Holey American Icon: Life Savers Candy

The “Hole” Story: newspaper advisement for Life Savers candy, 1917.  Image source: Evening public ledger. (Philadelphia [PA.]), 16 Oct. 1917, Final, Page 7 (derived from Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress) is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Clarence Crane, a Cleveland chocolate maker, invented Life Savers candy in 1912. The candy-with-a-hole-in its center became a nationwide hit, and remains popular a century later. Urban legend claims the hole resulted from a horrible accident in the Crane household: His young daughter supposedly choked to death on a piece of candy that blocked her windpipe. Hoping to spare other parents from the same tragedy, Crane put a hole in the new candy so that people who aspirated it would still be able to breathe through the hole. That's a myth, however, and Life Savers' shape had a much different origin.

Crane had been selling handmade chocolate candy in the Cleveland area since 1891. Sales always slowed during the hot summer months, when chocolate melted quickly. So Crane decided to add a hard, non-melting candy to his product line to boost summer sales. Almost every candy shop carried pillow-shaped peppermint candies imported from Europe.

Crane wanted his candy to stand out, and chose the hold-in-the-center shape as a marketing gimmick. The shape inspired their name. The candies looked like mini-life savers, flotation devices used to keep people from drowning. Crane also packed the candies into a distinctive cardboard tube, which sold for 5 cents. For the label, he seized on another marketing ploy. People often bought peppermint candy to hide bad breath, or the odor of alcoholic beverages. So Crane’s label showed an old seaman throwing a life preserver to a pretty female swimmer. "For That Stormy Breath," the label declared.

Pep-O-Mint Life Savers add in Photoplay Magazine, September 1922. Image source: Photoplay Magazine, September 1922, v.22, No. 4, pp. 2 (derived from Internet Archive) is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

The candy, however, got stale within a week and lost its flavor. Life Savers didn’t become a big hit until 1913, when Crane sold rights to the product to two New York businessmen for $2,900. One, Edward Noble, added the familiar foil wrapper to preserve freshness. The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company makes Life Savors today and sells them around the world.


Fun Factoids
Lightning Bolts in Your Mouth

The flavoring in wintergreen Life Savers contains molecules that exhibit triboluminescence. That’s the mechanical generation of light, which occurs when certain chemical bonds are broken by mechanical crushing. WintOGreen Lifesavers have such bonds. No other flavor does it, including peppermint. The process occurs in two steps. Breaking crystals of sugar in the candy first produces ultraviolet light. Then wintergreen molecules absorb the ultraviolet, and fluoresce, emitting a flash of visible light. One way to demonstrate triboluminescence is to chew a WintOGreen Lifesaver in a room in front of a mirror that can be made very dark. Try a bathroom or bedroom. Allow about 15 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark. With your lips open, chew one Life Saver and watch for the flashes. Each piece should flash many times as the chewing and crushing continues. Caution: Chew carefully to avoid choking, and don’t laugh or joke with friends. Young children who do this experiment should have an adult present. Crushing the candy with a hammer in a dark place also works.

Father of Snap, Crackle & Pop: Ferdinand Schumacher

Ferdinand Schumacher portrait and signature ca. 1879. Image source: Brennan, J. Fletcher. The Biographical Cyclopaedia and Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Men, with an Historical Sketch of the State of Ohio. Cincinnati: Yorston, 1880, pp. 368-369 (derived from Internet Archive) is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Ferdinand Schumacher, of Akron, helped found the American breakfast food industry in 1856 when he opened the German Mills American Oatmeal Company. It was one of three companies that combined in 1901 to form the Quaker Oats Company, a diversified global corporation that sells about $2 billion worth of products each year. Schumacher’s oatmeal is still the favorite of 6 out of every 10 people who eat hot breakfast food. They buy more than $500 million worth of Quaker Oats every year. Modern science has proven Schumacher correct in regarding oatmeal as healthy food.

Healthy Food
Quaker Oats blazed a new health trail in 1996. It became the first company with the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s permission to claim that its product could reduce the risk of heart disease. Oatmeal packages soon began displaying the notice: "Diets high in oatmeal or oat bran and low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."

Quaker Oats add in National Magazine, October 1905. Image source: National Magazine, October 1905, v.23 No. 1, pp. 139 (derived from Internet Archive) is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Eating oats and oat bran reduces the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Millions of people in the United States have high blood cholesterol levels that increase the risk of heart attacks, the nation’s No.1 killer. For some people, a bowlful of oatmeal each day lowers blood cholesterol levels almost as much as anti-cholesterol drugs.

Popularizing a New Food
Oats? People don’t eat oats. Horses eat oats. That’s what most Americans thought before Ferdinand Schumacher immigrated to Akron in 1851 from Hanover, Germany, and introduced the country to a new people-food. Schumacher opened a grocery on Howard Street, and expected ground oats to sell like hotcakes. They did back home in Germany, and in Ireland, Scotland, and other countries. People knew that oat "porridge" was so nutritious that you could practically live on it. Oats were inexpensive enough for almost everyone to afford a good meal. And they tasted good, too.

Americans, however, wondered why Schumacher was selling horse food. In 1854, Schumacher invented a machine to chop oats into small cubes, which he packed into glass jars and sold. The cubed oats were so popular that, in 1856, he bought an old factory along the canal and installed machinery that processed 20 big wooden barrels of oats a day. That was the start of Schumacher’s German Mills American Oatmeal Company. Schumacher discovered a way to make oats cook faster. He pre-cooked whole oat berries, which have a hard outer shell, and than ran them between rollers to produce flakes, or "rolled oats."

