NP [Rochester, NY?]: np [D.M. Dewey's American Fruit & Flower Plates, Colored from Nature, 2300 Varieties] Mensing & Stecher, Lith. nd [early 1880s?]. Oblong leather catalogue (scuffed and worn, gilt tooling around front cover), 14 x 22 cm., with a color lithographed title page and 61 color plates. Remains of a metal clasp on front board. Bookplate on front and rear pastedowns: "This book is the property of W.W. Thompson, Nurseryman, Smithville, Georgia, and is never sold." Several of the plates are imprinted on the verso, "Grown at the Le Conte Nursery, Smithville, Georgia, W.W. Thompson, Prop'r." Two additional plates have been carefully pruned away, leaving only a stub. Plates include varieties of apple, pear, peach, persimmon, pomegranate, fig, plum, quince, grapes, strawberries, and mulberries, each with a short printed caption, and most with D.M. Dewey's imprint (one has the imprint of A. Hoen & Co., Richmond, Va.). Pencil notes mention growing times, and on the plate showing the Le Conte Pear, the note reads "From photograph of Le Conte limb; 14 inch limb from a 7 year old Le Conte pear tree had 24 pears on. Grown at Le Conte Nursery." Three of the plates show landscape designs, two for homes, one for cemetery lots. Small abrasion on one plate, scattered foxing and soiling to others, a well used sample book, but colors are bright. Item #62746
"These plates were initially produced by stenciling, a process developed by Dellon Dewey in the 1850s and carried on by a number of small Rochester businesses throughout the years. By the 1870s Dewey had a stock of over two thousand different plates available for incorporation in nurserymen's catalogs." Later, chromolithography replaced the stenciling process. The firm of Mensing & Stecher in Rochester, NY, whose name appears on the title page of this catalog, operated in Rochester between 1877 and 1887. They produced many botanical color plates of fruits, vegetables, plants, and trees. The loose plates were then assembled into catalogs for salesmen who traveled throughout the country. [see: Jay Last, "The Color Explosion: Nineteenth-Century American Lithography," Santa Ana, CA: 2005, p.272].
This catalog was specifically made up for W.W. Thompson's Le Conte Nursery in Smithville, Georgia. Thompson, originally an orange grower in Florida, opened the Le Conte Nursery in Smithville in the early 1880s to cultivate pears, grape vines and other fruits. According to a newspaper article in "Southern World: Journal of Industry for the farm, home and workshop," published in Atlanta, Georgia May 15, 1884, Thompson had 1700 LeConte pear trees, 200 Keifer pears, and 100 Orientals growing on 22 acres at his nursery: "The 'LeContes' are conelike and beautiful in form and bloomed for the first time in the present season. They will average a yield of five bushels to each tree next year. …The same gentleman has flourishing plantations of Japanese persimmon trees, peaches early and late, 50 varieties of grapes, wild goose plums, quinces, figs and apples.”
The Le Conte pear was brought to Georgia from New York by John Eatton Le Conte in the 1850s. An article describing it appeared in the Atlanta paper "The Weekly Constitution," on July 11, 1882: "War spared it, and the immense yield and fine flavor attracted attention. The neighbors begged cuttings, and in a few years the Le Conte was established in two or three counties, but it is only in the last few years that it has made a reputation away from home. The tree is one of usual vigor. The fruit has never been known to blight…. Men have cleared as high as $2,000 from seventy-five trees…."