The Horticulturist 8: 179-181 (March 1858)

THE DELAWARE GRAPE. —IS IT THE TRAMINER?
A. THOMSON, DELAWARE, OHIO.

When the grape now known as the Delaware was first brought to the notice of horticulturists (some ten or twelve years since), it was supposed, from what could be learned of its history, that it was a foreign variety; and with the view of having its identity fixed, specimens of the fruit were sent to a number of gentlemen in various sections of the country, regarded as authority in such matters, including the veteran pomologist of Cincinnati, Mr. Nicholas Longworth. Mr. L. did not, from his own personal knowledge, express an opinion as to what it was, or whether native or foreign; but some German vine-dressers in his employ declared it to be the Traminer, a celebrated wine grape of the Rhine. Others were equally positive that it was the Red Resling, also a well known German grape of high repute; but the weight of testimony favoring the Traminer side of the question, the decision that it was that variety was formally announced, and generally acquiesced in, though the only proof of its being correctly named was that afforded by the resemblance the fruit was thought to bear to some recollected to have been seen and tasted years before in "Faderland," by the Teutonic laborers referred to, and they, too, were divided in opinion as to what it really was. Unsatisfactory as such evidence, might seem, it was, at the time, in the absence of anything to the contrary, regarded as conclusive, and the grape accordingly went forth as the veritable Traminer, and as such found its way into at least two fruit books, with "Delaware" and numerous European cognomens appended as synonymes; and orders for the Delaware, in some instances, were filled by sending out the Traminer, much to the injury of the reputation of the genuine article. Having had considerable experience with foreign vines, and finding them uniformly tender, very subject to mildew, and entirely unsuited to our soil and climate, and several years' experience showing the Delaware to be directly the reverse of all this, I began to doubt the correctness of the decision above noted, and this doubt was increased on hearing of several instances in which efforts to grow the Traminer (received for the Delaware) had signally failed. I therefore determined to investigate the matter further, and with that view again sent specimens of the fruit to numerous distinguished horticulturists who had not before seen it, none of whom recognized it as any variety with which they were acquainted, and a number of them declared most positively, from their own knowledge, that it was neither the Traminer nor Red Resting. About the same time, I embraced the opportunity afforded by a visit to the Atlantic States to call at several extensive commercial gardens, at two of which I found the Traminer growing, and at one of them a vine of the Delaware, also, which I had furnished myself. An intelligent young German in attendance assured me he was perfectly familiar with the Traminer previous to emigrating to this country, and that there was no doubt about the vines there shown me as that variety being true to name; and he agreed with me that it bore no resemblance to the Delaware in wood or foliage. Since that time, the vines have been very generally disseminated. The fruit has been seen and tasted by the best judges the country affords, including many intelligent foreigners, and while none hesitate to bear testimony to its excellence, I know of no instance in which any one has claimed to recognize it as the Traminer or any other known variety. In saying emphatically it is not the Traminer, I am fully sustained by Dr. Warder, and all other Cincinnati horticulturists whom I have heard express an opinion on the subject within the last five years; and I do not think it can be shown that Mr. Longworth has at any time positively asserted it is that variety, or even intimated that it was, except upon the strength of the opinion advanced by his vine dressers. Indeed, in letters received from him within the past few weeks, he does not claim that he knows what it is, but admits directly the reverse, and expresses a desire for facts by which to remove his doubts as to whether it is a native or foreigner.

These remarks are elicited by observing that the editor of a journal issued in your vicinity—himself an avowed admirer of the fruit—asserts, in a late number of his paper, that in the brief communication from Mr. Longworth on the subject of the Delaware Grape, in the February number of the Horticulturist, that gentleman has condemned the Delaware, and says "it is the Traminer." With all due deference, I respectfully submit that Mr. Longworth, in that article, does not either "condemn" the Delaware, or say "it is" the Traminer. The readers of your journal have access to the article, and are quite competent to judge for themselves. I leave them to decide whether or not I am right.

It is an easy thing to assert that a fruit is or is not a certain variety; but, to intelligent horticulturists, it would be far more satisfactory to have it proven, and as a few years are sufficient to place the matter beyond doubt (and in this case no evidence has been adduced to establish the Traminer theory, though at least ten years have elapsed since it was first promulgated, on exceedingly doubtful authority), I think it is high time it were abandoned. It is very desirable to have all errors in nomenclature corrected, and I suggest to gentlemen (if any such there be) who are dissatisfied with the present designation, that they push their explorations into some new channel, and if they succeed in developing anything new or desirable in reference to it, no one will rejoice at their success more than myself. I repeat, however, that the claim that it is the Traminer—so long persisted in, on such shallow foundation—should be urged no further.

But if not the Traminer, what is it? This question I cannot answer. The facts connected with its early history would warrant the inference that it is a foreign variety, but all experience tends to upset that theory. My own decided opinion is, that it is an accidental seedling, originating in a garden where foreign vines were growing, and possibly of foreign parentage; and the latest and most reliable information I have been able to obtain, favors the conclusion that when the original vine was brought to this country, it was probably the only one of its kind then in existence. What it is, however, is of comparatively little consequence. The important questions are, is it a superior fruit? is it hardy? productive? suited to our soil and climate? To the first question, no judge of fruit who has had an opportunity of tasting it will hesitate to respond in the affirmative; for, in quality, it is universally conceded that, among hardy grapes, it has but a single peer, and no superior. That it may safely be called productive, is remarkably exempt from every species of mildew or blight, and is perfectly at home in our gardens, will, I fancy, be admitted by all who are familiar with it; and though somewhat difficult to get under way, and not by any means as rampant a grower as some of our natives, when most thoroughly established, with kindly treatment (and no vine manifests more readily than this its appreciation of generous nourishment), I think the most skeptical will become satisfied that delicacy of habit and feebleness of growth are not inherent or chronic defects, but, on the contrary, its normal condition is that of a robust, healthy, and vigorous vine.

[Mr. Thomson has done good service in the above communication, and we propose that all interested should merely wait till the Delaware ripens again. Traminer or not, they will all want it; but it has now too many spectators looking on to allow the subject to remain in doubt, for which, indeed, we have already stated there is, in the opinion of those well informed, no question.—Ed. H.]

Delaware Grape Bibliography