Demand for oats in the U.S. increased when the Civil War started, and the Union Army bought tons to feed hungry soldiers. It enabled Schumacher in 1863 to move production to a bigger factory on Mill Street in Akron, which now is the site of Quaker Square, a hotel and entertainment complex. As oats´ popularity grew, so did Schumacher’s reputation. People called him "The Oatmeal King." His kingdom, however, was only part of the realm that became the Quaker Oats Company.

The Quaker Oats Company was born in 1901, when several American oat processing pioneers merged:

  • The Quaker Mill Company, which Henry Parsons Crowell had established in Ravenna, Ohio. He registered the now-famous "Quaker" trademark, and sold Quaker Oats in two-pound paper packages with directions printed on the back.
  • A huge cereal mill operated in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, by John Stuart, his son Robert, and their partner, George Douglas.
  • Schumacher’s German Mills American Oatmeal Company.

Quaker Oats Cereal Factory, Southeast corner of Broadway & Mill Streets, Akron, Summit County, Ohio, August 1979.  Image source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction number HAER OHIO,77-AKRO,7- by photographers Gregory Santos and Bruce Ford (additional bibliographic information here) is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Robert Stuart became the chief executive officer. Generation after generation of the Stuart family ran Quaker Oats until William Smithburg took over in 1979. Quaker operated as an independent company for 100 years. And it diversified, selling many other products in addition to oatmeal. They include ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, snacks, pancake syrups, flavored rice and pasta products, pet foods, and Gatorade sports drink and thirst quencher products. In 1970, Quaker Oats stopped production in Akron and moved its headquarters to Chicago.

In 2001, Quaker merged with PepsiCo, Inc., the Purchase, New York-based food and beverage company, and became a PepsiCo division. The merger produced the world’s fourth-largest consumer-goods company.

Schumacher also invented the process for making Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat, breakfast cereals introduced in 1913 with the advertising slogan, "Shot from guns." They boosted Quaker sales by 30-fold. He called the process "pneumatic levitation" because it blew "puffed" cereal through kilometers of pipes from one mill to another, giving rise to the expression "shot from guns." The puffing process involves processing wheat or rice in a hot pressure chamber and then suddenly releasing the pressure, so that the grain expands to many times its original size.

Hot Dog and Sports Concession Industry

Baseball fans--"Hot dogs" for fans waiting for gates to open at Ebbets Field, Oct. 6, 1920. Image source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18463 from the George Grantham Bain (1865–1944) collection has no known copyright restrictions

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back."
-- From Jack Norworth’s famous baseball song, 1908

Make that peanuts, crackerjacks, and hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, pizza, fries, pretzels, and a host of other munchies that fans down at sports events, concerts, and other gatherings. And thank Ohioan Harry M. Stevens (1855-1934) for getting the ball rolling nationally on serving these popular foods in stadiums. Stevens, of Niles, Ohio, was the father of modern sports concessions, which now includes foods, souvenirs, and other goods sold at all kinds of big gatherings. Stevens also can claim a key role in naming America’s No. 1 sausage, the hot dog.

A modern concession stand at Providence Park, Portland, Oregon, 11 April 2010.  Image source: PGE Park concession stand.JPG by Halvorsen brian is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Born in London, England, Stevens emigrated to Ohio in 1882 and went into the business of providing food to sports fans and conventioneers. While at a baseball game in Ohio in 1885, Stevens noticed that there was no way for fans to identify the players and keep track of their performance. He seized the opportunity, and began printing programs. He made money by selling local merchants advertising space in the programs. That led to the modern scorecards used in baseball games from Little League on up. It also helped win Stevens concessions, or rights, to sell food, programs, and other items inside baseball parks.

The world's longest hot dog (as of August 4, 2006), measuring 60.3 m, at the Akasaka Prince Hotel, Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan, on August 4, 2006. Image source: 60m Hot Dog Akasaka Aug4 06.jpeg by Tim Lindenschmidt is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Stevens went national, and by the turn of the century was running the concessions at the Polo Grounds in New York City, a field used by the New York Yankees and New York Giants. Concessionaires in that era usually sold fans just ice cream and lemonade. One chilly day Stevens noticed that shivering fans weren’t buying anything. He sent his salesmen out of the stadium to buy hundreds of "dachshund" sausages and rolls to put them in.

People had been eating long, thin sausages for hundreds of years. A city in Germany, Frankfurt-am-Main, often gets credit for originating and naming this sausage – the "frankfurter." Some hot dog historians, however, think it was invented in the late 1600's by Johann Georghehner, a butcher in Coburg, Germany who later sold them in Frankfurt. People called them "dachshund sausages" after the cute German dog with the long body.

Stevens' sales crew soon was selling the dachshund-in-a-bun combination – convenient for people to eat without a knife or fork – to the fans. Vendors roamed among the shivering fans with sausages in pots of hot water. Stevens told them to shout, "They're red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they're red hot."

A newspaper cartoonist named Tad Dorgan supposedly took note and drew a cartoon showing dachshund sausages snuggled inside buns. Unable to spell "dachshund," he penned the words "hot dog" on the cartoon The term then meant something fashionable. And so the term "hot dog" became an American food icon. Maybe.

Dorgan was a very popular cartoonist for the Hearst newspapers, and hundreds of his creations remain. This particular cartoon, however, is not among them. Among other accounts is a story that dachshund sausages became standard fare at baseball games in 1893, when a St. Louis bar owner, Chris Von de Ahe, started selling them at the St. Louis Browns major league baseball stadium.

