W. Atlee Burpee & Company Records, circa 1873-1978
AAG.BRP2
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAG.BRP2
Creators:
Burpee, W. Atlee, (Washington Atlee), 1858-1915
James Vick's Sons (Rochester, N.Y.).
W. Atlee Burpee & Co.
Wm. Henry Maule (Firm)
Dates:
circa 1873-1978
bulk 1890-1930
Languages:
English
Collection is in English.
Physical Description:
201 cubic feet
12,715 items
Repository:
Archives of American Gardens
The collection contains the records of W. Atlee Burpee & Company and includes accounting records, seed trial records, seed contracts, sales records, contracts, inventories, office correspondence, contest letters, seed catalogs, pamphlets, advertisements and advertising reports, daybooks, photographs and other items relating to the company and some of its competitors. The collection is not comprehensive and includes significant gaps.

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
Collection is arranged into three series:
Series 1: Plant/Farm Related Materials
Series 2: Business Materials
Series 3: Miscellaneous

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
Washington Atlee Burpee (1858-1915) began a mail-order poultry and livestock business in 1876 in Philadelpia, which he soon expanded to include corn seed for chicken feed. In 1878, he founded W. Atlee Burpee & Co., the primary focus of which was to sell vegetable, fruit, and flower seeds through the mail. This company would go on to become one of the most notable seed distributors in the United States.
By 1888, Burpee's family home, Fordhook Farms, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was established as an experimental farm to test and evaluate new varieties of vegetables and flowers, and to produce seeds. He spent many summers traveling throughout the United States and Europe, visiting farms and searching for the best flowers and vegetables; certain plants he found were shipped to Fordhook Farms for testing. Plants that survived were bred with healthier specimens to produce heartier hybrids that were more resistant to disease. Other trial gardens were established in Lompoc, California and near Swedesboro, New Jersey.
David Burpee took over the family business upon his father's death in 1915. At that time, the Burpee Company had 300 employees and was the largest seed company in the world. It distributed over one million catalogs a year and received 10,000 orders a day. In response to food shortages caused by World War I, the Burpee Company helped promote a "war gardens" campaign that evolved into a "victory gardens" campaign during World War II. Both were aimed at city dwellers and instructed them on how to grow vegetables for their own consumption to aid in the war effort.
In 1947, Burpee merged with W. Henry Maule Co. In 1970, the Burpee Company was sold to General Foods; the corporate headquarters moved from Philadelphia to Warminster, Pennsylvania in 1974. David Burpee remained a consultant until his death in 1981. In 1991, Burpee merged with George J. Ball, Inc.

Administration
Processing Information note
Processed by Candace Graham in 2002.
Revised by Joyce Connolly in 2011.
Separated Materials note
Seed catalogs can be found in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History Branch Library Trade Literature Collection.
Author
Finding aid prepared by Candace Graham

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access note
Access to original images by appointment only. Researcher must submit request for appointment in writing. Certain items may be restricted and not available to researchers. Please direct reference inquiries to the Archives of American Gardens: aag@si.edu.
Conditions Governing Use note
Archives of American Gardens encourages the use of its archival materials for non-commercial, educational and personal use under the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. Use or copyright restrictions may exist. It is incumbent upon the researcher to ascertain copyright status and assume responsibility for usage. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by Archives of American Gardens.
Preferred Citation note
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, W. Atlee Burpee & Company Records.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Account books--19th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Account books--20th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Advertising Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Agriculture Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Business Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Business records Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Contests Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Flowers Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gardens--United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Horticulture Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mail-order business Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pamphlets Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Seed industry and trade Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Trade catalogs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Trial gardens Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Vegetables Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Victory gardens Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Gardens
P.O. Box 37012
Capital Gallery, Suite 3300, MRC 506
Washington, DC, 20013-7012
Phone: 202-633-5840
aag@si.edu