Seedsmen Hall of Fame
Honoring Horticulturalists

James Vick

James 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.

James Vick - Circa 1873

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 "Genesee Farmer" 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.

East Ave. Demonstration Farm
Line Art of Vick's Seed Farm on East Avenue

With Vick’s 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 children.

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.  In 1876 1893 Vick's Floral Guide Coverthe catalog offered 46 pages of general gardening information followed by a price list.

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.

Vick's Rochester Office
Vick's Rochester Picture Book "Greeting"

Vick was 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.

Rochester 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.

The 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 the 1960s.1

Informational Sources:

  1. Allan Harris, Rochester, New York, Vick's Old Pictures.


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