4-H Club Movement

Sculpture by Mike Major showing a youthful A. B. Graham with two of his early club members as they present their projects, in downtown Springfield, Ohio, 2015. Image source: The Ohio Academy of Science  

Albert B. Graham (1868–1960) started the international 4-H Club movement in Springfield in 1902 by forming an "Agricultural Club" to teach boys and girls better farming and home management techniques. From that first club meeting with 30 young people, held in the basement of the Springfield Courthouse, Graham’s idea grew into a national phenomenon. Today about 7 million youth are involved in 4-H programs each year. Programs thrive in all 3,067 counties of the United States, District of Columbia, commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and five territories as part of the Cooperative Extension Service. The Cooperative Extension System is a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture, state land-grant universities, and local county governments. More than 80 other countries also have 4-H programs.

The Birthplace of 4-H, Ohio Historical Marker, in downtown Springfield, Ohio, 2015. Image source: The Ohio Academy of Science  

The Ohio State University learned about Graham's "out-of-school education program" and invited him to supervise agricultural clubs for boys and girls throughout the state as part of the University's Land Grant mission. He became superintendent of extension in Ohio in 1905 with goals that included:

  • To elevate the standard of living in rural communities.
  • To acquaint boys and girls with their environment and to interest them in making their own investigations.
  • To inspire young men and women to further their education in the science of agriculture or domestic science.
  • To cultivate a taste for the beauty of nature.
  • To educate adults in the elementary science of agriculture and in the most up-to-date farm practices.

Graham kept those goals in organizing his agricultural clubs on a national basis, where they eventually became known as 4-H Clubs.

Fun Facts About 4-H

Some of the "Caesar Gang" boys demonstrating how to cull chickens to improve quality and quantity of product. Under direction of J. A. Wolfram County Agent, Webster Co. W. Va. State 4 H Fair, Charleston, W. Va. Oct. 13, 1921.  Image source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection, LC-DIG-nclc-04391 by Lewis W. Hine (1874-1940) has no known restrictions on publication

  • The National 4-H emblem is a four-leaf clover, which represents the four-fold development of Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. Youth learn the importance of each and how they work together to produce a well rounded person.
  • The four leaf clover signifies "good luck" and "achievement." Like the clover, 4-H symbolizes a four-squared, well rounded life. If it is good luck to find a four leaf clover, it is far better luck to know and live each "H" on the clover.
  • The 4-H Pledge, adopted in 1927:
    "I pledge . . .
    My Head to clearer thinking,
    My Heart to greater loyalty,
    My Hands to larger service,
    My Health to better living,
    for my club,
    my community,
    my country,
    and my world."
  • 4-H Motto:  "To Make The Best Better"
  • The 4-H Slogan: "Learn by Doing"
  • The 4-H Colors: Green and White

4-H continues that work in rural areas, but its focus goes beyond residents of agricultural areas. Membership is open to all youth aged 5-19, including residents of urban areas. Graham’s original objective at the turn of the 20th Century, however, remains the same in the 21st: "The development of youth as individuals and as responsible, productive members of the community in which they live." Graham, who was superintendent of the Springfield Township Schools, at that time, believed that agricultural production and rural life could be improved by applying scientific knowledge.

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Chewing Gum

Improved Chewing-Gum, US patent 98304, granted to William Finley Semple, 1869. Image source: Patent #: US000098304 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

William Finley Semple (1832-1923), of Mount Vernon, got the first United States Patent on chewing gum in 1869. Semple's process involved dissolving vegetable gums in naphtha and alcohol until they reached the consistency of jelly. Then he mixed in powdered chalk, powdered licorice root, and other materials to provide texture and flavor. Those included sugar, orris root, and myrrh. Finally, he evaporated the solvents -- naphtha and alcohol -- so that the jelly-like material dried and hardened. Semple thought that people would buy the gum not just to chew for fun, but to help keep their teeth clean and breath fresh. The chalk would have a scouring effect in rubbing away food particles and dental plaque, the sticky film that forms on teeth and causes tooth decay and gum disease.

A Sapodilla tree trunk in a Yucatán forest (trunk is approximately 1-meter in diameter). Diagonal scars across trunk are the results of previous tapping for Chicle. Image source: Sapodilla-bark.jpg by Jim Conrad (website and article) is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Another Ohioan, Dr. Edward E. Beeman, gave the world one of the most popular kinds of chewing gum. Consumers today buy millions of dollars worth of Beeman's Pepsin Chewing Gum each year. Dr. Beeman was selling bottles of powdered pepsin, which people took to aid to digestion. Pepsin is an enzyme found naturally in the stomach that breaks down proteins. Nellie Horton, Dr. Beeman's bookkeeper, suggested that he put the pepsin into gum "since so many people buy pepsin for digestion and gum for no reason at all." He blended his pepsin compound with chicle, a natural substance obtained from the sapodilla tree, which is used in chewing gum. He sold the gum in a wrapper that showed the picture of a pig and carried the slogan, "With Pepsin, You Can Eat Like A Pig." The gum sold even better after a businessman bought the company and replaced the pig with a wrapper showing Dr. Beeman's kindly bearded face.

Who Dunnit? Who Really Dunnit?
Who "invented" chewing gum? Does Ohioan William F. Semple really deserve the credit? Or should credit go to other individuals – maybe John B. Curtis who in 1848 sold the first commercial chewing gum in the United States. It was made from tree sap and called "State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum." What about Thomas Adams, who in 1871 patented the chewing gum that people now spend about $2 billion a year on. Adams’ recipe also used chicle, along with sugar and sassafras flavoring. Chicle gave gum the right chewing properties, and eliminated the harsh taste and unpleasant texture in Semple's gum. His Chiclets, those little chunks of gum with a hard sugar coating, are still best-sellers. Adams also invented the first machine for mass producing gum.

