Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mr Lipscombe, Captain Goldsmith and the Mammoth Strawberry

Elizabeth Nevin’s uncle, Captain Edward Goldsmith, master mariner of merchant ships from London to the colony of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) from the 1830s until his retirement back in Kent (UK) in 1856, and Hobart  businessman and nurseryman Frederick Lipscombe, had maintained a friendly and profitable business relationship over twenty years until one day in June 1853, they had a very public falling-out over the Mammoth Strawberry, or so it seemed at first blush.

Frederick Lipscombe (1808-1887) nurseryman,
reproduced by J. W. Beattie from an earlier photographer's portrait 
In: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania No. 82
Publisher: Hobart : J. W. Beattie, [19--]
ADRI: AUTAS001136191079
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

Frederick Lipscombe's arrangements with Captain Goldsmith involved the careful selection and packaging of valuable plants for import and export to and from Europe, Mauritius, and the Americas. The Hobart Courier of the 14 December 1848 ran a list of plants including the Mammoth strawberry, imported for Lipscombe on Goldsmith's finest barque, The Rattler, with the criticism that although the flora had arrived in good condition, the Mammoth and Elisabeth strawberries had not been put in pots prior to sailing but put into mould at the bottom of a case and had perished.


IMPORTED PLANTS.- ... The flora of this country has also received a great addition by the importation of some plants for Mr. F. Lipscombe in the Rattler, Captain Goldsmith. The following are in good condition :-Lilium rubrum, schimenes picta, campanula novilis, gloxinia rubra, Rollisonii, speciosa alba, and Pressleyans ; anemone japónica, lilium puctata, torenia concolor, lobelia erinus compacta, myasola (a "forget-me not"), and another new specimen of the same; cuphan mineara, weigella roses, phlox speciosa, cuphea pletycentra, lantana Drummondii and Sellowii, phloz rubra, achimines Hendersonii ; with the following camellias - Queen Victoria,- elegans, tricolor, triumphans, speciosa, Palmer's perfection, and Reevesii. These were all contained, with others, in one case ; they were well established in pots before packing, which has tended to their preservation. Another case contains lemon thyme, sage, and the Mammoth and Elisabeth strawberries. The same course in this instance had not been pursued; the plants were put into mould at the bottom of the case, and in almost every instance have perished. A quantity of carnations unfortunately experienced the same fate. Importers will therefore do well to impress upon their agents in England the necessity of establishing them in pots before packing. In the exportation of Van Diemen's Land shrubs to the United Kingdom, India, and Mauritius, Mr. Lipscombe always adopts this method, and it is of rare occurrence for any specimen to be lost. From The Hobart Courier, 14 December 1848

Just a few weeks later, in January 1849, and in rebuke of Lipscombe's implied criticism of Goldsmith and the loss of the Mammoth strawberries, a consortium of civic leaders held a Testimonial to Captain Edward Goldsmith. The Hobart Courier 20 January 1849 reported:

"A handsome twelve-ounce silver goblet was presented to Captain Goldsmith on Wednesday, last, as a testimonial in acknowledgment of the services he has rendered to floral and horticultural science in Van Diemen's Land, by importing rare and valuable plants from England." 
If Frederick Lipscombe had been invited to attend, he did so with lips already pursed at the serious wealth acquired by those "Heads of Establishment" present who had amassed personal fortunes on the back of convict transportation. He was a committed supporter of The Anti-Transportation League whose members pledged  not to employ convicts and to use all constitutional means to resist further transports. By late 1852, Queen Victoria was questioning transportation and in early 1853, the Colonial Secretary pledged to send no more convicts to Van Diemen’s Land. In 1856, Van Diemen’s Land was renamed Tasmania.

1853: "on the other side"
When Captain Edward Goldsmith opened his evening edition of the Hobart Town Courier on 17 June 1853, he was astonished to see his name among the Committee members for the "Demonstration" planned as a Jubilee to celebrate the end of convict transportation to Tasmania.


General intelligence.
An adjourned preliminary meeting of the gentlemen desirous to promote the Demonstration on occasion of the Cessation of Transportation to Van Diemen's Land was held yesterday, at Mr. Chapman's offices, Macquarie-street, that gentleman being called to the chair, when the result of the conference with the Corporation of Hobart Town when was reported. The Chairman expressed his regret that the Mayor and Aldermen had determined to stand aloof upon the occasion, but hoped that their decision would not be allowed to interfere with the expression of joy on the part of the loyal inhabitants of this city.

