While visiting family over the holidays I had the opportunity to go to the National Agricultural Library in Maryland. The National Agricultural Library is one of four national libraries of the United States and houses one of the world’s largest collection devoted to agriculture and its related sciences.
I made an appointment to go into the special collections with the purpose of researching old popcorn varieties. When I arrived the librarian presented me with a cart full of seed catalogs dating back to the late 1800’s and glass negatives of images captured during field tests in the early 1900’s. I spent the afternoon with the help of my mom looking through every document on that cart.
It was amazing to handle and flip through seed catalogs that are over a hundred years old. We found many varieties of popcorn I have never heard of before like Monarch White Rice, Queen’s Golden, and Mapledale Prolific which claims to grow 5 to 12 ears per stalk!
Just like modern day seed catalogs reading the seed descriptions was very intriguing and mouth-watering, I wish I could place an order with these bygone companies. My hope is to be able to track down these old varieties through the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation aka the USDA seed bank.