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Records and Book Collection of the Society of American Florists


The Records and Book Collection of the Society of American Florists, 1793-1993, was donated to the National Agricultural Library in August 2000. Prior to their donation, these materials were located at the headquarters of the Society of American Florists at 1601 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314, and were administered by their Director of Research and Information.

The records and bound volumes initially comprised approximately 60 linear feet of material. After processing, the Records of the Society of American Florists occupy 49 document boxes, 3 half-width document boxes, 2 pamphlet boxes and 4 folio boxes comprising 36.75 linear feet of shelf space. The Book Collection of the Society of American Florists occupies 19 record boxes and 23.75 linear feet of shelf space.

Finding Aid File


Organizational History

The Society of American Florists (SAF) was organized after a convention of the American Association of Nurserymen, Florists and Seedsmen in 1884. Although the exact number of individuals attending that first meeting is unclear, at least 25 men involved in the floriculture trade met in the Hotel Sherman in Chicago, Illinois, with the intent of forming a national body of their own. The officials elected at the first meeting, and the executive committee subsequently appointed, met for a second time in February 1885 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to plan for their first annual convention and to formulate and approve the initial prospectus of the organization. This prospectus detailed the intended membership in the Society and its purpose at the time of its founding. To quote the prospectus:

The aim of the Society is to lift up and carry forward all that tends to advance the growth of such a delightful occupation, to collect and diffuse from the best sources information that shall be beneficial to all its members, to care for and instruct all in the best modes of carrying on a successful business, to help those overtaken by misfortune and form a brotherhood worthy of the goddess Flora.

They planned to have a yearly convention and exhibition, and to draw members from the floriculture and horticulture industries, as well as amateur gardeners. Also listed in their prospectus was their intent to establish "in the best manner an insurance against loss of glass by hail."

The first annual convention of the SAF was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 12-14, 1885. There were 221 members on the books at that time. The initial charter and bylaws of the SAF were adopted at this meeting, with one notable change made to the aims of the Society, which now read:

To advance the love of floriculture and horticulture in America; to promote and encourage the development of the industries; to classify their products; to hold meetings and exhibitions; to cooperate with the National and State government and horticultural bodies in disseminating horticultural knowledge.

Membership grew steadily, and the annual convention of 1892 saw the first annual meeting of the International Telegraph Delivery Association, which would eventually break away to become the contemporary Florists Transworld Delivery Association, or FTD. In 1894, a bill passed both houses of the U.S. Congress granting a national charter for the SAF, but the bill was vetoed by President Cleveland. The desire for a national charter drove the SAF to officially expand its name in 1897 to the Society of American Florists and Ornamental Horticulturists (SAF&OH), although the organization frequently referred to itself simply as the SAF throughout most of the 20th century. Through the hard work of former SAF President William R. Smith and others, the national charter was finally signed by President McKinley on March 3, 1901 (36 USC Chapter 86). This charter shows the purpose of the SAF as being:

...for the development and advancement of floriculture and horticulture in all their branches, to increase and diffuse the knowledge thereof, and for kindred purposes in the interest of floriculture and horticulture.

This charter also specified that the principle office of the association be located in Washington, D.C.

Early interests and committees of the SAF included the Florists' Hail Association, to respond to the initial concerns of the founding members, and the Florists' Protective Association, to insure florists against unscrupulous customers and other types of financial loss. There was a Committee on Nomenclature, to report on the naming of plants, and a national Chrysanthemum Society, as well as national Societies for the Rose, Carnation, Gladiolus, Dahlia and Sweet Pea. In 1907, the Ladies Society of American Florists (LSAF) was formed to provide social interaction and educational programs for women in the SAF. The LSAF continued at least into the 1930s, but its membership was eventually absorbed back into the SAF at large. The National Growers Association came into being around 1920, while the SAF became a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and investigated the possibility of copyrighting the Society's slogan "Say it with Flowers." In 1920, membership had risen to almost 3500, and the SAF was a well-established organization.

Another early interest of the SAF was monitoring and lobbying governing bodies and companies as necessary to insure appropriate and trade-friendly transportation for the industry. One of their early success stories was in assisting in the defeat of a postal rate increase that would have had a substantial negative impact on the floral industry in the early 1900s. This interest continued throughout the history of the Society, leading to the creation of several committees, including the Tariff and Legislation Committees in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the formation of the Traffic Committee in 1950, which evolved into the Transportation Committee in the 1980s.

