown
commercially in Europe and Africa, were secured from France in
1856 and from Spain two years later. The tree proved to to be adap-
table to the climate and soil of the southern states, and the acorns
were considered a valuable hog feed. It was also considered essen-
tial that America free herself from dependence upon foreign
sources for cork in the event that war might deprive the country

Leadership of the Patent Office 53

of its supply. Many of the plants failed to mature because they
had been distributed indiscriminately, but those in the govern-
ment propagating garden grew successfully.
Other introductions of this period include the seedless pome-
granate of which 900 cuttings were distributed in 1859. Robert
Fortune sent camphor seeds from China. Seeds of the carob tree,
widely grown in Spain and southern Europe, were introduced
in 1854. The Persian walnut came from France. An article of
several pages containing information about the plant, and a long
article listing many other plants is included in the Report of 1854.
Many plants introduced in later years were first mentioned in this
report in an effort to arouse interest in their cultivation and secure
cooperation from travelers in foreign lands in securing specimens.

1. USDA Monthly Report, July, 1871, p. 259.
2. U.S. Patent Office Annual Report, 1838-39.
3. Commissioner's Report, 1866, p. 524; Monthly Report, March-April, 1871, p. 128.
4. Hagedorn, C. F. to Edmund Burke, Commissioner of Patents. Letters, Reports
and Essays of the Agricultural Section of the Patent Office, 1839-60, Vol. I.
USDA Archives.
5. U.S. Statutes at Large, 76, 95.
Powell, F. W., Bureau of Plant Industry, Its History, Activities, and Organiza-
tion, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1927.
6. Ball, Carleton R., "The History and Distribution of Common Sorghum Varie-
ties," USDA, Bureau of Plant Industry, Bulletin No. 175.
7. Olcott, H. S., Sorgho and Imphee: The Chinese and African Sugar Canes, New
York: A. O. Moore, 1857.

The Commissionership 1862-89

THE MAIN POINT which boosters of a national department of
agriculture stressed during the 1850's was the great value of plant
introduction work to the nation's agriculture. Farmers, agricul-
tural societies, and periodicals all joined in advocating a separate
government organization devoted to agriculture, and equal in im-
portance to any other department. The Board of Agriculture in
England and similar organizations in France and Prussia were
cited as precedents. Commissioner Holloway of the Patent Office
urged that agriculture be separated from the Patent Office so that
it might become more than an appendage designed "to furnish
members of Congress cuttings and garden seeds to distribute
among favored constituents."
After more than a decade of agitation for such a measure, Con-
gress established the Department of Agriculture, May 15, 1862.
The Department, as organized, was headed by a Commissioner of
Agriculture. Not until 1889 did Congress give the Department a
Secretary enjoying a seat in the President's Cabinet.
The act establishing the Department of Agriculture followed
hard on the heels of the secession by the southern states. The new
western states now reaped their reward for siding with the North,
for the Department quickly turned its attention to the agricultural
needs of the West. The Homestead Act and Morrill Land Grant
College Act also became laws shortly after the founding of the
Department of Agriculture.

Isaac Newton, a dairy farmer from Pennsylvania, was the first
man to head the new Department of Agriculture. Before his
appointment as Commissioner, Newton had become acquainted

The Commissionership

with Lincoln. He was detailed to watch the President's food supply
when Lincoln was threatened with poisoning. He also became a
confidant of Mrs. Lincoln, who sometimes abused her charge ac-
counts at the stores, and he carried out the ticklish business of
interceding in her behalf with the President.
Criticism of Newton-As Commissioner, Newton became the
center of a storm of controversy; some considered him a person
of wisdom, others thought him unlearned and incompetent. The
farm journals of the time criticized him viciously. Earlier, they
had been highly critical of the agricultural activities of the Patent
Office. Now they looked upon the increased dissemination of agri-
cultural information and free seed as competition from the
government, in what they considered their own special province.
Probably only Newton's death, due to sunstroke while super-
vising work at the experimental farm, prevented his dismissal by
President Johnson. The substantial objections to Newton were
based on his political scheming and on his failure to appreciate
the needs of scientific specialists under him.
During his term as Commissioner from 1862 until his death
in 1867, Newton worked hard to carry out the provisions of the
act establishing the Department of Agriculture. These aims were:
first, to educate the public by collecting and presenting agri-
cultural information, and second, to collect valuable plant
materials at home and abroad for distribution under the postal
franking privilege. Foreign ministers, consuls, merchants, mis-
sionaries, travelers, and naval officers were urged to collect
materials from foreign countries.
Plans for the South-The war with the South, and "postwar"
plans for the reconstruction of its agriculture after the North
should conquer, gave Newton the opportunity to plan a modifica-
tion of the South's dependence on its staple agricultural crops.
Newton realized that the agricultural possibilities of the South
were yet to be exploited. Tropical and sub-tropical plants as well
as the cereals, grasses, fruits, and vegetables of the temperate zone
offered a wide variety of potential crops for the South. Solving
the food problems of this area might help to create entire new
crop industries. The great staples would continue to be grown,
Newton thought, but the notoriously limited diet of the South
could be varied by the production there of an abundance of every
kind of food. Newton believed that smaller farms, managed by
intelligent and interested labor, would make it feasible to produce

America's Crop Heritage

imported crops, some of which required intensive cultivation.
Many of the plants Newton investigated were later subjected
to extensive experimentation.' Some of them were found to be
economically impractical while others became the bases of new
crop industries. Newton worked closely with diplomatic representa-
tives abroad to obtain new seed stocks for America, for millions
of dollars were leaving the country each year-spent on foreign
agricultural products.
An important auxiliary to plant introduction work was the
Division of Gardens and Grounds for purposes of experiment and
propagation of untried plants. William Saunders became superin-
tendent in September, 1862, and remained in that office for
thirty-seven years. He helped to promote many new introduc-
tions, and in contrast to some other enthusiasts, used guarded
judgment in the evaluation of new plants. He furnished plans
for conservatories, and other structures were erected under his
direction. Saunders, born in Scotland in 1822, was well prepared
for his fruitful career in America by studies in the plant sciences
at Edinburgh and by his services to the Royal Gardens at Kew. He
came to America in 1844 and became horticulturist for the Depart-
ment in 1862. As a landscape architect, he designed the park and
garden system of Washington and landscaped many cemeteries in
the eastern United States, including Gettysburg.
Plea for More Land-During the 1850's, while agricultural work
was still under the control of the Patent Office, officials in charge
of the Agricultural Division had frequently urged that the area
devoted to experimental work be increased. But the country at
that time was not prepared for any such extension of Federal
paternalism. When Newton took office he repeated the request
for more land, and suggested that the Department set up a model
farm to test the adaptability of seeds and plants before sending
them to farmers. It was becoming more apparent each year that
superior varieties and other means of increasing agricultural pro-
duction must be found. Tests of 576 varieties of garden seeds were
conducted in 1867, but the area available was still too limited for
STea, coffee, opium poppy, vanilla, ginger, castor bean, assafoetida, quassia,
silk, gum arabic, mastic, camphor, the Chinese yam, sweet chestnuts, chufa (or
earth almond), the almonds of southern Europe, the Persian walnut, the cork and
gall-nut oaks, arrowroot, licorice and orris roots, and various hemps and grasses;
fruits included were the prune, fig, date, pomegranate, olive, tamarind, guava,
nectarine, shaddock, and pineapple; other productions were the pistache nut,
Iceland moss, cochineal, indigo, dyer's madder, frankincense, balsam, and Egyptian

The Commissionership 57

the best results. Newton realized that enough land was needed to
enable the Department to propagate forty to fifty thousand plants
each year. Congress did not appropriate money for more land,
however, and later commissioners also tackled this problem
without success.
Growth of Seed Distribution-The account of the free distri-
bution of seeds and plants by the Department of Agriculture is
parallel to that of the changing motives and aims of plant intro-
duction. Seed distributions came to be abused by members of


Total Annual Total Annual
Year Distribution Appropriation Year Distribution Appropriation
No. ofpackages No. of packages
1862..... 306,304 ............. 1876.... 1,520,207 $ 65,000
1863..... 1,200,000 ............. 1877.... 2,333,474 65,000*
1864 ..... 1,000,000 .............. 1878.... 1,115,886 75,000
1865 ..... 763,231 ....... ...... 1879 .... 1,545,739 75,000
1866..... 992,062 .............. 1880.... 1,581,253 75,000
1867..... 1,426,637 ............... 1881.... 1,878,772 80,000
1868 .... 592,398 .............. 1882.. . 2,396,476 80,000
1869 .... 317,347 .............. 1883.... 2,467,230 80,000
1870..... 358,391 $25,000 1884.... 3,622,738 75,000
1871..... 647,321 45,000 1885.... 4,667,826 100,000
1872..... 814,565 45,000 1886.... 4,267,165 100,000
1873..... 1,050,886 55,000 1887.... 4,561,741 100,000
1874..... 1,286,335 65,000 1888.... 4,655,519 100,000
1875..... 2,221,532 65,000 .................

