Truth in Fruit
Truth in Fruit
Chapter 7 examines how new improving organisms, fruit trees, moved into the landscape through commercial networks. Between 1820 and 1850, fruit landscapes changed dramatically—semi-wild seedlings gave way to named varieties, each the product of cuttings from a single tree. Fruit trees became relatively cheap markers of rural refinement, which sometimes descended traceably from aristocratic gardens, but also filled commercial orchards planted for domestic and global markets. Since fruit varieties reproduced only through human networks, they can show us the rising dominance of the nurserymen who came to refer to themselves as “pomologists.” Nurserymen struggled to create markets for named fruit, because varieties were easily confused and counterfeited and shifted their character as they were moved. Nurserymen partially stabilized varieties through the writing of books of description, the creation of profiles and systems of taste, and then finally, through huge pomological conventions at which they battled over and rated fruit. Their efforts to fix value borrowed from other features of the antebellum economy, like counterfeit detectors, and credit ratings. Ultimately, tensions between marketability and connoisseurship produced at best, uneasy compromises about the nature of value, compromises continually disturbed by the stream of novelties on which the tree market depended.
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