This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
"For ten cents or three for a quarter," the brokers and bankers of Philadelphia, near the"Exchange," were purchasing sticks of the common Sweet Gum, one day last April, on the assurance of the street vender that it " bore a large blue flower, so deliciously scented, which would burst into beauty in one week after the stick was planted, and scent the whole house from cellar to garret with a delicious perfume, and which the buyer would not be without for $100".
The writer of this being invited to " invest," spoiled the fun by incautiously observing: " I will give you one minute by the watch to leave, or you shall be arrested for swindling these people." Without a word, the vender gathered his bundle of sticks and departed, to the astonishment of the crowd, who, with the purchased treasures in their hand, looked on in wonder, and some inquired what it meant, and whether their " choice alligator plants" were not what they ought to be V Mentioning the matter to his Honor, Mayor Stokley, he said if the writer of this would prosecute he would send a detective to buy a branch, for he did not want complaints so much as evidence of guilt. This struck us as very reasonable, and a detective went along till we found the lively young man sitting down on a corner attempting no business, but merely answering questions put to him. Of course we stood back while the detective went to work, but in spite of all encouragement the flower's would not be "blue" nor would they be"scented." The perfume of the business had vanished, and then, as the detective reported, that " Sam Madiera spoiled the business, for when he asked the name of the plant and the vender said it was the Florida Alligator plant," Sam, who seems to have smelled the alligator in that wood pile, " wanted to know what was its name in New Jersey?" So we walked away without our man.
On our way to the Mayor's office we passed a hardware store wherein one of our little folks had exchanged a quarter dollar for a pocket knife " warranted pure steel," the blade of which bent like a piece of pewter; further on was a store in which beautiful fabrics were displayed and " only 50 cents a yard" noted thereon, and which our better half thought she bought, only it was not from that piece,"but just the same," as the polite attendant assured her, - but which proved in the end to be a much more worthless article; again we came to the office of a periodical especially " down on humbugs," which advertises that it has"a circulation of twenty thousand copies," when it is well known to those in the secret it has not five thousand; and finally as we were musing on these things, during our street walk, we came on the poster of the great showman, and from the pictured lips we heard the voice"if you give 25 cents worth for 25 cents, it is honest. If people, are fools enough to believe they are to get a dollar's worth for a quarter, it is no business of yours!""We did not stop to decide this very questionable bit of morality; but it was clear that if this street man gave"a stick worth ten cents, for ten cents, and his buyers were fools enough to believe it was worth $100," there was no difference that we could see between him, Barnum, newspapers, and tradespeople gen-eralty; and we were rather glad than otherwise, that the ten cent swindle got off'on that occasion, while so many dollar ones flouiished everywhere around, and were held to be quite respectable besides.
The curiously corked bark of the branches of the gum made it well worth ten cents to the citizen who had never seen it.