History of Soybean Seedsmen and Seed Companies worldwide (1854-2020)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-28-1

Publication Date: 2010 Oct. 17

Number of References in Bibliography: 2314

Earliest Reference: 1854

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Soybean Seedsmen and Seed Companies

1854 – I.W. Briggs, of Macedon, Wayne County, New York, sells “The Celebrated Japan Pea” [early name for soybean] in his “Catalog of Rare and Valuable Seeds” for 12½ cents per paper.

This is the earliest seedsman or seed catalog seen worldwide that sells soybeans.

1855 May 7 – J.M. Thornburn & Co. in New York City runs an ad for Japan Peas (25 cents per packet) in the New York Daily Times (p. 6).

The company also advertises Japan Peas in 2 periodicals in 1856.

1856 – Siebold & Co. in Leyden, the Netherlands, sells many plants that Siebold brought back from Japan, including “28. Soja japonica Savi, with white, green or black seeds.” This is the earliest known European catalog that offers soy beans for sale.

1863 – The Government of Algeria, in a Catalog of Vegetables and Seeds Available for Sale at the Garden of Acclimatization at Hamma (near Algiers), offers 4 varieties of soybeans (with French names) for 4.00 francs for 500 gm.

1864 – Vilmorin-Andrieux & Co. of Paris, in its English-language General Wholesale Price List of Garden, Agricultural, and Flower seeds, 1864-1865, offers the soybean (Soya hispida) for 6 pence per ounce, or 5 shillings per pound.

Not until 1870 does Vilmorin-Andrieux et Cie. in Paris sell soybeans in its French-language catalog.

1874 Feb. – Mr. Mark W. Johnson of Atlanta, Georgia, offers the Japan pea.

1875 March 10 – Southern Seed & Plant Co., of Gallatin, Tennessee, has an ad (titled “Strange but true!”) for soybeans in the Atlanta Constitution (Georgia, p. 4). It begins: "Japan Peas - 200 bushels per acre on common land;…”

Note: 200 bushels is roughly ten times a realistic yield for soybeans in 1875. Fraud!

1876 March 25 – A.F. White & Co. of Nashville, Tennessee, advertises Japan peas (soybeans). “Price, by mail, postage paid, 15 cents a package, 30 cents a pint, 50 cents a quart; by express, $3 per peck, $10 per bushel (New Orleans Bulletin. p. 5, col. 2)

1876 May – Mr. M.W. Johnson of Atlanta, Georgia, offers the Japan pea.

1878 March – Mr. F. Auchman in Marburg an der Drau [today's Maribor, Slovenia] ordered three metric tons of soybeans from Tokyo. He is selling half of them at 50 kilos for 50 gulden.

Note: This is the first of many soybean sellers seen in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But Mr. Auchmann soon retracted his offer when he was told that he should sell only early varieties adapted to his environment; otherwise he might give the soybean a bad name.

1878 Nov. 1. – Soybeans (Soja Bohne) are advertised in Neuigkeits Welt-Blatt, a Vienna newspaper by the castle gardener (Schlossgärtner) Köppel in Oberstockstall near Kirchberg in Wagram in Lower Austria.

We eventually found 85 ads for soybeans in the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1878 to 1893. Interest in the soybean in this part of the world was inspired by the work and writings of Prof. Friedrich Haberlandt of Vienna and his many co-workers throughout central Europe. Unfortunately Prof. Haberlandt died unexpectedly on 1 May 1878 at age 52.

1880 Jan. 14 – G. Schweitzer Samenhandlung [Seed Company], in Hallau, Switzerland, is now selling soybeans, and offering a free sample.

1880 Feb. 15 – Mr. R. Maitre, seedsman, of New Orleans, Louisiana, advertises the Soja Bean: “In small packages, 25 cents each” in the Times-Picayune.

1880 Feb. 25 – Gustav Männing Samenhandlung in Karlsruhe, Germany has a tiny ad for Soja-Bohne [soybeans] in the Wochenblatt des Landwirthschaftlichen Vereins im Grossherzogthum Baden (No. 8. p. 63).

1880 March 10 – Alois Klemm, of Rastatt, Germany, places a tiny ad for soybeans (Soja-Bohnen) in the Wochenblatt des Landwirthschaftlichen Vereins im Grossherzogthum Baden (No. 10, p. 80).

1882 Jan 7 – James H. Gregory, seedsman, is now providing soybeans, but not yet selling them.

1885 Jan. – Johnson & Stokes of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is now selling the “Soja Hispida (Soja Bean)” in their catalog Garden and Farm Manual.

1889 – Damman & Co., of San Giovanni a Teduccio (near Naples), Italy, starts selling soybeans (Soja; 3 varieties) in their General Price List.

1890 – T.W. Wood & Sons, seedsmen of Richmond, Virginia, are now offering Soja beans (Shelton et al. 1890).

