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Seedsmen Hall of Fame
Honoring Horticulturalists

Bernard M'Mahon

Bernard M'Mahon (McMahon) was born in Ireland about 1775 and died on September 18, 1816).  He emigrated to the United States, presumably to flee from the political turmoil in Ireland, in 1796.

Coming from a country where land ownership was reserved for the noble few and gardening and farming taxed and tithed, he was immediately taken back by the lack of gardening trade in America.  He presumed that this was due to an absence of quality seeds and the lack of informational materials available to the American gardener.

By 1802/03 he was established in Philadelphia where he issued his broadsheet "Catalogue of Garden Grass, Herb, Flower, Tree & Shrub-Seeds, Flower Roots, &c."  It was comprised of seven hundred and twenty species and varieties of seed and was the first published seed list in the United States.  In 1804 he published another catalogue, this one containing thirty pages, mostly devoted to native American seeds.

He was often described as Thomas Jefferson's gardening mentor[1]. A steady stream of correspondence passed between them.  His prominence as a horticulturalist and his connection with Jefferson found him being selected as one of two nurserymen to receive and grow the seeds and roots collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

In 1806, he fulfilled the need for American specific gardening information by authoring the classic work, "The American Gardener's Calendar: Adapted to the Climates and Seasons of the United States."   I was the most comprehensive gardening book published in the United States at that time and finished in its eleventh edition in 1857.  (It was again reissued in 1976)

In 1808, M'Mahon purchased twenty acres on the Germantown Road, in Penn Township, Philadelphia for a nursery and botanic garden that would enable him to expand his business. He named it "Upsal Botanic Garden" in commemoration of Linnaeus' connection with Uppsala University. It was located at the north edge of the then urban part of the city. Part of the MíMahon garden is currently occupied by Fotterall Square, a small park in Philadelphia.

At his death, the operation of the nursery business passed to his wife.  Mrs. M'Mahon operated the business successfully for many years. Their son, Thomas P. M'Mahon, continued to revise and republish "The American Gardener's Calendar".



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