This is not a fairy tale but the true story of a violet kingdom that
grew in New York State's Hudson River Valley region and was known to all
as America's center for the violet growing industry. These days we like
to refer to that period in violet time and history as the
"Rhinebeck story" after the area's "violet village"
or "violet capital." And because we believe it's a story that
begs to be told, our Violet Gazette
team has looked forward for some time to the opportunity of bringing
this unique account to our readers and AVS members.
This summer, while in the planning stage of our "American Violet"
feature theme, inspiration paid us a visit in the shape of our AVS
President, Annebelle Rice touring along the East Coast in search for
violets and on her way to "violet mecca" that is, Rhinebeck,
New York. You can read about her "finds" in Violet
Journeys. Annebelle's visit was not recorded for
posterity with a simple "I wish you were here postcard" but
with a package filled with materials gathered at the Museum of Rhinebeck
History after a visit with its Director, Kay Verrilli. The collection of
press clippings and magazines' articles covering almost 100 years of
violet history turned to be a true treasure trove, and a challenge for
this editorial team. In The
Violets of Dutchess County we attempt to portray an
agricultural saga that had its beginnings in the 1890s and continued
with ups and downs well into our present time and which, by virtue of
its unique time in history is now part of the American experience. From
our Violet Gazette
perspective, it represents the first installment in the "Violet
Growing in America" series to be completed in Winter 2001.
Violets the Year Round
(a gardening guide) is an added bonus to the Rhinebeck report and was
found among the archival papers. To be frank, we're not sure of its
origins or who the real author is, but are almost certain it was
published in the early 20s, and by the Rhinebeck Violet Association. We
like the idea of "discovering" it and make it useful once
again, just as it was intended in the first place. The authorship matter
is under investigation and in due time we will credit the rightful
Dr. Theresa M. Culley's Why
Violets Are So Successful is the main feature of this
Fall 2000 issue as well as her first and exclusive contribution to The
Violet Gazette. Dr. Culley is the AVS newest Board member, and
one of the organization's best advocates. At present she is engaged in
post-doctoral viola research at her new post at the University of
California-Irvine. Her enthusiasm about violets in America is truly
inspiring; in fact, she plans, in the near future and on behalf of our
society, to lead violet exploration activities on the West Coast. In
this paper, Dr. Culley discusses the survival habits of V. pubescens,
an American favorite better known as "Downy Yellow Violet" for
which she's provided her own photographic work. We welcome Theresa's
contribution, her commitment to the violet cause, and look forward to
reading more of her work in the next issues.
A fervor for violets has been in the American mind since colonial times.
It was particularly well represented throughout the 19th century by
several American intellectuals and poets, among them the naturalist and
author Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) who liked to compare his own
sense of loss to "a bunch of violets without their roots." Our
Poetry Corner wishes this time to honor the American poet
and journalist William Cullen
Bryant (1794-1878) whose romantic poetry is "steeped in
nature imagery paralleling the picturesque style of the Hudson River
painters." Such attributes are well exemplified in his poem, The
Yellow Violet. In addition, and in keeping with the
American theme, Annebelle Rice has contributed historical information on
why and how four states in the Union came to adopt Violets as
State Flower Symbols.
Finally, we present a whimsical take on that famous dilemma: --What's in
a name? Is your name Violet? Chuck Lavazzi's amusing and original A
Bunch of Violets measures up your chances of obtaining
Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes' aid in a moment of trouble. We're sure
this commentary at a common thread is bound to bring a smile to your
On a recent visit to Burpee Seeds
facilities, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the cover of their
1897 seed catalog featured a lovely illustration of the 'Princess of
Wales' violets. Burpee Seeds, in
business for 124 years as America's best-loved seed company, was a
pioneer in seed and plant distribution to the entire nation. Mr.
George Ball, Jr., President and CEO of W.
Atlee Burpee & Co. has graciously granted us permission to
feature that catalog violet cover on our Fall 2000 Index page to match
the "American violet" theme. On the subject of illustrations,
we wish to point out that most graphics in this issue derive from old
American postcards popular in the early 1900s. These have been adapted
digitally by Gary W. Sherwin, our webmaster and chief magician. As
always, Gary makes sure the AVS homepage and the online version of
The Violet Gazette are
top notch. We are forever grateful to him and to Annebelle Rice, and to
those AVS friends who make it all possible every time.
We do hope you enjoy this "American" issue, and take this
opportunity to extend our best wishes to you and your families for a
wonderful Fall and Holiday Seasons.