1890 – James J.H. Gregory, of Marblehead, Massachusetts, is now selling Soja (soybeans) in Gregory's Retail Catalog of Warranted Vegetable, Flower and Grain Seeds, Grown and Sold by James J.H. Gregory.

1890 – Peter Henderson & Co., a large seed company in New York City, is now selling soybeans.

1892 Oct. 20 – Mr. C.E. Cole of Buckner, Missouri is now selling soybeans, which he calls “Cole’s Domestic Coffee Berry.” His price, $3.50/pound, is widely considered exorbitant; fraud.

1894 – Mark W. Johnson Seed Co., of Atlanta, Georgia, is now selling the Soja Bean in its Catalogue of Garden, Field and Flower Seeds.

1896 – W. Atlee Burpee & Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is now selling the “Soja Bean” in their catalog Burpee’s Farm Annual.

1897 March – Tokio Nurseries, of Japan, now sell Soya Hispida (soybeans) in their English-language General Catalogue of Plants, Bulbs, Seeds, &c. &c. This is the earliest Japanese seed company we have been able to find that sells soybeans.

They also sell soybeans in their 1898 catalog.

1898 Jan. – Yokohama Nursery Co., Ltd., of Yokohama, Japan, is now selling soybeans in their Descriptive Catalog… for 1898.

1898 – Haage und Schmidt, seedsmen in Erfurt, Germany, are now selling several varieties of soybean (Fruwirth 1898).

Soybeans also appear in 1900 in their Haupt-Verzeichniss ueber Samen und Pflanzen [General Catalog of Seeds and Plants].

1898 – Harry N. Hammond Seed Co., of Decatur, Michigan, sells soybean seeds (Soja Bean {Coffee Berry}) in the Annual Catalogue of Season 1898.

1899 Dec. – William H. and C.L. Stoddard of Macoupin County Stock and Seed Farms in Carlinville, Macoupin County, Illinois, are now selling Soja Beans.

1899 April – Suzuki & Iida, a Japanese company in New York City, sells “Soy bean” in their English-language Trade List of Japanese Bulbs, Seeds and Plants: 1899-1900.

1900 Jan. 1 – Tokyo Plant Seed Co. (Konoyen), in Akasaka, Tokyo, Japan, sells “Soya beans” in their English-language Condensed Seed & Plant List for 1900.

We found 29 Japanese seedsmen or seed companies that sold soybeans between 1897 and 1914. All were at the USDA National Agricultural Library.

1902 – Edward E. Evans of West Branch, Michigan, has been growing soybeans for some time (Towar 1902, p. 171-74).

1903 – Funk Bros. Seed Co., of Bloomington, Illinois, is now selling soy beans in their seed catalog. “Prices: One peck $1.00, one-half bushel $1.75, per bushel $3.00. F.O.B. Bags free.”

Soy beans are also sold in the 1905 Funk Bros. catalog.

1907 – Wing Seed Co., in Mechanicsburg, Ohio, is now selling soybean seeds in its catalog Alfalfa: And How to Grow It.

1918 – American Mutual Seed Co., of Chicago, Illinois, has a full page (p. 20) in its catalog describing the varieties of soybeans it sells: Mammoth Yellow, Medium Early Yellow, Ito San, and Black Ebony.

1921 Aug. 23 – Johnson Seed Farms (managed by E.S. Johnson), in Stryker, Ohio, is now selling soybeans (Battle Creek Moon Journal, p. 2).

1926 May - Coker’s Pedigreed Seed Co., of Hartsville, South Carolina, is now selling soybeans in their Catalog for spring 1926.

This company was founded by David R. Coker in about 1902 in Hartsville – primarily for cottonseed, which remained the company’s mainstay over the years.

1926-1934 – Jacob Hartz Seed Co., of Stuttgart, Arkansas, starts growing and selling soybeans (Arkansas Democrat. 1934. Aug. 24. p. 22).

1936 – The Regional Soybean Industrial Products Laboratory is established at the University of Illinois. The Laboratory pioneered in soybean breeding and cooperative uniform testing to produce improved soybean varieties in the United States. Jackson L. Cartter is made head of the agronomic section of the laboratory where he supervises agronomic, physiologic, and genetic studies of the soybean in 12 North Central states. This marks the beginning of a long era in which public soybean breeders - working for the experiment stations of land-grant colleges and universities, and for the USDA - develop, test and release new soybean varieties. In 1942 the Laboratory extended the cooperative breeding and research studies to the agricultural experiment stations of 12 Southern States. This era draws to a close with the passage of the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970, as private soybean breeders slowly replace public breeders.

1940 Jan. – Associated Seed Growers, Inc. (later renamed Asgrow), of New Haven, Connecticut, is now selling soybeans in their Descriptive Catalog of Vegetables (No. 8).

1940 Dec. – Soybean Digest (p. 12) publishes its first “Market Street” (soon renamed “Seed Directory”) of classified ads. Strayer Seed Farms, in Hudson, Iowa, run by the George Strayer, is now selling soybeans incl. Bansei, Jogun (“edible varieties”), Mukden, Kingwa, and Richland (“field varieties”).

