This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Bt Thomas M. Cooley, Toledo, Ohio.
A considerable number of our cities and villages boast Horticultural Societies, whose efforts in behalf of pomology are traceable in an increased knowledge of that science, and an improvement in its practice, in the country immediately surrounding the places at which they are located. For the most part, these societies are not organized for a large territory, the number of their members is not expected to be large, and the attendance at their weekly or monthly meetings is not too great to permit of each person examining all the fruits presented, and becoming acquainted with the appearance if not with the flavor of each. As yet, however, the agricultural community a little removed from towns* have not thought it worth their while to organize such societies, and to meet the want of them a pomological department has been added to almost all the yearly State and County gatherings now commonly designated "Fairs." As it is upon these that farmers are to depend principally, for a long time to come, for such aid in acquiring a knowledge of fruit-culture as organized effort can give them, we propose to glance briefly at the mode in which the pomological exhibition is made at these fairs, and to point out a few particulars in which, in our opinion, the value of that exhibition might be materially increased.
Let the readative woods. It is this annual surface dd to fruits, at one of these State Fairs. Extending all around the building are long tables, upon which exhibitors have arranged their fruits, labeled with names, or numbers, or not at all, as suited their respective fancies. In front of these tables is placed a railing, to protect them from the crowd of visitors; and behind that the exhibitors, if they happen to be nurserymen, station themselves to improve the opportunity of advertising their wares. On examining such of the fruits as are labeled with names, we are surprized to find bo many of the names wrong. Here is the Baldwin under the name of Hubbard*-ton Nonsuch; the Herefordshire Pearmain and the Rambo both labeled Seeh-no-fur-ther; the Green Newtown Pippin designated Rhode Island Greening; the Woleott mistaken for the Red Gillifiower; and red Apples of various sizes, shapes, and flavors, which the exhibitors seem determined to crowd into the already extensive family of Spitzenburghs. With the Pears it is, if possible, still worse; for Bell Pear, Butter Pear, Pound Pear, and Virgalieu, seem to be generic names under which a hundred different species having little apparent affinity are classed by their growers.
It unfortunately happens that with some of the varieties which we find honored with duplicate names, we are wholly unaquainted; and apart of the inducement for our coming hither was to acquire some knowledge of them that would at least enable us to recognise them when we met again. A few new varieties, promising great excellence, have also been originated in the region where this fair is located; but though we have strong reason for believing that they are exhibited here, we look in vain over the tables for their names, and are compelled to an uncertain search for them among the unnumbered and unlabeled ones. We had been told that we should also see at this fair fruits from four degrees of latitude and eight of longitude, and we had anticipated great pleasure and much instruction from a comparison of the different specimens presented, and a study of the various peculiarities induced by differences in soil, climate, and situation; but though the professional exhibitors have some of them taken the pains to affix their cards over their entries, in many cases after diligent inquiry we are unable to ascertain, from the entry tickets or otherwise, where the fruits were raised, or anything of the climatic or other influences which have affected them.
In-deed, we learn, on inquiry, that the name and residence of the exhibitor are not allowed to be placed on the entry ticket, lest dishonest judges might give partial decisions; while it never seems to have occurred to the managers that exhibitors who cared to have the fruits of their raising known have many ways of making them known aside from using for that purpose the tickets they receive from the Secretary. The committee on fruits are alone able to render us any essential aid in this pursuit of knowledge under difficulties; yet, except the time when they are engaged in the discharge of their duties, it is quite as easy to obtain without their assistance the information we desire, as to find the members of this committee.
• This article was sent us qftor the exhibition of 1888, and we thought it better to defer Its pablication till the.
It will not be surprising, therefore, that we return home from this exhibition but litle wiser than we came, and fully impressed with the belief that though State fairs may be valuable to committeemen, and afford them a fine opportunity of becoming familiar with the fruits of the State, yet to the public at large this portion of the show is about as valuable as if the tables had been loaded with stones instead of Apples and Pears. But we are more than ever convinced of that fact, when we see the report of the committee published among the transactions of the Society; for though they have taken pains to inform us that they have awarded premiums in due form for the best single variety, and for the beat three and six varieties of fall and winter Apples and Pears, they have not thought it worth their while to inform us.
Gillifiowers, the Pennocks, and the Monstrous Pippins, in their ignorance of any better Apples, may cultivate them in the same ignorance forever, if they are to depend upon this Society for enlightenment.
The State fair which we have supposed, is a sample of many State and County exhibitions; and though not of all, yet many of the objections stated will apply with force to almost any of them. Let us recapitulate these objections, with suggestions for their removal.
1st It is a mistaken policy, we think, to endeavor to conceal the names of exhibitors. It is so, first, because it fails of its object whenever the exhibitors see fit to disclose themselves to the committee; secondly, because a part of the interest we take in any production is connected with the name of the producer and his reputation in that department; and thirdly, because fruits are varied so much by climate and other incidents, that a knowledge of the place where they grow is absolutely necessary to enable us to judge correctly of them. (1)
2d. Exhibitors should never be permitted to leave their own labels upon fruits, unless the committee on examination have found them correct The incorrect labels confuse and mislead the public.
3d. Competent persons should be designated to stand by the fruits, to inform those desiring to know about names, qualities, &c; or, if that should be found inexpedient, all fruits should as far as possible be correctly named, and be labeled with the name and residence of the person growing them.
4th. Committees, in awarding premiums to best varieties, should invariably give names, so that those who depend upon them for information may know what are considered best varieties for cultivation in the region iu which they live.
5th. Fruit committees ought to report a condemned list of such fruits unworthy of cultivation as are presented for examination. We might thus hope that some of us would live to see the culture of such noble looking but worthless fruits as the Penned Apple (now met with everywhere) discontinued.
And, in conclusion, the necessity for any pomological department at such fairs should be done away with as soon as possible, by the organization of town or district horticultural societies, that should hold weekly meetings, and thus make their mem-hers familiar with the fruits of all seasons. The present system is but a poor substitute for such societies, and its continuance should be as brief as the lovers of good fruit can possibly make it.
[ 1. We believe strongly in the propriety and necessity of prohibiting the names of exhibitors from being attached to their fruits until the committees have made their awards. Committees, though meaning well, without the slightest intention to be partial, are very frequently so when they know the names of exhibitors. A person's reputation will induce the idea sometimes that his fruit is really better than it is. Sometimes a committee will sympathise with the exhibitor, and say "he ought to be encouraged," etc, etc.; but when no names are to be seen, the committee are of necessity confined to the simple question, the merits Of the fruits. But then we would have all committees to make their examinations and awards before the exhibition of fruits is thrown open to the public, and then exhibitors should be. allowed to place their names upon the fruits, and give as much publicity to it as possible, and all the prize collections and articles should be conspicuously so designated.
To the other propositions we give our cordial assent, and comment the whole article to those who are about to take a part in the direction of exhibitions. - Ed].