Vick was born in
Portsmouth, England on Nov. 23, 1818. In 1833, at the age of
12, he arrived in New York City to learn the printing trade.
In 1837, he moved with his parents to Rochester, New York where he
set type for several newspapers and journals. In 1849, James Vick was elected corresponding secretary of the
Genesee Valley Horticultural Society.
The photograph was taken by
Rochester photographer J. H. Kent and used in Vick's 1873 Floral
Guide, No. 2.
Vick was associated with the
as a writer and editor from 1849 became owner and
publisher in 1855. With Vick as editor, the publication became more elegant
and circulation rapidly
increased. A year
later he sold out to Joseph Harris.
On the death of A. J. Downing, James Vick bought "The Horticulturist" and
moved it to Rochester in 1853. It was devoted to horticulture, floriculture, landscape
gardening, and rural architecture.
About this time, Vick started to grow flowers and then began sending seeds
out by mail to the readers of his publication.
In 1855 he established a seed store and nursery on East Avenue in
Rochester. In 1856, Vick started "Rural Annual and Horticultural
Directory". The first half was a seed catalog and the second a
list of nurserymen. This was taken over in 1857 by
Joseph Harris who continued it until 1867.
Line Art of Vick's Seed Farm on East
knowledge of chromolithography and training as a printer, he produce a
catalog and later a monthly magazine. The first, "Floral Guide and Catalogue"
was printed in 1862. His "Floral
Guides" provided gardening advice,
quality color prints, and reached a circulation of
250,000. He entertained his readers with anecdotes,
published letters he had received, and had a special section for
By 1870 his mail was averaging over 3000 letters and over 300 orders a
day. As many as 150,000 catalogs were sent out each year. A
staff of more than 100 worked in the office and packing house.
There were over 75 acres of seed gardens scattered about the city.
catalog offered 46 pages of general gardening information followed by a
In 1878, Vick started
a paper, "Vick’s
Illustrated Monthly" which was published by the Vick Seed
Company in Rochester and in Dansville until 1909. This
magazine was sold by subscription. Vick also printed a set of prints
that were either sold or offered as premiums with large orders.
one of the most successful
horticultural seedsman, writers, and merchandisers of his day. The
Vick Seed Company continued into the 20th century before being sold to
the Burpee Seed Co.
still has two streets in the Park Avenue area called Vick Park A
and Vick Park B. At one time Vick's had a race track on that
site as part of the land they owned for their nursery. The two
straight-aways from the track became those two streets.
Vick office building (pictured tot he left) on Elm Street is long
gone. Elm Street today is only about 100 feet long. The rest
was taken for construction of the downtown Midtown Mall back in