Garden Gateway

Since the beginning of the corona quarantine, I’ve been contributing to an initiative called #salemtogether which has focused on past episodes of challenge and adversity in Salem’s history in an effort to kindle some context, and perhaps even resilience. There has been a flurry of social media posts on the great Salem Fire of 1914, the Flu Epidemic of 1918-1919, and this week it’s all about World War I. I wish we could go back farther, but I do have to say that I have developed great respect for the people that lived in Salem in the second decade of the twentieth century: through fire and flu and war. They really got going, without too much whining (that I can detect). I’m at a bit of a disadvantage compared to my partners in this project as they are the keepers of archives and I’m just armed with a few digital databases, so I have to be a bit creative in my search for portals into the past. Just reading contemporary newspapers made it very clear that the primary responsibilities of citizens during 1917-1918 were to: 1)produce; 2)conserve and 3)buy liberty bonds. As the first two obligations were focused on FOOD first of all, I then browsed through as many gardening publications as I could find, as I don’t have access to the records of the Salem Public Safety Committee on Food Production and Conservation (wherever they are!) and settled in for a delightful afternoon with The Garden magazine, which was issued between 1905 and 1924. This magazine was entitled Farming before it became The Garden so it’s a bit more practical than some of its contemporary sister publications, but still, before the war it was far more focused on aesthetics than produce. Then comes a stark change in the spring of 1917: from flowers to vegetables, from conservatories to cold frames, from sundials to tools, from the “hospitable garden” to the “patriotic garden”. And then back again, when the garden can be “demobilized” after the Armistice of November 1918, and attention can return to perennials and pergolas.

Garden Magazine Covers 1916-1919

gardenmagazine23newy_0241 May 1916

gardenmagazine2519unse_0011 February 1917

gardenmagazine2519unse_0291May 1917

gardenmagazine26newy_0045 September 1917

gardenmagazine26newy_0089 October 1917

gardenmagazine27newy_0069 March 1918

gardenmagazine27newy_0191 May 1918

gardenmagazine27newy_0245 June 1918

gardenmagazine27newy_0281 July 1918

gardenmagazine2829newy_0007 August 1918

gardenmagazine2829newy_0045 September 1918

gardenmagazine2829newy_0185 Demobilizing


gardenmagazine2829newy_0225 Feb 1919

gardenmagazine30newy_0051 Sept 1919

I’m not sure that this national publication can capture the Salem scene but at least these covers can (decoratively) symbolize contemporary attitudes. As you can see, the messaging gets increasingly strident until the Kaiser ends up canned! The more I read about the homefront during the First World War, the more I realize just how important canning was: “turn the reserves into preserves”!

11 responses to “Garden Gateway

  • TomP

    Love these The Garden Magazine covers and the idea of “patriotic” and “victory” gardens! There was a house where I grew up in Little Silver, NJ, built around the turn of the last century, that had a garden in the front side yard and featured a flag pole with a 5-pointed star base. I always assumed it had been a victory garden, and the owners just kept it going through the years and into the 70s…the house and flag pole are still there, but I think the vegetable garden is no more.

    • daseger

      Oh that’s a pretty place! My husband is from Long Branch so we’re down there a couple of times a year.

      • tom

        Nice! Both of my folks grew up in Long Branch! Your husband must remember McCue’s Dairy – that was my mother’s family.

      • TomP

        Nice! Both of my folks grew up in Long Branch! Your husband must then remember McCue’s Dairy – that was my mother’s family.

  • Christopher T. George

    Very interesting blog on the Home Front in #WW1. Keep up the good work.

  • Lou Sirianni

    Love the covers and surely would enjoy the content.

  • Helen Breen

    Donna, lovely art work on these covers. What a pick-me-up!

  • Lisa

    When I lived in Manhattan, sans garden, I would find old copies of The Garden Magazine in used book stores and at flea markets. I read them cover to cover and dreamt of a garden someday, out in the country. That was in the 1970’s with the “back to the land” movement, resurgence of home canning, woman’s lib, etc. I still have the magazines and would buy more if I saw them. Fortunately my garden today provides comfort and solace besides the physical work required. Thanks for a reminder of that time during our most difficult time.

    • daseger

      I was the same way with vintage house magazines before I had a house, so I know exactly what you mean! Gardening came later, but now is more interesting to me, so I wish it would warm up!

  • Christopher T. George

    An interesting reply, Lisa. Thanks!

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