Water Conveyance in the 19th Century


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I was recently asked by a reader what type water access her ancestors might have had in 19th century London, and I thought the question was something we might explore further as a supply to water is essential in running a home.

The earliest pipes that conveyed water included stone blocks with cylindrical holes cut through and earthen pipes, often encased in masonry. The Romans used lead pipes for distributing water and later during the Middle Ages logs with holes drilled through them and connected end to end and later lead pipes came into use again.

By the early 20th century, water pipes were made of steel, cast iron, wrought iron, lead, wood, vitrified clay (think terra cotta), or even cement or concrete. We recently saw a section of wooden water pipe in an antique store and were thrilled to have discovered it. Wooden pipes were made from spruce, yellow pine, oak, etc., and were usually about 12 feet long. The bark was usually removed but not always. The earliest models were bored by hand, but machinery was soon invented that was more efficient at hollowing the logs.

Edward Wegmann wrote that in the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Detroit pipes were dug up that were perfectly sound having been laid a hundred years before. When buried in the ground and kept from atmospheric changes they lasted a very long time without rotting. The Journal of New England Water Works Assoc., 1916, XXX, p. 318, claimed that such log pipes had been discovered in Boston and Portsmouth, N.H. that were sound and over two hundred years old.

Wegmann dated the earliest log pipes in America to 1652 located in Boston. About 1796 they were replaced with new log pipes where many were used until 1848 when the city replaced all pipes with those made of cast-iron. He dated those first used in New York and Philadelphia to 1774 and 1799. Interestingly enough, London seems to have regressed in its use of piping materials, as he states the lead pipes which melted in the great fire of 1807, were replaced with log pipes. He stated further that there were over 400 miles of wooden log pipes in London during subsequent years.

In 1855, A. Wyckoff, of Elmira, NY, received a patent for an improved water pipe which was spirally bound by a band of iron, steel, or bronze and the whole then coated with an asphalt coating. In Bay City, Mich., the Michigan Pipe Co. acquired the rights to manufacture the Wyckoff pipes in 1880. Companies in Williamsport, PA, Seattle Wash., San Francisco, Tacoma, Wash., Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, BC were also engaged in making the Wyckoff pipes during the first decade of the 20th century.

Cast-iron pipes are thought to date to the 1660’s when Louis XIV of France ordered their use, and possibly earlier. Chelsea Water Co. of London laid a 12 inch cast iron pipe in 1746 which was re-laid in 1791 because the joints were faulty. The engineer, Thomas Simpson, designed the first bell-and-spigot pipe with lead joints about 1785, and the system was soon adopted throughout London.

Cast-iron pipes were imported from England about 1817 and used in Philadelphia where they remained in use a century later. – Wegmann, Edward. Conveyance and Distribution of Water for Water Supply. 1918. NY.

Pumps have been used since 200 BC, with regular boosts in technology. I once lived where water came from a natural spring and was fed into the house by gravity flow (requiring no pump) but had the house been uphill from the spring we would have required a pump of some sort to get the water from the collection tank to a higher level .

Time doesn’t allow for researching early pumps at present, but they have operated off steam power, wind power, turbine power, etc. and for those who want a back-up system for power outages, options still include wind power, hand pumps, ram pumps, and buckets, including those for drilled wells operated by a windlass (a rope and crank which can lower and raise a long narrow vessel designed to fit into the piping for drilled wells).
Lehmans pump Photo: From Lehman’s Hardware catalog.

Franklin & Food


The following quotes are taken from Ben Franklin’s autobiography and pertain to food and eating habits. The one also lends itself to his frugality in that he seems to have been content with plain habits in order to purchase books to further his education. Like Franklin, I am far too appreciative of bread for the good of my waistline. While man (or woman) does not live on bread alone, I think I might come relatively close providing there was an ample supply of butter and cheese to accompany it. I endeavor to be less distanced from Franklin’s philosophy of “eat to live, not live to eat”, as I can quite enjoy common fare so long as it is well prepared, and a healthy lifestyle becomes more important with each passing year, but I do yet have my favorites which I enjoy rather too frequently.

