Fifty Years Ago This Year
Reflecting on offerings in the 1961 Hemerocallis Journals

by Sharon Cusick
AHS Archives and History Committee

Part I


The new year of 1961 found the American Hemerocallis Society with 3041 paid memberships, and an individual membership costing $3.50. Mr. Hubert Fischer of Hinsdale, Illinois, was beginning his last year as President.

There was change amid the Executive Committee; Mrs. Ophelia Taylor, who had been Treasurer for half a decade, was succeeded by Mr. George Paul Watts of Lombard, Illinois. Mr. Wilmer Flory of Logansport, Indiana, was in place as Editor, having stepped into that position during the previous fall. Enlargement of the Journal continued contingent upon an economy of production, and, especially, upon the increase in advertising. A slide contest was in place.

Much of the first issue of The Hemerocallis Journal for 1961 contained reports from the November 1960 Board Meeting. Requirements for Honorable Mentions had been adjusted to strengthen those awards. Dwarf and miniature daylilies had been defined, but discussion was continuing into 1961, so that classifications for them could be a part of the Awards and Honors system. Fairy Wings

The color cover of that first issue of 1961 (shown above) displayed Mary Lester's Hemerocallis 'Fairy Wings'. 'Fairy Wings' had been awarded the Stout Medal for 1960, and had also placed first in the society-wide Popularity Poll of 1960. Issue #2 for the year was the hefty 1961 Yearbook, with a photograph of the Bertrand Farr medal engraved for Dr. E. J. Kraus on the cover. That Yearbook was dedicated to the memory of Ezra Kraus, and it was the first time any major award medal had been shown on a Journal cover.


A treasure within the 1961 Yearbook is the group of four remembrances by people who had known Ezra J. Kraus well. See Kraus, below.



The impact of the use of colchicine to double chromosomes became apparent at the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the American Hemerocallis Society, held in Chicago in July, 1961, at the Pick Congress Hotel (banquet, photo above). One of the events of the Convention was a Scientific Forum. In later years it was described as a fiery debate, with those proclaiming the importance of tetraploids on one side and those defending the diploids on the other. But the reports of the Convention in the issues of The Hemerocallis Journal of 1961 do not burst with fuss or fireworks. It takes careful reading to find repeated references to tetraploids among the other quiet coverage. No shouts are heard.

In a pre-convention article, a Sneak Preview of Tour Gardens had been given, by Mrs. Ben Parry. She had visited all the official gardens which included those of Fischer, Rudolph, Claar ("big-petaled seedlings), Hall ("arrays of pinks"), and Blocher ("working with the Fay line of coloring"). Parry spoke of Fay and "the famous" H. 'Frances Fay', a 1957 diploid.

In the July-August-September issue of the Journal following the Convention, there were descriptions of catered luncheons in the Claar garden, where attendees sat at round tables laid with white linen clothes and napkins, and were served family-style. Reporters told of gardens toured, and of heavy rains on the second day in the tour gardens. They told of a Round Robin Breakfast, where representatives of 19 of 30 Round Robins were in attendance, and that the Robin members wore yellow ribbons with tiny robins attached, added to name tags. Even a bus for the Robins had been arranged. Adventures with hotel elevators were noted.

Dr. Samuel Emsweller, Department of Ornamental Plants Section Research Group of the United States Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Maryland was the principal speaker at the convention. Apparently he also showed slides that demonstrated one way to make conversions with colchicine, but there was no specific coverage of Emsweller's talks. Dr. Emsweller introduced terms that seemed unfamiliar to many - such as "chimera" and "polyploidy". This same Dr. Emsweller had assigned a plant geneticist named Toru Arisumi to tend to Hemerocallis research, and Arisumi was also present. Elmer Claar and David Hall, successful breeders of diploids, and Orville Fay and Robert Griesbach, who had been successful in converting diploid seedlings to tetraploids, were there, and others of a scientific background, such as Dr. George Darrow, and Hava and Allen of the Scientific Committee.

Willard King wrote in tongue-in-cheek manner that he had attended the Hybridizers Forum and had seen slides "of stuff they call tetraploids. Got something to do with genes, chromosomes and colchicine, a poison...and boy they never let us stop hearing about them. Sounded almost as though they were as important as the Declaration of Independence or the mid afternoon snack-up." Mr. King had been to Fay's garden, and wrote that "these tetraploids were swarming all over everything." He mentioned H. 'Satin Glass' [a dip] and 'Cartwheels' [another dip], adding that 'Satin Glass' was one of the prettiest pastels he had ever seen. "Here is where I found out that we grow diploids, and me just getting around to calling them Hemerocallis instead of 'Lilies'."