An ongoing concern for the SAF has been the education of America's youth regarding horticulture and the beauty and function of flowers to provide continuing generations of participants and consumers for the floral industry. The SAF first formed a committee to this end in 1907 called the Committee on School Gardening. The goals of this early committee were continued in the later years of the SAF through the formation of the Youth Education Program (YEP) in the 1950s and its subsequent incarnations. The YEP launched an ambitious program in 1957 aimed at incorporating an education in flowers into home economics programs in junior high schools and high schools across the country. To this end, they designed a booklet entitled "It's your move, Mr. Florist" to encourage the cooperation of local florists in this program. A copy of this booklet is located in Series VII.

In 1938, the national charter of the SAF was reaffirmed and amended to specify the corporation as non-profit, and to increase the value of real property that the Society was allowed to hold legally. While the wording of the original charter has been modified over the years, and the Bylaws of 1983 changed their functional name to SAF The Center for Commercial Floriculture [sic], the focus and intention of the organization has remained essentially the same since the inception of the organization in 1884.

In 2001, the SAF web site,, lists the membership of the SAF at 16,000, and their headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. They state their organizational purpose as being "the association that provides marketing, business and government services for all participants in the U.S. floral industry."

Scope and Content Note

The Records and Book Collection of the Society of American Florists, 1793-1993, consists of both organizational records and bound volumes. The Records of the Society of American Florists, 1894-1993, contain proceedings, minutes, correspondence, memos, publications, photographs and scrapbook material ranging from 1900 to 1988. The Book Collection of the Society of American Florists (SAF) consists of over 200 volumes, including monographs and bound serials ranging in publication from 1793 to 1990.

The Records of the SAF are arranged into nine different series, reflecting content and organizational structure. The original order of the materials has been retained wherever possible. Series I and Series II contain the minutes, correspondence and reports of the SAF and its committees from 1910 to 1984. Series III includes planning documents and meeting agendas for the mid-1980s. Series IV and Series V contain financial information from the 1980s and the charters and bylaws of the organization, while Series VI contains organization directories and the Who's Who in Floriculture membership list. Series VII and Series VIII focus largely on printed material from throughout the 20th century, including newsletters, newspapers, serials and programs. The final series, Series IX, contains ephemera, such as clippings, photographs and scrapbook material. Further description of the materials contained in each series may be found in the series descriptions.

A detailed listing of the Book Collection of the SAF may be found in the bibliography attached to this finding aid. This collection includes issues of the serials The American Florist, The Michigan Florist, and The Horticulturalist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, as well as an incomplete set of the Dictionary of Gardening. Many of the volumes are inscribed with the names of previous owners, and/or are numbered as former volumes of the Gardeners' Club of Baltimore Library. The exact provenance of these volumes is unclear, but it is known that the Gardener's Club of Baltimore was incorporated in 1888, and does not appear to be in existence under that name today. In addition, many of the volumes in this collection were owned at one time by William Robertson Smith. He became a member of the SAF in 1886, and worked in the U.S. Botanic Garden, Washington, D.C., from 1853 until his death in 1912. He was the president of the SAF in 1893, and vice president in 1892. The SAF considers him the "father of their national charter' and an important figure in their history. Another large group of these volumes was owned at one time by Donald S. Grant, former head gardener to T. Harrison Garrett of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and a member of the SAF from 1886 until his death in 1888. Many of Grant's volumes are inscribed with "Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C."

The Records and Book Collection of the SAF contains an incomplete run of the proceedings of the annual conventions of the Society from their first meeting in 1885 through to their 104th meeting in 1988. These proceedings may be found in several locations. The years 1885 through 1917, and 1921 through 1929 are bound volumes and are included in the Book Collection of the SAF. The proceedings for 1918 through 1920, and 1930 forward (incomplete) are included in the Records of the SAF.

