American Rose Annual (1945)
Harison of the Rose

EDITOR'S NOTE.—For many years the pervasive, enduring early double yellow Harison rose has engaged thoughtful and interested rose folks. It was getting seeds to set on plants of it that brought the lamented G. A. Stevens into intimate relations with the editorial work which he did so well. Now our friend who is the extraordinarily versatile editor of House and Garden, and who writes a good new book about once a month, turns his deeply seeing eye on the history of the Harison with one "r" who really did this great rose.

FOR 113 years now American gardeners have been growing a bush rose commonly called Harison's Yellow, a hybrid, according to Rehder, of Austrian Briar, R. foetida, and the Burnet or Scotch Rose, R. spinosissima. Introduced by an unnamed New York nurseryman, it was the product, so various writers have stated, of the hybridizing efforts of an amateur, Rev. George Harison (or Harrison), some time connected with Trinity Church in New York. The year of introduction is uniformly given as 1830.

The rumor that he was a clergyman seems to have gone unchallenged. No less an authority than Liberty Hyde Bailey attributes this rose to "a Rev. Harison." "Modern Roses II" does the same. Stephen F. Hamblin, in the Annual for 1930, supplies the domine a baptismal name—George. Mrs. Keays' "Old Roses" accepts his ecclesiastical status and reports that he "is said to have been a rector of Trinity Church in New York City." On the other hand, the earliest authority I have found, The American Gardener's Magazine and Register, 1835, and the latest English, Edward A. Bunyard's "Old Garden Roses," 1936, are satisfied with keeping him a layman.

Since in my "Winter Diversions of a Gardener," I blandly repeated, without investigation, this legend of Mr. Harison's ecclesiastical preferment, I now wish to make amends.

Neither during the period under consideration—the first third of the 19th Century—nor before was there ever a minister by the name Harison connected with Trinity Church in New York City nor with any Episcopal church in the diocese of New York. The rumor may have arisen from the fact that three Harisons were connected with Trinity Church in lay capacities: George Harison, vestryman 1752-65; Richard Harison, vestryman 1783, 1788-1811; warden 1811-27; William Henry Harison, vestryman 1835-52 and warden 1852-55.

With the generous assistance of William Harison, of New York, a great-nephew of the Harison who hybridized this rose, and after prolonged research in musty horticultural books, magazines and nursery catalogues, I feel safe not only in suggesting the nurseryman who introduced the rose but also in changing Mr. Harison's cassock to a barrister's robe—or better—a countryman's rough clothes and clumsy shoes. And since the proper spelling is with one "r," let's look into the family before we investigate the rose.


The first in this country was Francis Harison, who arrived in New York from England in 1708. He bought and left to his children some copies of Elias Ashmole's "Antiquities of Berkshire," 1719, containing genealogical records of Berks, England. In this book are a number of references to the family, spelled Harison, Harrison and Haryson. Francis Harison made a note in the book to the effect that Harison was the correct spelling and always used in the family.

We need not trace all the begats and begottens of this original Francis, although several of them pursued interesting and useful careers, but rather go directly to his grandson, Richard Harison, born January 1, 1747-8 (old style), graduate of King's College in 1764 (John Jay's class) and a trustee of the same from 1788, when it gave him an LL.D., until his death on December 7, 189.

Although during the Revolution he had been a consistent Tory, nevertheless he served as delegate to the Constitutional Convention at Poughkeepsie in 1788 at which the Federal Constitution was ratified, sat as a member of the State Assembly in 1788-89, and was the first United States attorney for the District of New York, being appointed by President Washington and filling this responsible office from 1789-1801. A friend of Alexander Hamilton, he was associated with him in several important legal cases.

He evidently also found time to show a lively interest in the improvements of the grounds of his college, for in 1764, after the site had been enclosed by a post and rail fence, he and Judge Benson, John Jay and Robert R. Livingston themselves planted by hand a line of sycamores behind this fence.

Richard Harison was twice married, his first wife being Maria Jones, daughter of Evan Jones, M. D., of Philadelphia. Prom this union was born the eldest son, George Folliott Harison, March 5, 1776—January 5, 1846. The youngest son (by Richard's second wife, Frances Ludlow) was William Henry Harison, born April 29, 1795, died May 1, 1860. This latter son, grandfather of my informant, lived in a house on a leasehold lot at 48 Beach Street, New York.

In 1809, at a foreclosure sale, Richard Harison picked up a country place. It was a parcel of about seven acres on the west side of the Fitz-Roy Road (also called the Greenwich Road and the Road to the Great Kills) adjoining on the north the property of Cornelius Ray. This would locate the Harison property a little west of the present Ninth avenue and east to Eighth, and it took in substantially what is now the whole block between those avenues and 30th to 31st streets.