An additional $20,000 was appropriated for a special distribution of seeds to aid
farmers in the area blighted by a grasshopper plague. Approximately one million of the
seed packages distributed in 1877 were for this special purpose.

Congress, and valuable materials often were sent to persons not
qualified to test them. Increased congressional appropriations for
this purpose were frequently made over the commissioners' pro-
test, and many growers complained that very ordinary seeds were
being distributed. Statistics of distributions indicate in a rough
measure the growing or declining interest in specific new crops and
the local adaptation of varieties. The policy was to test plants in
localities where they might become known for their merits.
Attempts to eliminate the wasteful distribution of varieties of no
particular value led to intermittent retrenchment of the program.
As mentioned earlier, agricultural journals of the day-which
distributed free seeds of new varieties to subscribers-resented the

America's Crop Heritage

competitive liberality of the government. Seed firms also disliked
the competition, and taxpayers always opposed what seemed to be
wasteful expenditure. But Isaac Newton, unlike former agricul-
ture chiefs, found no fault with the practice of liberal seed dis-
tributions. He argued that no equal sum of money expended by
the government gave so large a proportion of the people so much
"substantial enjoyment."
The result of Newton's expanded program was an increasing
demand for seeds. In 1863, Newton had made the sweeping state-
ment that all correspondents reported good results obtained from
seeds tried, and in 1864 he asserted that the imported seeds had
been of immense benefit. He pointed to the large national acreage
of sorghum then being grown as an example of the value of the
Department's plant introduction work.
However, by 1864 Newton had admitted his dissatisfaction with
the large orders of vines and trees. A new propagating house was
erected in 1865, but Newton strengthened his resolution to pre-
vent the propagating garden from degenerating into a commercial
nursery. He suggested that members of Congress distribute more
seeds to agricultural societies to encourage these associations and
to lessen the evils of indiscriminate distribution.


Following the death of Newton in July, 1867, John W. Stokes
was acting Commissioner of Agriculture until December. Then
by formal appointment, General Horace Capron succeeded New-
ton as Commissioner of Agriculture and served from 1867 to 1871.
Capron had a record as a successful farmer and manufacturer in
Maryland, as a Union army officer, and as a breeder of Devon
cattle in Illinois. He continued Newton's policies and kept the
confidence of the government and those interested in the Depart-
ment throughout his career.
Attitude Toward Introductions-When Capron first came into
office he was shocked by the growth of the government seed busi-
ness. His first reaction was that the seed establishment had become
a drain upon the Department's resources, but within a year he
had become an enthusiastic supporter. Capron believed that seeds
should be new to the community receiving them and should not
be sent out unless distinctly superior varieties. Like Newton, he
advocated a wider distribution to agricultural societies, and cir-

The Commissionership

cularized them about the program. Capron stated that "the result
of a single importation of wheat has alone been worth more than
an annual appropriation for the whole Department." Figures
were given to show that an increase in the annual production of
wheat by only one bushel per acre would be worth $30 million.
In defense of seed distribution, Capron said that, "If nine-tenths
of the seed distributed are sheer waste, and the rest judiciously
used, the advantage to the country may be tenfold greater than
the annual appropriation for agriculture."
In his first Report, 1867, Capron favored the extension of the
various agricultural crops until "everything consumed in the
country, to the growth of which our various soils and climates are
adapted, shall be produced on our own lands." With regard to
the South, Capron stated that there was a great search in that
section for new crops and that the aid of the government in
finding new fruits, grasses, and fibers would help the return of
prosperity to the whole nation.
Capron was interested mainly in new crops, in contrast to New-
ton's emphasis on the search for better varieties of the old crops.
The Department encouraged the commercial production of sugar
from the sugar beet in Illinois by distributing seed imported from
France and Germany. Capron favored a domestic silk industry,
and the entire nation was invited to advance grape culture. Ramie,
an old fiber plant of the Far East, excited the attention of growers
and continued to hold interest beyond the turn of the century.
Capron wrote the congressional committees of agriculture
asking for remission of duties on imported seeds in order to en-
courage their distribution by agricultural societies. Nevertheless,
in 1870, foreign plants, trees, and seeds were made subject to duty
except when introduced by the Federal government.
In 1869, Capron advocated exhibitions of plant collections of
commercial value. The emphasis on diversification of crops,
especially in the South, pointed to the need for a study of the
various oil, gum, and sugar-bearing plants and fiber-producers.
Congress voted an appropriation of $25,000 for a glass conserva-
tory building to protect trees and to propagate economic crops.
Dr. C. C. Parry, botanist for the Department, explored for plants
in San Domingo in 1871. He planned to bring back live specimens
of some of the 500 items he had collected for museum purposes.
The Department made an exhaustive study of western plant life to
find hardy grasses and other plants of economic value.

60 America's Crop Heritage


The House of Representatives passed a resolution in 1870
requesting Capron to submit a report on the extent and value
of foreign imports which might conceivably be produced in this
country. From this report the House hoped to find foreign crops
which would give diversity to American agriculture and lead to a
fuller employment of labor and land. Diversification of agriculture
was sorely needed, and it was closely identified in Capron's mind

Year Vegetables Flowers Tobacco Turnips eous*
No. of No. of No. of No. of No. of
packages packages packages packages packages
1868 ........... 430,511 90,871 23,680 4,876 9,733
1869........... 196,024 37,352 20,607 6,478 4,447
1870 ........... 233,577 41,725 30,258 7,808 5,578
1871 ........... 365,933 183,259 18,560 ........... 16,691
1872 ........... 477,662 196,809 31,664 ........... 21,283
1873........... 617,564 227,296 24,595 ........... 29,173
1874 ........... 778,319 332,881 25,696 ........... 34,510
1875........... 1,654,058 337,960 56,053 ........... 30,442
1876 ........... 983,974 372,088 64,107 ........... 32,188
1877........... 1,811,100 302,395 45,398 ........... 36,282
1878 ........... 669,334 201,597 57,155 ........... 74,958
1879 ........... 1,270,372 71,280 36,673 ........... 64,830
1880 ........... ......... .......... ....... ........... ......t
1881 ........... 1,325,922 135,269 115,199 ........... 54,715
1882........... 1,651,704 179,452 83,215 70,700 89,399
1883........... 1,884,514 233,440 76,232 86,148 60,801
1884........... 2,351,535 563,638 114,671 425,858 65,993
1885........... 2,989,655 764,950 168,295 554,732 94,506
1886............ 3,268,434 337,436 132,057 419,431 63,323
1887........... 3,609,748 394,137 100,191 375,473 57,230
1888........... 3,642,018 383,446 123,477 431,497 50,992

Includes such crops as herbs, opium poppy, tree seeds, grasses and sorghums.
t No figures are available for 1880.
Complete figures for seed distributions prior to 1868 are not given in the USDA
Reports. Figures for cereals and textiles for this period are given in TABLE 3.

with plant introduction as the means of achievement. Large sur-
pluses of staple crops, caused by overproduction, brought sharp
reductions in the prices producers received. The continued plant-
ing of a single staple crop robbed soils of their fertility. Diversity
would permit planning for rotation and more continuous employ-
ment of agricultural labor. "The great extent of our territory,"
Capron argued, "its variety of soil, climate, and capability, all

The Commissionership

point to the want of, and the benefit desirable from, a varied
Many Southerners were interested in supplying this home
market for new crops recommended in Capron's report. These
were tea, coffee, cinchona, jute, ramie, sugar beets, sumac and
madder for dyes, sisal hemp, okra and esparto grass for paper, and
oil-producing plants, including the caster bean, caraway, anise,
and lavender.