The proceedings of the annual conventions begin in the Book Collection of the SAF, with the publication of Proceedings of the First Convention of the Society of American Florists: Held at Cincinnati, Ohio, August 12th, 13th, and 14th, 1885 (Proceedings). There are two runs of the early proceedings, one previously owned by Herman B. Dorner, former secretary of the SAF, and one with no inscription. The Dorner volumes begin with 1885 and run through 1911, including a duplicate copy of the 1910 proceedings bound separately. This run then continues with 1913 through 1916. The uninscribed run includes several duplicates of some years, but it is continuous from 1885 through 1917. The proceedings for the 1918 convention may be found in the Records of the SAF, Series VII, published in installments in the Journal of the Society of American Florists and Ornamental Horticulturalists (JSAF and OH). Proceedings for the 1918 convention begin in vol. 1, no. 1, and continue in four installments to vol. 1, no. 4. Due to the incomplete nature of this run of the JSAF and OH, the first installment of the proceedings for the 1919 convention are not present in this collection. The 1919 proceedings begin here with the second installment in the JSAF and OH, vol. 1, no. 8, and continue to vol. 1, no. 10. Proceedings for the 1920 convention were also published in the JSAF and OH in two installments, in vol. 2, no. 8 and 9, and are present in this collection in Series VII. The SAF discontinued publication of the JSAF and OH with vol. 2, no. 11 in December 1920; the next nine years of proceedings were published in independent volumes and are included in the SAF Book Collection under two different titles. The 1921 volume resumed the title Proceedings, but in 1922 and 1923 the title The S.A.F. and O.H. Annual was used. In 1924 the SAF reverted to the Proceedings title and continued to publish under that heading until 1929. The Book Collection of the SAF holds a complete run of these volumes from 1921 through 1929. After 1929, the SAF discontinued publication of its proceedings. The meeting records for 1930 through 1963 may be found in typescript form within Series I of the Records of the SAF. Their titles vary from year to year. In so far as possible, Series I folder titles reflect the actual titles of the materials.

While the proceedings of the SAF from 1885 through the 1930s included all of the business of the Society, later years saw an increase in additional board of director and committee meetings held outside the conventions. These records may be found in chronological order along with the proceedings in Series I of the Records of the SAF. In the 1960s, the SAF discontinued production of the proceedings of the annual conventions. The business of the SAF was conducted largely through separate committee meetings, and the minutes of those meetings are present in the Records of the SAF, Series II. There are records present in the collection pertaining to the planning and execution of annual conventions in the 1980s; these records may be found in Series III of the Records of the SAF. Additional information on the conventions of 1900 through 1913 may be found in the incomplete run of convention souvenir programs in Series VIII of the Records of the SAF.

In addition to the Proceedings, the SAF published a number of serials over the years. While the JSAF and OH was short lived, from 1919 through 1920, The American Florist saw greater longevity. The Book Collection of the SAF contains bound volumes of this serial from August 1886, vol. II through January 1902, vol. XVII, and August 1902, vol. XIX through January 1904, vol. XXI. From this date forward, only isolated copies of the serial are present in the Records of the SAF, Series VII. The collection run is missing vol. XVIII, February through July 1902. One segment of this serial run was previously owned by Charles P. Mueller of Wichita, Kansas, who became a lifetime member of the SAF in 1908. His segment is from vol. II through vol. XV, inclusive.

The SAF also published a number of newsletters. Incomplete runs of several of them can be found in the Records of the SAF, Series VII. One of those newsletters, the Dateline: Washington, D.C., was eventually combined with The American Florist to create the SAF newspaper The American Florist, Dateline Washington. Issues of this newspaper from 1975 through 1979 may be found in the Records of the SAF, Series VII. In the early 1980s, this newspaper reverted in title to The American Florist; one copy from this period is found in Series VII.

Series IX of the Records of the SAF contains clippings, photographs, three photograph albums, and a scrapbook. The loose clippings range from 1920 through 1976, and relate to industry items and SAF activities. There is also a 1985 clippings file, created by the SAF largely to track the public announcements of their activities. This series also contains loose photographs, including some head shots of board members, committee members, council members and staff. Most of the photographs are black and white, and span from 1898 to the late-1900s. The photograph albums and the scrapbook in this series include clippings, photographs, and notations from the beginnings of the SAF through the 1980s. The photograph albums appear to have been compiled by SAF staff in the mid- to late-1970s to document meetings, annual conventions, or other significant events. Proof sheets and negatives have been inserted into the albums. Additionally, some clippings and a 1987 Grow Show informational packet have been included with these albums. The scrapbook consists of clippings compiled by SAF member Karl P. Baum in December 1972. These clippings are related to members, meetings, and events from the beginning to the mid-20th century. These newspaper and other materials have been collected from several unidentified sources, and pasted onto course paper with captions or other notations. Each page is covered with 1970s style sheet protectors and held in a three-ring binder.

