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Seedsmen Hall of Fame
Honoring Horticulturalists

Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr.

"Horticulture's Grand Old Man"

To one of the first frontier pioneer families of Michigan, living at South Haven, along the eastern shore of the lake, on March 15, 1858, was born a son, Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr. On Christmas night (1954) at Ithaca, New York, surrounded by the throbbing of the university which he helped to make great, with thousands of plants in his nearby Bailey Hortorium, and amid the kindly thoughts, warm friendships, and deep affections that sped towards him from all corners of the world, this lad — now one of the world's great — died at the age of 96 years and nine months.

His father, Liberty Hyde Bailey, Sr., had come from Vermont as a young man, about 1840, settling 40 miles to the west on a tract of land at South Haven, on Lake Michigan. He was a charter member of the still flourishing South Haven-Casco Pomological Society. He planted orchards which thrice received awards in their class in the state of Michigan. Amid trees, and birds, and all nature, Liberty Hyde Bailey, Jr. grew up.

It was natural that young Bailey should find his way in 1877 to Michigan Agricultural College at East Lansing, the first agricultural college in the country, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. From here he graduated in 1882. A few years with America's greatest botanist, Asa Gray of Harvard, and back to Michigan Agricultural College he came in 1885 as professor of horticulture and landscape gardening, the first to hold such a chair. Here he launched a "new horticulture" in which he envisioned dynamic, earth-loving, plant-loving, laboratory and overall-clad work with plants.

But Cornell University needed him and called him as professor of horticulture in 1888, a position which he held until he became dean and director in 1903, retiring in 1913 at the age of 55. To those who complained of his retiring at so early an age, he replied that he had already Over-stayed five years, inasmuch as his life plan had been 25 years of preparation, 25 years of work, and 25 years of doing what he wanted to do!

From his position at Cornell University, his writings, his speeches, and his students moved out to make a tremendous impact upon the world. The students who met informally as "The Lazy Club" at his home on Sunday evenings, became some of America's famous horticulturists. The Lazy Club Code of Nomenclature for the naming of fruits originated here. He coined the word "cover crop."

He emphasized plant breeding and the improvement of varieties, saying that ultimately there must be varieties developed for every local region adapted to that region a goal still sought by many. He preached the importance of research. He sought always something better, whether it was a plant material or a method. His standards were high, and he literally lifted agriculture by its boot-straps.

It is understandable that he should be the first president of the American Society for Horticultural Science, founded in 1903, and today the greatest horticultural research organization in the world. He was a president of the American Pomological Society, the oldest fruit organization in America, now in its 107th year.

He was not content with research alone. The results must be disseminated and used. And so came his books — The Farm and Garden Rule Book, The Nursery Manual, The Pruning Manual, Cyclopedia of Horticulture, Principles of Fruit Culture, Hortus — over 60 in number. Under his editorship came still other books to swell the total to over a hundred. He wrote many times for AMERICAN FRUIT GROWER.

We in fruit culture think of him as a fruit man. Amateur horticulturists think of him as their special leader. Agricultural administrators think of him as a dean. Taxonomic botanists think of him as the great authority on horticultural crops and palms. Nurserymen think of him as a plant propagator. In short, his interests were so great that he stood as a dozen men helpful. interested, and a marvelous friend to all.

He was a member of numerous learned societies. Honors were showered upon him, as were honorary memberships in such organizations as the Royal Horticultural Society and the horticultural societies of New Zealand, Japan, Norway. China, and France, besides many at home.

But in all this he was the simple, direct humble lover of plants, of man, and of life—ever the servant of all. The world pauses a moment in honor — but only for a moment — and then moves forward as he would wish it to move, better because he passed this way.

Source:  Tukey, H. B., American Fruit Grower Magazine, February, 1955, page 17.

Works By L. H. Bailey, Jr.:

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