Frederick Watts of Pennsylvania, Commissioner of Agriculture
from August, 1871, to June, 1877, received his appointment as a
matter of political patronage to his state. He put less emphasis
on the introduction of plants than Capron, but expenditures for
this purpose increased during his term in office. Watts denied that
plants could be acclimatized to the cold, but the demand for semi-
tropical plants continued to grow in the South. Chinese tea plants
were in great demand and many thousands were distributed
annually. The Department's collection of exotic economic plants
was increasing yearly in number and in value. The "orange-
family" was cited as particularly valuable and the best commercial
varieties were propagated for distribution. Attempts were made
to satisfy the demands of the South for pasture grasses. Watts was
enthusiastic over the importance of fiber-producing plants and
believed ramie and jute were about to assume places of importance.
He also felt that the farmers were securing tremendous benefits
from the distributions of wheat, oats, and grasses. As the farmers
increased their requests for seed, Congress enlarged the appro-
priation for this work. The trial of new seeds made farmers con-
scious of the value of experimental work, and their reports of
the results they got were helpful to all concerned.
By 1874 the Department was becoming more discriminating in
its purchases of seeds from firms proved reliable by experience.
By buying direct from growers, larger quantities for distribution
were secured at a nominal cost. Much attention was given to the
selection of seeds, and many recipients vouched for the excellence
and good germination of seeds distributed by the Department.
Watts more than tripled the number of seeds distributed each
year during his term, and Congress increased the appropriations
for this work from $45,000 in 1872, to $75,000 in 1878. Roughly

America's Crop Heritage

one-third to one-fourth of the annual appropriation for agriculture
was being spent at this time for the distribution of seeds and

General William Le Duc of Minnesota succeeded Watts in 1877
and served until June, 1881. A former salesman, lawyer, and land
promoter, Le Duc proved an able administrator whose work won
the favorable attention of Congress and of the public. His reports
stressed two themes: the introduction, experimentation, and pro-
motion of sugar-producing plants, and the need for more funds
and facilities for testing new plant introductions. His promotion
of sugar is discussed topically in Chapter 7.
During Le Duc's term, many plants were propagated and sent
to localities where they might flourish. Buildings for and plant-
ings of various fruit trees had taken most of the land available for
experiment by 1878. Le Duc recommended the purchase of a
thousand acres near Washington and the establishment of eight
or ten experiment stations in different climatic and geographical
regions. He enthusiastically promoted tropical and semitropical
crops including tea, coffee, oranges, lemons, olives, Japanese per-
simmons, bananas, pineapples, cacao, tamarind, cinchona, pepper,
ginger, and dates. Scions of Russian apple trees and plants of
European wine grapes were distributed.
Le Duc was in turn critical of the extensive seed distributions
by his predecessor. He planned to favor agricultural societies over
other applicants, and devoted much space to criticism of distri-
butions by members of Congress. Le Duc's views were endorsed
by resolutions of farmers' organizations, by newspaper editors, by
some members of Congress, and individual citizens.
Le Duc's interest in tropical and semitropical products was
reflected in his unusually large distributions of such plants. He
claimed that large increases in yields valued at millions of dollars
had resulted from his efforts, and he also believed that more
diversification had been achieved. The appropriation act of 1881
required that "three-fourths of plants, seeds, and cuttings" should
be made available to members of Congress for distribution. The
proportion thus reserved varied from year to year, but had
increased to five-sixths when the distributions were discontinued
in 1923.

The Commissionership 63

Commissioner George B. Loring of Massachusetts headed the
Department of Agriculture from 1881 to 1885. Loring took only a
mild interest in seed distribution, but continued appropriations
by Congress assured an increase in the quantities sent out. During
1885, a record number of seed packages was shipped out. The dis-
tribution of plants, however, was not under Congress' thumb,
and since Loring devoted more attention to other phases of the
Department's work, plant distribution declined during his term
in office.
Norman J. Colman served as the last Commissioner and the
first Secretary of Agriculture from 1885 to 1889. His background
as a lawyer, agricultural journalist, and legislator made him well
qualified for the position, and he performed his work with great
Colman accelerated the search for new crops and varieties. He
felt that the West needed an abundance of new stocks, and ship-
ments of seed packages more than doubled during his term. Re-
forms in the method of seed distribution were instituted to prevent
the seeds from falling into incompetent hands, and to make certain
that the seeds purchased were of good quality and suited to the
needs of the various climates. A regular program of seed distri-
bution to the new experiment stations established under the
Morrill Act was set up, thus implementing the work of plant
testing on a regional basis.
In regard to the value of distributions of new varieties, Colman
There are the most ample statistical data at hand in the carefully-kept records
of the Agricultural Department to show that the increased production of wheat,
oats, and other cereals and grasses, has, by reason of the wide distribution of
improved varieties, paid tenfold the entire amount expended by the Department
of Agriculture since it was established.
Some success was reported in meeting the demands of farmers
for new grasses for summer and winter grazing on the plains. The
Department looked to Egypt, India, and Japan for vegetable stocks
for the arid and tropical parts of Texas and California. There
was a steadily increasing demand for semitropical plants of eco-
nomic value in the southern states. As the olive industry in Cali-
fornia assumed commercial importance, the best European varieties
were imported for further trial. In 1899, a site was chosen for an

America's Crop Heritage

experiment station at Garden City, Kansas, where grasses and
forage crops for the Great Plains would be tested.
Dr. Earle D. Ross has observed in reference to the activities of
the Commissioners in promoting new crops that:
These persistent efforts to introduce new crops and types of cultivation took
no thought of the operation of comparative costs or of the ultimate effect upon
foreign commerce; and back of each of the ventures were groups of producers
who resisted any attempt to lessen the aid to such alleged sources of national
treasure. Consequently measures to improve and stabilize the fullest established
systems and to secure the best long-time utilization of natural resources had to
compete with those for the new and unproven. (1)
An important result incidental to seed distribution was the
development of seed tests for quality, germination, the presence
of disease, insects or weed seeds, and proper labeling. Germina-
tion tests came to be used (to learn whether fresh seeds were
adulterated with old stocks) in order to prevent low yields due
to poor stands.

The policy of exchanging plants and seeds with foreign govern-
ments began during Commissioner Newton's term. In addition to
securing rare foreign plants, it was hoped the program would pro-
mote international relations and an exchange of agricultural
information. Commissioner Capron announced in 1868 that inter-
national agricultural exchanges had been set up with many of the
governments of Europe, Asia, and South America. Arrangements
had also been made to exchange rare agricultural products with
the major botanical gardens throughout the world. The following
year Capron reported that similar arrangements had been adopted
with at least a dozen more countries and botanical gardens.2
Commissioner Watts continued the system of plant exchanges,
and many valuable additions were made to the Department's
collections. Some of the outstanding contributions came from the
Kew Gardens of London, the Royal Gardens of Melbourne, and
the Imperial and Royal Ministers of Agricultural Affairs of Aus-
tria-Hungary. Such exchanges were often arranged through
'Among the governments Capron mentioned were Austria, Prussia, China,
Japan, India, Guatemala, British Honduras, Brazil, Bavaria, Russia, and Switzer-
land. The societies and botanical gardens listed were Kew, Melbourne, India
museum in London, Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society, British museum,
Central Agronomical Society of the Grand Duchy of Posen, Horticultural Union
Society of Berlin, Royal Society of Brussels, Royal Gardens of Madrid, Horticul-
tural Society of Bremen, Royal Meteorological Society of Edinburgh, and the
Agricultural Society of Sydney, New South Wales.

The Commissionership 65

American ministers and consuls in foreign countries. The Depart-
ment exchanged 3,450 packages of seed with foreign governments
in 1871, and frequently received plants that could not be bought
from commercial establishments.
Reports by the Department stressed the fact that this work had
paid high dividends in establishing amicable relations with other
countries, and that much valuable agricultural information was
exchanged. This informal exchange of seeds and plants continues
to the present time, and is a natural outcome of the association
between plant explorers and agriculturists.

1. Ross, E. D., "The United State Department of Agriculture During the Com-
missionership," Agricultural History, XX, July, 1946.

Main Importations

DURING the nineteenth century, wheat was frequently imported
from Europe to supplement American crops. Samples of these
shipments were often planted for trial, along with other European
varieties brought into the country by immigrants and other
For several years prior to 1792, Siberian wheat was introduced
into New Hampshire from England. However the wheat degen-
erated and new importations had to be made.
A bearded red winter variety called Mediterranean wheat was
the most popular new wheat during the first half of the nine-
teenth century. It was introduced in 1819 from islands in the
Mediterranean as part of a search for an early maturing variety
that could be sown late in the season. Its chief competitors were
the white soft wheats, commonly grown during this period and the
favorites of millers and flour users. The Mediterranean was a red
wheat producing a fine, red bran, difficult to separate because of
the poor milling methods then in use. Farmers liked the Mediter-
ranean because of its resistance to the Hessian fly.
The records of Purplestraw, whose origin is unknown, date
back to 1822. It was planted to 116,000 acres in 1924. The Gold
Drop variety was imported from England prior to 1843; and China
wheat, which is still being grown, came from China about 1845.
The White Australian or Pacific Bluestem, decended from the
White Lamma of England. It reached California from Australia
before 1850, and proved to be superior to the other varieties then
being grown on the Pacific Coast. Another wheat, White Winter,
which is probably of English origin, was being widely grown in
the Willamette Valley of Oregon by 1855 and is still found
there. (1)