Series Description

Series I. Minutes, Reports and Correspondence. 1910-1911, 1925-1963. 27 boxes.

The first series of the Records of the Society of American Florists (SAF) contains the administrative minutes, reports and correspondence of the organization for 1910, 1911 and 1925 through 1963. Proceedings for the annual conventions are included in this series, with correspondence, reports and other textual material interfiled with the paginated documents. Many of the proceedings include a detailed index of the minutes. While the SAF met only once a year in their first few decades, they began meeting more frequently in the 1930s. The minutes of additional board of director and committee meetings are included in this series in chronological order. Records of several committees are grouped separately from the larger meeting records, but the majority of the committee records for the first half of the 20th century will be found within the general proceedings. A small portion of this series includes independent correspondence, press releases, and news clippings pertaining to SAF meetings and activities. These records are arranged chronologically in their original order. Folder titles follow the actual titles of the materials wherever possible.

Series II. Minutes, Reports and Correspondence. 1956-1984. 8 boxes.

Series II of the Records of the SAF reflects a change in the record keeping practices of the organization. In the early years of the SAF, committees generally met during the annual or semi-annual meetings, and included the reports of their specialized meetings with the general meeting proceedings. Beginning in 1963, the original order of the records was changed to a chronological arrangement by individual committee. This original order of these records was retained. Folder titles follow the actual titles of the materials wherever possible. In the event that a committee name was changed during its history, the folder titles generally include the predominant name as well as the current document titles in the interest of continuity. Several committee histories were written by the SAF during the 1970s. They can be found immediately following the last year they incorporate, within the records for that committee.

Series III. Meeting Agendas and Planning Documents. 1984-1988. 3 boxes.

The records in Series III consist of agendas, correspondence, scripts, and planning documents for the annual conventions, seasonal meetings and the 1988 Grow Show of the SAF. These materials were kept in binders by the executive staff, and used to aid in the overall administration of the meetings. They are arranged chronologically, and then by subject according to the original system established by the SAF executive staff. Folder titles reflect the titles originally assigned to the materials by the executive staff wherever possible.

Series IV. Financial Reports. 1986-1987. 1 box.

Series IV is composed of financial spreadsheets and budgetary information. The spreadsheets include project tracking information from the Grow Shows of 1986 and 1987. The information shows budget versus actual cash flows at roughly quarterly intervals through 1986 and 1987. The general budget files include information for 1987, and details the projected funding of each committee. Some committee budget records include budgetary and/or actual figures for 1986. These records are arranged chronologically and then by their original categories. Wherever feasible, folder titles reflect the original titles of the materials.

Series V. Charters & Bylaws. 1946, 1959-1983. 1 box.

The Charters & Bylaws of the SAF were frequently printed in the proceedings of the annual conventions in the early years of the SAF, and may be found in Series I or in the Book Collection of the SAF. After 1930, the Charters & Bylaws were periodically printed in the meeting programs for convention attendees. A complete set of attendee convention programs is not present in this collection, but the copies that are available may be found within the proceedings for that year in Series I. In 1946, and in 1959 through 1983, the Charters & Bylaws were produced as separate pamphlets or booklets. This series contains the Charters & Bylaws for only 1946 and for 1959 to 1983. Several of the booklets contain handwritten notes detailing changes made to the bylaws from year to year. The materials are arranged chronologically, and folder titles reflect the actual titles of the materials.

Series VI. Organization Directories. 1959-1987. 3 boxes.

Series VI consists of internal functional directories and published directories. The first segment of this series is the internal directories for 1961 to 1987. These loose leaf or spiral bound volumes contain the names, addresses and phone numbers of SAF members organized primarily by committee. There are many handwritten notes regarding changes in information from year to year. These directories were used by the organizational administration in their daily activities. The second segment of this series is composed of published volumes of the SAF's Who's Who in Floriculture, 1965 to 1987, which lists their organizational membership in its entirety. This series is arranged chronologically. Folder titles follow the actual titles of the materials wherever possible.

Series VII. Publications. 1894-1988. 7 boxes.

Due to the broad range of materials in this series, it has been arranged into six subseries. The first five subseries consist of serial publications, while non-serial published and unpublished materials are included in the final subseries. These subseries are grouped into SAF and non-SAF published materials and are arranged by title and then chronologically. Folder titles reflect the title, issue and date of the publications whenever possible.