People had been chewing gum for thousands of years before inventors like William F. Semple, John B. Curtis, or Thomas Adams lived. The ancient Greeks munched on chewed mastic gum, or mastiche, (pronounced "mas-tee-ka"). They made it with sticky resin obtained from the bark of the mastic plant, a shrub-like tree. The ancient Maya chewed sapodilla tree sap – the same chicle used in modern chewing gum. Humans probably always have had the urge to chew to keep their mouths moist when no water was available, or, psychologists think, because it brings back memories of nursing when they were infants.

Ohio can claim credit for an invention with global impact because Semple got the first patent on chewing gum. It was U. S. patent 93,304, issued on December 28, 1869. A patent is a document, granted by the government, which gives the inventor right -- for a limited period -- to stop others from making, using, or selling the invention without the inventor’s permission. Patents cover products or processes that work in new ways or have new features. They involve how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of, and how they are made.

A patent officially makes an invention the inventor's property. Like any other kind of property, the inventor can sell the patent to someone else or "rent" it. Renting out a patent is called "licensing" it. The owner charges a fee – a royalty – for others to use the patent so they can make and sell a product.

Remember that a patent doesn’t automatically stop others from using the invention. It just gives an inventor the right to sue others who do, in a so-called "patent infringement" suit.

Semple's patent became a milestone in chewing gum history, an official record of his role. Because it was the first for chewing gum, the patent makes it convenient for people to identify Semple as chewing gum’s inventor. We don’t know if other chewing gum pioneers ever paid Semple royalties to use ideas in U. S. Patent 93,304.

Inventors often tweak the technology in an existing patent, making changes and improvements that allow them to get their own patent. The huge majority of new patents granted each year are for small improvements in existing technology. In science and technology, the wheels of progress turn a fraction of an inch at a time, and innovation usually is evolution rather than revolution.

Fun Factoids About Chewing Gum

  • The American colonists chewed the gum-like sap or resin that oozes out of cuts in the bark of spruce trees. Native Americans chewed that gum for as long as anyone could remember. People later chewed paraffin wax sweetened with sugar and honey.
  • Modern chewing gum emerged from a flop. American inventor Thomas Adams tried for a whole year to use chicle as a substitute for rubber in waterproof boots, rainwear, and toys. Adams was frustrated when the experiments failed, and ready to toss the remaining chicle into the East River in New York City. Then a chance visit to a drug store and a little girl gave him that flash of inspiration.
  • ABC gum (Already Been Chewed) has legendary properties as a quick fix-it for all kinds of emergency repairs that demand sticky material. Anecdotes tell of people using it to repair everything from broken dishware to the hydraulic lines in airplanes.
  • Wrigley’s gum got its start when William Wrigley Jr. offered Chicago merchants free chewing gum with each can of his baking powder. The gum became more popular than the baking power. In 1893 he started selling two of the most popular gums in history -- Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum.
  • Chewing gum was originally made from the natural gum chicle, found in the sapodilla tree. Chicle is expensive, however, and other natural gums and chewy synthetic materials also are used in gum today.
  • If you think gum is a trivial product, chew on this: Americans buy more than $2 billion worth of chewing gum each year.
  • Dr. Grandma and Dr. Mom were wrong about chewing gum. It won’t necessarily ruin your teeth. Studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum sweetened with xylitol has an antibacterial action. It fights bacteria that cause tooth decay. Gum also increases the flow of saliva, which dilutes acid produced by bacteria. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphorous minerals that can help to repair soft spots in tooth enamel, actually healing early tooth decay.
  • People chew gum only one tiny stick at a time, but companies make it by the ton. Check out the Wrigley manufacturing process online

Father of the Modern Tomato

Back cover from A. W. Livingston's Sons annual [catalog] of true blue seeds, 1897. Image source: A. W. Livingston's Sons annual of true blue seeds (accessed from Internet Archive)  by Livingston Seed Company; Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection (specifically here) is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Alexander W. Livingston (1821-1898), a Reynoldsburg, Ohio seedsman, in 1870 developed the first commercially successful variety of tomato. He changed the tomato from an ugly duckling of horticulture (small, ribbed, hard cored, and almost hollow) into the uniform, smooth-skinned, juicy, flavor-packed, meaty beauty that is one of the world’s favorite foods. Livingston and his seed company eventually introduced more than 30 varieties of tomatoes. By 1910, half the major varieties of tomatoes grown in the United States were Livingston products, and he won praise from the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

"With all due credit to the important contributions of other growers, seedsmen, and investigators, it is not out of place to call attention again to the great contribution of the Livingston Seed Co. to tomato improvement. Of about 40 varieties that had attained a distinct status prior to 1910, a third were productions or introductions by the Livingston company. If we add those varieties derived directly from Livingston productions and introductions, it appears that half of the major varieties were due to the abilities of the Livingstons to evaluate and perpetuate superior material in the tomato."
-- The Yearbook of Agriculture 1937, U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Stone and Globe are among the Livingston varieties grown today. Seed producers still carry heirloom Livingston seeds such as Acme, Beauty, Buckeye State, Dwarf Stone, Golden Queen, and Perfection. Tomatoes grew throughout the world long before Livingston’s work. The tomato is native to the Americas, where the ancient Aztecs and Incas grew it more than 1,300 years ago. In the 16th Century, Spanish Conquistadors took seeds back to Europe from Mexico and Central America. People in Spain, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries fell in love with it. The French thought tomatoes had special powers and called them "The Apple of Love." But the British believed tomatoes were poisonous, and the American colonists carried that myth with them to the New World.