Main Importations

Some of the varieties imported during this period still are
grown extensively in the United States, and have served as breed-
ing stocks for other successful varieties. The Mediterranean wheat,
for example, was planted to 2,770,000 acres only a hundred years
after its introduction to American agriculture.
Agriculturists of the nineteenth century were keenly interested
in improving the familiar varieties of wheat. Even before 1860
they were making selections from admixtures, mutants, and the
natural hybrids found in their fields.
Some of the most important varieties were discovered from
these selections. Zimmerman of Frederick, Maryland, selected in
1837 a variety of either red or white wheat. Which variety was the
original is not known, but both soon came to be widely grown
under his name. The red Zimmerman wheat was still in cultivation
a hundred years later.
Red Fife, a hard red spring wheat, came to America from Scot-
land, although it was grown previously in Danzig and Poland. It
was selected by David Fife of Ontario in 1842 from a small packet
of what proved to be winter wheat brought from Glasgow. The
Red Fife entered Wisconsin in 1860 and became the basis of the
great flour industry of Minneapolis after the introduction of the
roller mill and the purifier.
Marquis wheat, "the outstanding hard red spring wheat of the
world," was developed in Canada from Red Fife which was its
male parent.
During the 1850's the Patent Office tried many new wheat intro-
ductions in a search for productive varieties that would withstand
rust and the attacks of the Hessian fly. The Turkish Flint wheat,
from near Mount Olympus, proved to be hardy and prolific in the
states along the Mason-Dixon line and the extension of its culture
was recommended. This wheat was approved as a hardy, productive
fall variety which ground into excellent flour. The hard grain
gave it protection in the storage bin.
Algerian Flint, a large grain wheat from the province of Oran,
was sown in the valley of Virginia and produced a large yield.
Pithusian Flint, a fall wheat producing a large "berry," came from
the island of Ivica. Syrian spring wheat from the Holy Land proved
to be an early maturing variety.
The "Cape Wheat, from the Cape of Good Hope, procured by
Com. Perry of the Japan Expedition," was sown but not com-
mented upon. Spanish spring wheat was a fine variety from

America's Crop Heritage

Alicante. Still other wheats came from France, England, Chile,
and Mediterranean areas.
After the Department of Agriculture was established and an
experimental farm set up, the Federal government took a hand in
solving the problems surrounding the national wheat crop. Vari-
ous state governments cooperated in the study of wheat on their
own experimental farms. Dozens of wheat varieties were distri-
buted among growers and sown by the Department in search of
desirable qualities. During 1861, approximately 1,000 bushels of
wheat were imported from different agricultural regions of Europe
and tried throughout the country.
Isaac Newton imported several hundred bushels of choice wheat
and other cereals in 1864 from England, France, Belgium, Russia
and Sweden. The results were so satisfactory that Newton dis-
tributed a similar shipment the following year.

The first Russian macaroni (durum or hard) wheat was
introduced into America from Odessa in 1864 by -the Depart-
ment of Agriculture. Two varieties called Arnautka and San-
domirka were distributed by the Department for several years
after 1864. The Sandomirka and Arnautka were considered supe-
rior wheats wherever grown. Favorable accounts of their strong
growth, early ripening, and high yield were still being received
in 1871. But culture of the Arnautka was abandoned because of
opposition to its hardness. Its possibility as a macaroni wheat was
not considered at this early date. The Sandomirka was introduced
again from Hungrary by Le Duc in the summer of 1877, because
it was famous in Europe and the flour was being imported into
the United States for special purposes. The seed, distributed with
great care in the fall of 1877, did not secure favorable results
except in Tennessee and North Carolina.
In 1865, the best varieties of English wheat were reported as
not adaptable to the climate here. Wheats which succeeded in the
long, mild growing season in England did not give good results in
America, with the sudden variations of cold and heat, moisture
and aridity.
Sixty-five varieties from France, Prussia, Russia, Great Britain,
Chile, and China were seeded in 1865 for trial. Of the fifty-five
varieties of winter wheat grown, six proved worthy of notice by

Main Importations

the Department. Leading producers were the red and white
Mediterranean, the Tappahannock (of American origin), and the
Russian Schefel. Of sixty-seven varieties of spring wheat sown in
1866, forty-six did well while the Red Chili and Black Sea varieties
scored special commendation.
Many varieties of wheat from the Royal Agricultural Exhibition
at Vienna were procured for trial by the Department in 1866.
They were part of a shipment of cereal and vegetable seeds. Eight
of these were sown in the autumn of 1866, and others were sown
the next spring. A number of suitable varieties were found from
tests conducted on forty-three varieties of winter wheat and sixty-
six of spring wheat grown experimentally in 1867. Capron gave
samples of these importations to the governor of Minnesota in an
effort to find one suitable for that state.
Generally favorable reports were received after 1870 from two
distributions of Touzelle, a beardless white winter wheat pro-
cured by the department from Marseilles, France, in 1869. Another
variety called Soisette was also imported from France in 1870 and
grown with good results.

The most successful wheats during the next two decades proved
to be of American origin. Individuals were selecting and breeding
new varieties to meet the demand for better crops. This search for
suitable varieties was stimulated by an increase in agricultural
education and the need for regional varieties. The government,
however, did not depend entirely upon native stocks for experi-
mentation, and continued to make importations from abroad.
The search for new wheat varieties was not the only factor that
helped increase wheat production after 1865. There was an
emigration to the West due to the Homestead Act and the end of
the Civil War. The markets for wheat increased. Methods of culti-
vation were improved and refinements added to the reaper.
Most of the wheat varieties developed in America were pro-
duced by pure-line selection. The Fultz, a beardless, soft red winter
wheat, is an important example of this method. It was selected in
1862 by Abraham Fultz from a field of Mediterranean and was
later grown extensively in the central section of the eastern wheat
belt. During this same period, crop breeders were searching
Canada for new wheat varieties. A shipment of 100 bushels of

America's Crop Heritage

Arnold's Hybrid No. 9 was imported for the fall sowing of 1872.
However, the results proved this hybrid to be similar to the
After 1870 many breeders turned their attention to hybrid-
ization or artificial crossing. Out of their efforts came two varieties
which aroused much interest among wheat growers. These were
the Fultz, and a variety from Virginia called the Tappahannock.
Commissioners Le Duc and Colman realized the need for
varieties adapted to particular regions. Le Duc wanted a rustproof
wheat for the South, and a wheat that would not winterkill on
the prairies. Rusk renewed the interest shown in the Mediter-
ranean and winter wheats, and five varieties of the Mediterranean
were procured in 1889 for distribution.


Although several varieties of oats were imported during the
1850's, little information is available about their effect on the
oat industry. It was not until the following decade that a number
of superior oat varieties made their appearance in this country.
The White Swedish, Yellow Lithuanian, Black Tartarian, Black
Prussian and Nun's were considered the best of seventeen varieties
sown in 1866.
During the period 1865 to 1870 a number of other importations
were tried. The Potato, Scotch Dun, and New Brunswick oats were
brought from Scotland. Denmark contributed the black and white
Swedish oats. From England came the Excelsior and Somerset
varieties, and Germany's outstanding contribution was the White
Schonen. From these the Excelsior and the White Schonen were
chosen as the best. The Excelsior was suited to a wide variety of
soil and climate conditions, while the Schonen withstood rust.
When the Fellow oat from Scotland was first distributed in
1873, it was acclaimed in some parts of the country as superior to
the White Schonen. Another English importation, the Board of
Trade oat, also made its appearance during the 1870's. The value
of these importations can be judged from an estimate made in
1879 of the increase in the yield of the nation's oat crop. It was
claimed that the White Schonen had raised the yield by two and a
half bushels per acre, and that the Board of Trade and Rustproof
varieties were worth $15,000,000 yearly to oat raisers.

Main Importations

Charles Mason was instrumental in bringing a number of new
varieties of rye, barley, and buckwheat to this country. He imported
the Large Northern Prolific Rye from Germany to be sown in the
central states, barley from southern Spain, and the Silver Buck-
wheat from France in 1854. The Saxony rye was considered the
best of sixteen varieties sown experimentally in 1866. Oderbruch
barley from the Oder Valley and other barleys were tried with fair
results. By 1872 the barleys, Chevalier, Probstier, and Saxonion
had been established as preferred varieties.
The origin of barley varieties in this country, like many of our
familiar crops, is difficult to trace. Many of the present varieties
have been bred as hybrids by individuals and experimental farms.
Aberg and Wiebe, in a study of the history of barley, have traced
the present commercial varieties back to Colonial times, but many
of the importations were brought in by individuals and the
details were not recorded. (2)


The high prices and planting difficulties surrounding cotton
at the close of the Civil War led to the trial of ramie as a cotton
substitute. The ramie plant (Boehmeria nivea), is a member of
the nettle family. It produces a fine fiber used in the orient in
weaving clothing. The western world was first drawn to ramie in
1851 at an exhibition of its fibers in England. Plants were brought
to Jamaica in 1854 and from there to the Botanical Garden in
Washington the following year. Ten years later, ramie seeds were
imported from China.
The first plants brought to Louisiana, according to Emile Le
Franc, came from Mexico in 1867 through the help of Ernest
Godeaux, the French consul in New Orleans. Benito Roezl, a
Bohemian botanist, returned from Java the same year with a lot
of ramie roots for sale.
Interest in ramie cultivation in New Orleans soon after its
introduction forced the price up to one dollar for each subdivision
of roots. The fiber sold for $375 per ton and was used as imitation
silk. A group of ramie enthusiasts in New Orleans in 1873 organ-

America's Crop Heritage

ized the Southern Ramie Planting Association to promote their
interests. In 1868, the Commissioner of Agriculture imported from
Paris seed of two other varieties of Boehmeria for experiment-
but many of the small, easily damaged seeds failed to germinate.
Ramie was reported in 1869 to be growing in extensive plantations
throughout the South.