This he held, and evidently improved and enjoyed until his death in 1829. By a codicil added to his will in 1827, he bequeathed to his unmarried daughters, Jane and Frances, "all my green house plants and shrubs, all my bulbous roots and flower roots of every kind" and appointed "my excellent friend Clemont C. Moore and my son William" as executors in addition to those named in the will. Professor Moore was owner of a large country place at Chelsea, with his country house near what is now the corner of Ninth avenue and Twenty-third street, and is pleasantly remembered as being author of "The Night Before Christmas." In 1833 four of the executors, Thomas Ludlow Ogden, Beverly Robinson, Professor Moore and the youngest son, William Henry Harison, sold this country place to David Jones for $30,000. Richard Harison is buried in Trinity Churchyard, south of the church, and a tablet to his memory is to be found in the vestry-room.


George Folliott Harison gained no such distinction as his father. He was admitted to practice as an attorney of the Supreme Court of Judicature on August 9, 1798, and as solicitor in the Court of Chancery on October 13, 1817. The latter certificate, now in the possession of the family, is signed by Chancellor Kent.

Although the New York Directory of 1824-25 shows him sharing an office with his father and brother at 16 Nassau street, there is no record that he practiced much or concerned himself much with business of any kind. He was a bachelor and is known to have lived on his father's place designated above. From letters which follow, we find the place named Mount Sinai and he stayed there until the property changed hands. A third letter, dated 1839, indicates that he still lived in what was then the country—up at 43d street—and continued to have roses and other flowers al. his disposal. When he died, the New York Post of January 6, 1846, printed only this meagre notice:

Died: Yesterday George F. Harison in the 70th year of his age. The relatives and friends of himself and family are requested to attend the funeral from the residence of his brother, No. 48 Beach Street, tomorrow afternoon at quarter before 3 o'clock, without more particular invitation.

No mention of a rose—and yet the legend persists in the family (which, incidentally, knows little about him save what is given above) that it was he who hybridized Harison's Yellow.

According to general accounts, the rose was introduced in 1830, the year after his father's death. George Folliott Harison was then fifty-four, and it might well have been among those "flower roots" in Richard Harison's garden left to George's two maiden sisters. While old Richard took a lively interest in his horticultural possessions, as his will indicates, he died at eighty-two and had been ailing a long time—not exactly a circumstance conducive to hybridizing and introducing a rose. His son George, on the other hand, inherited his father's gardening interests. Three letters written him by his brother, William Henry Harison, and now preserved in the family, indicate that he raised flowers in abundance and was accustomed to supplying them to his brother and possibly other members of the family. We also discover that he wore clumsy country shoes and that he was not particularly a robust man, rather one who cared for his health by country living and gardening.

Letters from William Henry Harison to George Folliott Harison


Letter dated "Monday morn'g." No address

Dear George

I am obliged again to ask the favor of you to get me a handsome bouquet for Wednesday next. On which day I wish you would come to town early, say before two, and call on Miss Gertrude Ogden to whom it will give me great pleasure to introduce you—& with whom I am very desirous of making you acquainted. After the first formal visit shall be over—you know you need not incommode yourself about the laborious part of civilities—but by calling give her the privilege & I warrant she will soon be an agreeable personage to you. I will be in the way to introduce you and I must add that I will esteem it a particular favor if you will oblige me in this little matter. Mr. Ogden's consent was received on friday & the engagement since has made so much talk that I begin to think I am a person of some importance.

I have another favor to ask—which is that you will come & meet one or two of your friends at dinner socially here on Wednesday (the day after tomorrow) at five o'clock precisely—I have set my heart upon having you with us. Yours &c

Wm. H. Harison

Mr. Harison


Letter dated "May 30th" (i.e. 1831)
Addressed to "Mr. Harison—Mount Sinai"

Dear George—

I have been disappointed at not seeing you—what is the matter with you? The wedding is fixed for 7th June (to-morrow week) in the evening. And it can not be without you. I will arrange for Abraham to wait upon you & you must occupy my bed—& take breakfast in my room next morning. We will want all the flowers we can get. Abraham will go out early in the morning for them—say roses—syringas—&c. &c. &c for dressing the rooms—and as handsome a bouquet as possible for the bride—But no doubt I shall see you at least twice before the day—You will want nothing for youself except what I can send you, vix., black silks and those you have no doubt—a pair of shoes of less clumsy make than you ordinarily wear is the only expense I believe the affair can put you to. Abrm. has the papers & if you are sick he will stay with you—Yours Wm.

Monday 30th


Letter dated 13th April, 1839.
Addressed to “Mr. Harrison—43d St." Dear George

I send a loin of veal 11 lbs. @ 1/ & some corned (plate) beef—10 lbs. @ 10

How are you off for flowers? Gertrude's brother is to be married next thursday morning and she is invited.