The Fay garden, which was on the tours, had had a fine display of tetraploids, as Willard King had suggested. Annie Giles, another who reported having visited Fay's garden, in the final Journal issue of the year, wrote of Fay's "tremendous energy, his serious dedication to this plant, and his generosity - for he will share with you his ideas, scientific knowledge, tedious techniques ..." So calmly she mentioned: "He has blazed a new trail for the altered characteristics of the hemerocallis." With no verbal fanfare, the statement appeared that Fay had predicted that within ten years "this more vigorous tet will have replaced the present diploids."

Passions to do with the 1961 Convention were yet to emerge in the Journal pages, beginning with an indignant letter from an English member, in its first issue of the next year - 1962. Perhaps enough time had to pass to discuss with understanding what had happened.


In the October-November-December issue of 1960, Virginia Pack wrote of Tetraploid Hemerocallis, with mentions of "histogenic layers of the shoot apex," "periclinal chimeras or sectorial chimeras," and "meiotic cells." The Scientific Committee contributed several write-ups about nematode control in daylilies. A distinction was made between the terms "dormant" and "deciduous". "A deciduous plant becomes dormant in the winter." A "Defense of the Scientists" had been printed in the Yearbook issue. In that, Virginia Peck was responding to a member who regretted that a unique warmth and "hominess" of former Yearbooks had now been replaced with over-technical and dull articles about hybridizing. Peck protested, politely, that successful breeding could be attributed largely to the groundwork of others, and that many of those others were scientists, or, if without degrees, those devoted to scientific principles of genetics. In that article, too, Peck mentioned being "on the threshold of a new era in Hemerocallis, the emergence of the tetraploid."


Mr. Hooper P. Connell received the Bertrand Farr Award for 1961, and Mr. D. R. McKeithan received the Helen Field Fischer Award for 1961. These were to be detailed in 1962. Meanwhile, the 1960 winners of both awards were acknowledged with short write-ups.

In 1922, LeMoine Bechtold from the Denver, Colorado, area, had ordered all the daylilies listed in the Gilbert H. Wild & Son catalog. Bechtold's own cultivars eventually came to be listed in that same Wilds' catalog, beginning with the introduction of H. 'Golden Wings'. He had worked successfully with a particular seedling with long, narrow, recurved petals. From that seedling had come a strain of long, narrow-petaled daylilies, among them 'Kindly Light', considered his best in 1960 when he received the Bertrand Farr Award.

Mrs. Carl (Maria) Marcue of Iowa, who received the 1960 Helen Field Fischer Award, had been serving the Society since the days it had been called the Midwest Hemerocallis Society, when she had chaired the Round Robins. Marcue continued to serve in several capacities after that, including three years as AHS President.

Tributes were paid to both Viola Richards and Ben Arthur Davis by giving them Life Memberships. David Hall was celebrated in Sarcoxie, Missouri, when about 200 well-wishers assembled at the Gilbert H. Wild & Son Nursery for a David Hall Day.


By the end of 1961, it was recommended that the registrar, Mr. Monroe, accept reservations for names for up to two years for $2 per name - a reservation that could be renewed once. The registrar had asked that the greatest diameter of a flower as it grows naturally be included with descriptions for registrations. Advertising rates had been increased. The Exhibition Committee recommended the establishment of an Achievement Award, to replace a medal formerly awarded by the The American Home, a magazine. Details to do with the medal were discussed. Two other new awards had been put into place. The new David Hall Award, "pieces of silver," would be presented annually, based on the Popularity Poll, and given to the hybridizers of the cultivars winning top votes in each region. The Don Fischer Memorial Cup would be awarded for a miniature.

Two ads in the July-August-September number for 1961 seemed especially notable. The Farr Nursery advertised four of Arlow Burdett Stout's doubles. "These four, final and only. The result of Dr. Stout's work with mutations since 1915." Stout had died in 1957. While he had worked there, half of the proceeds went to the New York Botanical Garden. A note in the 1961 ad stated that Mrs. Stout would receive half of the proceeds. "Therefore, please supply two checks or money orders in equal amounts when remitting. One to Farr Nursery...One to Mrs. Zelda Stout." The daylilies were priced $10 to $30.

In contrast, and as a sign of the new order to come, a full-page ad just inside the back cover of issue #3 was for the TETRAPLOID DAYLILIES of W. Quinn Buck of Arcadia California. Eight tetraploids were listed, including a "polyploidized" form of H. 'Soudan', a Stout daylily. Seven of the tets varied in price from $100-$150. The last, 'Tetra Prima Donna', a conversion of Ophelia Taylor's diploid, was described as having "unbelievable substance." The price? $500. W. Quinn Buck had crossed the threshold of the new era.