Year Cereals Textiles t Year Cereals Textiles t
No. of No. of No. of No. of
packages packages packages packages
1868....... 31,220 10,498 1879...... 100,068 2,516
1869....... 46,763 5,676 1880......................... ...
1870....... 38,701 744 1881...... 216,157 31,590
1871....... 61,204 1,638 1882...... 290,862 31,144
1872....... 86,014 1,133 1883...... 102,267 23,828
1873....... 149,696 2,612 1884...... 100,456 587
1874....... 112,562 2,367 1885...... 59,585 36,103
1875....... 137,468 5,551 1886...... 38,858 7,626
1876....... 156,493 1,357 1887...... 21,203 3,769
1877 ....... 132,181 6,118 1888...... 17,862 6,219
1878....... 112,026 816

Includes varieties of wheats, corn, oats, rye, and barley.
f Cotton, hemp, flax, jute, and ramie.

Despite the successful cultivation of the crop, ramie did not
become important commercially. No one was able to perfect a
machine that would do a thorough job of separating the fibers
from the stalks and bark. Finally, the interest in ramie died out
during the 1890's and the crop was practically abandoned. In
the 1940's, several thousand acres of ramie were cultivated, and
there were reports of new machinery capable of separating the
fibers efficiently. (3)
The growth of the cotton industry in the South awaited the
invention of an efficient machine for processing the fiber. Eli
Whitney's cotton gin made it possible for growers to expand their
acreages and compete successfully with foreign suppliers. Agri-
culturists hailed the profitable cultivation of this crop, in compe-
tition with cheap foreign labor, as an example of what might be
done by machinery in other crop industries.
Many introductions were made by individuals, and the Depart-
ment of Agriculture tried to find foreign varieties superior to

Main Importations

those commonly grown in this country. Cotton seeds were brought
from Egypt and India for trial, for American growers hoped to
recapture part of the market which Egypt had come to supply.
The results from the trial of Egyptian seeds in Louisiana were so
poor that growers did not care to replant the seed. Mildly favor-
able reports of the Egyptian varieties were received from Texas,
Mississippi, and Florida. Generally, the Indian and Egyptian
varieties did not mature soon enough in this country.
Spurred on by the high prices American mills were paying for
Egyptian cotton, the Department of Agriculture made a number
of new introductions between 1892 and 1894. It had previously
been urged to import varieties from India in 1868, but the Depart-
ment found that manufacturers claimed American cotton was
superior and that it was preferred even in India. Cotton seeds also
were imported from Tahiti, but their cultivation was not extended.
Seeds of three varieties prominent in Egypt were distributed
in the South by C. R. Dodge, fiber expert of the Department for
many years. These plantings were stopped and the stocks were lost
except for trials continued by W. H. Wentworth of Floresville,
Texas. Wentworth selected a product of high quality, but the
difficulty he had in marketing his cotton caused him to eventually
discontinue the undertaking.
H. J. Webber, in charge of plant breeding for the Department
of Agriculture in 1897, continued the trials of Egyptian cotton,
and extended tests to the river valleys of the Southwest. He used
plant stocks of the Jannovitch from Egypt, under climatic con-
ditions similar to those in its original home. After 1900, these
breeding experiments were continued with fresh seed of several
varieties obtained by David G. Fairchild. These experiments were
extended to Arizona where the crop is now established as a
result of this work by plant breeding scientists in the Department.

Jute became the subject of widespread experiment in the South
after it was sent there from Calcutta in the winter of 1869-70.
The following year a number of successful experiments in rais-
ing jute were reported. Jute cultivation was a pet project of Com-
missioner Watts, who was enthusiastic about its value to the South
because of the quality of the fiber and its superiority to flax and
hemp. He felt assured it would become an important crop and
hastened to claim credit to the Department for encouraging it.

America's Crop Heritage

Watts imported more jute seed from India in 1874, and sent
them to farmers in California and the southern states where the
crop could be grown. The rotation of plantings of jute with rice
every other year was suggested as of possible advantage to both
crops. Samples of jute manufactured in Louisiana were sent to
the Department in 1874 by President Le Franc of the Southern
Ramie Planting Association. An inexpensive separation process
was thought to have been perfected, and in 1877 imported jute
was made subject to tariff duties in order to raise its price in
America. More than 900 papers of the seed were sent out for trial
in 1881. Eight years later, Rusk was convinced that the problem
of separating the fibers was on the verge of solution, but admitted
the production of jute remained in the experimental stage. Jute
production subsequently failed to receive notice in the reports
of the Department of Agriculture.
Several other fiber possibilities were investigated by the Depart-
ment. A plant called New Zealand flax was found to flourish in
the South. Like the ramie plant, the use of this flax was hindered
by a lack of technological progress in processing the plant.
Increasing public interest in fiber crops led to the assignment
of Charles R. Dodge, fiber expert in the Department, to write a
special report on "Vegetable Fibers in the Collection of the
Department of Agriculture." Dodge discussed dozens of materials
including basket-weaving and stuffing materials.
There also was a search on for paper-producing plants during
these years. The Esparto grass, from which paper was made in
England, was one of several plants introduced for this purpose.
Seeds of this grass procured in 1868 from Vilmorin, Andrieux and
Company, Paris, were distributed in the South. By 1870 several
species of palms had been imported for paper making. Other
fiber plants, some with names meaningless except to a plant
specialist, were procured by the Department in 1870. These
included the Manila hemp plant, the Paederia Foetida, and
various species of Hibiscus, Asclepias, Bromelia, and Urtica. The
sisal hemp and the cabuya fiber were received from San Domingo
and distributed about 1885.
Discovery of the Isabella grape by Mrs. Isabella Gibbs about
1818, paved the way to an extensive development of the native

Main Importations

grape. Growers interested in developing a wine industry in this
country had been hoping for years to find a grape that would grow
everywhere. But no European grapes hardy enough to withstand
the fluctuations of humidity and temperature in this country had
been found. If the foreign grapes were not grown in greenhouses,
they suffered from rot and blight. Native grapes flourished under
cultivation, but did not produce wines comparable to the
European vintages.
Soon after the discovery of the Isabella, a Major Adlum living
in the District of Columbia introduced the Catawba, supposedly
a native of the Catawba River in North Carolina. He had found
this variety growing in the vicinity of the Potomac. The famous
Concord grape was a chance seedling developed by selection from
a choice native grape. It was named after its discoverer, Ephraim
W. Bull of Concord, Massachusetts. All of these varieties were
extensively and successfully cultivated.
The mild California climate lent itself to the development of
European grapes during the nineteenth century. Although the
Mission grape of the padres predominated for many years, the
new introductions were almost exclusively European varieties.
Colonel Agoston Haraszthy, the father of the California grape
industry, introduced more Mediterranean grapes into California
than any other individual. Given a commission in 1861 by the
governor of California, he brought back 100,000 vines of 1,400
varieties from Persia, Asia Minor, and Egypt.
Attempts at Hybridization-The problem of producing wine
in the eastern part of the country was approached in 1858 by the
hybridization of American and European varieties. Expert wine-
makers and chemists made tests to find suitable varieties. No
significant results were achieved, but the cultivation of native
grapes was rapidly extended in Virginia. Isaac Newton realized
the importance of the grape as a fruit for general consumption,
and in 1863 corresponded with growers all over the country seek-
ing information about their results.
The "celebrated Yeddo grape from Japan" was received in
1864 from the American Resident-Minister, Robert H. Pruyn,
who sent hundreds of grape cuttings to the United States. The
Yeddo was propagated and plants sent to various localities to be
tested for adaptability.
The public developed a keener appreciation for quality grapes
as new varieties made their appearance on the market. Native
grapes contained too much tartaric acid for wine and table use,