“When about 16 years of age I happened to meet with a book, written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet. I determined to go into it. My brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep house, but boarded himself and his apprentices in another family. My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chid for my singularity. I made myself acquainted with Tryon’s manner of preparing some of his dishes, such as boiling potatoes or rice, making hasty pudding, and a few others, and then proposed to my brother, that if he would give me, weekly, half the money he paid for my board, I would board myself. He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I could save half what he paid me. This was an additional fund for buying books. But I had another advantage in it. My brother and the rest going from the printing-house to their meals, I remained there alone, and, dispatching presently my light repast, which often was no more than a bisket or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins or a tart from the pastry-cook’s, and a glass of water, had the rest of the time till their return for study, in which I made the greater progress, from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking.”

“I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my first voyage from Boston, being becalmed off Block Island, our people set about catching cod, and hauled up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion I considered, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and when this came hot out of the frying-pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanced some time between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs. Then thought I, “If you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.” So I dined upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”

A Strange Dinner if Ever There Was One



Rattlesnake_Pete_card back


Peter Gruber was born in 1857 or ’58 in Oil City, PA and as a youngster learned about rattlesnakes from Native Americans who lived in the hills. As a young man he reluctantly entered the restaurant and saloon business with his father where he remained until Oil City was devastated by a flood and subsequent fire on June 5th. Peter removed himself and along with his reputation for housing poisonous snakes in 1893 went to Pittsburgh, but remained there only a short time when the city officials refused to grant him a business license to operate a saloon in which he kept snakes.

Apparently Rochester, NY wasn’t as particular about housing reptiles as Pete established himself there where he operated his business for some years with his serpent friends, despite being bitten by rattlesnakes 29 times and four times by copperheads. He operated the museum until 1931 and on Oct. 11, 1932 died at his home at the age of 75. He died not from snake bite as one might suspect, but from cardio-renal syndrome complicated by chronic nephritis, chronic endocarditis with lesions of the mitral and aortic valves, and arteriosclerosis. Following a burial mass at St. Mary’s Church he was buried in Holy Sepulcher Cemetery.

In 1901, Peter Gruber, known as Rattlesnake Pete, presided over a rather unique dinner given in honor of a fellow snake handler from Colorado who had previously hosted Pete in his home. The dinner took place in New York. “He first intended to pay a little compliment to his friend with a specially prepared dinner of rattlesnake, served in various toothsome ways, but becoming more and more enthusiastic over the idea, he enlarged the scope of the menu, adding watersnake stew, boiled python with egg sauce, and as the piéce de résistance served a large platter of roast boa-constrictor.”

Eighteen guests were present. The dinner was served in Pete’s den, “an odd little room off his place of business, for Pete, in the hours he can spare from playing with his pets, runs a saloon and restaurant, a quiet pleasant place. Only a favoured few are allowed to pass the door of the sanctum sanctorum where the snakes, sometimes more than a dozen, sometimes several score, live, watched over by their proud owner. The table decorations were striking and appropriate. A big rattler, caged in glass, served as a centerpiece, and stuffed reptiles in various attitudes took the place of the usual sprays of fern and smilax. The foot of the table was presided over by a huge cobra, stuffed of course, and around each plate were two or three diminutive black snakes, all alive. The walls of the room kept their everyday hangings of snake skins, rattlers’ rattles, canes made from wrigglers’ skins and many other curios.” Pete’s coat made entirely of rattlesnake skins was probably displayed there as well.

While your author would flatly refuse to eat dinner with a black snake crawling around the plate, apparently the eighteen guests enjoyed the food and the experience. “The ordinary guests proved rather nervous at first and made half-hearted motions with their spoons, but the two experts soon inspired them with more enthusiasm [to eat the watersnake stew].”

