Wooden seed box for Mandeville & King Company. The box has a hinged lid and has a dark stain with a latch on the exterior. On the front of the box is a lithograph that reads: “Mandeville / 10c and up / Triple tested flower seeds.” On the lid of the interior a lithograph with a diagram on how to display the seeds in the box and the label, “Mandeville & King Co / Superior Flower Seeds, Rochester, N.Y.”
Label Text: Saving seeds is done both industrially for agriculture and gardening, but it is also done by amateur gardeners. Seed saving was the traditional way farms and gardens had maintained themselves for the last 12,000 years. In the nineteenth century, the commercial seed industry replaced most grassroots seed-saving practices. Rather than collecting and processing their own seeds, gardeners and farmers shifted to purchasing seed annually from seed suppliers. Seed harvesting is a carefully-timed and labor-intensive process, and many farmers and gardeners found relying on the seed industry to do this work for them much easier and more cost effective. The seed industry was essentially a centralized supply collected from individual raisers and sold to both local retailers and directly to the public. Seeds were grown on farms, harvested, dried, and cleaned. They were then sorted, categorized, stored, packaged, described, and mailed. These time- and labor-saving steps made the product of seedsmen more convenient and thereby more valuable than those saved from the previous year’s plants. This elevated their products over what could be found in one’s back yard. Originally in America, seeds had to be imported from Europe for agriculture and gardening, and not surprisingly, the long voyage by ship across the ocean compromised many of the seeds and stunted their successful cultivation. As early as 1780, the seed industry was established in America, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was in full swing. The seed industry sold to home gardeners, professional florists, and market growers through stores as well as mail-order through catalogs.
Label Text: When selling their seeds in a store, companies delivered the seeds to be sold on commission. Seeds were packaged in colorful packages and kept in display boxes and seed racks meant to attract the customers’ attention. Companies marketed their seeds in boxes constructed of pine, stained or painted, and nailed at the corners. Some were intricately inlayed, mounted with handsome hardware, and lined with colorful scenes of pretty flower gardens or happy children. Wooden dividers separated the seed packets into four to six rows. Interior and exterior labels were designed to catch the gardener’s attention. Seed boxes were a form of “silent salesman” and inventory control from 1820 to 1890. They were left with the retail shop owner, filled with seed packets, and replenished as needed. At the end of the summer, companies took back whatever stock had not sold. Most boxes were picked up or sent back to the seed grower, cleaned and new labels pasted over last season’s edition.
Signed: Stecher Lithograph Co.
Mark(s): Mandeville & King Co., Rochester, NY
Company: Mandeville & King Company
Printer: Stecher Lithograph Company