America's Crop Heritage

but Newton claimed that their acid content had been reduced
by hybridization with European varieties. Good native seedlings
were hybridized with the choice imported varieties to produce a
number of fine grapes. The Black Hamburg is mentioned as one
of the imported varieties used in crossings. Ninety different foreign
grapes were planted in glass structures in the spring of 1870.
Those varieties which proved unsuccessful were replaced from
time to time with other importations. Additional plantings of
foreign varieties were made in Texas and California in 1880. Plans
were made in 1889 to secure grapevines from Turkey and Pales-
tine through diplomatic officials. The Section of Seed and Plant
Introduction imported 119 varieties from Europe in 1899, which
were grafted on American stocks for testing.
Experiments with opium in this country during the latter part
of the nineteenth century indicated that the plant could be grown
successfully. Quantities of opium were being imported regularly
for medical use, but the supplies were frequently adulterated.
Charles Mason was the first to arouse interest in its cultivation,
and Isaac Newton later suggested that opium might be grown
profitably. An article in the Annual Report for 1870 instructed
growers in the cultivation of the poppy and methods for collecting
the drug.
Experiments conducted in Jefferson County, New York, indi-
cated that the opium poppy could yield a higher money return
per acre than any other crop then being cultivated. Growers
reported that the poppy had been cultivated in Kansas, Connect-
icut, and Vermont. The crop was never grown commercially, how-
ever, because the intensive cultivation necessary for a successful
crop was too expensive using American labor.
At the close of the Civil War the Department of Agriculture
was searching for "anti-periodic" medicines for the treatment of
malaria. Reports from German hospitals indicated that the
Eucalyptus globulus (the Australian blue gum, or anti-fever tree)
had antimalarial properties. Specimens of this tree were brought
from Australia by William Saunders and were kept growing for
several years. Seeds of the tree also were obtained from Walter
Hill, botanical gardener at Brisbane, and planted in the spring of

Main Importations

1866. Several thousand trees grown from the seed were given out
during the years following 1870. The expected cure-all did not
materialize, however, for tests proved that the trees did not con-
tain the cinchona alkaloids.
The roots of the Eucalyptus do have absorbent powers, and
the trees were found to be useful in drying up marshlands by
rapid transpiration. The tree also gained popularity because of
the real and imagined antimalarial properties it possessed. Many
thought that the leaves gave off a volatile oil and an acid which
made the atmosphere healthful and invigorating.
Large plantings have been made, especially in California where
it is now one of the most familiar trees of the landscape. Planting
the Eucalyptus became a craze in California during the 1870's
and in Oakland alone over 100,000 trees were sold in 1875. The
tree did not spread widely, however, because it is easily killed by
frost. It has proved very valuable in California for timber, wind-
breaks, shelters, and landscaping and is now voluntarily replant-
ing itself.
Credit for the introduction of the navel orange is shared by
an American missionary, the Department of Agriculture, and
the State Department. The first step was taken by the Reverend
F. I. C. Schneider, first Presbyterian missionary to Bahia, Brazil,
who wrote a letter about this orange to the Commissioner of Agri-
culture. The story is continued in this excerpt from the Journal
of William Saunders.
Sometime in 1869 the then Commissioner of Agriculture, Horace Capron ...
read to me a letter . from a correspondent at Bahia, Brazil. Among other
matters, special mention was made of a fine seedless orange of large size and fine
flavor; thinking that it might be of value in this country I . sent a letter asking
to be the recipient of a few plants of this orange. This request brought me in
course of time a small box of orange twigs utterly dry and useless. I immediately
sent a letter requesting that some one be employed to graft a few trees on young
stock, and that all expenses would be paid by the Department. Ultimately a box
arrived containing 12 newly budded trees, and being packed as I had suggested,
were found to be in fairly good condition. I believe that two of them failed
to grow. No expenses were charged, so I presume that the correspondent sent them
as a gift. . .
I had a supply of young orange stocks on hand and as fast as I could secure
buds, they were inserted on these stocks. The first two young plants that were
sent out were sent [in 1873] to a Mrs. [Luther C.] Tibbetts, Riverside, California.
That lady called here and was anxious to get some of these plants for her place,
and I sent two of them by mail. They prospered with her and when they fruited
attention was directed to their size and fine appearance, and when ripe their

America's Crop Heritage

excellence was acknowledged, and the fruit was called Riverside Navel, thus
ignoring the label attached to the plants which was Bahia, a very distinctive
name which should have been retained. Afterwards other Californians, not wishing
Riverside to be boomed with the name, changed it to Washington Navel, all of
which was uncalled for but this Dept. could not alter it, and it was considered
best to adopt the name, and so avoid further confusion. We budded many hun-
dreds from time to time and sent them to Florida where it has never become very
popular owing to its not bearing plentifully.
The second introduction of the navel orange was made by
Richard A. Edes, the United States Consul at Bahia. Edes wrote
Capron in April, 1871: "I have the honor to acknowledge receipt
of your letter of February 26th and by the American Steamer
which leaves this port in May. I will forward to you as directed
the cuttings of the navel orange tree of this province." Com-
missioner Watts, who had replaced Capron, wrote Edes that
summer that the trees had arrived in good condition with but
one lost. ". .you have placed the department in possession of one
of the most desirable varieties of Orange known; and one which
it has desired."
When the trees mailed to Mrs. Tibbetts came into bearing, the
quality of the orange as a market variety was promptly recognized.
By the end of the century many thousands of acres had been
planted in California, hundreds of carloads of the fruit were being
transported to the East annually, and it already had been favorably
received in the English market. Saunders called it in 1899 "perhaps
the most valuable introduction ever made by the Department of
Agriculture in the way of fruits." The Bahia navel orange, making
up the bulk of the California orange industry in 1920, had an
annual value of $16 million and the average annual production
in 1921 was computed at 8,600,000 boxes. A bronze plaque was
set up at Riverside, California, in honor of Mrs. Tibbetts' work;
an oversight omitted the name of William Saunders!
The Department of Agriculture was urged in 1870 to use ships
to introduce various tropical fruits for cultivation at St. John's,
Florida. Orange and lemon culture was promising to become
important by 1878, and a small glass house for fruiting was set
aside by the horticultural division to determine the value of dif-
ferent varieties for propagation. A large collection of citrus fruits
was imported from Europe in 1870 and 1871 including the
"Tangerine oranges" and the St. Michael orange from the Azores.
Hundreds of plants were grafted and sent to the Southern and
Pacific states. A collection of grafted orange trees received from

Main Importations

Japan in 1868 proved valueless. One of the lot, the Citrus tri-
foliata, was in great demand in 1895 as rootstocks for grafting.
But Saunders discredited the plant since it dwarfed the growth of
the grafts placed on it. Nearly 14,000 orange, olive, fig, and semi-
tropical plants were distributed in 1879.
During the 1880's the demand for citrus plants brought more
valuable importations from abroad. The production of lemons
was encouraged in Florida and California in 1888 when seedlings
of the best European varieties were imported and distributed
among intelligent experimenters. Five trees of the Selecta orange
from Brazil were introduced in 1892 and placed in Florida,
Louisiana, Arizona, and California.


The Japanese persimmon tree, or Diospyros kaki, bearing the
familiar, orange colored fruit resembling a tomato, was first grown
from seed sent by Commodore Perry to "Lieutenant Maury" in
1856. From the seed planted at the Naval Observatory in Wash-
ington the first fruit was produced on the trees in 1860. None of
the progeny of these trees were distributed. It is not known
whether the plants Commodore Perry brought back from Japan
in 1855 survived the voyage.
The successful introduction and distribution which aroused a
general interest in this fruit was made by William Saunders, who
recollected his work with this fruit in 1899 as follows:

It has long been known that the persimmon of Japan, Diospyros kaki, had been
improved as an edible fruit, and that many fine varieties were grown in that
country. Wishing to attempt its introduction, I requested the U. S. Legation in
Japan . to send some seeds to this Dept. Consequently early in the year
1863, a package of seeds were received and planted. They furnished a great
number of plants which made growths from one to two feet in length.
The real introduction of this fruit commenced about ten years after the above
date. A young Japanese who had spent some time in European nurseries, and also
studied nursery work in this country, and whom I had met in Washington, went
to Tokio and started a nursery. He was well educated and a good correspondent
in English. One of his first works was to select and propagate the best varieties
of persimmons. As soon as he had plants for exportation I ordered 5,000 plants of
his best named varieties which came here in fine condition and were distributed
mainly south of the Potomac River, my experience with the seedling satisfied me
that they would not prosper further north. Other importations were made, and
in 78 or 79 an order for 10,000 plants was made and when they reached San
Francisco about the half of them was distributed in that State (California) where
they prosper. About 100 of this invoice were placed in Norfolk, Va., where they
perfect fine fruits.

