Henry Arms Field
Field was born in Page County, Iowa, December 6,
1871 to Solomon and Celestia Field. Inspired
by the old Vick’s Floral Guide,
the story goes that he gathered seed from his mother’s garden, packaged
them in homemade envelopes and sold them to his aunt.
As a young
boy, Henry would carry baskets of produce two miles into Shenandoah
where he sold them door to door. By ten his business expanded to
strawberry plants, seed potatoes and pansies. During the winter of
his 15th year, he worked at the
Livingston Seed Company in Des Moine, Iowa. This gave him
hands on experience at running a seed business.
graduated from Shenandoah High School in May of 1889 and attended Western Normal College in Shenandoah, Iowa from
1889 to 1891.
Henry was a
hardworking, driven man who while juggling several careers, knew that
the seed trade was his path. On November 24, 1892, Henry married a college
classmate, Annie Hawxby who also was a gardener and had an interest in
the seed business.
established a truck farm on the edge of town and were so successful in
their yields, people area farmers began seeking out his seeds.
These face-to-face encounters with farmers taught him how to
successfully sell in short, succinct, plain English conversations.
A characteristic he used throughout his career in letters, catalog
descriptions and eventually on the radio.
family personal life had a rough start. A son was born, Frank, but
sadly, Annie became sick and died from complications of scarlet
fever April 28, 1899.
pressed onwards, converted a room in his house into an office and the barn
into his first seedhouse. "I was the whole thing," he once
said of the early years of his company, "from catalog to delivery
his early years, his strategy was to price his own garden
seed lower than W. Atlee Burpee & Co. and
to distribute them
throughout Shenandoah, Iowa. Using his own press, he produced a
small, four-page catalog
In 1900, Henry married Edna Thompson and the couple produced ten
children: Faith, Hope, Philip, Josephine, Jessie, Mary, Ruth, Georgia,
John, and Celestia (Letty). Henry was a family man first and
foremost. He never missed mealtime or nights with the family.
And although he regularly worked long fourteen to sixteen hour days, he
was usually nearby in the gardens or seedhouse and accessible to the
At the encouragement of his friends,
Henry incorporated the company as the
Henry Field Seed Company in 1907. The company grossed $63,000 that
year. He grew the business beyond the
boundaries of Shenandoah by expanding into a mail order business.
His slogan was, "Seeds that Yield are Sold by Field."
In 1924, he
became a pioneer in broadcast radio by building a station (KFNF) on top of his seedhouse.
The programming consisted of country entertainment, information and of course,
informing folks about his wares. To put this into context, this
use of the brand new technology of broadcast radio put Field on the
cutting edge and one of less than 300 radio stations operating in the
country at the time. The slogan of
KFNF was "Keep Friendly, Never Frown".
away on April 3, 1925 of "Bright's
Disease" and Henry became a single parent. He dedicated
himself to this endeavor for four years until marrying a company
employee, Bertha McCullen, in 1929. She was said to be a loving
wife and a caring mother to the children.
they lived modestly, Field's company was ranked as one of the largest
seed businesses in the country. During the peak season, hundreds
of townspeople were on his payroll and two-thirds of the postal volume
for Shenandoah was
to his business.
In 1938, at
the age of 67 years, Henry retired from actively managing the company
but he retained the title of president until his death on Oct. 17, 1949.
At the time of his death, the company had sales of approximately
$3,000,000 annually from a million customers.
Amfac, Inc. purchased Henry Field's in 1981.
Field's customer list, when combined with that of
Amfac, Inc. acquired the year prior), eventually became the
Amfac, Inc. Mail-Order
Division. In June 1984, an eight-member investor group, purchased the division from
Field's was purchased by
private direct marketing firm own by
Don Krumel. The business was
then sold to
Foster & Gallagher, Inc., of Illinois in 1999.
Foster & Gallagher, Inc.
purchased a lot of the old, well established company names - Breck's Bulbs,
Gurney's, Michigan Bulb
Company, New Holland Bulbs, Spring Hill Nursery, Stark Brothers, Garden
Solutions (an online storefront featuring Brecks, Spring Hill, Henry
Fields, Gurney's, and Stark Bros. brand names).
In July of 2001,
Foster & Gallagher, Inc. filed for bankruptcy.
On October 26, 2001, a new
company, Scarlet Tanager Holdings, LLC,
owned by Niles Kinerk, located in Greendale, Indiana, emerged as the
owner of the registered trade name of Henry Fields (as well as the
Foster & Gallagher, Inc.
The radio station changed ownership and location several times over the
years, is now an FM station, and was most recently acquired by McCook
Radio Group in Nebraska.
to 1990, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of
Gurney Seed and Nursery Corporation. From 1982 to 1984, Chairman
and Executive Vice President of the Horticulture Group of
a publicly owned financial services company. From 1978 to 1982,
Senior Vice President--Public Affairs of