The Chairman also reported that he had received a communication from Mr. Knight, the pyrotechnist, offering to get up a display of suitable fireworks for the occasion.

The Sub-Committee appointed at the last meeting having reported progress, one of whom (Mr. Lipscombe) stating that Captain Goldsmith and Alderman Bonney had consented to act on the Committee.

At the suggestion of Mr. Chapman, Mr. Allport moved that the gentlemen present be appointed a General  Committee for the purpose of the Demonstration. He referred to the objections which had been taken, and, stating his belief that only one opinion should have been entertained upon the subject, considered it a duty they owed to the Queen and country, now that their claims were conceded, to receive that concession with gratitude and rejoicing.

Mr Lipscombe seconded the motion, which was carried.

An Executive Committee was then appointed. Mr. Toby was elected secretary, Mr. W. Robertson treasurer, and the Commercial Bank bankers.

On the motion of Mr. Brewer, seconded by Mr. Kissock, a circular was ordered to be addressed to the Heads of Establishments in Hobart Town, requesting them to give a General Holiday on the 10th August next, and to unite in making it a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing.
The Chairman was requested to communicate with Mr. Knight respecting the fireworks, and application is to be made to the Government for the use of the New Market to refresh the children.

The usual vote of thanks having been awarded and acknowledged, subscriptions were then taken. The total amount at present subscribed is near upon £300 ....

Three days later, a surprised and indignant Captain Goldsmith wrote to the Hobart Town Daily Courier, denying he had consented to act on the Demonstration Committee in a conversation with Lipscombe on "Thursday last", a conversation in which Goldsmith had asked about the growth of the Mammoth Strawberry in the colony, and that his inquiry about the "last meeting" in that conversation was in reference to giving Lipscombe authorisation to insert his name as a subscriber on the Gardeners and Amateurs' Horticultural Society. On the 20th June, the Hobart Courier not only printed Captain Goldsmith's letter, they printed Mr. Lipscombe's "explanation" in reply, along with the letter in quotation marks, as an Advertisement:

To the Editor of the Hobart Town Daily Courier.
Sandy Bay,
Monday Evening, June 20, 1853. 

IN YOUR JOURNAL of this evening is the following advertisement :
"Davey-street, 20th June, 1853.
SIR,-Mr. Lipscombe, as one of the, Sub Committee of the Demonstration movement, having, much to my surprise (as reported in, your journal of Friday last), stated that I have consented to act on the Committee, I desire to contradict that statement through your columns.I never had any conversation with Mr. Lipscombe as to the Demonstration movement. I had a conversation with him, I think, on Thursday last in reference to the growth of the Mammoth strawberry in this colony, and asked how the last meeting was attended, meaning the Gardeners and Amateurs' Horticultural Society, to which institution I authorised Mr. Lipscombe to insert my name as a subscriber.
Your obedient Servant,

Below this quoted letter appeared Mr Lipscombe's reply:

To the above I can only reply, that not on Thursday, but, I believe, on Tuesday last, I asked Captain Goldsmith (as I was requested to do), if I might put his name down as one of the Committee of the Demonstration for the 10th of August. His answer was, "O, yes." He certainly on that occasion told me he but lately received a case of plants from England, amongst which was the Mammoth Strawberry, and asked me how mine were getting on. In consequence of the above distinct understanding on my part, I requested his name might be inserted on the Committee at the meeting on Thursday last. On Friday he called on me and stated that he must have misunderstood me when I asked him to be on the Committee: he thought I had meant the Gardeners and Amateurs' Committee. He further said, "These fellows have been badgering the life out of me to-day ; as it does seem inconsistent of me, as I have always been on the other side, and I must get you to contradict it, and get my name taken off." Not knowing how to contradict the truth, I left that task to Captain Goldsmith himself, and hence the above letter.
In conclusion I can only say, that, having known Captain Goldsmith for the last twenty years, I am bound to believe him when he says it was a misunderstanding on his part (although a strange one), and I have requested the Secretary to withdraw his name from the Committee.
Your obedient Servant,

Dinner service (plate) embellished with the emblem of the Gardeners and Amateurs' Horticultural Society.  Manufactured by Venables, Mann & Co (mark underneath)
This item is held at the Allport Museum, State Library of Tasmania
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2015