America's Crop Heritage

Many of the trees distributed by Saunders did so well that
nurserymen imported other kinds from Japan and sold the trees.
There are a great many varieties of this persimmon in the Far
East. The Department of Agriculture continued to import plants
in order to find some able to endure the cold weather of the
middle and northern states. Five thousand plants were distributed
in 1879 and the following year the Department considered that
the value and good reputation of the persimmon had been
established. Fruit growers and the Department, expecting a
marketable fruit to materialize in a few years, continued to
import plants. After 1873, yearly introductions were made from
a nursery at Tokyo, but by 1889 new plants were being supplied
by nurseries in America.
Efforts of the Department of Agriculture to find persimmons
suited to northerly climates were supported by further intro-
ductions in the last decade of the century. Fifteen varieties received
in 1891 from the Minister of Agriculture of Japan were selected
with care from different parts of the Japanese Empire. The trees
were divided and one set was sent to the Florida Experiment
Station at Lake City and the other to an individual grower, R. D.
Hoyt of Seven Oaks, Florida. They were propagated there so the
progeny could later be sent to the North for trial. More hardy
varieties of this valuable addition to our fruits from Japan, Korea,
and China were placed in the hands of propagators from 1892 to
Many attempts were made to introduce the cinchona tree into
the United States during the nineteenth century when it was dis-
covered that the sources of quinine in South America were facing
Britain, Holland, and other countries had shown that new plan-
tations could be readily established. Extensive preparations by
the British Government for cinchona plantations in the West
Indies excited American interest, and an arrangement was made
with Jamaica to exchange other plants for 3,000 cinchona plants
for the South. Several hundred plants of different varieties were
grown and disseminated by the Department of Agriculture in
1864. A plan for a cinchona plantation was approved in 1866.
Two years later, an appropriation was recommended for the
establishment of a plantation by the Department.

Main Importations

By 1871 the problems of growing cinchona in this country were
well known. It was sensitive to cold and required winter pro-
tection, except in southern California where cultivation was
carried on for more than a generation. Despite these difficulties
many requests for the plants were received. A medical association
memorialized Congress in 1872 urging the introduction of cin-
chona. But William Le Duc discouraged further attempts to grow
cinchona, and in 1877 stopped the distribution of the plants.
Congress was repeatedly asked for money for further experi-
ments with the cinchona plant. The House of Representatives
passed a resolution in 1882 asking the Commissioner of Agri-
culture whether it was feasible to grow cinchona in the United
States. A letter from a plant authority alleged that the trees would
stand frost, but needed exacting conditions of soil and climate.
The Department had no faith in the new plant, but continued
the experiments to satisfy an unwise demand and give the trees
an exhaustive trial. By 1891, the cultivation of cinchona had been
abandoned as unprofitable, for the bark could be imported cheaply
from British India.
The records of the Department of Agriculture covering tea
culture in the middle of the nineteenth century are rather sketchy.
Either Isaac Newton's interests during this period did not extend
to the promotion of the tea industry, or the war between the
states prevented contact with the southern planters. During his
commissionership the Department merely supplied requests for
plants. Tea culture in British India was watched with interest,
and labor-saving devices adopted there encouraged the belief
that tea might be profitable in the United States. Fresh supplies
of seed from Japan led to the distribution of more thousands of
plants up to 1867. After this date, the plants were grown mostly
from seed produced in the southern states, from the plants sent
there by Robert Fortune.
Horace Capron, Newton's successor, knew that the southern
states were congenial to the tea plant, but he observed that
". .the amount of manual labor required in its preparation for
commerce precludes the possibility of competition with the very
cheap labor of China." (4) In California, several hundred Japanese
settled with the intention of growing tea and other plants native
to their former homeland. They put out 140,000 tea plants at

America's Crop Heritage

El Dorado, but by 1872 their experiences had proved the climate
unsuitable to the tea plant.
The Department of Agriculture's hopes for the tea industry
died a lingering death. Experiments continued under Commis-
sioner Watts in 1873, but the high labor costs could not be over-
come. In spite of this, tea growing continued to attract interest.
The arboretum annually increased the number of plants dis-
tributed, and received encouraging reports from widely scattered
areas. The following year the reduced appropriation for the
garden prevented further introductions, but 20,000 plants were
distributed. Even careful William Saunders now believed tea
would become widely cultivated.
When William Le Duc succeeded Watts in 1877, he confidently
accepted from his predecessor the challenge of the tea industry.
Because he believed that American tea could be put on the world
market, he had over 100,000 plants distributed during 1877 and
1878, and 120,000 plants were given out the following year.
South Carolina and Georgia were indicated as favored centers
for tea cultivation. The plant was publicized by the Department
of Agriculture and information supplied regarding its cultivation
in China. Le Duc pointed to the unemployment of 1877 as proof
that there was labor available to produce tea in America. Plants
were distributed to increase the dissemination of tea and to find
which localities were best suited to it. Invention was expected to
provide machines for processing the tea leaf, but even without
machines it was thought that every family should cure its own
tea supply.
The enthusiasm over tea reached a climax in 1881. Congress
had provided $5,000 the year before to "be devoted to experi-
ments in connection with the culture and manufacture of tea."
Another appropriation of $10,000 was made in March, 1881, and
with these funds an experimental tea farm was established at
Summerville, South Carolina.
At the request of Le Duc, John Jackson, a native of Aberdeen-
shire, Scotland, visited the South to see if tea raising was possible
there. Jackson had fourteen years' experience in tea cultivation
and in perfecting machinery for processing tea. He became con-
vinced that American tea could be made to compete in price and
quality with foreign varieties. Jackson purchased the estate of

Main Importations

Dr. Jones in Liberty County, Georgia, on which neglected
tea plants were growing from shrubs set out by Jones about 1850.
From a dense mass of plants growing there, Jackson set out a tea
garden of 160,000 plants occupying forty acres of ground. Samples
of tea were sent to tea distributors in the United States and
England. Jackson's experience therefore made him the logical
choice for the superintendency of the tea farm at Summerville.
As Le Duc explained:

Acting under authority of Congress, I have selected, after a careful examination,
with the aid of Mr. Jackson's experience, a tract of land suitable for an experi-
mental farm on which the raising of tea on an extended scale will be carefully
and thoroughly tried. Of the result there can be no reasonable doubt. American
tea, grown and manufactured on our own soil by ourselves, is destined at no late
day to supply the demand of our own people and to enter the world's market in
favorable competition with that produced by any other country.

New seeds were obtained by importations from Japan, India,
and China, but the shifting fortunes of individuals and programs
incident to American presidential elections brought a sudden
end to this venture.
Commissioner Loring, the Massachusetts conservative, did not
share Le Duc's enthusiasm for tea. Believing that climatic con-
ditions were not favorable for tea growing, he directed William
Saunders to examine the Department's tea plantation at Summer-
ville. Saunders found that only fifteen acres of poor land had been
cleared for cultivation. The tea plants were not thrifty, and he
advised cutting the appropriation. Saunders concluded that good
quality teas could not be produced in the South. He pointed out
that a warm climate with much summer rainfall is needed to
produce a strong, well-flavored tea. Jackson's own plantation in
Georgia had not produced teas of sufficient strength. Work
was curtailed at Summerville. The Department distributed fewer
plants than in previous years and these were only to encourage
production for the growers' consumption at home. The tea farm
in South Carolina was closed in 1887. About the only results
were that some hundreds of households had come to grow their
own tea.
In spite of past results, the new Commissioner, Jeremiah M.
Rusk, revived the tea researches in 1889. Rusk believed the pre-
vious experiments with tea culture had been arrested before

America's Crop Heritage

reaching any definite conclusion, and that better cultivation and
preparation might bring success. Seed from the best tea in Asia
were secured through the State Department. Special attention was
given to climate as a limiting factor in the production of good
quality tea. Merchants took an interest in the samples produced,
tea tasters judged the brews, and the press published reports on
the progress made.
The Department of Agriculture began cooperating with Dr.
Charles U. Shepard, in charge of his own Pinehurst Experimental
Tea Garden, near Summerville, South Carolina. Varieties tried at
Pinehurst came from Japan, China, Formosa, and Assam. Because
the cost of picking a pound of tea at Pinehurst proved to be six
times greater than the cost in the orient, any tea marketed would
be able to compete with foreign tea only on a basis of quality.
But testimonials of tea merchants praised the tea as equal to the
best foreign teas.
The commercial production of tea was again presented as a
tantalizing possibility in the publications of the Department of
Agriculture in 1899. It was Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson
who then promoted the industry. Dr. Shepard, with machinery
furnished by the Department, processed tea which he sold to a
distributing house in the North at a profit. A company with assets
of $50,000 was being organized in 1900 to produce tea on a more
extensive scale. Much experimenting was done to improve the
quality of the tea, which could be produced and marketed for
fifteen cents per pound, it was claimed-but the enterprise did not
By 1903, when 8,369 pounds of tea were produced at Pinehurst,
the attention of the Department of Agriculture came to be con-
centrated more than ever on reducing costs of processing the
leaves by the invention of labor saving machinery. Study was
given to the cup qualities of tea as affected by chemical changes
during processing. A tea garden was established at Mackay, Texas,
by 1903 in order to test the plant in another climate. In 1905 Dr.
Rodney H. True, in charge of the tea culture investigations, con-
tinued work along lines of the two previous years. Dr. Shepard
had about a hundred acres planted to tea at Pinehurst in 1907,
although in previous years he had been harvesting annually
about 12,000 pounds of dry tea.
Another garden opened at Pierce, Texas, indicated that the

Main Importations 85

Texas climate would produce a strong brew, but recurrent floods
brought the abandonment of this farm by 1909. In this and the
following year it was reported that tea produced found a ready
sale in America, but work to lower costs had to be continued. By
1911 George F. Mitchell had introduced successful pruning
machinery, and machine picking was being tried. Other optimistic
results in 1912 concluded abruptly the mention of the tea experi-
ments in the publications of the Department. The efforts of more
than a century have not yet established an American tea industry.

