USDA Tobacco Seed Packets

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In 1839 the U. S. Patent Office founded the U. S. Propagation Garden, run by William Saunders, who continued to supervise the garden when it was moved to the Department of Agriculture in 1862. The garden would breed economically viable plants and mail the seeds to farmers across the United States. In the early 20th century the USDA ran a wide ranging soil sample study, and then focused on tobacco as a cash crop. Studies done by Milton Whitney, A. D. Shamel, and W. W. Cobey of the USDA proposed introducing shade grown seed leaf tobacco to Connecticut. This broad leaf tobacco was hybridized with Sumatra tobacco that could be used for cigar wrappers and sold for $2.50 to $3 per pound, up from 18 or 20 cents per pound for the Connecticut Havana tobacco. This switch to a Sumatra hybrid was a boon to the Connecticut Valley tobacco industry, who originally received seeds from the USDA to spur their change.
overall: 2 1/2 in x 2 in; 6.35 cm x 5.08 cm
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Work and Industry: Agriculture
American Enterprise
American Enterprise
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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