In her initial message to the membership in 1962, Miss Annie Giles of Texas, the Society's new President, would express her conviction that "...tetraploids are a reality." Much more about tetraploids would soon bloom in the pages of The Hemerocallis Journal.

Meanwhile, New England was already beckoning! In 1962, the National Convention would be held in Boston - with early registration only $32.50. Convention tours there would include Fairmont Gardens, the home of Elizabeth Nesmith, "a name to be conjured within the hemerocallis world."


Fifty Years Ago This Year
Reflecting on offerings in the 1961 Hemerocallis Journals

Part II


A treasure within the 1961 Yearbook is the group of four remembrances by people who had known Ezra J. Kraus well. These were Hubert Fischer, hybridizer of the Chicago region; Paul Voth, the University of Chicago botanist who had studied under Kraus; nurseryman Edgar Lehman, of Faribault, Minnesota, who had collaborated with Kraus in the breeding of daylilies and frost-resistant chrysanthemums; and Professor Lawrence T. Blaney, plant physiologist, who had known Kraus in his retirement years in Oregon. So we learn:

While Kraus was teaching at the University of Chicago, he grew 1500+ cultivars and thousands of seedlings in growing fields at a University of Chicago research station at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Fischer had walked the rows with notebook and camera in hand, impressed by clear colors and clean-cut patterns such as he had never seen - "new forms and sizes from tiny miniatures to one huge flower which he called his pumpkin blossom." But it was Kraus' plantings at the University of Chicago that Fischer visited regularly, where Kraus grew "the best of the newest." The selected seedlings used for breeding would seem touched by a summer blizzard - hung as they were with thousands of hybridizing tags. Kraus told Fischer that when he first decided to grow daylilies, he had ordered every single thing that he could find listed. Kraus

When Kraus retired from the University of Chicago, he was in his sixties. Though once a decidedly robust man, a "mountain-climbing professor," he was already ill. He returned to Corvallis, Oregon, where he had once taught. The projects he undertook there were of vast scope for his age and health, and included the hybridizing of daylilies, chrysanthemums, clematis, azaleas. Lehman wrote that Kraus began hybridizing oriental poppies, tree peonies, flowering crabs, lilacs, and tritomas, as well. There in Corvallis, Kraus found his daylilies did not open as well as in Chicago. Their colors seemed less clear.

Kraus continued to grow seedlings at Edgar Lehman's nursery in Faribault, Minnesota. Lehman said that Kraus persisted with some crosses hundreds of times over 10-12 years, growing hundreds, even thousands of seedlings of a cross that succeeded. Kraus had believed it impossible to exhaust the possibilities of a good cross - that a person needed fifty seedlings at a minimum to evaluate the characteristics of a cross. During his last ten years, Kraus would travel to Faribault to walk the fields, to pollinate, and to evaluate seedlings with Lehman. When asked, Kraus told Lehman, without hesitation, that his "greatest thrill" had been when first seeing the large-flowered melon that came to be named Hemerocallis 'Ruth Lehman'. Blaney said that Kraus, though ever weaker in Corvallis, would continue this travel to Faribault into the summer of 1959. Lehman wrote of carrying a chair behind Kraus, flower to flower.

Blaney quoted from Kraus' careful records - one going back to 1939. He knew of over fifteen notebooks of records. From Chicago days, Fischer wrote, Kraus had been generous in sharing information from those records when discussing pedigrees, or the qualities of a particular parent. Lehman wrote that from several million seedlings, Kraus selected 6788, and that (at the time of Lehman's writing) 123 had been named. He provided one example from the summer of 1946. Over 3000 crosses of two parents were made, resulting in a quart of seeds. They had eventually saved six plants, and named one.

Kraus had been generous in giving advice, as well as parentages of his selections. He had shared plants. He had inspired enthusiasm. He had attracted graduates. Voth said he had "infected everyone with his charm."

Edgar Lehman recalled Kraus as a man who had "potent determination" and "stick-to-itiveness." Kraus seemed to him exceedingly modest - a person that did not glory in triumphs. Voth listed other achievements of Kraus - he had, for example, edited The Botanical Gazette for eleven years. Honors had come to Kraus, but Kraus had "shunned ostentation, publicity." Fischer wrote that he knew Kraus had valued the 1954 Bertrand Farr Award from the AHS. Nina Rebmen [H. 'Nina Rebmen' (Kraus 1955)] had written from Corvallis that Kraus had framed and hung the citation in his office.

It is as Lehman remembered Kraus in Faribault on summer mornings - tip-toeing out of the house at the break of dawn, or as Blaney remembered Kraus at Corvallis, that we might picture him: "There, waist-deep in his beloved daylilies Dr. Kraus would be busily pollinating the freshly opened flowers."

See 50 Years Ago for 2010 here.

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