Some guests compared the stew to fish chowder, frogs’ legs, or eel, but when asked for the recipe the host refrained from offering it. The rattlesnake was thought similar to chicken or veal, but most guests claimed their hunger quite satiated before the python with egg sauce and roast boa constrictor were served.

The guest of honor took the caged rattler from its glass-walled den, wrapped it about himself quite playfully, and discussed the habits of the rattlesnake with his fellow guests who did not share his enthusiasm. When one of the attendees doubted the snake was capable of inflicting harm, the gentleman pried its jaws apart with a pen-knife whereupon drops of venom dripped from its fangs onto the knife blade.

In departing from the dinner, those present, “complimented its originator upon the success of his novel scheme”. They were far more polite than I in their appreciation of the strange goings-on much as were the many tourists who took a brief respite from the trains to rush to Pete’s establishment over the years. –

Source: The Strand Magazine. Nov. 1901. Various issues of the “Rochester Democrat and Chronicle”. Stilson, Charles B. “The Biography of Rattlesnake Pete”. 1923. Postcard images.

America No Longer a Top Ten


Spoiler Alert: Anyone who doesn’t want to hear about the economic woes of the U.S. should exit the page now. The following is directly quoted from Erika Johnsen’s post on Hot Air as found online, and it comes on the heels of our Governor’s State of the State address last night when he spoke very frankly about the danger the U.S. is in. I re-Post Erika’s article not to be a Sad Nellie, but to encourage people in this country to learn self-sufficiency skills and not remain dependent on computers, debit cards, restaurant food, and government programs which may not last long enough to meet their needs. By learning such skills a blatant negative may be, if not turned into a positive, at least reduced in severity of hardship. America is NOT the world leader it once was. The question is, how far are we going to fall? *****

“Oh, great: United States falls out of the top ten for economic freedom

For going on 20 years now, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal have been putting together an annual Index of Economic Freedom by evaluating countries the world over based on ten criteria along the lines of property rights, government spending, freedom from corruption, trade freedom, and the like. They released the 2014 edition of their annaul Index today, and here’s the good news: Worldwide economic freedom has reached record levels, huzzah! The various governments of 114 countries took steps in 2013 that increased their citizens’ economic freedom, and 43 countries all over the world have now reached their highest ranking in the Index’s history. Awesome, right?

But, here’s the bad news: The United States is no longer among the relative elite of these economically free nations. Oof.

Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Botswana, for example, has made gains through low tax rates and political stability.

Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil’s economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice.

It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.

Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Mauritius, Ireland, Denmark, and Estonia all outrank our new 12th-place spot, with Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba, and North Korea bringing up the very rear [...shudders].

As I mentioned earlier today, the Obama administration is currently prepping for the president’s fifth State of the Union address by touting all the sweet executive actions they’ve freshly come up with to spur along the economy should Congress fail to act on their legislative proposals. Yet again, however, the Obama administration’s ideas all seem to center around ways to spend more taxpayer money, increase top-down federal intervention, and layer the regulations on even more thickly — i.e., take our economic freedom even further down the drain — and their only regret seems to be that this spitefully obstructionist ‘Republican’ Congress of ours hasn’t permitted them to do even more of the same.”

Tom and Jerry






tom and jerry black

We enjoy shopping in antique stores and enjoy the search for special pieces. Periodically we will take notice of an item that we may not have paid any particular attention to before, but once we do then we seem to see the item everywhere we shop. Tom and Jerry punch bowls and cups are one of those items.

The drink has nothing to do with the cartoon characters some of us grew up watching. It is doubtful the drink was created by bartender Jerry Thomas who wrote “How to Mix Drinks” in 1862 despite several articles and online accounts crediting him with the drink’s origins. Although he made them often and the drink became associated with him, references to Tom and Jerry predate Jerry Thomas’s book by four decades.