High street entrance to retail store, 114 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio, from A. W. Livingston's Sons annual [catalog] of true blue seeds, page 2, 1897. Image source: A. W. Livingston's Sons annual of true blue seeds (accessed from Internet Archive) by Livingston Seed Company;  Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection  (specifically here) is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Gradually, however, tomato fans emerged, including the Creoles in New Orleans who diced up tomatoes for jambalayas and gumbos. Livingston selected and planted seeds from tomato plants that bore good fruit. Then he gathered seeds from the best of those tomatoes. Gradually, he got tomatoes that were bigger, smoother, and meatier. After 5 years of this careful selection process, Livingston was ready with seed for a tomato he named the Paragon.

Born in 1821 in Reynoldsburg, Livingston eventually moved to Columbus where he started the A.W. Livingston's Sons seed company. Today, life without Lycopersicon esculentum would be odd, indeed. Imagine spaghetti with no sauce, pizza with no rich red topping, and salsa would be lost without it.

Find out more...

  • Livingston and the Tomato by A.W. Livingston (forward by Andrew F. Smith). First published in 1893, this classic is packed with information about the tomato varieties he developed. As a bonus, there are 60 tomato-based recipes, including exotic but delicious items like tomato butter, pie, and custard.
  • The Victory Seed Company website offers a Seedsmen Hall of Fame, with a profile of A.W. Livingston

Tomatoes around the world: Tomato plant just after planting on a tomato farm in north Queensland, Australia, 17 July 2010.  Image source:  Tomato plant 1000x750.jpg by Noak Westerberg is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Fun Factoids About Tomatoes

  • The Tomato as Movie Star - Tomatoes are among the few plants that have starred in the movies. The 1977 sci-fi flick "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" has become a classic of the low-budget so-bad-it's-good genre. The flick features thousands of ordinary tomatoes that morph into savage predators. As if that wasn't enough, the movie was the first of a series that included titles like "Return of the Killer Tomatoes" and the "Killer Tomatoes Strike Back."
  • Top Tomatoes - The United States tops the world in tomato production, followed by China, Turkey, Italy and India. Florida, California, and Georgia are the top tomato producing states in the U.S., each with more than 200 square miles under cultivation. The average person in the United States eats about 20 pounds of tomatoes each year.
  • Healthy Food - Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, the pigment that makes them red. Lycopene is an antioxidant similar to beta-carotene, and wards off the damaging effects of oxidants formed naturally in the body. Studies show that people who eat tomatoes and tomato products regularly have a lower risk of cancer and other diseases. Modern Alexander Livingstons are trying to breed high-lycopene tomatoes brimming with the antioxidant.

Tomatoes around the world: Tomatoes being grown near the Arctic Circle in greenhouse heated entirely with water from geothermal source, Chena Hot Springs, 2011. Image source: The Ohio Academy of Science

  • Home Garden Star - Tomatoes may be the single most popular backyard garden crop, a staple in an estimated 40 million gardens in the United States.
  • Go Ahead, Do the Math - Alexander Livingston sold 5,000 pounds of seed for his delicious "Beauty" tomato in 1893. How many tomato plants would that grow? Hint: One ounce of seed contains about 340 seeds. Assume a 95 per cent germination rate. Go ahead, do the math.
  • A Grain of Truth - Like many myths, the old idea that tomatoes are poisonous did have a basis in fact. Tomatoes are members of a plant group, the Solanaceae family, which includes poisonous members. Among them are highly toxic plants like henbane, mandrake, and nightshade. Tobacco, potatoes, and peppers are also members of the Solanaceae family.

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Aquaculture Pioneers

New York State Hatching House—Interior View (ca. 1879). Image source: Fish Hatching and Fish Catching, 1879, Page 41 (assessed from Internet Archive, original contributor Cornell University Library) by by R.B. Roosevelt and Seth Green is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Two Cleveland physicians, Theodatus Garlick and H. A. Ackley, performed the first successful artificial fertilization of fish eggs in the United States in 1853. They later built the nation’s first fish hatchery. Garlick published results of their experiments in 1857 in the "Ohio Farmer," spreading the knowledge for others to use. His treatise on artificial fish propagation and pisciculture encouraged others to begin artificially breeding fish. Aquaculture experts today sometimes call Garlick the "Father of American Fish Culture." Garlick and Ackley laid the foundation for the modern fish farming, or "aquaculture," industry.  Aquaculture means raising aquatic animals or plants in a controlled environment for all or part of their life cycle.  Most aquaculture is for commercial purposes, with the produce sold for use in recreation, food, or other products. Aquaculture’s most popular fish include channel catfish, striped bass, rainbow trout, salmon, carp, and tilapia. Aquaculture also is a major source of water chestnuts, algae, water hyacinths, seaweeds, water lilies, and other wetland plants.

An aerial view of catfish ponds in Louisiana resembles an abstract painting, 5 March 2013. The color differences between ponds can be correlated to the number and type of algae present within the ponds. Image source: Louisiana Catfish Ponds k4724-7.jpg, and at flickr, a USDA photo by Scott Bauer, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Thousands of fish farms are thriving today as a result of their work, producing heart-healthy, high-protein food for millions of people. Fish farms raise about half the oysters and almost all the catfish, crawfish, and rainbow trout sold in the United States. Worldwide, fish farming accounts for more than 70 million tons of fish each year, and aquaculture is the great hope for supplying hungry people with nutritious seafood, as natural catches from the oceans decline.  The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture website offers more information.

