“If thou of fortune be bereft
And of the store there be but left
Two loaves-sell one and with the dole
Buy Hyacinths to feed thy Soul”
Clarence Elliott List of Bulbs, Cover, 1935
The OSU collection contains seventeen boxes of catalogues from the 1930s, as well as twenty-three bound volumes of catalogues from the year 1940, organized by state—a valuable resource for researchers interested in what was available to gardeners at the outbreak of the Second World War.
Although many catalogues made no mention of the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Depression, some referred to hard times and offered customers seeds, plants, and bulbs at low or reduced prices. The Burgess catalogue of 1930 contained letters from banks that testified to the company’s good credit. The Pfitzer catalogue from Germany noted in 1931 that the company cut prices for staple varieties such as cabbage, carrots, beets and onions. As the Depression deepened and international trade became more difficult, domestic industries were more heavily promoted including bulb production in Great Britain. Several British bulb catalogues from this time discuss the increasing acreage and favorable conditions for bulb-growing, and state that bulb production employed more laborers than other agricultural industries. As R.H. Bath’s bulb catalogue put it in 1938, “If encouragement is given to this industry by the bulb-buying public, it will undoubtedly result in a large increase in the employment of agricultural labour”. Even the English-language catalogues of Dutch companies noted that they employed only British labor in their production fields in England. The P. de Jager catalogue of 1939 said that it was printed on British-made paper and showed photographs of bulbs donated to English parks and schoolchildren. More bulbs were also being grown in the United States at nurseries such as Conley’s Blossom Farm in Eugene, Oregon that advertised Pacific Coast grown bulbs.