April Showers Bring May Flowers: Seed Catalogs for a Rainy Spring!

Iowa Seed Company-1913_cover

With the slow onset of spring this year, many are probably getting anxious to be able to get out into their gardens.  Most have hopefully already ordered their seeds…so what can one do while waiting through the next week of rain?  Or perhaps you are looking for some interesting historical resources to use as you finish up your projects at the end of the semester.  The Digital Collections site has a selection of our materials available, including a number of our seed catalogs.

The Seed Catalogs Digital Collection contains digitized copies of a variety of seed catalogs from the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century.  Companies include C. W. Dorr, Iowa Seed Company, and Page and Kelsey.  The catalogs can be quite fun to look through, in addition to being a wonderful study on the varieties of seeds available at that time and the different ways companies promoted and described their seeds.  Catalogs include seeds and bulbs for flowers, trees, herbs, ornamental shrubs, vegetables, grains, grasses, and fruit.  In addition, the catalogs often also include gardening tools and implements.

Most of the seed catalogs are from the Iowa Seed Company.  What did the Iowa Seed Company’s catalog look like one hundred years ago, in 1913?

Curious about the types of corn they might have sold for a later season like the one we are having now? (page 48):

Iowa Seed Company-1913_corn

Or the “curious vegetables”, such as eggplant, sesame, ornamental mice, cotton and Egyptian lentils (page 16):

Iowa Seed Company-1913_curious vegetables

And, if one would like birds for their garden, the Iowa Seed Company has a variety to choose from (page 146):

Iowa Seed Company-1913_birds

Have any of these pages sparked your interested?  Interested in the flowers, grains, and other seeds available through these early seed catalogs?  If you would like, take a look at more seed catalogs available from Digital Collections, or visit our department to look at the originals.  We have other seed catalogs which can be find from the library’s webpage.  In addition, we have several related manuscript collections such as the Iowa Seed and Nursery Pamphlets Collection (MS 393), and a wide variety of publications and archival collections related to agriculture.