is a delightful epigram but hardly the actual truth that, "If a man
preach a better sermon, write a better book, or build a better mouse-trap
than his neighbor, though he hide himself in the wilderness, the world
will make a beaten path to his door." The world as a whole is likely to
give its applause to some very unimportant people. And after all is it not
probable that too general a commendation encourages superficial rather
than solid work? The anti-socialistic argument that a more even
distribution of earthly comforts would oppose progress because it limits
ambition is a pure sophism. Few things worth doing have been done with
either money, power or fame in view. For this reason there is no need to
feel sorry that E. S. Carman, great alike as agricultural journalist,
public spirited citizen and creator of new varieties of plants, never
received the panegyrics of which some others have been since the
recipients. He had the happiness described by Marcus Aurelius: "A man's
happiness—to do the things proper to man." Not that Mr. Carman was
unknown—perhaps the editor of no rural paper was admired and trusted
more—but, even with the temptation of a private medium for exploiting his
triumphs, he did no more than describe carefully and impartially success
and failures alike with the honesty of a true nature-lover and born
Mr. Carman would probably have denied that he was a great plant breeder.
He originated no new methods and made few contributions to the study of
heredity; but he did discover many interesting facts during his
hybridization experiments and he added hundreds of millions of dollars to
the wealth of the country, keeping nothing for himself. He was a national
benefactor, and who will say he was not a great man when he placed public
service before private gain? His attitude in the matter is summed up in
the final paragraph of an article on the five famous potato varieties
placed on the market between 1882 and 1896. "It will now appear that for
our 16 years of potato work, we have sold five kinds for precisely $1,000.
We dare say that, had we used our columns for advertising the three kinds
now offered for sale, retaining the entire control as long as possible,
The Rural New-Yorker might easily have made a snug little fortune.
But, tell us friends, were we to crack up the plants that have originated
at the "Rural Grounds" while we sold them to you either directly or
indirectly, do you think that you would place as much confidence in the
thorough impartiality of our plant reports, as you do now?" Ten years ago
the writer made a trip through the great potato regions of Wisconsin and
Minnesota. During it one of the most successful and best informed growers
stated that in the previous decade 80% of the potatoes of the country were
either Mr. Carman's productions or seedlings from them. How much truth
there was in this statement it is impossible to say, but discount it as
much as one will, can it be said that there is no such thing as altruism?
The famous potatoes from the Rural Grounds were Rural Blush, Rural
New-Yorker No. 2, Carman No. 1, Carman No. 3 and Sir Walter Raleigh. They
were not raised from hand hybridized seed, though this had been the
original intention. Sixty-two varieties were grown as prospective parents,
but crossing proved impossible; no functional pollen was formed. A few
natural seed berries were found, however, and from them after years of
testing these five kinds proved to be the fittest. Even the records of the
maternal parents were lost, but the goal set at the beginning was reached.
New potatoes better than the old Early Rose and Peachblow were produced.
Considering the amount of time and space at command, it was probably the
most successful practical plant breeding experiment ever tried.
In all of the other hybridization work, Mr. Carman made careful
castrations of the flowers used as female parents, protected the blossoms
from foreign pollen and made the crosses by hand. "Guess work in
hybridization or crossing," he says, "is altogether abominable, because it
is impossible to know whether anything has been effected or not, while the
variations sure to appear in the seedling plants, it will be assumed, are
evidences of cross-bred parentage."
One of the most interesting pieces of work brought to a successful
conclusion, was a cross between the beardless Armstrong wheat and rye made
in 1882. Several varieties from this cross were finally introduced, but
whether they battled successfully with pure wheats or ryes, I have never
heard.1 The important thing was the
variation in a first hybrid generation which was conclusively
demonstrated—work which it would be interesting to repeat even now as the
constancy or comparative homozygosity of the parents was unknown—and the
pioneer work of showing the possibility of making crosses between these
two generically different cereals. Mr. Carman saw the salient point very
clearly as the following quotation shows: "What do they promise? If the
hybrids give us a grain less valuable than rye or wheat, nothing will be
gained in this case, except the curious fact that a cross between two
different genera of grain is possible. This established, however, the way
is opened for further hybridization the pregnant results of which can only
be guessed at."
Another interesting specific cross made by Mr. Carman was between the
blackberry and the raspberry. It gave nothing of commercial importance,
though by repeating it Luther Burbank is said to have produced a valuable
berry. Neither Mr. Burbank nor Mr. Carman, however, was the first to make
this cross: Mr. Carman, himself, admits obtaining the idea from William
Saunders of London, Ontario, who had produced similar hybrids some five
WORK WITH SOLANUMS
Mr. Carman's taste evidently was partial to the Solanaceae. He worked for
many years on tomatoes, and succeeded in isolating from his various
crosses five types that were worthy of introduction to the trade. They
were the Longkeeper, Lemon Blush, Terra Cotta, Autocrat
Autocrat and Lemon Blush were known for years as the finest of their kind.
He also crossed the common tomato with both the
Currant Tomato L.
pimpinellifolium and the nearly related genus Physalis. Whether any
valuable types were produced from the first cross or not, I have been
unable to find out, but it was demonstrated that the first hybrid
generation was intermediate in character and that a few of the individuals
of the latter generations combined a fairly large size of fruit with the
racemic type of inflorescence. The generic cross was not sufficiently
fertile to be propagated, and died out after a couple of generations.
Various other crosses of all kinds kept up the interest of Mr. Carman in
his work, in which he was efficiently and enthusiastically aided by Mrs.
although with one exception the rose hybrids were the only ones that were
extremely valuable. This was the Carman Gooseberry. Here was a gooseberry
that might have revolutionized gooseberry growing since in a limited test
it was mildew proof, but unfortunately the seed firm to which it was sold
was unable to propagate it.
The roses were perhaps the real attraction of the "Rural Grounds." The
Rosa rugosa of Japan was the foundation stock, and upon it were
crossed first the Austrian hardy yellow rose known as Harrison's Yellow,
then Hybrid Perpetuals and afterwards Hybrid Teas. From these crosses
hundreds of plants were raised—most of them, of course, worthless, but
some of remarkable beauty. From the first cross mentioned came the Agnes
Emily Carman, a fine, hardy, longlived, though thorny variety. In color it
was like the Jacqueminot, but many times as profuse in blossoming. From
other crosses came procumbent roses, hedge roses, tea roses, etc., etc.
They did not attain pre-eminence as did the potato varieties but they
helped and still help to brighten many a flower garden.
Elbert S. Carman was born on November 30, 1836, in Hempstead, Long Island.
He entered Brown University in 1854, rooming with John Hay. He was obliged
to withdraw after two years of work, however, on account of illness. In
1873, he married Agnes E. Brown, by whom he had two children. Immediately
after his marriage he moved to River Edge, N. J., where he began to plant
and experiment on the place that afterward became so well known as the
"Rural Grounds." While here he became so interested in Moore's Rural
New-Yorker as a contributor, that he purchased the paper and became
its editor in 1876. Through an absolutely open and honest policy, he made
this journal a power in the agricultural world. For many years it has
stood out against all frauds and impostures to the farmer, even though
this went against its monetary interests. Mr. Carman died February 28,
1900, regretted by the many friends he had made in his editorial capacity,
who wrote of him like the hero of Leigh Hunt's ever popular poem, "as one
who loved his fellow men."