Seed and nursery catalogs provide a wonderful glimpse into the early marketing and availability of fruits, flowers and vegetables. Our collection of early seed catalogs includes an assortment of 19th and early 20th century examples. Our earliest catalog is from 1853 with many pre-1920. We're in the process of linking individual catalogs to online versions in the Biodiversity Heritage Library Seed & Nursery Catalogs collection. We also maintain a large collection of more current catalogs that is updated annually.
The above link connects to an online exhibit on the history of Seed & Nursery Catalogs created by Oregon State University Library.
Other large collections of seed catalogs may be found in the following libraries:
Vick's Floral Guide, 1895. By James Vick, Rochester NY, http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/44442872
Early seedsmen like James Vick (1818-1882) caught onto the growing interest middle class Americans in the later part of the 19th century found in cultivating lawns and gardens. He provided the means for his readers to learn about gardening in his catalogs, offering inspiration, instruction and even spiritual guidance as in a 1873 catalog: "Man may be refined and happy without a garden; he may even have a home of taste, I suppose, without a tree, or shrub, or flower; yet, when the Creator wished to prepare a proper home for man, pure in all his taste and made in his own image, he planted a garden and placed this noblest specimen of creative power in it to dress and keep it."