1. Ball, Carleton R., "The History of American Wheat Improvement," Agricultural
History, IV, April, 1930.
2. Aberg, Ewert, and Wiebe, G. A., "Classification of Barley Varieties Grown in the
United States and Canada in 1945," USDA Technical Bulletin No. 907, 1946.
3. Le Franc, Emile, Culture and Manufacture of Ramie and Jute in the United
States. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1837.
4. Commissioner's Reports, r869, 187o, USDA.


Lesser Importations

D ESPITE an increasing demand for sugar, its production in the
United States continued to decline during the Civil War and the
decade following. Most of the sugar up to this time had been
processed from sugar cane. But the stocks of sugar cane deteriorated
more rapidly than they could be replaced by the search for new,
hardy varieties.
In an effort to step up sugar production, the industry turned
to sorgos. Chemists searched for a method of refining sugar from
the Chinese sugar cane (black amber cane), one of the first sorgo
imports, and the Department of Agriculture introduced other
sorgos for experiment. More than forty million gallons of syrup
were produced from the Chinese sorgo in 1862, and two mills
manufactured paper from the fiber. No quantity of sugar could
be refined from the cane, however, and in 1864 Commissioner
Newton sent an agent to China to secure fresh seed and to explore
for new varieties. Newton believed that the Chinese sorgo had
deteriorated through hybridization with broom corn, and that new
varieties and information on the Chinese processes of sugar-
making might be helpful.
The varieties Newton's agent brought back were not successful
so experiments were continued chiefly with the varieties intro-
duced in 1857 by Leonard Wray, and the Chinese sorgo which
had been imported in 1854. Wray had brought several varieties
from Natal, South Africa, via Europe at the request of Horace
Greeley. The original variety names have been lost, but they came
to be cultivated widely for syrup and grain.
State experiment stations and individuals also were busy breed-

Lesser Importations

ing and selecting varieties of sorgos. From the original Chinese
sugar cane the Early Amber was selected, and from this variety
arose the Minnesota Early Amber which was widely distributed
by members of Congress during Commissioner Le Duc's adminis-
tration. Growers reported it to be a heavy yielder of syrup and
Durras From Egypt-Sorghums were found to be adapted to
the hot, dry areas of Kansas and Texas where corn would not
flourish. The importance of this fact could not be overestimated.
Sorghums are especially valuable today for grain production in
arid regions of the West. The White durra and the Brown durra,
called Egyptian corn, were brought from Egypt to California in
1874-it is not known by whom. Their success was the beginning
of an expanding grain sorghum culture.
"Guinea corn," or White Milo maize from the West Indies, was
grown at a very early date in the South. White and Red kafirs
from Natal were shown at the Centennial Exposition at Philadel-
phia in 1876, and the seed distributed. Shallu (Egyptian wheat)
was introduced from India by the Louisiana Agricultural Experi-
ment Station about 1890. In the course of further introductions
came two from Australia-in 1888 the sorgo Planter, originally
from India, and in 1891, the McLean. Pink kafir was introduced
from South Africa about 1904, feterita in 1906, and hegari in
1909. All were procured by the Department of Agriculture from
the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in the Upper Nile.
Teosinte-Growers also attempted to produce sugar from corn,
pumpkins, and teosinte during during the 1870's. The teosinte,
which is an ancestor of Indian corn, was introduced from Central
America by the Department of Agriculture. The first seed crop
of teosinte was harvested in southern Florida in 1887. The plant
produced an abundance of fodder when it had sufficient moisture.
Interest in sorgos as a source of sugar cane was so high during
this period that Commissioner Le Duc prophesied, ". . it is not
too much to say that the success attending the manufacture of
cane-sugar from sorghums and maize will mark the year 1879 as
an important epoch in the agricultural progress of our people."
During Le Duc's administration the efforts to produce sugar
from sorgos reached their peak. Peter Collier received an appro-
priation of $25,000 from Congress to aid this work. Collier is
credited with introducing between 50 and 100 varieties of sorgo
from Java, Burma, China, India, and South Africa. In the sum-

America's Crop Heritage

mer of 1881, fifty-two of these varieties were grown experimen-
tally. However, from the ninty-three acres of cane worked up,
only 165 pounds of sugar could be obtained. Sorgo cultivation
was admittedly a failure and investments of private capital in the
sorghum sugar industry were wiped out.
The Federal government, however, continued to make expen-
sive experiments with sorgos for some years. Eight hundred
varieties and subvarieties had been tested by 1890 for sugar
qualities, but the government still intended to continue the intro-
duction of others for test. Only eight or ten varieties had been
found suitable, and these only in restricted localities.
Emphasis on Selection-Congress voted an appropriation of
$25,000 in 1899 to enable the Secretary of Agriculture to continue
experiments in producing sugar from sorghum and beets. Experi-
menters stressed the selection and analysis of sorghum varieties
for sugar content. Nine sorghum sugar laboratories were estab-
lished in Kansas, and similar experiments conducted in other
states. Certain materials in most sorghums prevented the crystalli-
zation of sugar in the juices. As varieties were sought with a high
percentage of sucrose, and free from the deleterious substances
which interfered with refining, more attention came to be given
to breeding and selection rather than to introduction.
Sugar cane stocks were also being imported during the period
of experimentation with sorgos, though Le Duc and others favored
sorghum as a sugar source. Growers believed that fresh canes from
Java were necessary for successful sugar planting in the lower
Mississippi Valley. Introductions of sugar cane came from Japan,
Hawaii, and Brazil. Le Duc reported in 1880 that sugar cane
introductions still were being made, but he suggested that growers
turn to the sorghums to avoid the recurring deterioration of the
sugar cane stocks.
The Department of Agriculture was slow to encourage sugar
production from the sugar beet, although it had been the basis
since Napoleonic times of a sugar industry in Europe where there
was an abundant supply of cheap labor. In 1838, the Committee
on Agriculture in the House of Representatives issued a report
on the culture of the sugar beet because the importation of sugar
had quadrupled from 1832 to 1836. The Committee insisted
". .that when the soil, climate, and other circumstances, will

Lesser Importations

enable the people of this country to produce, by their own labor,
on their own soil, any article which is extensively consumed
amongst us, it is the duty of the Government, as far as may be
deemed constitutional, to facilitate, by all reasonable encourage-
ment, the production of that article."
The House Committee submitted a bill to authorize the
President to lease land for a term of ten years for the cultivation
of the mulberry and the sugar beet. Nothing came of this action.
Commissioner Capron argued that beet cultivation would pre-
vent huge sums being spent abroad for sugar. Government publi-
cations gave information on sugar beet culture and the progress
of local experiments. A chemist in the Department of Agriculture
tested the sugar content of the most approved varieties of French
and German sugar beets.
By 1864, the exorbitant price of sugar had induced individuals
in Illinois to cultivate the sugar beet. Seeds of sugar beet varieties
from Germany and France were distributed annually by the
Department after 1868, and several large sugar beet refineries
were established in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, and Colorado.
Congress appropriated $10,000 in 1881 to continue experiments
in the cultivation of sugar beets and the manufacture of sugar.
Quantities of select seed were bought in Europe. By 1888, sugar
beets were considered adaptable to many parts of the country,
and a considerable development of the industry was expected.
Sugar beets already had been successful for several years on the
Pacific Coast. At the close of the century chemical experiments
were being concentrated on the manufacture of sugar from beets.
To assist experiments beet seed of several varieties were imported
annually for distribution.

Plant introduction during the commissionership did not alter
greatly the character of the fruit crops of the Northeast and of
the Midwest. The Department's most significant fruit introduc-
tion was that of over 200 varieties of apples from Russia in 1871.
These came from the Imperial Botanic Garden of St. Petersburg.
This introduction, it was hoped, would yield varieties adaptable
to the rigorous climate of the North and Northwest, and others
which were late ripening.
After 1872, shoots were distributed annually for the next ten

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