Elbert S. Carman
We present herewith an excellent photo-engraving of our esteemed friend and co-worker in agricultural journalism, Elbert S. Carman, editor-in-chief of The Rural New Yorker. He was born in 1836 in Hempstead, L. I., N.Y., a town settled by his ancestors in 1643. In 1853 he entered Brown University. In 1866 his family bought a farm of 80 acres, 20 miles from New York City, within easy view of the ocean. Here agricultural experiments were begun in 1877, at which time he bought out the (then) Moore's Rural New Yorker, of which he was already associate editor and part owner.
Wheat Experiments—His earliest experiments were with wheat, testing all known varieties of England, France, Russia, and the United States, to ascertain which were the hardiest and most productive. Then followed exhaustive tests as to best depth, quantity of seed, mode of sowing and best fertilizers, such as salt, ashes, plaster and lime. Potash, phosphoric acid and nitrogen, singly and in various combinations were thoroughly tested. We may here add that exhaustive experiments along this same line with corn, potatoes, etc., on poor land, with these three elements used separately and in every possible combination, seemed to prove, as has never been elsewhere so conclusively shown, that nothing less than a complete and well balanced fertilizer could be relied upon to increase the yield materially, especially of potatoes.
The work of crossing varieties of wheat was begun and has continued down to date, with results valuable to science and to agriculture. In 1881 Mr. C. succeeded in crossing rye with wheat, the first and only successful attempt on record so far as we know. This crossing was followed up for years with the progeny. Most of the hybrids resembled the wheat parent, rather than the rye. Last year a large proportion of the plants and heads came true, and it is believed that a tolerable stability has been reached. The stems are twice as thick as those of wheat, and leaves broader, the color brighter, the tendency to tiller stronger, and the plants seem not subject to winter-killing. Several of the wheat and half breeds are now offered by seedsmen.
Corn Experiments—Corn researches were made simultaneously with the wheat experiments, to determine the extent of the natural tendency of varieties to cross the first year, the effects of topping alternate rows and plants, of removing the tassels (male) of all inferior and imperfect plants, and of selecting pollen from the best tassels for the silks of a whole plot. Thus the stalks have been bred shorter (especially in Blount's white prolific), the ears lower down and earlier in maturing, and the tendency to sucker has been well nigh bred out.
Mr. C.'s experiments in mode of corn culture results in his advocating what he named the triplicate, method, with thorough flat and shallow drill cultures, large application of commercial fertilizers, applied at three different times. The crop in 1880 was 139.4 bushels of shelled corn, in one case, and 150 bushels per acre on five acres, in another. At that time deep cultivation (root pruning) was being advocated by the farm press in general and corn was almost universally planted in hills and cultivated deep both ways.
Space forbids any extended notice of the experiments, which in general may be said to have tested many new varieties of oats, cow peas, teosinte, cuzco corn, soya bean, prickly comfrey, alfalfa, and various grasses, roots, potatoes, and the like—and much of this, too, before experiment stations were more than talked of in this country.
Horticulture experiments—In 1873 Mr. C. married the accomplished daughter of Prof. D. F. Brown, and they began to "build a home" in the highest sense near River Edge, N.J. Together they planted the grounds with all kinds of shrubs, trees, vines and horticultural fruits and crops adapted to the climate, and together carried on a class of horticultural experiments and tests, especially in the way of crossing and hybridizing, which could be conducted only by expert botanists and enthusiastic horticulturists, backed by generous means and an earnest desire to bless the agricultural world. Mr. Carman's book of 175 pages on "The New Potato Culture", gives many of these experiments upon potatoes, resulting in a yield of 738 bushels per acre. "In this lonely home", Mr. Carman writes us, "there is no time to be lonely. The work becomes with every year more fascinating". A daughter of 18 and a son of 12 love the life as dearly as do their parents. I pray that there may long be no change, since any change means one for the worse, for it cannot be for the better.
As editor and owner of the Rural New Yorker Mr. Carman has steadily refused to be "political" or "worldly" wise. His detestation of sham and fraud are intense and ever active. In particular his tests of so-called novelties in seeds, plants, etc., have shown him the facts and led him to denounce again and again in unsparing terms florists, seedsmen and nurserymen who sell old plants or seeds under new names, as valuable novelties, deluding and plundering innocent purchasers by alluring engravings and descriptions of impossible plants and fruits. This course, deliberately pursued, has brought many costly libel suits, but has been a great help to honest seedsmen, nurserymen, agents, and purchasers. It has required pluck and it has cost money. We are in a position to sympathize with such a man, for our own editorial opinions fearlessly expressed on the minority and unpopular but right side, have often cost The Ohio Farmer pecuniary loss, and once at least even cost us the loss of some 2,000 subscribers, though in the end we gained perhaps twice that number. We admire pluck wherever we see it, and Mr. Carman has that "courage" of his convictions so essential in a hater of fraud and a pioneer in agricultural experimentation.