Gallery of old timey seed catalogs


The Smithsonian Institution has an online collection of seed catalog art. If King Corn ever runs for president, I'll vote for him, because his crown is cool. (Via City Farmer)


  1. I’ll vote for him because he looks like Jesus.

    Kind of funny, though, when you think of the absolute wreckage caused by King Corn and his nefarious wares.

  2. Why do I get the idea that the corn got so big because a little alien prince rolled it around town to please his demanding father?

  3. Sure. Go ahead. Vote for King Corn.

    But don’t complain when he demands virgin sacrifices and makes criticizing high-fructose corn syrup a capital offense.

  4. My neighborhood (Orenco) is named after an old nursery company (Oregon Nursery Company). The light rail line follows the frieght line that serviced it; across the tracks is the remnants of the company town.

    I’m disappointed not to see their catalog.

  5. I can’t find any examples online but NZ illustrator Bernard Roundhill did some seed packets from the bursting-with-life school.

    This is the start of the exhibition I saw them in; Boingers may enjoy his 50s futurism.

  6. It’s interesting to see King Corn featured on a seed catalog. He is based on an old Celtic harvest myth/holiday, Lammas:
    “# Lammas Traditionally called Lammas from the Saxon word Hlaf-mass, the Feast of Bread, this festival is also known as Lughnasadh, Lughnasa (pronounced “Loo-nahs-ah”), or First Fruits, and is the feast of the god Lugh. Celebrated on August 1, it coincides with the beginning of the harvest and signifies the death of Bel, or the Corn King. The Corn King dies, to be later reborn, so that the tribe may go into the winter months with sustenance plenty. Another myth tells of the greedy Fomorian Earth-spirits that must be persuaded to relinquish the fruits of the soil to humans.

    * In the Scottish Highlands, this feast was sometimes referred to as the nasad, or games, of Lugh, son of Ethle. An early Irish tradition has it that Lugh established the festival in honor of his foster-mother Tailtiu, a close relationship in the Celtic custom. In Ireland, Lugh also is referred to as Lugh of the Long Hand, son of the Sun.
    * Rituals: Farmers cut down the first stalks of corn with sickles and called these stalks John Barleycorn. This first grain is used to produce the first beer of the season, for consumption at the Autumnal Equinox six weeks later. In the British Isles, the Horned One was thought to be the consort of the Earth Goddess. (see Beltane explanation) Harvest festivals usually included a Stag Dance in which men wore antlers on their heads.”

  7. @anneh – where did these ancient celts get their corn from?

    oh, you mean barley and oat, which are the origins of the appelation ‘corn’ to refer to maize? very good then.

  8. Even at the turn of the 20th century these vegetable crops look similar if not identical to those currently grown commercially and privately. Big red tomatoes, round green leafy lettuce (although we do have fancy lettuces too nowadays). There’s hardly any variation. This year I’m germinating a range of heirloom tomatoes of all different colours, sizes, and tastes (it’s spring here, yay!). It’s good to keep the genetic diversity going.

  9. It’s *so* Christ-like it would be interesting to know what else the designers and printers were doing at the time. I have a suspicion that they already had an ilustration for Jesus and just added a fluffier moustache and a corn headdress.

    It’s no good… I can’t help imagining a rep in the office of NB and G Co, ferreting around in his bag for a sample, and finding the Prayer sheet for the RC church around the corner on which to sketch out the job:

    “No problem! Give him a bigger moustache, add the corn crown where the halo is, cover up the Virgin Mary with a kickass cob of your corn (we’ll keep the cherub, it’ll look sweet) and bob’s your uncle! Be ready next Tuesday?”

  10. King Corn appears to be a hybrid. The exposed genital area has been torn away, though, so it’s hard to tell.

  11. I used to sell a variety of garden seeds and Grit door-to-door when I was 5 or 6 to make money. It’s a wonder I was never molested….wait. Love the fairy heels on the King.

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