Frederick Lipscombe was not holding back when he underscored the divisions in Hobart society between those who were true "locals" such as himself and Morton Allport who were thoroughly fed up with living in an isolated society founded on a criminal population (73,500 convicts transported in a 50-year period), and those who were "on the other side", i.e. Captain Edward Goldsmith who was not a colonist and would never become one, supporting and conspiring with those of the British-born establishment grown wealthy from the transportation of free convict labour, the Mayor and Aldermen included who also withdrew from the "Demonstration" committee. Of course, there was a lot more to it, and the divisions and anxieties festering in Hobart society in 1853 are present today: the local Tasmanian v. the Mainlander: the tough masculine hero v. the shrinking violet; the under-educated poor v. the lazy middle class educated ruling coalition. Captain Goldsmith, 49 yrs old by 1853, with large estates in Kent, had commanded some of the worst built barques across the most dangerous oceans in the world to import produce and expertise to enrich the colony, while all Frederick Lipscombe appeared to do was publicly lie in his own defense, and fret over winning first prize at the next horticultural show. A few months later, in the December show of 1853, he did indeed win prizes: second prize for a collection of roses; two first prizes for British Queen strawberries; one for the best collection of gooseberries, and a first prize in the wine department for damson, red-currant, black-currant, raspberry, gooseberry and cherry wines.

Mr Lipscombe's prizes, The Hobart Courier, 2 December 1853.

On the 10th August 1853, the 50th anniversary of the first British settlement in Tasmania was marked with an unofficial holiday to celebrate the end of convict transportation to the colony. John Nevin, former soldier of the Royal Scots and out-pensioner from Chelsea had arrived a year earlier on the transport Fairlie, in July 1852 with his family of four children and their mother Mary. Thomas, the eldest, just ten years old, would grow up to marry Captain Goldsmith's niece, Elizabeth Rachel Day, named after his wife Elizabeth Goldsmith nee Day.

G.M. Darrow, The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology
Deborah Griscom Passmore (1840-1911) was an artist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Division of Pomology for nineteen years. While her work for USDA focused on fruits, she was also a skilled painter of flowers and cacti.

In 1840, Myatt of Deptford introduced British Queen, his most famous strawberry, and one which Bunyard considered still among the best flavored in 1914. The Eleanor (1847), Admiral Dundas (1854) and Filbert Pine were other varieties raised by him. Admiral Dundas was an enormous pale orange-colored berry with pink flesh and good flavor. Eleanor was late blooming, bright red and acid and used for forcing for its very large fruits. Myatt's seedlings are supposed to have been raised from Knight's varieties. British Queen dominated the whole strawberry market for half a century. Possibly if virus-free plants were available it would be widely grown yet for its unsurpassed flavor, even though it is not hardy. Introduced into France in 1848, it was widely grown there.

Above: The Downton strawberry was the first of Thomas Andrew Knight's selections to draw attention to the merits of experimental crossing. One of 400 seedlings Knight raised from crosses in 1817, the Downton had large, oblong fruits and resembled the Chilean strawberry in many ways. Uncertainty about the Downton's parentage discouraged Knight from calling it a definite example of F. virginiana x F. chiloensis. (From Transactions of the Royal Horticultural Society, vol. 3, London, 1820)

Above:The Elton strawberry, second of Knight's famous varieties, came to rival the Downton in 1828 Had it not been spotted in the Royal Horticultural Society's garden for its health, hardiness bloom, and beautiful fruit it mighty have passed unnoticed, for Knight had overlooked the berry growing in his own garden. (From Pomological Magazine vol 3, 1830)

Keens Imperial, raised by Michael Keens, a market gardener of Isleworth in 1906, ranked as the first large-fruited market strawberry of any real quality. Keens grew it from seed of the Large White Chili. Although it lacked high flavor, it boasted a deep crimson fruit and symmetrical shape. Best of all, its projecting seeds made it a hardy traveler, armored against bruises. In 1819 seed from it produced Keens Seedling. (From Transactions of the Royal Horticultural Society, vol. 2, London, 1818)


The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste #5
P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams
Publisher James Vice, Jr.
Year 1853-1874
Copyright 1853-1874, James Vice, Jr.

