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Catalog and Seed Sales title

Millet’s Tomato also made its appearance in 1914. This tomato was the first of the North Dakota bred varieties to appear in Will’s catalog. John W. Millet of Bismarck developed this hybrid. Will was cautious in his description of the tomato, leaving all of the claims to Mr. Millet, rather that asserting the value of the tomato in his own words. It was Millet who claimed that his tomato ripened two weeks earlier than Earliana or Earlibell. “[A]t the time the crop was inspected by the writer, they appeared to be fully that much earlier” than other early tomatoes. “The whole crop seemed to be practically of one size and as near alike in form and color as so many beans.” (italics added) Will did approve of the earliness of the tomato: “do not let the fact of earliness get away from you; you know what two weeks on your tomato crop means.” The most telling stamp of approval though (or perhaps it was just economics) was that a packet of Millet Tomato seed cost ten cents, twice what other tomato seeds cost. (p. 30)

Oscar Will’s health began to fail in the ‘teens. In 1916, there was no essay in the catalog, nor in 1917, the year of his death. The catalog did not make note of the national Victory Garden campaign to encourage gardening at home, though at the time the catalog was printed the U.S. had not yet entered the Great War. However, Will did make note of the world shortage of food due to poor weather conditions (and war) in 1916. A small notice was pasted onto page 1 of this catalog stating that there was a price increase on sweet corn and giving as the reason, “Owing to the nearly total crop failure we are obliged to advance the price.”

The 1918 catalog featured a picture of Oscar H. Will working at his desk. The essay presumably passed to his son George Will who ran the company for the next several decades. The confusion of the change of leadership and, no doubt, the distractions of grief, caused the essay to focus on errors, “delays, and inconveniences” of the previous gardening season. Business had increased because of war gardens and farm programs and company employees had to work seventeen hour days to meet the demand. In addition, the Missouri River had flooded the nursery (at the bottom of 7th street) which delayed orders on trees and shrubs. The company acknowledged the war effort to both buy and conserve seed and garden produce. In 1919, the essay mentioned that the company had “nine stars in our service flag.”