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AIS: Symposium History

From: HIPSource@aol.com


I thought this might be interesting to some. From the Golden Anniversary 
Issue of the AIS Bulletin, which is January, 1970.

"The Symposium of 100 Favorite Irises...has existed as we know it today since 
1952 when every American Iris Society member began participating in the 
balloting. Even in the very early days of AIS some form of a rating system 
was being used in order to focus attention on the outstanding and popular 
varieties. At that time only accredited judges were permitted to participate 
in the Ratings. During the thirties the numerical system of ratings then 
being used became increasingly cumbersome and valueless and a better method 
was being sought.

In 1940, Kenneth Smith, then a Director of the American Iris Soceity, 
instituted the first Iris Symposium, with only a selected 50 AIS judges 
balloting. The results were compiled and the "Popularity Poll" was born. In 
1941, all acredited judges participated and the symposium became an annual 
event. Not until 1944, however, did the Directors vote to make the Symposium 
official. Through the 1951 poll, the voting was still restricted to 
accredited judges only, but in 1952 Harold Knowleton, then serving as AIS 
president, had the Symposium opened to all members [...] Balloting for the 
Symposium is restricted to tall bearded irises."

And John Wister, in the same issue, remembered that "At nearly all the early 
meetings, as in many since that time, there was criticism that the Society 
was devoting itself too much to bearded irises. But try as the editor did in 
his writing to point out the importance of beardless and bulbous irises and 
regelias and oncoclyclus, it was apparent that about eighty percent of the 
members were interested in tall bearded irises only." 

Early in this case is 1921-30.

The term 'Symposium" has been kicking around from the very beginning. I have 
a distinct memory of a notice in one of the early Bulletins, probably from 
before 1930, of a decision having been made to restrict the form of 
"Symposium" then in use to tall bearded irises only because they were said to 
be the most popular. I can't find this notice. Perhaps Mike or Dorothy will 
know what I am talking about.

Anner Whitehead

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