British Queen Strawberries

"British Queen

Last autumn I applied a mulch of tan-bark, span-roof form, up to the tops of the plants. Previously, poudrette and street sweepings were worked in freely on either side of the rows. In the spring the tan-bark was levelled on either side of the plants, which, protected from sun and cold, looked as vivid as in the autumn! Subsequently an additional coat of tan was applied about three inches thick. The runners were allowed to grow pretty freely last season, for the benefit of my friends, which gave me rows of plants sparsely scattered instead of hills at three feet distances. It then occurred to me that this strawberry, under our scorching summer sun, might enjoy the protection of partial shading of its own leaves with decided advantage to its fruit. I have been justified in the result, and however much I may have heretofore admired this fruit; I pronounce it without hesitation, to be the finest staminate yet proved; and for beauty, size, flavor, and productiveness, I prefer it to any pistillate I have seen or tasted among eighty varieties of strawberries. The tannic acid liquid was occasionally applied to the plants during their flowering and fruiting season.

The fruit was among the earliest to ripen and the latest to produce, being furnished nearly four weeks.

We are indebted to B. G. Pardee, Esq., of Geneva, for specimens of this famous variety, grown by Dr. Hull, of Newbugh. They were of fair size, but not much more than half as large as we have seen them before, both in this country and in Europe. They must have been ripe at Newburg nearly ten days or a fortnight sooner than they would be at Rochester. A note from Mr. Pardee concerning Dr. Hull's culture will be found in another place.

I lend inclosed two small squares of enameled glass suitable for horticultural purposes. It is manufactured near this city, and is considered an admirable substitute for all other kinds for green-houses and forcing beds. One surface is made opake in its manufacture; it is roughened and similar in appearance to what is termed ground glass. Why import, while an article in all respects available is made in this country! The cost of this enameling on the glass is five cents per foot additional to the price of the glass, or five dollars per hundred feet Glass that I sell at $4.00, $4.25, and $4.50 per 100 feet, would be $9.00, $9.26, and $9.50; the price of the double thick glass sent, is double for the glass; enameling the same. Thos. P. James. - Philadelphia.

The glass referred to in Mr. Jauks note is a beautiful article, and we have no doubt will answer horticultural purposes well. It seems to be just the thing, but five cents per foot for the enameling makes it costly, and the cost is a matter of importance, especially to professional cultivators who use large quantities of glass, and have to study economy. Some sort of obscured glass seems to be necessary under our bright scorching sun for nearly all glass structures. The English rough plate glass, one-eighth of an inch thick, weighing two pounds to the foot, costs in England from eight cents to ten cents per foot, for sizes varying from 8x10 to 10x14; this is about the price of the enameled glass, common thickness. The double thick enameled would be, we suppose, about one-eighth of an inch thick, and would cost twice as much as the rough plate; but then there is to be added freight, duty, and other charges.

British Queen Strawberries #1

On the 14th of June, while on a visit at Newburgh, we went in company with Mr. Saul to see the famous British Queens, of Dr. Hull. The place has now passed out of the Doctor's hands, bat the Strawberry beds are there as usual, under the care of the same man who was gardener for the Doctor. We found a very fair crop on the plants, a good crop indeed for this country, although a considerable quantity had been gathered. The plants were set in rows 15 to 18 inches apart, and the ground was covered with straw between the rows to keep the fruit clean. The gardener informed us that the crop was smaller than usual, as the bed was old and many of the best plants had died out. He said they had not been mulched with tan, nor had any special care or application of any kind. He spoke unfavorably of the use of tan - thought it killed the plants in many cases, and said that Dr. Hull had changed his views in regard to its effects. He thinks (and we pretty much agree with him), that one of the chief causes of Dr. Hull's success was his deep trenching (four feet) of the ground, and enriching with well prepared composts, and afterwards working in poudrette and street sweepings.

Mr. Downing, it will be remembered, thought that the great point in the American culture of these Pine Strawberries, was to keep them warm in winter and cool' in summer, by means of mulching. One thing is very certain, they cannot be grown so easily as the Scarlets; but when Dr. Hull succeeds on the top of a high hill on very dry ground, we know of no good reason why others cannot succeed in more favorable locations.

British Queen Strawberries #2

Much the finest flavored and most beautiful large strawberries, that we have seen grown in this country, are some of this variety, raised this season by our neighbor, Dr. Hull of Newburgh. The color is darker, and they appear to have attained a perfection of quality never reached in England - where this superb sort is so justly popular. The crop is also one that would satisfy Mr. Longworth - much as he has abused the staminates for their barrenness. We will give some account of Dr. Hull's culture of this delicious amateur's variety in our next.

Strawberries as Big as Apples

Photo: Andy Zakeli
Mr Greer said the very big strawberries were two or three strawberries that had joined together. He said some of the new rubygem strawberries were "monsters".

On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872