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Catalog and Seed Sales title

Will catalog 1969 front cover
Will catalog 1969 front cover
SHSND# 10190
By the mid-1960s, Will’s Seed House seemed to have recovered from bankruptcy and produced a larger catalog with a full color cover. The essays never gathered the power that they had in the pen of Oscar Will or George Will, Sr. They were just a note pointing out some new varieties, and urging customers to order early. More hybrid corn and tomatoes filled the pages and some old standards, such as Bison Tomato, a product of Yeager’s breeding in 1929, disappeared (1967). A new squash, Gold Nugget, appeared in 1966 with some fanfare, but it was superseded by Kindred Squash, a North Dakota bred squash that won the All-America prize in 1969. Also in 1969, an early zucchini type squash, Caserta, appeared in the catalog.

The catalog of 1969 was the last one. After reading years of catalog essays, it felt (to this writer) rather lonesome to see it disappear without one last note explaining how the configuration of world climate, bad business, and lack of interest in “early, hardy, and drought resistant” vegetable varieties and other factors conspired to kill off a great regional business. Perhaps the handwriting was on the wall when unhardy roses began to appear in the catalog, or when field crops disappeared from the lists, or when the Mandan lost their traditional homes along the Missouri River to make room for progress. The Wills always welcomed change and progress, and were remarkably progressive in their thinking, but they always asserted that the foundations for progress were hard work, personal independence based on home food production, and garden varieties that were developed for the region’s unpredictable climate.

Four generations of Wills ran a large seed company in North Dakota, but there were a few others engaged in the business as well. In addition to E. M. Fuller of Bismarck, Ed Swan ran a seed store in Bismarck on 4th Street. Will bought the store in 1898 and it became the site of his business headquarters.