Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vintage Garden

We found only the first page of "Gardening as a Cure for Mental Breakdowns" amongst some other garden ephemera in a box. We dearly wish we had the entire article by Bolton Hall, an early advocate of "vacant lot gardening", from The Worlds Work… A History of Our Time.

Here is the opening paragraph: When the official returns of the Philadelphia hospital for the insane at Byberry showed that the inmates of the institution had raised about $10,000 worth of garden truck in one year, gardening began to attract attention as a cure for mild cases of lunacy. Since that time the experiment has been made in many hospitals for the insane and always with gratifying results. Not only have good crops been secured (interesting choice of primary project benefit), but the improvement of the condition of the patient has always been notable.

Chemical gardening in this case is just as advertised, growing plants without soil. The colorful, nicely designed cover is quite a mismatch with the black and white and rather dull content inside.

This album of a complete set of Will's cigarette cards on the topic of Gardening Hints dates to 1923 and was purchased at the Portobello Road market in London. Cigarette cards were enclosed in every pack of cigarettes originally only as a stiffener to protect your cancer sticks from damage. Someone, an American wouldn't you know, had the brilliant idea of using the formerly blank cards as advertising space with collectible images.

From about 1901 Cigarette Cards really caught on and thousands of different sets were issued by over 300 tobacco companies, Wills issued over 175 different sets alone. It is believed there were over 11,000 cards issued depicting the subject of cricket.

Many sets are still regarded as minature reference books with illustrations and texts absolutely correct. Children of the time used to stand outside tobacconists asking smokers for their 'fag' cards, they were then kept to make up sets and sometimes try and win more by playing games with the cards and hopefully winning them. Unfortunately most cards were damaged when played with, making them now worthless as condition to collectors of today is quite important.
- from history section of cigarettecards.co.uk

The themes of the cigarette cards of old are too numerous to name here, but we find the inclusion of gardening topics quite interesting knowing what we do about the dangers of smoking and gardening as companion pastimes. Tobacco on hands is the prime method of spreading tobacco mosaic virus. Not smoking, or washing your hands if you do is the best prevention.

So, don't smoke, examine your nursery seedlings carefully, and just as you do at your favorite restaurant, pray that the workers at the greenhouse are paying attention to the "All Employees Must Wash Hands" sign when their smoke break is over.

1 comment:

Honeybee said...

You teach me something new almost every day! By the way, where in the world did you find these? (P.S. Another interesting word verification word: "shint")