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"Manure Freely": The Floral Stylings of Julius J. Heinrich

Dec 2, 2014 12:05 PM | 0 comments

The Brooklyn Collection's ephemera files are pretty expansive, filled with an array of amazing (and sometimes random) documents tucked away into acid-free manila folders: programs, community newsletters, membership cards, and the like. We have a fair amount of newspapers and periodicals as well, including one well-loved booklet from 1889 entitled Henirch's Floral Instructor.

I was drawn to the book due to the filigree on the cover and the floral-themed typeface. It is pretty, yes? As I started to gently flip through the pages I began to get some scents (Pun! Bad pun!) of late 19th century floriculture, something I knew absolutely nothing about. Quite frankly, I didn't even know that floriculture was a word. I have since tried to use it in my daily life but it is a hard one to stick in there.

Folks have had gardens for a long time. There was that whole hanging one in Babylon a few thousand years ago, Versailles has a pretty one, etc. However, it was with the rise of floriculture in the late 1800s, essentially flower farming, that a wider swath of the population was able to fill indoor and outdoor gardens with flowering plants. The invention of new steam greenhouses replaced both the temperamental flume style houses with small fires that had to be constantly stoked and the outdated greenhouses that were heated with manure. During the Progressive Era of the late 1800s there was also a general desire to reconnect with nature as cities began to swell - the Fresh Air Fund has been sending low-income New Yorkers to the country since 1877 and both the New York Botanical Garden (1891) and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (1910) came around during this movement to get folks to stop and smell the roses. 

Heinrich's Floral Instructor is, in fact, quite instructive. He begins with a discussion of the oft-undervalued grass plot. "Probably no part of the garden gets more abuse and less attention than a Grass Plot," Heinrich writes, "and if neglected, no part looks worse, and is noticed quicker than the Grass Plot." Even the finest home, he goes on, can be made uninviting by an uneven or spotty plot. His booklet has directions for planting, cutting, sowing, and general maintenance of grasses of all sorts. He doesn't stop at grass, though. 

When it comes to vegetables, Heinrich tells you exactly how deep and how far apart to plant the seeds. He also offers a vital piece of advice for the novice gardener: "manure freely." The more rotten the better. Your cabbages will thank you. 

As the title suggests, Heinrich was a seedsman and florist, thus, he specialized in flowers. The last few pages are devoted to window gardens and the care of individual plants, how to prep spring gardens, and which flowers should be paired with which. The drawings in the book are really detailed and quite lovely. Heinrich's flower shop was located at 121 Court Street or, if you couldn't make it in person, he'd send you a few seed packs for twenty-five cents. 

The back of the book displays some excellent ads (which also run throughout) for Heinrich's other floral services, the floral services of one Henderson, and one for a croup tonic distributed by someone named A. Bauer. Maybe it's just me, but the idea of drinking anything called 'tar syrup' to try to get rid of a cough seems counterintuitive. 

I took a chance and searched for Julius J. Heinrich in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and actually got a few hits, one of which, from March 28th, 1910, was a mention of one of his later books on a recommended reading list composed by none other than yours truly (the Brooklyn Public Library, not me). So, he had two books, huh? Interesting. 

In the Brooklyn Connections program, we always tell our students to look a little deeper. I decided to take my own advice. Using the resources available in the Brooklyn Collection, I wanted to try to discover as much as I could about this manure-loving seedman. From the booklet I had his name and his flower shop's address to start. 

And I found some things. And one or two of them may or may not be (read: may) be juicy...

...get excited!

Archival Adventure - Julius J. Heinrich! still to come!