No Gt. Western yet.
Sorry the weather prevented your coming in today. Yours truly
Wm. H. Harison 13th April 1839

Mr. Harison


*At this address Michael Floy & Sons had their home, with shop on the first floor, greenhouses and garden behind: their nursery was in Harlem, 125-127th streets and from Fifth to Fourth avenues. Their catalogue of 1832 makes no mention of Harison's Yellow although it lists no fewer than 200 roses. There must have been a good deal of chance or deliberate hybridizing going on, because the catalogue offers, among Moss roses, a "New York Seedling" priced at $2 each, and among Sweetbriers a "New York Scarlet" and a "New York white," and under Chinas a "New York odoratissima." The "Diary of Michael Floy, Jr.", recently published, makes no mention of Harison's Yellow. The "Memoirs" of Grant Thorburn, a contemporary New York seedsman, are equally silent on it.

Now let's leave the various Harisons enjoying their country seat between Eighth and Ninth avenues and move a mile or so eastward, to the southeast corner of what is now Broadway and 23d street. We are on the trail of the commercial introducer of this rose. One naturally looks into the 1830 catalogues of the Prince Nursery at Flushing (they had a New York office at 17 Broadway) and of Michael Floy & Sons, whose house and store were located at Broadway and 11th street.* However, there was a nurseryman working and living closer—Thomas Hogg.

Thomas Hogg came from his native Berwickshire in Scotland, via London, to New York in 180 and early in 182 established a nursery and florist's business on a plot of land at what is now Broadway and 23d street. In 1840, the city crowding him, he moved the nursery to 79th street and East River. In 1855 he died—seven years before President Lincoln appointed his son, who bore the same name, Federal Marshal. In pursuing this appointment, Thomas Jr. lived in Japan for three years, and later introduced many Japanese plants for which the Hogg nursery became renowned.


*Williams' Double Yellow was hybridized by a nurseryman of that name, located at Pitmaston near Worcester, England, and well known as the raiser of Pitmaston Duchesse Pear. In his "Botanic Garden," Maund calls it a hybrid of R. lutea, gives its height as 4 feet and says that Mr. Williams introduced it about 1826.

We find the easiest Harison-Hogg clew in Rehder's "Manual," in which he gives, as a synonym for Harison's Yellow, "Rosa lutea var. Hoggii," and refers to Sweet's "British Flower Garden" of 1838 in which Hogg's Double Yellow Briar is pictured and described, with no mention of Harison's rose. The author of accompanying text states that the rose was brought from New York by Mr. James McNabb, who "received it from Mr. Thomas Hogg, Nurseryman in that city, by whom the plant was raised from seeds of the single rose, and it is known in the nurseries by the name of 'Hogg's Yellow American Rose.' it is a pretty variety but it is surpassed in the fulness of its flowers and in richness of colouring by Williams' Double Yellow Rose."*

Dipping in "The Rose Manual" by our American Robert Buist, published in 1844, we find this rose called both Harison's and Hogg's. Mr. McNabb, although not guilty of starting the "Rev." legend, may have misunderstood Mr. Hogg, for in the latter's catalogue of 1834, now preserved in the library of the New York Botanical Garden, Mr. Hogg lists no rose bearing his name, He does list "Harison's Double Yellow." Mr. McNabb, incidentally, toured this country in the 1830's as a plant scout for the Royal Botanical Garden at Edinburgh.

The full title of Hogg's 1834 catalogue is worth recording—
"Catalogue of Ornamental Trees and Shrubs, Herbaceous and Greenhouse Plants, Cultivated and Grown for sale by Thomas Hogg, nurseryman and florist, at the New York Botanic Garden in Broadway, near the House of Refuge. Letters to be addressed to the care of Alexander Smith, seedsman, 388 Broadway." Smith is in the "New York Directory" of 1824-25, but not Hogg. But then Thomas Hogg was far up in the country—at 23d and Broadway—and was just about establishing his nursery.

Confusion is constantly being worse confounded in the search to untangle the Hogg-Harison Rose. Bunyard's "Old Garden Roses" states that in England there was raised, in addition to Harison's Yellow, a Harrisonii No. 1. He calls Harison's Yellow a pale lemon and Hogg's pale sulphur, and, quoting Sweet, gives a slightly different description for the latter. The catalogue of the Prince Nursery for 1831—the year after its introduction—offers, among the twenty kinds of Scotch Roses for sale, a double yellow and a double straw-colored, which coincide with Bunyard's differentiation. Neither is named Hogg or Harison, however.

