Founded in 1876, W. Atlee Burpee & Company grew to be the largest seed company in the world by the early twentieth century. In 1924 the company advertised a contest in its Seed Annual asking customers to write in about “What Burpee’s Seeds Have Done for Me,” with prizes for the best stories ranging from five to two hundred and fifty dollars. Roughly 4,000 contest letters, as well as many accompanying photographs, are part of the W. Atlee Burpee & Company Collection at the Archives of American Gardens. This is the story of J.E. Moate’s garden in Tujunga, California, told in his own words through his 1924 contest submission.
Transcription of J.E. Moate’s letter to W. Atlee Burpee Co.:
W. Atlee Burpee Co.,
What your seeds have done for me the enclosed snap-shots testify, though inadequately.
“How d’you do it?” neighbors query, admiring our teeming quarter-acre while buying our produce.
Burpee’s seed – intensive cultivation. That’s the secret,” quoth I. “Try it!”
The quick response of “seeds that grow” proves an ever new delight,- fosters my growth, too. Through observing what plants live and thrive by, I learn what men live by, for gardening brings us near the heart of things. Here indeed are true values:- childhood’s happy hunting-ground, wide horizons of freedom and promise, easement of pain, creative joy, involving no man’s sorrow or oppression.
Someday, my boys along with me, I’ll climb atop these marvellous Verdugo Hills, and this to them I’ll say: “Far off, beyond the glittering plain and purple mountains, are high romance, adventure, ambitious strivings, far-flung battle-lines of triumph and disaster—the stuff-of-life that beckons Youth. Should you survive that larger testing ground, you still may find embodied in our simple, unpretentious garden-home, the nurture and foundation of it all—the love, the service, the binding up of wounds, the peace that saith, “I am satisfied.”