The O'Donnell Garden
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 Francis O’Donnell’s garden in Mountain Lake Park, Maryland, told in her own words through her 1924 contest submission.
Transcription of Francis O’Donnell’s letter to W. Atlee Burpee Co.:
“For Prize Contest”
Mountain Lake Park, Md., Aug. 13, 1924.
W. Atlee Burpee Co.
To keep my two husky boys – one six and a half and the other five years old – out of mischief and in happy, purposeful, educative activity, without neglecting my year-old baby, has been my problem.
Burpee’s seeds have been my greatest help in solving the problem.
The “garden game” carried on with Burpee’s seeds has meant for me and my young sons:-
2. Appetite for previously despised vegetables
3. Considerable saving in the cost of living
4. Joy in winning the “garden game” we have played to-gether
5. Freedom from the evil influence of the idle neighbor boys, who are “bad” because they are idle
6. Knowledge of some of life’s secrets that we have talked over as we watch life develop
7. Closer companionship between parents and children – which companionship will grow, I hope, “like Burpee’s seeds.”
My advice to parents is – if you want to interest your children in nature, in healthful occupation, buy “seeds that grow.” Don’t spoil the “garden game” by taking a chance on your seeds.
Francis O’Donnell (Mrs. E.R. O’Donnell)