Gallery: Harrison’s Nurseries Catalogue, 1912

Continuing the theme of early twentieth century fruit illustrations, here are a bunch of colourised plates from the 1912 catalogue of the (long defunct) Harrison’s Nurseries of Berlin, Maryland.

Perhaps there’s not quite as much artistic merit on display as the vintage fruit illustrations being tweeted out by @pomological, but they’re still quite lovely.

Apple ‘Stayman’s Winesap’ and Peach ‘Crawford’s Late’, from the 1912 Harrison’s Nursery Catalogue
Apple ‘York Imperial’ from the 1912 Harrison’s Nursery Catalogue
Peach ‘Ray’, from the 1912 Harrison’s Nursery Catalogue
Cherries, from the 1912 Harrison’s Nursery Catalogue
Strawberries ‘Klondyke’ and ‘Candy’ from the 1912 Harrison’s Nursery Catalogue

Slightly later editions of the catalogue dropped the colour plates, presumably due to the additional expense of printing them, but the 1925 catalogue does include a family tree of the Harrison clan:

The Harrison’s Nurseries management from the 1925 catalogue

Who Were the Harrisons?

The nursery firm that boasted of being the “largest growers of fruit trees in the world” seems to have largely disappeared from the historical record, apart from a brief mention on on a Berlin, MD tourist website.

According to 1901 Harrison’s catalogue, the firm was founded around 1887, when proprietor Joe G. Harrison was in his teens. There is a record elsewhere of an earlier Storrs & Harrison nursery in Painesville, Ohio, on the shores of lake Erie. J. J. Harrison founded his nursery in 1854, and merged with the Storrs operation around 1858, according to a video on the history of the Lake County nurseries. The previous piece tells us that “other nurseries rose and prospered, often fostered by the Storrs & Harrison operation”, but it’s unclear whether it refers to other nurseries in the area, or other (Storrs and) Harrison brand nurseries elsewhere. Because there was also a Harrison nursery in York, Nebraska, which was “founded around 1876 by York resident Charles Simmons Harrison”. I wonder if the the Berlin and/or York nurseries could have been scions or off-shoots of the Painesville parent company?

There could be an English connection, too. Pre-dating all of the above was Harrison’s the Nurserymen (pdf link), of Leicester, a firm that was apparently still going strong when they marked their bi-centenary in 1964. The Storr & Harrison piece mentions that one of the two nurseries that merged to form the company was founded by “an English Immigrant, JJ Harrison”, and there’s another reference to J. J. on the Lake County History website, which confirms that he “migrated from England as a small child” in 1832. And from the Leicester history pdf doc, we learn that the Harrisons’ business was extended by another member of the extended clan, Thomas Harrison, who bought a shop to sell seeds from, in 1833.

I wonder: was Thomas a brother or cousin of J. J.’s emigrating father? Was a dynasty of Leicestershire Harrisons responsible for establishing and expanding the enormous Storrs & Harrison nursery business in Lake County? Was it the same, or another, branch of the family that went on to develop the “largest fruit tree nursery in the world” in Berlin, Md? Maybe not; after all, it’s not as if Harrison is a particularly rare surname, so it could all just be coincidence and conjecture on my part.

It doesn’t look like there’s quite enough information online for me to piece a clearer picture together, so I doubt I’ll be able to find out. But I do enjoy disappearing down this sort of speculative, historical rabbit-hole from time to time.

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