Will Seed Company 1911 back
cover, SHSND# 10190Throughout the years, Will offered premiums to customers who ordered seeds of certain dollar amounts. Often these premiums were books on gardening, cooking, or farming. The premiums in 1910 recognized the growing importance of the Agricultural College. For an order of $8 of vegetable and flower seeds, a customer would receive Elements of Agriculture by J. H. Shepperd and J. C. McDowell of the Agriculture College at the AC.
The 1911 cover illustration shows an Indian and a pioneer. The caption reads “The Indian of Dakota gives the squaw corn to the Pioneer Seed Growers.” The cover notes that the ancestor of Dakota and Gehu corn (Will’s own field varieties) came from corn given to Oscar H. Will in 1882. This illustration begins what would become a tradition of the Oscar H. Will & Co. catalog in honoring Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa gardeners who perfected northern plains vegetable varieties hundreds of years before Will began to select and cross-breed their varieties to meet modern market standards. In 1914, Will followed this initial recognition of the sources of his seeds with a special offering of the Pioneer Indian Collection of seeds for fifty cents. Next to the special offer was a picture of the Mandan woman, Scattered Corn standing against the log wall of a building. Though the usual essay was missing, Will wrote a lengthy piece about this new collection of seeds. He introduced Scattered Corn and told his readers that she was the source of the seeds offered in this collection. His essay was a lesson in Mandan agriculture:
Few people realize that North Dakota has been an agricultural state for at least two hundred years. For at least that long Mandan Indians have grown these varieties of hardy corn and vegetables, carefully selecting their seed for both earliness and drouth resistance, and exercising great care to keep their several varieties of corn separate. Their earliest visitors tell of great plantations of corn and vegetables near all of their towns, carefully tended by the women, who were the expert gardeners; and Lewis and Clark frequently speak of buying corn in 10 and 20 bushel lots from the Mandan for their horses.