Aquaculture - workers harvest catfish from the Delta Pride Catfish farms in Mississippi. Image source: Delta Pride Catfish farm harvest.jpg by Ken Hammond, USDA OnLine Photography Center, is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Artificial fish breeding in fish hatcheries also has become a key conservation tool.  It allows restocking of natural populations of game fish that are depleted because of pollution and other problems.  That helps sustain the sports fishing industry.  Fishing is the nation’s 5th most popular participation sport, ranking ahead of biking, bowling, golf, in-line skating, jogging, tennis, and skiing. Only walking, swimming, camping, and exercising with equipment are more popular. Fishing enthusiasts spend more than $2 billion annually on tackle and other gear, and pump billions into the tourist industries in Ohio and other states.

Garlick and Ackley helped start all that by showing for the first time that people could raise commercial quantities of fish through artificial breeding. Fish farming certainly was not new when the two doctors started their experiments. People in ancient Rome and China, for instance,  raised carp, oysters, and other fish in artificial ponds.  Ostia Antica, port for the ancient City of Rome, had huge fish ponds to assure consumers the freshest possible seafood. Garlick and Ackley, however, were among the first individuals in the United States to rediscover and extend this knowledge. Previously, fish farmers caught fish in the wild and transferred them to artificial ponds or other enclosures.  Fish spent only part of their life cycle under artificial cultivation.  Adult fish caught in the wild might be fattened or held for brief periods.  Small fish, or fingerlings, grew to maturity.  Imagine how expensive chicken or hamburgers would be if farmers had to start with wild birds or cows.

Production cycle of Clarias gariepinus (North African Catfish). Image source: “How to Farm North African Catfish,” 15 October 2012, Copyright © www.TheFishSite.com - reproduced with permission

Fish farming really began to make sense from a monetary standpoint after these Ohio inventors realized that fish could be raised in artificial environments throughout their entire life cycle. They worked with brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis, which "spawn," or reproduce, when the female sheds eggs into the water and the male fertilizes them. Garlick and Ackley removed eggs from a female trout and sperm, or "milt," from a male and combined the two so fertilization could occur. The fertilized eggs hatched into small trout, or "fry." They realized that the young fish could be used to stock fish farms, and built the first fish hatchery on Ackley's farm near Cleveland, which had 3 fish ponds.

The Science Behind the Invention
Theodatus Garlick and H. A. Ackley based their development of artificial breeding technology on the biology of fish reproduction.  Not all fish, however, would have cooperated like the brook trout the Ohioans used in their experiments. Female trout lay eggs in the water, where males fertilize them. Sharks, however, use internal fertilization.  Most sharks and a few other fish, including some popular aquarium fish, even give birth to live young.

However, brook trout are the rule of thumb in the fish world.  Fertilization occurs after the female spawns, or deposits eggs in the water. Marine, or salt-water, fish must lay millions at one time, assuring that at least a few survive to adulthood.  Their eggs contain tiny droplets of buoyant oil that helps them float freely in the water, offering a tasty snack to other fish.  Predators also gobble up many newly hatched fish.

Most freshwater fish lay fewer eggs because they are better protected from predators.  Their eggs have a sticky outer coating that clings to stones and other objects in the water. Many fish build "nests." They’re not elaborate like bird nests, but usually just shallow holes at the bottom, serving to keep the eggs in one spot and protect them.  Some adult fish even guard the nests.

Borer Resistant Corn

Glen H. Stringfield, of Wooster, in the 1950s developed techniques for hybridizing corn that doubled the yield, and made corn resistant to the European corn borer. He did that work at the Ohio Agricultural Research Station.

European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) in corn. Image source:  Image Number: 1234158 by Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org is licensed under CC BY 3.0 US

In the decade following the introduction of Stingfield's hybrids (1954), annual corn borer damage in Ohio diminished from $8.5 million to only $600,000. Stringfield's development of hybrid corn ranks as one of the most important achievements of the nation's agricultural experiment stations

About the Corn Borer

Healthy European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis. Image source:  United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Image Number K7834-3, by Keith Weller is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

The European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner), attacks corn and many other crops including cotton, sorghum, and several vegetables. It gets its name from its method of attack - boring a hole through the husk of an ear.  Damage is significant once European corn borers have invaded a field.  It first appeared in U.S. fields in the early 1900s and has spread westward in the U.S. to the Rocky Mountains and has also invaded Canada.  Some believe the first borers arrived with broom corn that was imported from Hungary and Italy for broom manufacture.

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Honey Industry Pioneers

Rev. L. L. Langstroth. Image source:  The new bee-keepers' text book, 24th edition, 1878, page 218 (assessed from Biodiversity Heritage Library, original contributor Cornell University Library) by Albert J. King is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Lorenzo Langstroth (1810-1895), of Oxford, Ohio, was the "Father of American Beekeeping," developing techniques still used by bee keepers everywhere.  He designed a new type of hive that incorporated frames that hung from the top but left a small (3/8") space between the sides and the frame.  He figured out that bees don't usually construct any comb in 3/8" spaces, which would allow the frame to be safely handled by beekeepers. In describing his invention, Langstroth wrote in his publication Langstroth on the Honey-Bee (1860), "...the chief peculiarity in my hive was the facility with which they could be removed without enraging the bees .... I could dispense with natural swarming, and yet multiply colonies with greater rapidity and certainty than by the common methods .... feeble colonies could be strengthened, and those which had lost their queen furnished with the means of obtaining another. .... If I suspected that anything was wrong with a hive, I could quickly ascertain its true condition, and apply the proper remedies."