The phrase dates from 1821 when “Life in London; Or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom” was released, written by Pierce Egan and dedicated to George IV. It seems to have been made and served since the release of the book. In fact, some claim Egan introduced the drink, which is a form of eggnog, and called it a Tom and Jerry to draw attention to his book and subsequent play with characters by the same name. The play was titled “Tom and Jerry, Or Life in London” and it also premiered in 1821.

Damon Runyon (1880-1946) mentioned the drink in “Dancing Dan’s Christmas” published in 1932. “This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that was once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas…But anybody will tell you that there is nothing that brings out the true holiday spirit like hot Tom and Jerry, and I hear that since Tom and Jerry goes out of style in the United States, the holiday spirit is never quite the same.”

Various slang dictionaries define “Tom-and-Jerry Days” as the period of the Regency (1810-20) when George IV was king, and a Tom and Jerry shop was a low drinking establishment. – Henley, William Ernest. Slang and its Analogues Past and Present. 1904.

One hasn’t far to look to find references indicating that the term was not something well-bred people aspired to. The great increase of crime was attributed to a large degree to the beer-shops which were, “significantly termed by the lower classes ‘Tom and Jerry shops’”. Nineteenth century books reference Tom and Jerry Clubs, Tom and Jerry amusements, Tom and Jerry sprees, and there’s the ultimate phrase, “spend their evenings in riotous debauchery, drinking, gambling, and raising Tom and Jerry”. – Bather, Edward. “Thoughts on the Demand for Separation of Church and State”. 1834. London. & Dow, Jr. “Short Patent Sermons”. 1841. NY.

In later decades a Tom and Jerry became associated with Christmas and cold weather, defined by some as the period extending from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Jerry Thomas’s version of Tom and Jerry instructed the maker to put into a punchbowl
“5 lbs. sugar; 12 eggs; ½ small glass of Jamaica rum; 1 ½ teaspoonful of ground cinnamon; ½ same of cloves; ½ same of allspice.
Beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, and the yolks until they are as thin as water, then mix together and add the spice and rum, thicken with sugar until the mixture attains the consistence of a light batter.
To deal out Tom and Jerry to customers:
Take a small bar glass, and to one table-spoonful of the above mixture, add one wine-glass of brandy, and fill the glass with boiling water, grate a little nutmeg on top.
Adepts at the bar, in serving Tom and Jerry, sometimes adopt a mixture of ½ brandy, ¼ Jamaica rum, and ¼ Santa Cruz rum, instead of brandy plain. This compound is usually mixed and kept in a bottle, and a wine-glassful is used to each tumbler of Tom and Jerry. N.B.—A teaspoonful of cream of tartar, or about as much carbonate of soda as you can get on a dime, will prevent the sugar from settling to the bottom of the mixture. This drink is sometimes called Copenhagen, and sometimes ‘Jerry Thomas’”. [- from Jerry Thomas's book on mixed drinks, 1862]

TOM AND JERRY MIXTURE. Take the whites of any quantity of eggs and beat to a stiff froth. Add one heaping tablespoonful of fine sugar for each egg. Beat the yolks of the eggs separately; mix together, adding a pinch of bicarbonate of soda, and beat to a stiff batter. Stir frequently so as to prevent the sugar from settling in the bottom of Tom and Jerry bowl.

HOW TO SERVE TOM AND JERRY. Put two tablespoonfuls of the above mixture into a Tom and Jerry mug; add half a jigger brandy and half a jigger rum, fill with boiling hot water or hot milk; mix well with a spoon, grate nutmeg on top and serve.

TOM AND JERRY COLD. Serve same as above, using cold water or milk in place of hot. – Kappeler, George J. Modern American Drinks. 1900. Akron, Ohio.

A frozen Tom & Jerry was promoted by the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1920:

2 c. milk, 3/4 c. sugar, yolks 6 eggs, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 2 1/2 c. cream, 2 Tablespoons rum, 1 Tablespoon brandy
Make a custard of the first 4 ingredients; strain, cook, add cream, and freeze to a mush. Add rum and brandy and finish the freezing. [Note this recipe did not make use of the egg whites.]

