Friday, April 1, 2011

Trade Catalogs as a Research Tool: Historical Seed Catalogs

Trade catalogs can serve as invaluable sources for business historians, not only for technical details, but also for their explicit or implied commentaries on business, economics, culture, politics, and society. Long of interest to agricultural historians, horticulturists, and collectors of ephemera, seed catalogs provide a range of information as well as lovely images. A number of institutions have made available a selection of their holdings on-line, and several others have compiled bibliographical information about these resources.  A sampling:
Seed Catalogs from the Smithsonian Institution: 500 images
Mail Order Gardens, and Harvest of Freedom, Cornell University Library
Nursery and Seed Catalog Image Gallery, USDA National Agricultural Library
Seed and Nursery Catalog Exhibit, Oregon State University
Reuter's Seeds for the South, Tulane University
Suitable for Cultivation, University of Delaware
Seed Catalogs, Iowa State University Digital Collections
Dutch Nursery Catalogs, Wageningen UR
Seed Catalogs, Digital Horizons (Great Plains network)
Bibliographical listings and finding aids include:
Bibliography, American Seed and Nursery Industry
Gardening Collection Finding Aid, Washington State University Library
Seed Catalog Finding Aid, University of Delaware Library