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.
All manner of frauds are perpetrated, day after day and year after year, upon a credulous public, and yet the last reaps as rich a harvest as the first We have therefore but little hope that anything can be done to stay deceptive trading in trees, plants, or seeds. Our correspondent "M," of Maumee, Ohio, related in our last number some of the tricks of foreign adventurers in the West, and we have seen the very same things done in this enlightened horticultural city of ours a few years ago. Large quantities of the merest trash were sold at exorbitant prices to persons who were never known to patronize respectable nurserymen and florists at their own doors to the amount of a dollar. A short time ago a gentleman from one of the Eastern States called on us, and inquired for a person who he said had sold huge quantities of Apple trees in his neighborhood,, representing himself to be the proprietor of one of the oldest and most extensive nurseries in Western New York, and representing also that his trees were propagated by some superior method which was known to him only, and which gave them a decided superiority over trees grown in the ordinary way.
On inquiry, we found this man did not own a single foot of land, had never been a nurseryman, nor had he any interest whatever in any nursery establishment, but bought such trees as he could make the largest profit on. He was a crafty rogue, however, - pretended more than ordinary piety, and victimized the religious people of New England handsomely. A few weeks ago a nurseryman of Rochester received intelligence that he was represented in some parts of Ohio by a person who claimed to be his agent and son, while he not only did not know such a person, but had never seen him or heard of him before, and he was compelled to incur the trouble and expense of advertising him as an imposter. Is not this a high-handed piece of deception to be attempted in such a business, and among an intelligent people ? The man who will do such a* thing is not a particle better than he who counterfeits a bank bill or a silver dollar, or who will forge a signature to a bank check. We have it from perfectly reliable authority, that a company of tree dealers, hailing from Ohio, purchased at a small nursery in Western New York a quantity of seedling unworked fruit trees, (Peaches and Cherries,) knowing them to be such, - for the nurseryman we believe to be a perfectly honest man, - and they took them up, tied them in parcels, and attached labels to them bearing the names of all the best fruits in the catalogues.
We were informed that these spurious articles were to be carried to Tennessee. Here is a piece of villainy for you I Such men richly deserve the penitentiary, and we can not understand how any honest man could conscientiously refrain from exposing them, and thus aid in bringing them to punishment.
In every part of the country people have been outrageously deceived by itinerant grafters, They traverse the country, and take orders to do grafting at so much apiece for all that live. When the season of grafting comes, a few workmen come along with a wagon-load of scions, containing every variety that could possibly be called for, all procured from the most responsible source; and as a proof of this, a catalogue of some well-known nurseryman is exhibited, and, it may be, a forged bill or invoice, while the scions were most likely cut from some of the orchards they had been grafting in. Thousands of orchards have been ruined in this way. We have now one in our posses-. sion which the previous owner had had grafted by one of these rogues, and instead of having some three or four select sorts, as he ordered, he had a collection of vile rubbish, mostly natural fruit, and in some cases three or four different sorts on a tree.
We might go on and cite cases of this sort which have come to our knowledge enough to fill a dozen pages of this journal, but it would be a waste of time and paper. In this part of the country people are more cautious and careful than formerly, and few men now are willing so trust unknown irresponsible persons with the important duty of grafting their fruit trees. Not so, however, in some parts of the West and South, where we are informed the speculation is in full blast We hope this word of warning may find its way there, and prevent at least a few from allowing themselves to be victimized. It is but just to say, in this connection, that there are honest men engaged in this business of grafting - men in all respects worthy of confidence, - and the service they render to fruit-culture is very great What we have said will be no detriment to them, for they have characters to sustain them and inspire confidence.
Quite as bad as any of the frauds we have mentioned, is that of palming off indifferent and worthless varieties of fruits and flowers, as something new, extraordinary, and valuable, at the most exhorbitant prices. Crafty fellows perambulate the country with exaggerated colored drawings and bombastic descriptions, and thus deceive thousands of people. The common Alpine Strawberry has been peddled for years with the word Mammoth (very captivating) prefixed. The Charter Oak Grape - a great fox Grape, utterly worthless, except, as Mr. Longworth says, that it might serve for cannon balls if lead were scarce - for two or three years has had a fine run in almost every part of the country, at three to five dollars per plant The "Exceleior," and several others puffed and paraded about, are no better.
Strange to say, very many of those who purchase such articles, could not be persuaded to purchase those of real merit Nothing else will serve them but to be humbugged, to use a vulgar but expressive term.
Newspapers lend themselves, unwittingly, as a general thing, to these frauds, and do a great deal of harm. The family newspaper is looked up to as authority; and when these speculators get their glowing descriptions published, their work of deception is half accomplished.
The only thing that can remedy this evil, is the dissemination of intelligence; and we call upon the friends of horticulture and of honest and honorable dealing, in all parts of the country, to lend their aid in exposing and arresting this system of fraud. It is a disgrace to the trade and to the morals of the country. A most unpleasant duty it is for us to give such a subject this importance; but we can not shrink from it Ours is not the only country where such dishonesty is practised; the same game is played on a smaller or larger scale all over Europe, as the pages of their journals prove.
If there be anything about which people should exercise extraordinary care and caution in purchasing, it is that of trees, seeds, and plants. What a loss of time and money, and what a disappointment and mortification, to be deceived in these matters! It is not difficult to avoid impostors, if we but determine on so doing. There are honest tradesmen enough everywhere, from whom a supply can be obtained, - men who have a character at stake, and who feel that their success depends upon their good reputation. These harpies who go about the country deceiving, are here to-day and there to-morrow; they seek patronage but once.
Our advice to all parties who desire to purchase trees, seeds, plants, or flowers - anything pertaining to horticulture in which frauds are or can be committed - is to place their orders in the hands of men whom they know to be trustworthy. Reliable tradesmen are well known, and those of them who have traveling agents, provide them, or should provide them, with the requisite testimonials with which they may give the fullest satisfaction to those whose patronage they solicit On this head a rigid inquiry should be made. No statement should be listened to that appears anywise suspicious.