Charles Downing

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Above: “Charles Downing,” Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (1927), new edition, vol. II, fig. 1878, and here. Below: “Charles Downing’s fruit-house,” in Principles of Fruit-Growing (1906), fig. 108, and also in LHBGC, p. 145.

“I remember my father writing to Charles Downing from what was then considered to be the western wilderness asking for cions of the Surprise apple that he might add it to the many varieties growing on his place and offering to pay for them; and Downing sent the cions and wrote in his own hand (there were no typewriters then) that there was no charge to those who loved fruits.” –LHBGC, p. 144

“An instructive history may one day be prepared from the lives of the masters in American pomology. These lives had quality and breadth of view, but the main contribution was the fact that they associated fruits with the home life. I cannot forget Charles Downing’s fruit-house which I early photographed and of which an illustration was made for the first Cyclopedia of Horticulture and repeated in the second. Here was a place in which numbers of varieties of fruits could be kept, always accessible for ‘testing’ on occasion.” –LHBGC, pp. 145-6

Downing, Charles (Fig. 1878), distinguished pomologist and elder brother of Andrew Jackson Downing, the landscape gardener, was born at Newburg, New York, July 9, 1802. He was educated at the local academy, and from the age of thirteen to eighteen worked part of the time in his father’s nursery. At the age of twenty he started in the nursery business on his own account. From 1834 to 1839 his brother Andrew was a partner in this business. About 1850, he sold out his nursery business and devoted himself to the study of varieties of fruits, on which subject he was the leading authority until his death. The ‘Fruits and Fruit Trees of America‘ is the monumental American work on varieties of fruits. The book was projected by Andrew, but the great bulk of the work was done by Charles in continuing and revising it. His test orchard contained trees and grafts of 1,800 varieties of apples, 1,000 pears, and other fruits in proportion. In 1896 a city street was put through it. Charles Downing was very modest and retiring. He would never make a public speech, but he wrote many pomological articles over the signature ‘C. D.’ All his work is marked by conscientious accuracy. He died January 18, 1885.” -Wilhelm Miller, in The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (1914-17), edited by L. H. Bailey, Popular Edition, vol. II, 1947, p. 1573

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