The first subseries, contained in Box 44, is the American Florist and Journal of the Society of American Florist and Ornamental Horticulturalists (JSAF and OH). It contains an incomplete run of each of these serials, which were published by the SAF. The American Florist includes scattered issues from 1911 through 1914 that have been separately annotated with page numbers of interest regarding the SAF. The originator of the notation is unknown. The American Florist contains articles, many advertisements, and a classified section. The JSAF and OH includes issues from January 1919 through December 1920. The only issue missing from this run is vol. 1, no. 7, August 1919. The JSAF and OH contains the proceedings of the annual conventions for 1918, 1919 and 1920, as well as articles and information for SAF members.

The second subseries, contained in Box 45, is SAF newsletters. This subseries includes incomplete runs ofseveral SAF publications, including The U.S. Grower and The Washington Report from 1955 through 1983. They are arranged by title, and then chronologically.

Box 46 contains the third subseries, which includes the American Florist, Dateline Washington and The American Florist newspapers, published by the SAF. This monthly publication, which began as the American Florist, Dateline Washington and became simply The American Florist, replaced two previous publications, The American Florist serial and the Dateline: Washington, D.C. newsletter. This subseries contains an uninterrupted run of the American Florist Dateline from 1975 through 1979, and a single copy of The American Florist from 1983, all arranged chronologically.

The fourth subseries, in Box 47, consists of non-SAF serial publications. These are arranged by title and then chronologically, and contain general titles such as Horticulture, Florists' Review, and Southern Florist. The issues are scattered between 1904 and 1949.

Boxes 48 and 49 contain the fifth subseries, which includes newsletters and reports not produced by the SAF. These newsletters span from 1981 through 1984, and include ornamental crop reports from government sources and informational newsletters from floricultural organizations. This subseries is arranged by title and then chronologically.

The sixth subseries, in Box 50, contains three sets of non-serial published and unpublished materials. One set of items consists of guides and catalogues created by the SAF from 1957 through 1988, arranged by content type. These guides vary in topic from energy conservation to education in the field of floriculture. A second set of materials is reports not produced by the SAF. These reports span 1972 through 1990 and are loosely related to floriculture and horticulture. The third set of materials consists of brochures related to floriculture and horticulture not produced by the SAF, from 1955 through 1985.

Series VIII. Programs. 1900-1938. 2 boxes.

Series VIII is arranged chronologically and contains two subseries: the annual convention souvenir programs and the flower show programs. The convention programs range from 1900 through 1913. Most of these programs include a basic agenda for the meeting, as well as more extensive information on the city where the convention was held. These soft bound volumes include period photographs of the convention city and frequently list statistical information on its population and industry. Some programs include fold out maps of the convention sites. Many include photographs of the board of directors and other SAF committee members.

The second subseries contains the programs for the National Flower Shows for 1924, 1930, 1931 and 1938. These soft bound catalogues list detailed floricultural information, exhibit schedules for the flower shows, and limited information on the National Flower Show locations.

Series IX. Scrapbooks, Clippings and Photographs. 1898-1993. 6 boxes.

Series IX includes clippings, photographs, photograph albums, and a scrapbook. Box 53 contains clippings. The first three folders contain clippings from 1920 through1976, arranged chronologically. The subsequent folders in Box 53 contain the clippings file created by the SAF in 1985. It was arranged by the SAF executive staff by originating serial title; it retains its original order and folder titles. The clippings are photocopies of materials relating to the SAF or floriculture in general, which appeared in non SAF publications in 1985. Box 54 contains numerous individual photographs which document SAF meetings and members. These photographs span 1898 through 1991, and are arranged chronologically. Two award certificates and several oversized photographs are housed in Box 55, arranged chronologically. This series also contains three photograph albums created by the SAF in the 1970s. Meetings and members of the SAF are documented primarily by black and white photographs. Negatives and proof sheets are included for some of the photographs. These materials span 1898 through 1993. These albums are housed in Boxes 55 and 56. A scrapbook complied by Karl Page Baum is housed in Box 57. It consists of clippings and other materials which document the members and meetings of the SAF from its beginnings through the 1950s. The final box in this series, Box 58, contains sample folders which originally housed the typescript convention proceedings from Series I.


List of Abbreviations


Florists Transworld Delivery


Journal of the Society of American Florists and Ornamental Horticulturalists


Ladies Society of American Florists


Society of American Florists


Society of American Florists and Ornamental Horticulturalists


Society of American Florists Endowment


Youth Education Program

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