A nineteenth-century entrepreneur’s bold, innovative marketing helped transform flower gardens into one of America’s favorite hobbies.
“There is much that is hard and productive of sorrow in this sin-plagued world of ours; and, had we no flowers, I believe existence would be hard to be borne.” So states a customer’s 1881 letter—one of thousands James Vick regularly received. Vick’s business, selling flower seeds through the mail, wasn’t unique, but it was wildly successful because he understood better than his rivals how to engage customers’ emotions. He sold the love of flowers along with the flower seeds.
Vick was genuinely passionate about floriculture, but he also pioneered what we now describe as integrated marketing. He spent a mind-boggling $100,000 per year on advertising (mostly to women, his target demographic); he courted newspaper editors for free publicity; his educational guides presaged today’s content marketing; he recruited social influencers to popularize neighborhood gardening clubs; and he developed a visually rich communication and branding strategy to build customer loyalty and inflect their purchasing needs with purchasing desire.
About the Author
Thomas J. Mickey is Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies at Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He is a graduate of the Boston Architectural College’s Landscape Institute, a Master Gardener, and a garden columnist. His other books include America’s Romance with the English Garden, from Ohio University Press, and Best Garden Plants for New England.
“Discover the history of one of the largest Victorian-era mailorder seed catalogs in the United States as well as bygone trends in gardening in this well-researched book by Thomas J. Mickey. Mickey takes an insightful look at how (James) Vick transformed the seed business and beautified thousands of American gardens. Readers will also learn about 19th-century landscape design elements and plants that are still used in today’s gardens.”—The American Gardener
“Showcasing a nineteenth-century entrepreneur’s bold, innovative marketing that helped transform flower gardens into one of America’s favorite hobbies, All about Flowers … is a beautifully illustrated and impressively informative history that will have special appeal to the legions of dedicated flower gardeners and students of nineteenth-century American capitalism.”—Midwest Book Review
“Replete with colorful floral illustrations, this book about James Vick and his nineteenth-century seed company shows how he used innovative mass marketing and regular customer correspondence to build one of the largest and most respected seed companies in the United States. As a writer, horticulturist, and businessman, Vick deserves to be recognized as a man whose knowledge and influence spread worldwide during his lifetime. This book is long overdue.”—Beverly Gibson, horticulturist, Landmark Society of Western New York
“Illuminating reading for those interested in the history of horticulture and landscape design, or nineteenth-century American culture.”—Library Journal
“Thomas Mickey has brought to life the work of nineteenth-century flower seedsman James Vick through historical documents, catalogs, customer testimonials and charming illustrations. In All about Flowers, Mickey reveals where our enduring lov