Conard-Pyle Company records

Biographical and Historical Notes

The Conard-Pyle Company of West Grove, Pennsylvania was a large horticultural enterprise that specialized in the cultivation and hybridization of roses. It was founded in 1897, and established a large magazine-based advertizing campaign and mail order business. According to a Company history, Conard-Pyle can take credit for several "firsts" in commercial horticulture in the United States, particularly in the development of new varieties of roses. The Company is best known for its famed Star Roses, most notably the world-famous Peace Rose. The Peace Rose was "provided to delegates from around the world as they met in San Francisco on April 25, 1945, to form the United Nations" (Thomas p.1).

The Conard-Pyle Company was founded in 1897, but can trace its roots back to 1874 when Charles Dingee (1825-1911) and Alfred Conard (1835-1906) started Harmony Grove Nursery. Charles Dingee was a former dairy farmer and Alfred Conard was descended from a German Quaker farming family. Dingee and Conard originally specialized in fruit trees, but soon began producing roses at the request of Mrs. Dingee (Conard-Pyle Company, History, p.1). Despite their success -or perhaps, because of it - Dingee and Conard had a falling out in 1892 that ultimately ended their partnership. Dingee continued his operation of the Dingee & Conard Company until his death in 1911.

In 1897, Conard joined with Antoine Wintzer and S. Morris Jones to form the Conard and Jones Company. Wintzer, a hybridizer who hailed from Alsace Lorraine, had left the Dingee and Conard Company around the same time as Conard. Both men established small nurseries across the street from the Dingee and Conard Company nursery. S. Morris Jones, a dairy farmer whose land bridged the gap between Conard and Wintzer's land, was persuaded to invest his land in the new company (Conard-Pyle Company, History, p.2). The Conard and Jones Company was incorporated on June 3, 1897, with Wintzer serving as head nurseryman. The company operated as a mail order nursery and seed business that sold their own root-roses while still small.

Successful merchant Robert L. Pyle invested in the company in 1898. Two years later his son, Robert Pyle (March 7, 1877-September 28, 1951) joined the company as a helper, and soon worked his way up to Director of Marketing. The business bloomed under his direction (Quillman, p.49). Conard died in 1906 and in 1907 Robert Pyle and his father purchased Conard's share of the company. Robert Pyle became President, and that same year made history by marketing the slogan, "Guaranteed to Bloom". It was the first time in the horticulture industry that product was sold to consumers with a guarantee (Conard-Pyle Company, p.5). Pyle soon came to believe that specialization was the key to success, and choose roses as the company's new focus (Conard-Pyle Company, The History of Conard-Pyle, p. 3). In 1908 he trademarked the term "Star Roses" as a way to distinguish the company's roses from the competition.

S. Morris Jones retired in 1923, and the name of the company was changed to Conard-Pyle (Conard-Pyle, Company, p.1). Soon after the company purchased additional land in Jennersville, Pennsylvania and established the Red Rose Inn, which held an annual "Red Rose Rent Day" event. In 1930, Antoine Wintzer died and Sidney Hutton was hired as the new business manager. Soon after his sons Sidney Jr. and Richard joined the company.

The United States Plant Patent Act passed in 1930 and Conard-Pyle began to develop and patent new varieties of roses. "Conard-Pyle was among the first to patent new roses and license other leading nurseries to grow and sell them" (Thomas, p.2). In 1932 Conard-Pyle entered a partnership with French hybridizer Francis Meilland's company, The House of Meilland. When war descended upon Europe in 1939, Meilland made an effort to save a new rose variety he had developed. He sent parcels of the new rose to associates in Germany and Italy, as well as to Conard-Pyle. After several successful trials across the United States, the famous "Peace" Rose was patented in 1943 and officially unveiled on the day Berlin fell to Allied forces (Conard-Pyle Company, The History of Conard-Pyle, p. 4). The Peace Rose was distributed to delegates as they arrived at the first meeting of the United Nations in 1945. Almost every new rose today is a descendant of the Peace Rose.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Conard-Pyle Company continued to successfully develop and patent numerous award-winning roses. Upon Pyle's death in 1951, the Huttons purchased the company and Sidney B. Hutton, Sr. became president. He was succeeded as president by his sons Sidney B. (Beany) Hutton, Jr. in 1964 and Richard J. (Dick) Hutton in 1974. In 1978, Conard-Pyle dissolved its retail garden center and mail order business and to become a strictly wholesale nursery business. In 1986 Steven B. Hutton became president of Conard-Pyle (Conard-Pyle Company, The History of Conard-Pyle, p. 4). As of 2011, Conard-Pyle continues to develop and market quality and award-winning plants.

Sources

Conard-Pyle Company, Conard-Pyle: A Company on the Move. Undated. University of Delaware Special Collections, Conard-Pyle collection folders.

Conard-Pyle Company, CP History by decades. 1996. University of Delaware Special Collections, Conard-Pyle collection folders.

Conard-Pyle Company, The History of Conard-Pyle. 1989. University of Delaware Special Collections, Conard-Pyle collection, Box 15 Folder 278.

Conard-Pyle Company, Planting Roots for the Future. 2010. http://www.conard-pyle.com/attachments/pages/new_cp_capabilities.pdf

Quillman, Catherine. (Summer 1994). "The Subject is Roses" in Chester County Town & Living.

Thomas, Neil. Unpublished letter. November 4, 2003.

Scope and Content Note

The Conard-Pyle Company records contain material relating to the business activities of an influential and successful nursery company, created over more than one hundred years. The papers chronicle Conard-Pyle's evolution from a small-scale retail business to an influential wholesaler, as well as the financial, legal and marketing concerns of a major nursery company. The collection provides a unique look at the activities of a large-scale plant nursery, providing insight into the processes of plant breeding, patenting, marketing and sales. In addition, the collection serves as a window to the nursery industry as a whole, due to significant correspondence between Conard-Pyle and other nurseries and materials relating to professional organizations and societies within the nursery community.

The collection is divided into eleven series; "Company administration and operation, 1891-1999," "Financial records, 1897-1997," "Legal records, 1903-1981," "Patents and licensing, 1931-1999," "Marketing, promotions and advertising, 1897-2000", "Meilland, 1947-1992," "Images, audio and film, 1900-1995," "Professional organizations, 1925-1997," "Trade shows, 1964-1998," "Individual flowers, 1905-1991," and "Plaques, awards, and ephemera, 1915-1997." Several of these series are further divided into subseries. See each series for further information about the contents.