Option: Some recipes said to add a stick of butter and/or mix with hot milk instead of hot water.




I received a book about Queen Victoria’s staff, “Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household”, by Kate Hubbard, for Christmas and as a huge Downton Abbey fan I am enjoying it very much.

I can relate with Ms. Pattmore, the Downton cook, as she struggles with new technology in a world that is changing from the old order she’s familiar with to one of new-fangled electric lights, telephones, and even an electric mixer! I find changes in technology (like learning Windows 8) just as stressful and off-putting.

I’m quite experienced in food preparation when the open hearth or wood stove were standard and I can sympathize with her plight of desperately holding on to the job that is absolutely essential to her well-being while decades-old methods she’s expert in are being replaced at a frightening pace. I am more at home in my kitchen – in any century – than in trying to figure out new software and keep up with much younger co-workers. Daisy, Ms. Pattmore’s underling, readily accepts the new gadgets and seems born with an understanding of how to use them, while Ms. Pattmore is charming but clueless.

The program does a remarkable job at providing insight into the daily lives of a large staff and the struggles of one kind or another that face them all. Daisy, for instance can immediately grasp the use of the electric mixer, but is just as clueless when it comes to romance and understanding the young men on staff and how they interact with her and a prettier and more-worldly fellow staff member.

In closing, I’d like to share this paragraph from my book as some of my readers may also enjoy the program and find comparing the fictional staff to the real world staff of Queen Victoria intriguing.

“She marveled at the below-stairs world, glimpsed whilst accompanying Her Serene Highness of Oldenburg on an inspection of the ‘plate’, including the kitchen with 24 cooks and 17 pieces of meat roasting and the confectionary, a very world of jellies and jams. Besides the kitchen with its two great open fires, and a huge steel table with hollow brass legs, steam-heated to keep food warm, there was a green room (for preparing vegetables), a confectionary and a pastry kitchen. The twenty-four cooks included a head chef, three master cooks, two yeomen of the kitchen, two roasting cooks, four apprentices, two larderers and storers, a storekeeper, two green office men, three kitchen maids and two men to supervise the steam apparatus, while the confectionary boasted first and second yeomen confectioners and three female assistants”.

So Long, 2013

It’s apparent the end of the year is upon us when WordPress sends out the annual stats concerning blogs. Mine arrived this morning and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who commented they’d enjoyed a post this year and thank everyone for comments made. I do not write to compete with other bloggers in stats or popularity, but it is interesting to see how far flung the readership is. I’m glad you, the readers, found the blog informative and entertaining. Now, a word from WordPress.

“To kick off the new year, we’d like to share with you data on Thehistoricfoodie’s Blog’s activity in 2013. You may start scrolling!
Crunchy numbers
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 38,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

In 2013, there were 61 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 207 posts. There were 135 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 47 MB. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was March 6th with 413 views. The most popular post that day was Native Americans and the use of Brass Kettles©”

The blog was viewed from 145 different countries, most often from the U.S., U.K., and Canada.

Posts viewed most often: “Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon, a Treasure Almost Lost”, “18th C. Kitchen Tools: Salamander”, “Colonial Pantries, Foods of North Carolina”, “Native Americans and Their Use of Brass Kettles”, and “Chestnut Flour: Its Many Uses”.

Christmas 2013





This Christmas was quiet and subdued for us, quite romantic actually. I’ve been under the weather since October and was sick right up until Christmas so even our tree didn’t get done until Christmas Eve (and I usually have it up Thanksgiving weekend). I will be seeing a pulmonary specialist after the first of the year and expect to be back to my usual self soon thereafter.

I made dinner for us, taking my time so as not to provoke a coughing spasm as have been coming on with any exertion and it turned out rather well.