Movable comb hive, with glass on all sides. Image source: A practical treatise on the hive and honey-bee, 2nd edition, 1857, frontispiece (assessed from the Internet Archive, original contributor Library of Congress), by L. L. Langstroth, is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Another Ohioan, Amos I. Root, of Medina, was the founder of the American bee industry, and developed techniques for maintaining large numbers of tended hives. He also invented a new beehive that permitted honey to be extracted without damaging the hive. At the time, beekeeping was a key industry and important to many U.S. families, so the new techniques were of great importance to many people.  His inventions allowed beekeeping to be more cost effective and practical. Root took up beekeeping in his mid twenties as a hobby which quickly grew into a business venture.  He started a journal, "Gleanings in Bee Culture," and also sold equipment to 150,000+ customers. He passed the business on to his sons in 1880. 

Amos Root and the Wright Brothers.

Interestingly Amos Root was one of the first people to witness flight - and write about it. He wasn't the first to see the Wright Brothers fly, but his written account was the first description by a direct eyewitness to a flight. Amos Root predicted that the Wrights' invention, "may outrank the electric car, the automobile, and all other methods of travel, and one which may fairly take a place beside the telephone and wireless telegraphy."

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Gleanings in Bee Culture, title page, February 1882. Image source: Gleanings in Bee Culture, title page, Vol. X, No. 2, February 1882 (assessed from the Internet Archive, original contributor University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries) by A.I. Root, is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Bees on a honeycomb. The image shows a brood comb. In the middle of the comb some white grubs can be seen in their cells. Below left: Sealed brood cells shortly before the hatching of worker bees. Above right: The light-colored cells are sealed honey cells. Below, left and right: The yellow and ocher cells contain pollen. Image source: Bienen auf Wabe 2.jpg, 15 August 2006, by Waugsberg is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Johnny Appleseed

Drawing of Jonathan Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed. Image source: Johnny Appleseed 1.jpg (reprinted from Knapp, H. S. A History of the Pioneer and Modern Times of Ashland County. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co, 1862, frontispiece (which bears a “digitized by Google” label)) by H. S. Knapp is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

John Chapman acquired his reputation as Johnny Appleseed while planting apple trees in Ohio, where he spent much of his time, laying the foundation for the modern apple growing industry.

He was born in 1774 in Massachusetts, but spent much of his life traveling throughout Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. He created apple orchards almost everywhere he went, planting seeds and also transplanting seedlings. Even after two centuries many of the trees he planted still bear fruit.  He was instrumental in spreading apple planting among the U.S. pioneers, and also to Native Americans.

He was known for "roughing" it - usually choosing to sleep outdoors even when offered a warm bed.  Many stories abound, but the consensus says that he dressed humbly in rags and even wore a pot on his head as a hat -- the pot was also used for cooking.  He often went barefoot and was generally known as a kind man who wanted to spread the beauty of his favorite fruit and tree throughout his country.

Johnny Appleseed died in 1845, reportedly the only time he had ever been sick.

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The Melrose apple: the official apple of the state of Ohio. The Melrose is a cultivar developed in Ohio by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, in 1944. Image source: Melrose-Apfel.jpg by MarkusHagenlocher is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Durham Wheat Industry

Mark A. Carleton, a native of Jerusalem, Ohio, in the late 1800s brought back to the United States seed from hardy varieties of disease-resistant "durham" wheat growing in harsh climates in Russia. Carleton’s work started the United States durum wheat industry, allowing farmers to grow wheat on vast expanses of land in the Great Plains that were too cold and dry for traditional varieties.

Carleton worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the 1890s, when scientists were concerned that population growth would outstrip wheat production. Some believed that widespread food shortages would occur by the 1930s unless researchers found ways of increasing wheat production. So in 1898, the USDA sent Carleton on expeditions to Russia to search for new varieties of wheat that yielded more bushels per acre, produced good crops despite drought, and resisted damaging diseases.

In 1899, he brought back seeds of Kubanca, spring wheat that started the United States durum wheat industry. "Durham" comes from a Latin word meaning "hard" and the new wheat had a very hard grain. A year later Carleton returned to Russia, coming home this time with a hard winter wheat called Kharkov that also became popular. Farmers plant "spring" wheat in the spring and harvest it in autumn. "Winter" wheat goes into the ground in the autumn, and is ready for harvest the following spring. USDA appointed Carleton chief of its Office of Cereal Investigation, where he was responsible for other innovations in grain cultivation. He helped make the Sixty-Day oat the most popular variety grown in the U.S., for instance, and introduced winter barley cultivation to the Midwest.

Mark Carleton was not the first person to bring those new wheat seeds to the United States. In the 1870s, for instance, Mennonite immigrants came to the United States with seeds of hard winter wheat. However, almost nobody knew about it, or the benefits of switching to the new wheat. Carleton, in contrast, followed up with a relentless campaign to convince farmers, millers, and consumers that his new wheat was superior.

Wheat Factoids

Wheat comes in 2 major types, winter wheat and spring wheat.

  • Winter wheat is planted in the fall, goes dormant during the winter, starts growing again in the spring, and is harvested in the summer.
  • Spring wheat is planted in the spring, grows throughout the summer, and is harvested in the fall.

The United States produces 5 main classes of wheat, named according to the color of its kernels. Each needs a specific set of growing conditions, is grown in a specific region, and has its own special uses.

