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AIS: SHOW: HIST: Ladies of the Club


From: HIPSource@aol.com

In a message dated 12/7/99 3:46:24 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
StorYlade@aol.com writes:

<< Thus, the iris community gave birth to the spectacular iris shows.  Rumor 
has 
 it the budding iris growers devised the show as a way to popularize the 
 product they grew.>>

I don't know what time frame you are talking about but, if memory serves me 
correctly, flower societies as such with staged displays date to the 
seventeenth century in Europe. 

Certainly, irises were being exhibited in this country in the early years of 
this century, for instance at the shows under the aegis of the Massachusetts 
Horticultural Society at which Grace Sturtevant exhibited her seedlings. 

The invitation to the organizational meeting of AIS held in January, 1920, 
stated specifically that promoting shows was one of the goals of the 
organization, although it was lower on the list than straightening out the 
nomenclature, publication of cultural information, research on pests and 
diseases, and establishment of test gardens. However, it also said that 
public interest was to be generated through "published articles, bulletins, 
photographs, lantern slides, and lectures."  

In my part of the world, Richmond, Virginia, the first documented iris 
exhibition occurred in 1921. It was part of the first major flower show ever 
held south of Washington, DC and was staged by the members of the wealthy 
garden club community, several of whom were AIS members and members of other 
national horticultural societies. There were no local iris societies at that 
time, or for some time to come. This 1921 show included large displays of the 
new official city flower of Richmond, the Iris, and was an AIS sanctioned 
show. Bertrand Farr, an AIS Director as well as hybridizer, judged it. 
Similar but ever more extravagant shows continued here yearly until the 
Depression; they were major civic events. Nor was Richmond the only place 
this was happening. There was intense activity by garden clubs throughout 
most of the country and by the midtwenties AIS had a firm exhibition policy 
in place. Some AIS founders and early directors were commercial growers and 
clearly they benefited from the enhanced exposure during the iris-mad 
twenties, but as I read the record, the impetus for these first iris shows 
was a passionate conviction on the part of some powerful amateur 
horticulturists that exposure to beauty through gardening was a force for 
social good. My impression is that most of these women were rich as Croesus 
and you could not have corrupted them if you had tried.

Anner Whitehead
HIPSource@aol.com     

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