The Conard-Pyle Company of West Grove, Pennsylvania, is 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 its 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 a 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). 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 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 2013, Conard-Pyle continues to develop and market quality and award-winning plants.
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.
The Conard-Pyle Company records supplement includes substantial additions to some of the series in the original collection, as well as records which constitute three new series related to the Atlantic Coast Nurseries, Inc., printed material and Robert Pyle's professional papers.
The series in this supplement parallel the series and subseries in the original collection. However, there are no additions for several series in the original collection, including Series III. Legal records, VIII. Professional organizations, IX. Trade shows, and XI. Plaques, awards, and ephemera. Three new series have been added to the Conard Pyle Company records in this supplement: Series XII. Atlantic Coast Nurseries; Inc., Series XIII. Books, magazines, catalogs, pamphlets and articles; and Series XIV. Robert Pyle professional papers.
This supplement has additional material for several of the subseries found in Series I. Company Administration and Operation. Substantial files, dating from 1929 to 1946, were added to subseries I.B. Foreign correspondence, namely, correspondence with the firms of Charles Mallerin in France and Pedro Dot in Spain, as well as a group of miscellaneous foreign correspondence arranged alphabetically.
The additions to subseries I.E. Speeches, Trips and Events, focus on the files for Red Rose Rent Day events from 1957 through 1984, when the annual celebration was discontinued. The files, arranged by year, include press kits, photographs, negatives, slides, and other material used to publicize the event. Begun in 1937, Red Rose Rent Day honored a proviso found in the original 1731 deed to the property (part of which eventually was sold to Conard-Pyle Company in 1928). When the property was deeded to William Penn's grandson in 1731, the proviso called for the payment of a red rose yearly if demanded. Later deeds in 1742 and 1748 continued to carry this proviso. At the Red Rose Rent days the Conard-Pyle Company would give one red rose to a descendent of the William Penn family in fulfillment of the proviso.
Additions to subseries I.G. Company Operation files include a variety of material, such as drafts of histories of the Conard-Pyle Company, an early deed to the West Grove property (1868), a file of "famous autographs," and minutes for the stockholders annual meetings during the 1980s.
The additions in series II. Financial records span the dates 1910 to 1999 and range from records of orders for bulbs (1922-1927) to trial balance sheets from 1932 to 1938, as well as inventories and prices in 1999, stock books from 1910-to 1923, records of equipment and insurance costs in the 1920s and 1930 and payrolls for 1932 to 1936.
Series IV. Patents and Licensing has additions of contracts and licenses arranged alphabetically by grower from 1933-1949, as well as a ledger on hybridization from 1929 to 1959 and a record of "Woody Plant Acquisitions" dating from 1928 to 1981.
The supplement also includes additions to subseries V.A. Advertising, consisting of the files for retail advertising campaigns from 1925 through 1943. Correspondence for 1967 from the Meilland firm have been added to series VI. Meilland Family Partnership.
Two photograph albums, dating from 1911 and 1925, were added to Series VII. Images, Audio, and Film. One of the albums is labeled "Rose Trip Abroad" and includes images and information related to Robert Pyle's service as a judge for the 1911 National Rose Show of France in Paris. Photographs taken in France, Holland and Germany depict Pyle's trip and the gardens he visited.
The additions to Series X. Individual flowers are undated plastic transparencies of images of certain named roses, such as Floradora and Gypsys Fantastique. There is also one glass plate negative of the rose named Happiness.
The first new series to the Conard-Pyle Company records is Series XII. Atlantic Coast Nurseries, Incorporated, spanning the dates 1921 to 1928. Robert Pyle was the president and one of the founders of this corporation which included partners from Virginia and Massachusetts. Incorporated in 1922, in Virginia, the purpose of the company was to produce, buy, sell and distribute plant life. The records in this series comprise financial records, correspondence, stock books, the constitution and papers of incorporation.
Series XIII. Books, magazines, catalogs, pamphlets and articles consists of printed material related to gardening, marketing, advertising, trade shows, and the publications from horticultural organizations. Issues of The National Rose Society of Great Britain Annual (1910-1951) and the American Association of Nurserymen Report and Proceedings (1908-1945) have been removed for cataloging.
The final new series of material added to the Conard-Pyle Company Records is Series XIV. Robert Pyle professional papers, which included two subseries. The first subseries, XIV.A. Diaries comprises the daily diaries kept by Robert Pyle from 1912 to 1951. The second subseries XIV.B. Lectures consists of the notebooks of lectures and talks given by Robert Pyle between 1935 and 1948.
Robert Pyle's daily diaries are extensive and detailed. The diaries serve as a record of his daily activities; in some cases, Pyle charted his day in increments of 10 or 15 minutes, documenting not only his work schedule, but the time spent at meals, reading, and meditating. The diaries include photographs, clippings, itineraries, and notes from meetings he attended.
The diaries provide a record of Pyle's participation in the business at Conard-Pyle Company. The diaries document his business trips, staff meetings, and new ideas for the business. The diaries also reveal Pyle's personal life, recording his daily routines, involvement in the local Quaker meeting, and the forms of entertainment he enjoyed. Covering a forty-year span, these diaries richly depict Robert Pyle's life and work. The diaries are available in a digital version connected to this finding aid.
The lectures and talks in subseries XIV.B. include occasional handwritten text but more often are typed lectures or in some cases, lists of descriptive information for slide shows. Robert Pyle spoke to a variety of groups, such as the American Institute of Park Executives, groups visiting the Red Rose Inn, the Oxford Rotary Club, the West Chester Bankers Association, Ohio State University, and the West Grove Garden Club, to name only a few of his many audiences.