The menu was roasted capon; chestnut and giblet dressing with gravy; maple baked acorn squash; corn, peas with mushrooms, cranberry sauce, and red cabbage with apple, vinegar, and brown sugar. (I will post photos later today)

I picked fresh sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and a bit of baby arugula from my garden which I chopped with a little garlic and mixed with olive oil and stuffed it under the skin of the capon. I then dried the bird, rubbed it with olive oil, and seasoned the bird with home-made seasoned salt before roasting it. The skin came out crispy and golden brown and the meat was so tender you could cut it with a fork.

Sadly the chestnuts I’d been hoarding for a month or so, given to me by a coworker, turned out to be no good, but a quick run to Publix produced some nice fat Italian chestnuts for the dressing and a few for snacking.

Partly because we ate too much and partly because of my chronic bronchitis we indulged in the luxury of a nice nap after dinner before getting up to watch A Christmas Story and eating chocolate meringue pie. A great meal, quality time with my Sweetheart, and being lavished with meaningful gifts – I can’t imagine having a better day.

Tea Towel History – The Radical Tea Towel Company


Good morning all! I haven’t posted anything in a little while, but will catch up soon. I’ve been a little under the weather for a while but have been doing some interesting things in the kitchen between bouts of bronchitis.

I received a very nice note and thanks from the co-owner of the Radical Tea Towel Company for my mentioning them in my previous post about tea towels. He asked if I would share more information including a link to their site so I hope you enjoy this. To get to his site go to theradicalteatowel.com and for this and more information from their website, go to the history page.

History of the tea towel
Since we humans first emerged from the primeval swamps we’ve needed to keep our cooking utensils dry. No wonder we’ve developed such a fascination with that most fundamental of accessories, the tea towel – or dish towel as it is sometimes called in the US.

Fast forward to the 18th century. The tea towel has reached the pinnacle of its perfection (never again to be matched until the arrival on the scene of the Radical Tea Towel Company in the 21st century).

Tea towels are now gracing the highest tables of the land and are made of linen, a delicate fibre derived from the flax of linseed plants. The soft texture of the fabric makes them ideal for drying expensive bone china, and tea towels are flourished with pride by the grand ladies of the time who are more than happy to do the drying up, not trusting their prized plates to their clumsy servants.

When not drying their crockery, these ladies would embroider the towels, creating beautiful heirlooms to be passed down through the generations. In today’s more democratic times, the Radical Tea Towel Company is pleased to be able to bring fine tea towels to the masses.

Made of linen, tea towels in those days were fragile – they needed to be washed very carefully and dried away from the glare of the sun. Fortunately for today’s crockery dryers, the Radical Tea Towel Company’s products are made of far tougher and durable high-grade cotton.

True to its name, the tea towel was in its element as an ingredient in the great British tea ceremony. There it rubbed shoulders with the finest crystal and chinaware and was designed to match the rest of the table linen. Often it was wrapped around the tea pot to insulate it, used to prevent drips or gracefully draped over bread and cakes to keep them fresh.

It was not until the Industrial Revolution that the tea towel became a mass-produced consumer item and manufacturers turned to fibres such as cotton.

In the early 20th century, American housewives – in good democratic tradition – would often reuse rough cotton animal feed sacks by cutting them up into dish towels. Not content with their unfinished appearance, however, they embroidered them with intricate patterns, despite the difficulty of working with the coarse weave of the sacks.

In modern times, tea towels can be made of cotton, linen union (a mixture of linen and cotton) or terrycloth, a thick cotton pile.

Still an object of fascination in the 21st century, the tea towel has become the canvas on which we paint our life and our obsessions. At the Radical Tea Towel Company we use the finest materials and printing techniques and combine them with bold messages. The results are unique tea towels and aprons that you will want to keep or give as presents to rally family, friends and relatives to the cause!

© 2013 The Radical Tea Towel Company

What Are Your Favorite Heirloom Seeds?


still life James Peale, Balsam Apples & Vegetables

Today’s post is not so much a post as a query directed at any readers who are also gardeners.

