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Many gardeners in winter turn to seed catalogs for solace that spring will come. In the first half of the last century, gardeners across the country and around the world paged through the Salzer Seed Company catalog from La Crosse.

A look at Salzer’s 1922 catalog, of which about 1 million were printed, shows a color painting on the cover of the “Cliffwood Improved Cosmos” flower. Many items in the catalog were listed as “Cliffwood Improved” or “Cliffwood Grown” because the Salzer Seed gardens were beneath Cliffwood Bluff east of La Crosse.

Inside the 1922 catalog, Salzer claimed they were recognized as the largest mail-order seed house in America. Pictures showing Cliffwood Farm, office employees, test plots, greenhouses, the shipping room and the “stenographic” room are displayed in the front of the catalog. Customer testimonials from every state in the U.S. also are listed.

Most of the 1922 catalog was devoted to vegetable and flower seeds — from anise to vine peach, asters to zinnia. Some of the pages were in color to highlight Salzer specialties, like the New Pride of Shelby Dahlia or the Cliffwood Bridesmaid Phlox.

Although Cliffwood farm certainly provided the company with seeds, most of their seed actually came from land the company owned in South Dakota.

Salzer also sold farm and garden implements and supplies in the catalog, such as the Acme corn planter for 95 cents (equivalent to $12.30 today) or the Salzer Powder Gun that could be loaded with “Bug Death” insecticide, which Salzer also sold in 5-pound bags.

Salzer Seed had offices and greenhouses at Seventh and Adams streets and remained in business until about 1958. The firm was started in 1868 by John A. Salzer and was incorporated in 1886. The Salzer family sold the business in 1945.

Source: La Crosse Public Library Archives. For more information, call the archives at (608) 789-7136.

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