A. W. Livingston &
Bio ] [ Business History ]
Livingston Tomatoes ]
- Alexander Wilmer Livingston is born in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
- Begins working for a local seed grower.
- Marries and leases land to begin farming.
- Saves enough money to purchase land.
- Purchases four hundred consignment boxes of the Buckeye Garden
Seed Company from Robert Robertson who was moving to
Iowa. During the late 1850s and early 1860s, business
does well and Livingston is able to expand his farming and seed
1864-65 - Builds
a home and consolidates seed and farming operations in one location.
1875-76 - The
Buckeye Garden Seed Company went bankrupt in the economic crash that
affected many businesses in the nation. The business is dissolved
and new entity formed by son Robert and named, "A. W. Livingston's
Sons". Marketing was expanded using seed catalogs and
advertising in newspapers and magazines.
- The company moves from Reynoldsburg to Columbus, Ohio.
Alexander moves to Des Moines, Iowa after purchasing the farm of his
friend Robert Robertson. Alexander's plan was to relocate the
entire company to Iowa but the business was prospering in Columbus under
his son's management.
- After Alexander's wife passes away, he turned over the Iowa seed
business to his son, Josiah. He returned to Ohio and began to work
on his book, "Livingston and the Tomato". It was part
autobiographical, part instructional, and part agricultural
history. It combined information about Livingston's methods, the
history of the tomato as a food crop, and even contained a large
selection of compiled recipes.
- The company is incorporated as the Livingston Seed Company.
Founder, A. W. Livingston passes away.
- The Livingstons were big players
in the seed trade industry interacting with many major seed
houses. They had their own grow outs as well as 'traded' stock. On April 1st, 1920, a fire broke out at one of their warehouses. It destroyed
everything. The McCullough's Sons Seed Company from Cincinnati took the
train up to Columbus the next day, gathered up what they could, and
filled orders for the Livingstons. Even with their help, Livingstons still was forced to send out a form letter returning orders
along with money. 1
- By the late 1930s, the seed industry had begun to
change. The company survived by moving into field seeds, and had
dropped tomatoes from their line.
- The United States Department of Agriculture's "Yearbook of
Agriculture" for the year 1937 published the following short
"The work of A.
W. Livingston, of Columbus, Ohio, and his associates and successors in
the Livingston Seed Co. has resulted in the introduction of more new
varieties than that of any other private group. Most of the
varieties introduced by the Livingstons were of their own finding or
origination, but some were obtained from other growers. Paragon,
from a chance seedling, was their first introduction (1870).
The famous old
variety Acme was developed by A. W. Livingston from a single superior
plant found in a field of mixed stock and introduced in 1875. Like the
Trophy, this variety was the source or served as one parent of many
subsequently introduced varieties. In 1880 Perfection, a chance
variant in Acme, was introduced. Livingston next brought out
Golden Queen in 1882, Favorite in 1883, Beauty in 1886, Potato Leaf in
1887, Stone in 1889, and Royal Red in 1892. This last was developed from
seven similar plants found in a field of Dwarf Champion by M. M. Miesse.
The others just named were chance seedlings occurring in varieties the
names of which are not known. These were followed by Aristocrat
and Buckeye State in 1893, Honor Bright in 1897, and Magnus in 1900, as
chance seedlings in varieties not recorded. In 1903 Dwarf Stone
was introduced; it was a chance seedling found in Stone. Globe is
from a cross between Stone and Ponderosa made about 1899 by Robert
Livingston and was introduced in 1905. Hummer, another
introduction, was selected out of Paragon.
Of this impressive
list introduced by the Livingstons, Stone and Globe are among the most
important varieties grown today. Acme, Beauty, Buckeye State,
Dwarf Stone, Golden Queen, and Perfection are still listed by some seed
producers although they are not extensively grown."
"With all due
credit to the important contributions of other growers, seedsmen, and
investigators, it is not out of place to call attention again to the
great contribution of the Livingston Seed Co. to tomato
improvement. Of about 40 varieties that had attained a distinct
status prior to 1910, a third were productions or introductions by the Livingston
company. If we add those varieties derived directly from
Livingston productions and introductions, it appears that half of the
major varieties were due to the abilities of the Livingstons to evaluate
and perpetuate superior material in the tomato."
- The last wholesale catalog is produced.
1979 - After
working at and ultimately running the company over a period of thirty
four years, the late Great-grandson
Livingston (1920-2008), retaining Livingston, Ltd. for his other business dealings, sells the
seed business operations to Forest Randolph who operated it under
the name of Superior Seed Company. But this ownership was
short-lived and it passed to a Mr. Robert Johnston.
- The wholesale only, packet seed company operating using the
name, Livingston Seed Company was operated by Robert Johnston, along with
his son and daughter, until they sold the company in 2014 to
LLC. Click here for the press release of the sale.