I do not want genetically modified seed nor do I want to support a company responsible for them. I don’t want hybrids either. That means some of the companies in the list owned by or affiliated with Monsanto are no longer seeds I will buy – primarily Ferry Morse.

Almost all the seeds I used this year were Ferry Morse seeds and I had a terrible germination rate. In fact the only seeds I had a really good germination on were the collards. By then, due to poor germination with other seeds, I sowed the collards so thickly I have been thinning them weekly for three weeks now. American Seeds brand had an even worse germination rate than the Ferry Morse and produced nothing.
Unfortunately, short of mail order those two are about the only brand available here. I can get Martha Stewart seeds, but really, who knows what those are and where they came from? There are vague theories that Ferry Morse packages them under the Martha Stewart name which would mean they’re the same seeds, but the price is jacked up on the Martha Stewart seeds.

For the coming year I ordered from Sustainable Seed Co., and I’ll be ordering from Baker Creek Seeds, Southern Exposure, Victory, and Seed Savers Exchange. No more rack seeds for me.

Feel free to comment on your success or lack of it with any of these sources, comment on your preferred source for seeds, or correct this list. I did not check out every company individually, but instead compared several online lists. The list may or may not be completely accurate. I did find some companies, for example, Burpee and Johnny’s, that were given a clean bill of health on some lists after originally being listed as Monsanto owned on others.

Note how the Treasured Garden [Heflin, AL] answered a query about whether they sold GMO’s. Any comments?

There is a lot of misinformation currently about GMO seeds. There are no GMO tomatoes, peppers and
most other vegetables. They just don’t exist at Monsanto or anywhere else. There are commercial seeds of corn and soybeans but that are only grown by commercial farms. Backyard garden seeds are not altered at all and are safe to grow.

The primary concern with GMO’s is that our foods in the grocery stores are almost exclusively being grown using GMO corn and soybean seeds on commercial farms. Even buying organic doesn’t guarantee GMO free.

Audubon Workshop
Breck’s Bulbs
Cook’s Garden
Dege Garden Center
Earl May Seed
E & R Seed Co
Ferry Morse
Flower of the Month Club
Gardens Alive
Germania Seed Co
Garden Trends
Lindenberg Seeds
McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers
Mountain Valley Seed
Park Bulbs
Park’s Countryside Garden
R.H. Shumway
Roots and Rhizomes
Seeds for the World
Seymour’s Selected Seeds
Spring Hill Nurseries
T&T Seeds
Tomato Growers Supply
Totally Tomato
Vermont Bean Seed Co.
Wayside Gardens
Willhite Seed Co.
American Seeds
De Ruiter
Diener Seeds
Fielder’s Choice
Gold Country Seed
Heritage Seeds
Hubner Seed
Jung Seed
Kruger Seeds
Lewis Hybrids
Rea Hybrids
Stone Seed
Western Seeds

Listed here are some safe seeds to purchase to ensure Non GMO Seeds.

Not owned by Monsanto:
Abundant Life Seeds
Amishland Seeds
Annapolis Valley
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Burpee – See below
Heritage Seed Company (Nova Scotia, Canada)
Diane’s Flower Seeds
Ed Hume Seeds
Garden City Seeds
Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
Heirloom Seeds
Heirloom Organics
Horizon Herbs
Johnny’s Seeds
Landreth Seeds
Lake Valley Seeds
Livingston Seeds
Local Harvest
Mountain Rose Herbs
Organica Seed
Park Seeds
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Seeds of Change (Owned by Mars Inc.)
Southern Exposure
Sustainable Seed Co (added on request of the company)
Territorial Seeds
Tiny Seeds
Uprising Seeds
Virtual Farm Seed Co
Wildseed Farms


The owner of Burpee Seed stated they are not owned by Monsanto, do not sell GMO seeds, but do purchase some seeds from Seminis.


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