DescriptionFounded 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 Clyde Williamson’s garden in New London, Connecticut, told in his own words through his 1924 contest submission.
Transcription of Clyde Williamson’s letter to W. Atlee Burpee Co.:
“For Prize Contest”
You see it’s like this; College turned me loose one day without telling me very much about the plain, homely bread and butter side of life. Consequently after being out of college for seventeen years and finding myself with a family of seven children I was facing something that trigonometry and calculus wouldn’t solve.
Oh I had a good job for a young fellow. Thirty-six hundred a year pays a good many bills even in a family of seven children but that’s where the rub came. It didn’t pay them all and do you know as I looked around I found a lot of young men like myself who were getting fairly good salaries but somehow were spending just a little bit more than they were getting.
Now it’s hard to boil this down to two hundred words but I squared myself one day and looked things in the face. I rented a little place right here in the city where I could raise an acre of garden truck. My father is a seedsman up in New York State and he had taught me from boyhood to use Burpee seeds if I wanted the best vegetables.
From peas and bunch onions right up through lettuce, string beans, lima beans, beets, carrots, tomatoes, green corn, cabbages, cucumbers and melons to celery and potatoes my family got back to first principles. And now do not misunderstand me it was not the amount of money I made from the sale of vegetables that stopped my balance sheet from “showing red” it was the getting right down in the dirt and working out with my hands the problems that college forgot to teach. Burpees seeds have really taught me the underlying principles of financial success.
New London, Conn.