CybeRose note: Hovey's 1843 catalogue of Roses, p. 8, included:
2. Double yellow Harrison* cup. fine yellow, double. 1.00
3. Hogg's Seedling Scotch. cup. double pale yellow. 1.00
He previously (1837) reported that Hogg's seedlings were raised from 'Harison's Double Yellow'

But let us continue our search of old American nursery catalogues. Thomas Hogg's published list of 1847 offers "Harrison or double-yellow Briar" but of Rosa Hoggiii, despite Mr. McNabb's assurance that it is known in the nurseries, I find no mention. Three years before—1844—the Prince Nursery is listing no fewer than 584 varieties of roses, among them "Harrison's Double Yellow—superb brilliant yellow, blooms profusely; finest of all the yellow roses, 75 cents." Has Mr. Hogg's rose so soon disappeared from the nurseries? Farther down the list we come to "Harrison's White—rose within rose, 25 cents." What has become of this latter hybrid bearing Mr. Harison's name is hidden in the yeasty mists of American rose history. I haven't encountered it anywhere outside this Prince catalogue of 1844, and I've no intention of rousing it from a century of somnolent obscurity.

Two roses bearing a man's name, I should think, are fairly sufficient evidence to lead to the conclusion that he was the hybridizer. And since Thomas Hogg was the nurseryman nearest the Harison estate of "Mount Sinai," it is not beyond the realm of imagination to claim him for introducer.

I can well see Thomas Hogg, from whom the Harisons bought plants for their garden over on Eighth avenue, recognizing this cross between Austrian Briar and the Scotch rose as something unusual and worth introducing. An alert businessman, Mr. Hogg, with a discerning eye for exceptional horticultural items. In the obituary of him published in Hovey's Magazine of Horticulture for 1855, he is said to have "always had some rare or pretty thing in flower and his visitors rapidly multiplied. He was the first in New York to import novelties from Europe. He originated some himself." He also brought in orchids from South America. When Michael Floy, Jr., visited his nursery in 1835, he said Hogg's plants were looking very fine.*

*Incidentally, this Thomas Hogg of New York should not be related or confused with a contemporary nurseryman of the same name who won renown for the hybrids of fruits he developed in his nursery at Paddington Green, London. Nor should the gardening Harisons of New York be confused, in tracing Rosa Harisoni, with, the Joseph Harrison who edited the Floricultural Cabinet & Florists' Magazine beginning in 1833 and continuing on through 27 volumes. He was also the editor of The Gardener's Record and served as gardener to the Rt. Honorable Lord Wharncliffe at Nortley Hall. In the early issues of his magazine he lists a few stove plants hybridized by a George Harrison and bearing his name, but he's not our George Folliott Harison of New York.

Whether Harison's Yellow was a chance or a deliberate hybrid we don't know. Hogg may have watched the rose growing while old Richard Harison was still alive—the old gentleman lived to the hale age of almost eighty-two—and after his death induced his gardening son George to let him save it for posterity by introducing it. I believe—and the family legends support me—that George actually hybridized it during his many years of working at "Mount Sinai" while his father was alive. The year following the old gentleman's death, knowing that the place was to be sold, as it was actually four years later, he probably decided to give it to Mr. Hogg to put on the market.

In the course of the research on this minor footnote to American rose history, George Folliott Harison has gradually emerged as a wholly likeable person. A bachelor of not too robust constitution, a shy man perhaps, he preferred the simplicity and obscurity of country living and the amenities of gardening to the more social and public life followed by his brother at the Beach street house and the general whirl of business in New York. To be sure, he had "silks," but he rarely wore them, and had to he reminded to put them on for his brother's wedding, and also to buy less country-looking shoes. Once in a while he may have dropped into the office at 16 Nassau street where his name was on the law office door, but a short distance away was Grant Thorburn's seed store, and over at 127 Broadway, Prince's New York display room. These, rather than the law, probably attracted him on his rare visits to town—in his clumsy shoes.

That, my masters, is sheer romancing. But of one thing I am certain—the George Folliott Harison who produced Harison's Yellow was no clergyman!

Rose Harison not Harrison Yellow (1898)

Prince (1835) listed Harrison's Yellow two years before Hovey mentioned it.

Hovey (1880) Certainly one of the oldest and most valuable of American Roses is not even mentioned in Mr. Ellwanger's paper; this is the famous Harrisoni, the best yellow, next to the Persian, and which was raised by a retired sea captain in New York about 1830, and first noticed by me in 1837.

Prince's Manual of Roses (1846) Page 83.
Rosa Harrisonii, or Harrison's Yellow, was raised from seed by the late Geo. Harrison, Esq., of New York, from whom I received the first plant he parted with, in exchange for a Camellia Aitoni,

Hovey (1880) listed two of Hogg's seedlings, along with Harison's .