Seedsmen Hall of Fame
Honoring Horticulturalists

Joseph Breck

Joseph Breck, was a horticulturist, botanist and life-long resident of Massachusetts. Born in 1794 in Medfield, Massachusetts, he passed away in Brighton, Massachusetts in 1873.

Breck served as the superintendent of the Horticultural Gardens of Lancaster, Massachusetts, was a founding member of the American Seed Trade Association, and as president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society from 1859 to 1862.

His early fame stemmed from a book he wrote in 1833 entitled, "The Young Florist," which was  the second book on flowers published in America.  It was unique in that it was designed, "to attract young persons to that delightful employment, the cultivation of a flower garden."

He followed this in 1851 with, "The Flower Garden," which was popular enough to warrant a second printing in 1860.  It was published for several subsequent editions.

Along with being an author, Breck also worked as the editor and publisher of the "New England Farmer" (a popular agricultural journal of the time) from 1822 to 1846.  In 1835, Breck and Thomas Fessenden started "The Horticultural Register and Gardener's Magazine," which ceased publication in 1839.

Joseph Breck moved to Brighton, Massachusetts in 1836 where he purchased twenty eight acres on Washington Street near Allston Street.  There he established a nursery for raising vegetables and flowers.

In 1854 he purchased an estate at the corner of Tremont and Nonantum Streets in Oak Square where he built an extensive nursery.  This is also where he remained until his death.

Sometime during all of this busy life, Joseph Breck founded the time to establish a seed and nursery business.  We do not yet know the exact date (see notes below) but he eventually named it Breck & Sons.  In 1840, he published his first catalog calling it the, "New England Agricultural Warehouse and Seed Store Catalogue."  They were a seed and agricultural implements wholesaler and retailer.  Along with a seed store and warehouse at 51 Market Street, they also conducted business via their annual mail order catalog.

Upon his death, the company succeeded in remaining a viable business for five generations of family members.  It passed from family ownership when the aging "Bo" Breck sold to the now-defunct catalog conglomerate Foster & Gallagher.  It was then acquired in September of 2001 by Lawrenceburg, Indiana-based multititle mailer, Gardens Alive, Inc. along with other Foster & Gallagher horticultural titles, including Gurney Seeds, Henry Fieldís, Michigan Bulb, and Spring Hill Nurseries.


Sources:

Notes:

  • There is conflicting information yet to be sorted out on the founding of Breck & Sons. The modern company called "Breck's" which is a marketing arm for flower bulbs of Garden's Alive, Inc., claims a founding date of 1818. The 1884 edition of the seed catalog states the date at 1822.  Yet another source states, "Apparently, Breck took over the business of George C. Barrett after that manís death around 1836."


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