John A. Salzer
John A. Salzer Seed Company
La Crosse, Wisconsin

A timeline of the life of seedsman, John A. Salzer and the company he created in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

  • 1823 - John Adam Salzer was born in Dettingen, Württemberg, Germany on December 28, 1823 to John G. Salzer, a nurseryman and fruit-raiser. [1, 10, 11]

  • 1846 - Immigrated to the United States.

  • 1849 - Married Wilhelmina Joerris.

  • 1866 - John Salzer the pastor of the German speaking Methodist Church in La Crosse.  He served in this position until 1869.  The early pastors of this church also served the Chipmunk Coulee church, as it was part of the La Crosse Mission. [6]  It was reported that he delighted in these jaunts into the country where he could see the fields of grain and fruit trees. Many fields were planted with seeds purchased from his company. [7]

  • 1868 - The "John A. Salzer Seed Company" in La Crosse, Wisconsin is established. [2]

  • 1884 - "The collection of plants owned by Mr. Salzer is estimated at $20,000 value and the transactions of the house, which reach all over the United States, will amount to over $40,000 per annum. This is the largest house of the kind in the Northwest, outside of Chicago, and Mr. Salzer also owns seed farms where he grows seeds for his large seed trade in St. Vincent, Minnesota, and Bath and Groton, Dakota, also has control of a small seed farm for growing celery, lettuce and beet seeds near Sacramento, California. Handsome and complete catalogues of plants and seeds have been prepared by Mr. Salzer, which can be obtained upon application, German or English edition as desired. Since 1881 the business has been largely increased owing to the liberal use of printer's ink. The high estimation in which this house is held has been secured by the enterprise and liberality of the proprietor and the superior excellence of the plants and seeds sold by him as well as the skill and exquisite taste displayed in the arrangement of cut flowers in various novel and unique designs." [9]

  • 1884 - In this year, he purchased a family cottage in Minnesota that he named "Ferndale."  He and his family may have camped at that site in Minnesota for some years before he purchased Ferndale as a summer camping ground and retreat. Many guests also came to visit and the primitive cabin was improved upon each year. [Note: Ferndale was destroyed in 1957 due to the expansion of U.S. Highway 61. [3]

  • 1886 - The company is incorporated. [2]

  • 1892 - On January 22, John A. Salzer dies at 68 years and 25 days and is interned at the Oak Grove Cemetery in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Section: 25 Lot: 727. [1]

  • 1892 - Henry Salzer, son of John, takes over the management of the seed company and runs it until his death in 1917. [5]

  • 1919 - First service of what was to become the La Crosse Municipal Airport began on November 29, on leased land that was was once a Salzer Seed Company cornfield.  Service was abandoned in 1922 but resumed in 1928 at which time the city council voted to purchase the land. [8]

  • 1920 - As early as 1920, they claimed that they were recognized as the largest mail-order seed house in America. [4]

  • 1922 - The company is printing and distributing 1,000,000 catalogs per year. [1]

  • 1945 - The family sold the business. [2]

  • 1958 - The company is closed. [2]


  1. Tomato, 'Ferris Wheel' (PI 645075)

  2. Tomato, 'Peak of Perfection' (PI 44982)


  1. Hometown History: La Crosse’s Salzer Seed Co. was once known worldwide

  2. La Crosse Public Library

  3. Salzer Family. Salzer Summer Home Scrapbooks, 1897-1898

  4. Print Ad, 1920

  5. Footsteps of La Crosse: A Journey Through Time & Architecture

  6. "Die Nordwest Deutsche Konferens der BischöflichenMethodistenkirche," Charles City, Iowa, 1913

  7. Chipmunk Coulee Pioneers and their Early German Methodist Church

  8. A History of La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1900-1950, Stanley N. Miller

  9. La Crosse, Her Trade, Commerce and Industries: 1883-1884, pgs 74-75

  10. "History of La Crosse County, Wisconsin", 1881, p. 789

  11. Autobiography, John A. Salzer, 1869

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