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.
O pursuit or profession in life, however useful or honorable it may be, or however purifying and ennobling its tendencies, is wholly exempt from the evils of dishonesty. Not even the most sacred of all human vocations can escape this misfortune. Will any one wonder, then, that there should be dishonest nurserymen and seedsmen, and dishonest dealers in trees, plants, and flowers ? Surely not A great deal has been said about the dishonesty of nurserymen, seedsmen, and florists; but if a rigid comparison were made between them and any other class of dealers, we care not which, we have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the result would show that no other branches of trade are, on the whole, conducted with greater honesty and fairness. It may be said that we are an interested party in this case, and therefore not competent to judge; but we take it upon us to say that we are. We believe we are as well acquainted with those who are engaged in horti-cultural commerce in the United States, and have enjoyed as many and as favorable opportunities of studying their characters, as most other men; and, on the strength of this knowledge, we are willing to place them, for honesty of purpose, for energetic and industrious habits, and the general usefulness of their lives, against any other class.
We have no desire to make invidious distinctions or comparisons, or to pit one class or profession against another, but we would remind those who are ever prating about the tricks of nurserymen and seedsmen, that there may be as many short-comings chargeable against their own calling. Who does not hear, every day of his life, about false weights and short measures? Look at the imposition practiced by the manufacturers of all sorts of cloths, by the substitution of one material for another, so that a person who is not thoroughly skilled in all their devices, is sure to be cheated. We have ourselves been sold cotton for woolen goods, by men who are so careful of their reputation that they would either knock down or institute a suit for slander against any one who would question their honesty. Look at the thousand deceptions in articles of food and drink - in tea, coffee, sugar, wines and liquors of all sorts - and in tobacco. Indeed, one can scarcely think of an article, whether of use or luxury, that can safely be bought from a stranger by an inexperienced person. The very saints of the world are engaged in this traffic in spurious commodities unblushingly.
Yet these same hypocrites will cry out about the dishonesty of the poor nurseryman or seedsman who happens by mistake or carelessness to sell one variety for another.
Let us not be understood as justifying the frauds or errors of nurserymen or seedsmen ; far be it from us to do any such thing. We shall rather expose and condemn them. But it should be remembered that it is an easy matter for them to make mistakes, and exceedingly difficult to avoid them. They are handling a great number of varieties of the same article, and their sales being huddled into a few weeks, renders impossible that leisure and circumspection which can be given to ordinary trade. A boy entrusted to attach a label, may get it on the wrong tree or package, and the error may escape notice until too late. In packing, which must be entrusted to workmen, there are many chances for mistakes even where the most rigid surveillance is kept up. Indeed, throughout the whole routine of their business - in propagating, digging, labelling, and packing - there are an almost infinite number of small operations which require exactness, and all of which expose to error. Be charitable, then, and do not call every error a trick or a cheat Every year our professional nurserymen and seedsmen are becoming more systematic and more careful, as well as more discriminating and skillful, and thus the chances for error are rapidly decreasing, except among new beginners, who have everything to learn.
There is growing up, however, in this country, a system of dealing for which respectable nurserymen are not responsible, and to which it is our present purpose to call attention. The extraordinary growth of horticultural commerce within the few past years, has attracted the attention of that large class of speculating individuals who are ever on the look-out for a profitable field of operations - men who are peddling gravestones to-day, lightning-rods to-morrow, patent medicines the next day, and so on from one thing to another. The country is filled with dealers in trees and plants. Beyond a doubt many of them are honest and honorable - men who may fairly be trusted; but it is equally true that very many of them lack honesty, and will not hesitate to misrepresent and deceive wherever they consider deception necessary to success. We have in our hands the most ample evidence of this. Letter upon letter has been for some time past addressed to us upon this subject from all parts of the country, begging us to expose the frauds, and propose some remedy.
But what can we do? The world is full of credulous people, ever ready to be made victims to the crafty stories of unscrupulous rogues, - people who read but little, and whom our warnings will never reach, and who, even if they did, would give them no heed, - people whom even dear-bought experience would fail to teach wisdom. They are the penny-wise and pound-foolish, who will run a thousand risks of being cheated for a single chance of making a good bargain. The authorities of New York city caused flaming placards to be carried around the streets, in the most conspicuous manner, to caution country people against being decoyed into mock auction rooms, where they are certain to be fleeced by a set of stool pigeons; but while these placards are carried up and down all day long, every morning paper brings to light some mock auction frauds, and thousands are daily perpetrated that are never made public All that can be urged against the folly and madness of swallowing patent medicines avails nothing; for we see the country full of traveling medicine chests, and vast fortunes realized from the business.