  • Soft red winter wheat grows in the eastern third of the United States and is used in cakes, cookies, crackers, snack foods, and pastries.
  • Hard red winter wheat grows in the southern and central plains and accounts for most of the wheat produced in the United States. Its flour is used mainly in bread.
  • Hard red spring wheat and Durham wheat are both grown in the northern plains. Flour from hard red spring wheat makes bread, while Durham wheat flour makes spaghetti, macaroni, and other pasta products.
  • White wheat grows mainly in the Pacific Northwest, and is used much like soft red winter wheat.

Yellow Dent Corn

James L. Reid developed Yellow Dent Corn, the most popular variety of field corn grown world-wide during much of the 20th Century. Most of today’s hybrid corns were derived from Yellow Dent. Dent Corn originally was created by crossing flint and floury corns.

Corn is one of the most important production grains in the United States today.  So the development of Yellow Dent Corn -- also known as "field corn" - had remarkable implications for U.S. farmers. Most of the corn grown in the United States today is Yellow Dent. It has a very high Vitamin A content and is perfect for a variety of uses. Yellow dent corn gets it's name because of a small 'dent' on both sides of each kernel.  It is the corn of choice for many food manufacturers and is used in corn chips and taco shells. Cornmeal is also derived from Yellow Dent Corn, which is used in the baking of cornbread, and other products. Corn starch is turned into fructose which is used as a sweetener in many processed foods and soft drinks.

Yellow Dent Corn differs from the "sweet" corn served as a vegetable in several ways. Sweet corn is full of sugar and softens readily when heated.  Sweet corn can even been eaten off the husk in a corn field.  But Yellow Dent Corn has a very thick outer skin that does not soften when cooked but must be soaked or ground for processing.

Corn has been a native crop in the Americas for over 7,000 years, and is said to have been brought to Spain by Christopher Columbus.

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Fast Ditcher

The Buckeye Steam Ditcher Company, founded by James B. Hill in Bowling Green, Ohio, in 1894, developed the world’s first successful machine for digging drainage trenches. It grew into the largest tile ditching and construction trenching company in the world and held that position for more than a half century. Modern ditching machines still use the elements of the original Buckeye design.

A "Ditching Machine?"
Stifle those 21st Century giggles. This ditch-digging machine solved tremendous problems that existed in the United States in the past, and still cause concerns here and in other countries. The steam ditcher filled a definite societal need at the time and had great beneficial impact. It transformed what people then regarded as wasteland into some of the nation’s most productive farmland, stopped the spread of serious diseases, and made travel a lot easier.

People often invent new devices or technologies to solve problems. Swamps were a huge problem for early settlers in some parts of the United States. Few had it tougher than people living around the Great Black Swamp in the northwestern part of Ohio. It consisted of forest so thick that direct sunlight never reached the understory. The land was flooded for most of the year, and disease-carrying mosquitoes thrived there. So did biting flies, gnats, water rats, snakes, wildcats, wolves, and other animals. Even Native Americans were afraid to enter the forbidding region. Travel through the area was fine in winter, with ground frozen concrete-hard. However, much of the rest of the year, it was horrible, with knee-deep mud covering the roads. Travelers were lucky to go a mile or two in an entire day.

Settlers around such regions dug drainage ditches to carry the excess water away. Some were open ditches. Others were dug to lay drainage "tiles," or pipe, and then filled in. It was backbreaking work. A crew of 50 strong men might be able to dig 300 feet of drainage ditch in a 12-hour workday. It took about 15,000 miles of ditches to drain that swampy area of northwest Ohio.

James B. Hill’s machine was revolutionary. The original steam-powered machine had a big digging wheel that workers slowly lowered into the ground. View the American Society of Mechanical Engineers brochure, "Buckeye Steam Traction Ditcher" as a PDF or the ASME webpage for more information. As the wheel turned, it scooped out dirt, and dumped it onto a conveyor belt that deposited it alongside the ditch. The machine used traction to move forward constantly, and some models could dig 3 feet per minute. The machines worked in either soft mucky ground of swamps or hard-packed soil. In soft soil, they could dig 3 lineal feet per minute, up to depths of 12 feet, completing 1,800 feet of ditch in one working day. Many of the machines battled the Great Black Swamp, which was eventually drained and became some of the most productive farmland in the United States.

The earliest remaining Buckeye Steam Ditcher is on display at the Hancock County Museum in Findlay, where Hill moved his production plant in 1902. He later changed the company’s name to Buckeye Steam Traction Company. The Findlay plant churned out ditching machines until 1973, and they were used as far away as Africa.

From Badlands to Goodlands: Wetlands
Early settlers regarded swamps as their enemy, and did what came naturally. They attacked and destroyed – millions of acres of what we now term "wetlands." That would be unthinkable today because society recognizes the great ecological value of marshlands in nurturing biodiversity, protecting wildlife and protecting endangered species, and even shielding communities from hurricane storm surges. Until the 1970s, the U. S. Government encouraged the draining and filling of swamps to expand agriculture and make more land available for urban development. Now the government and other organizations such as the Sierra Club are working to protect wetlands.

According to The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, from the 1780's to the 1980's, Ohio wetland areas declined from about 5,000,000 acres to about 483,000 acres. Ohio's original wetlands were very large. Examples include:

  • The Great Black Swamp, which was once 120 miles in length and an average of 40 miles in width (about the size of Connecticut).
  • The Scioto and Hog Creek marshes of Hardin County, which once covered 25,000 acres or 39 square miles.

For research and educational purposes, the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park at The Ohio State University is one of the most comprehensive wetland research and educational facilities in the nation at a major university.

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