1943 Jan. – University of Missouri’s Agronomy Dept. compiles a 1-page typewritten list (arranged alphabetically by variety name) titled “Edible soybeans: Partial list of growers and distributors.” New distributors include: Fred H. Scholl, Memphis, Tennessee; International Nutrition Laboratory, Mt. Vernon, Ohio.

1946 Aug. – Robert L. Dortch Seed Farms, of Scott, Arkansas, now have two soybean varieties on the market – Dortchsoy #2 and #7.

1947 March – The first issue of The Soybean Blue Book has a full page (p. 89; arranged alphabetically by variety name) titled “Edible Soybean Growers and Distributors.” Twenty large-seeded, vegetable-type soybeans are included and at least 40 companies and individuals. There is no way to distinguish between growers and sellers / distributors.

1947 – L.B. Wannamaker Seed Co., of St. Matthews, South Carolina, is now selling soybeans.

1967 – Soybean Research Foundation of Mason, Illinois, is a private seed company whose goal is to breed new soybean varieties for the northern states. Dr. Arnold L. Matson, director, is in charge of breeding and research. By April 1970 they are selling the variety SRF 300 through Farmer City Grain Co.

1969 spring – Northrup King & Co. begins a breeding program. By 1975 they are offering soybean varieties,

1970 Dec. 24 – The Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970 is enacted. The number of private soybean breeders starts to increase. See details at Wikipedia.

1972 April 9 – L. Teweles Seed Co., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is now selling soybeans, with guaranteed 90% germination. Their soybeans are getting yields of more than 60 bushels per acre. Historically they have tried to breed hybrid soybeans (Decatur Daily Review. p. 15).

1973 March 5 – McNair Seed Co. (previously named McNairs Seed Co.), of Laurinburg, North Carolina, is first listed in connection with soy. They may sell soybeans, but they are better known for corn and cotton (RSLM No. 775; Report of the second national soybean research conference).

1975 MarchSoybean Digest Blue Book publishes a list of “Soybean Breeders (Private).” These companies are listed alphabetically by state, as follows:

1. Teweles Seed Co., Morton Seed Div., Bowen, Illinois. Dr. Jim Ford, soybean breeder.

2. Soybean Research Foundation Inc., Mason City, Illinois. Dr. Arnold Matson, breeder.

3. Louis Bellatti, Mt. Pulaski, Illinois.

4. Seedmakers Inc., Princeville, Illinois. Marshall Butzow and Louis Ballatti, breeders.

5. Midwest Oilseeds Inc., Adel, Iowa. Harry S. Stine, president.

6. Northrup, King and Co., Washington, Iowa. Other plants: Minneapolis, Minnesota; Waterloo, Iowa. Dr. John Thorne, soybean breeder.

7. Peterson Seed Co., div. of Pioneer, Waterloo, Iowa. Dr. Clark Jennings and Dr. C.R. Weber.

8. Asgrow Seed Co., subsidiary of Upjohn Co., Kalamazoo, Michigan.

9. McNair Seed Co., Laurinburg, North Carolina. David Burns, Breeder.

10. Coker's Pedigreed Seed Co., P.O. Box 340, Hartsville, South Carolina. Josh J. Stanton, soybean breeding.

11. Excel Hybrid Seeds Inc., subsidiary of Ring Around Products Inc., Plainview, Texas. Dr. William H. Davis.

12. Teweles Seed Co., Clinton, Wisconsin. Dr. Jim Ford.

Several soybean seed companies have ads in this issue: Jacob Hartz Seed Co. (Stuttgart, Arkansas, p. 19. Full-page ad). Agripro (Ames, Iowa, p. 125. Full-page ad). Asgrow Seed Co. (p. 127. Full-page ad).

1976 June – Gurley’s Inc., of Selma, North Carolina, runs a full-page ad on the inside front cover of Soybean Digest Blue Book: “World's Best brand edible soybeans: Finest money can buy.”

1983 – DeKalb-Pfizer Genetics, of DeKalb, Illinois, is now selling soybeans.

1996 spring – Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the world’s largest producer of hybrid corn, introduces Synchrony STS soybeans, the first commercially grown soybeans with herbicide resistance.

1996 spring – Asgrow, via Monsanto, introduces small amounts of Roundup Ready® soybeans (New York Times, March 3, p. 1, 11). These quickly become popular – with the greatest acreage of any genetically engineered transgenic seed in the USA.

1997 spring – Asgrow, via Monsanto, introduces large amounts of Roundup Ready® soybeans (Soybean Digest).

1997 Sept. – DuPont, based in Wilmington, Delaware, buys a 20% stake in Pioneer Hi-Bred International for $1.7 billion, as it starts to build a biotech empire. Pioneer will give DuPont a marketing outlet for its new seeds.

2020 – Genetically engineered soybeans, corn and cotton are now widely grown in the USA. A graph shows this.

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