Smithsonian Snapshot: W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution

This week’s snapshot of an artifact not on display but contained within the archives of the Smithsonian Institution is that of a W. Atlee Burpee & Company Seed catalog. This seed catalog is from the W. Atlee Burpee & Co., which was founded in Philadelphia in 1876 by Washington Atlee Burpee, an 18-year-old with a passion for plants and animals—and a mother willing to lend him $1,000 of “seed money” to start his business.

The seed trade catalogs document the history of the seed and agricultural business in the United States; they also provide a history of botany and plant research such as the introduction of plant varieties into the country. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries’ trade catalog collection includes about 10,000 seed and nursery catalogs dating from 1830 to the present.

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

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