16 December 2012

Patents on
Fruits & Plants


From the Cultivator & Country Gentleman magazine 
January 27, 1876

A correspondent lately sent us the printed copy of a bill introduced in Congress last month by a member from this State, entitled “a bill to encourage the production of new and valuable fruits and plants.” We are asked to publish it at length, or if that is impracticable, at least to express our views as to its merits. The purpose of the proposed act is to secure “the originator or discoverer of any new and valuable fruit or plant,” &c., “the sole right and liberty of growing, propagating and selling such plants for the term of seventeen years.”

On former occasions we have quite fully stated our conclusions on this subject and the reasons on which they are based—to the effect, in brief, that we can conceive of no method of accomplishing the objective above specified which must not involve greater injury to the community, and delay and vexation in the introduction of new varieties, than the value of all the “encouragement” it will give to the introducers.

Should such a law be enacted, our most earnest advice to all farmers and fruit growers would be not only to abstain from purchases of anything purporting to be thus protected, but also to be extremely careful about buying plants or trees which they suppose themselves to have been familiar for years. The very frequent cases of annoyance and extortion under our present patent laws, where it would be supposed that safeguards for the protection of the public could be devised and put in force, we should regard as sufficient reason for such advice.

We find nothing in the present act to change these views. Farmers and horticulturists everywhere would be completely at the mercy of all who chose to enter upon a career of swindling them. It would in all ordinary cases be easier and cheaper to submit than to appeal to the courts for protection.

If the time comes when an intelligent community fails to appreciate a good thing when introduced, or to take sufficient interest in improvement of labor for its accomplishment from other motives than that of getting a royalty on the fruits we eat, the grasses of the meadow and the flowers of the garden—we shall hope the public will be willing to rest satisfied with such poor varieties as we already possess, in preference to fettering their hands and pledging their purses, in the manner indicated by laws of this kind. Their result, we believe would be only evil, and that continually, as well for the introducers of new varieties as for the whole rural community.

Since the foregoing was written, we find a brief notice of the proposed law in that excellent journal, the New-England Farmer, from which we take a sentence or two to show its purport.

“The question is, who will be most benefitted by it, the inventor of the new apples and potatoes, the cultivators who buy the right of producing and selling them, or the lawyers who settle the disputes arising between the two parties? Deliver us from growing any fruit we cannot give away if we choose.”

“If every squash or pumpkin we buy for the table must have the seeds destroyed to prevent them from sprouting, for fear of infringing on somebody’s patent, deliver us from the patent laws, or the pumpkins.”


I was very pleased to discover this particular excerpt from America's agrarian era. The wisdom and foresight expressed by the editors of the Cultivator & Country Gentleman paper is remarkable. 136 years ago, these men saw patenting of plants as a dangerous slippery slope—as "only evil, and that continually." The bills were eventually passed, and more have followed.

Such laws paved the way for the rise and domination of Monsanto over world agriculture. 

"Only evil and that continually."

09 December 2012

A Remedy For
Canada Thistle


A young Canada thistle

From the Cultivator & Country Gentleman magazine 
May 20, 1869

The large fields covered with thistles on many farms, and the small amount of labor that can be spared for their destructions, are at variance. We must find some cheap and sure remedy, or pay a thistle tax beyond all computation. Canada thistles bear seed in abundance, some years more than others, and it is scattered by the winds and planted by the frost and rain, so that any acre of land in this neighborhood poorly tilled, will show Canada thistles. Now for a remedy.

In pasture lands, stock heavily, so as to feed close, either with cattle, sheep, or horses, or all together. Carry into the lot twice the quantity of salt that your stock would eat, made into a weak brine and put a little on a thistle here and there until it is gone. Repeat this once or twice a week for a single season. It induces the stock to eat the thistles. They become fond of them and will eat them quite clean.

N.P. Hedges
Wales Centre, N.Y.

Cows eating Canada thistle (photo link)

01 December 2012

Comb Protectors


(photo link)

From the Cultivator & Country Gentleman magazine 
January 13, 1876
A correspondent gives the Fancier's Journal the following description of a hood for protecting the large combs of Spanish and Leghorn fowls, in order that they might not be disqualified from competition at shows, by loss of combs from freezing:

I generally make them out of cotton-flannel. Take two pieces of cloth and pin them together. Then lay on the pattern and cut the hood out, and sew it around the edges, leaving a space for base of comb. Then take a piece of narrow tape or cord rubber, two and one-half inches long, and sew the ends on the base of the hood, one and one-quarter inches from the front of the hood, and it is finished.

Then catch the bird and hold its head firmly. Pull the hood on the comb, pulling it well on till it reaches the base of the comb. Then put the rubber throat latch under its bill. Then place the bird on its feet and I defy all cold to freeze it. I used them on my fowls last winter with perfect success.


You can buy diapers for your chickens but as far as I know no one sells hats. Chicken hats would not only serve to protect combs from freezing in winter, they could also protect a  chicken's head from being pecked by other birds. And, of course, they would be very stylish. 

So here's an idea for some imaginative and enterprising person. There isn't a doubt in my mind that you would be able to sell chicken hats on the internet, and probably more than you might imagine.