Antoine “Leon” Wintzer
Gardening Magazine of 1907 offered the following profile of Wintzer, which cannot really be improved on:
Antoine Wintzer’s father emigrated to America in the year 1854. He brought with him all his family except his oldest son, who was then an active participant in the Crimean War. His father was a gardener and soon obtained a good position after landing in New York.
Antoine was six years old when they arrived, and between the years of 1854 and 1862 , he attended the public schools, most of the time at Flushing, New York, where his father had moved in 1857. In March 1862, when he was 15 years old he entered the Parsons [Nursery] establishment as an apprentice. At this time the Parsons were the largest growers of nursery stock in America.
Antoine Wintzer inherited a genius for finding out the requirements of plant life, and under the skilful tuition of J. R. Trumpy, he rapidly acquired the practical features of growing grapes and roses, but after spending two years at Parsons’ he became dissatisfied, because the line of work they kept him at was too narrow. So he left Parsons and engaged with Eugene Bauman, one of the most prominent landscape gardeners in the east. His idea was to learn landscape work, but Mr. Bauman, who had now settled at Rahway, N. J., found that Mr. Wintzer was such a skilful propagator that he gave him full charge of the one greenhouse that he then owned. He allowed Mr. Wintzer to experiment with different methods of propagation and it was here that the latter reached settled conclusions in certain lines, especially the propagation of hardy shrubbery, and he still feels that his experience with Mr. Bauman has been a most valuable asset in his life work.
At Rahway Mr. Wintzer contracted malaria, and left his position with Mr. Bauman to recuperate at his father’s home in Flushing. After regaining his health Mr. Wintzer engaged with Mahlon Moon, at Morrisville, Pa., as propagator of evergreens, roses, etc., but his stay here was a short one, he being again threatened with an attack of malaria. From Morrisville he went to Sewickley, Pa., and engaged with James Wardrope, but his stay here was short as he again contracted malaria and left for home. He has most delightful recollections of his short sojourn at Wardrope’s.
After recovering from the attack of malaria, he went to West Grove, Pa., and accepted a position with the Dingee & Conard Co. He arrived at West Grove on July 31, 1866, the anniversary of his wife’s birth, so he says he cannot forget the date. On August 1 he commenced work.
They had two small greenhouses, 10×80 feet each, at this time. This company at that time was doing a general nursery business having over 300 acres devoted to the growing of fruit and ornamental trees, shrubbery, roses, etc., which they sold almost entirely through agents. This business proved to be unprofitable and it was Mr. Wintzer’s ability as a propagator of roses that saved the company from being totally wrecked financially. The company perceived that there was an increasing demand for roses grown on their own roots and Mr. Wintzer was very successful in growing the roses, by a process which he claims was his own invention. At this time the roses were sold almost entirely as one year plants and shipped by mail to the purchaser. By advertising in a very few papers, enough customers were found to take all the roses they could grow in the few greenhouses that then comprised the plant. Other greenhouses were built and a catalogue published to help make sales, the business grew and prospered and most every year new greenhouses were added to the plant. This continued till the year 1892 when the greenhouses numbered 70. Mr. Wintzer’s ability as a propagator was now fully established; he had produced fine healthy rose plants all thtse years and the number he could grow was only limited by the space at his command to grow them in.
Unfortunately in 1892, differences arose in the management of the Dingee & Conard Co. and the late Alfred F. Conard, who had always been President of the company withdrew, and a year later in 1893 Mr. Wintzer withdrew, leaving to others a business that had been reared upon his life work as a skillful, untiring and devoted grower of the Queen of flowers.
Mr. Wintzer had purchased a small farm about one mile from West Grove and had built thereon a commodious modern residence and in the fall of 1893 he erected two greenhouses. His business was continued with varying success and connections till the year of 1897. Mr. Wintzer was very anxious to enlarge the business and the late Alfred F. Conard, who had been associated with him for so many years previous to 1892, and S. Morris Jones, a business man of West Grove knowing Mr. Wintzer’s great ability as a propagator, furnished him capital to organize the Conard & Jones Company.
The new company purchased from Mr. Wintzer 35 acres of ground and his greenhouse plant, which had grown to seven greenhouses. That year the company erected seven more greenhouses, an up-to-date packing house, a large boiler room, coal bins, and a frost proof house for storing dormant plants. The plant has been largely increased in size so that now the company ranks among the largest in this line of business in America. The firm issues a catalogue of 136 pages, roses having first place, and in connection therewith shrubbery, cannas, bedding and decorative plants, flower seeds and bulbs.
In 1893, when Mr. Wintzer started business on his own account, he commenced a careful methodical line of work to improve the canna. In this he has been successful beyond his most sanguine expectation, but most deservedly so, for no one who has not followed him in it can imagine the amount of work or the time required to develop a shade of color when there is no parent of that shade to work with. It takes exceptionally good judgment on the part of the hybridizer to improve each succeeding year the feature in the plant or flower that he is trying to develop. Mr. Wintzer has shown that he has this ability in a marked degree, and Mont Blanc, Buttercup, Betsy Ross, West Grove, Maiden’s Blush, and other varieties that he has succeeded in originating, place him in the first rank if not at the head of canna producing experts.
Mr. Wintzer at the age of 59 is still as hard a worker as ever; his health is good and we look forward to many more years of successful work from his hands and brain. Above everything else Mr. Wintzer wants it to be understood that rose growing is his specialty; he wants the company that he is connected with to be recognized as second to no other concern in disseminating roses of the very best quality, and on their own roots, and he wants to live long enough to establish the fact that his method of propagating roses is the very best method that has yet been devised for producing roses of the highest grade and greatest vigor of growth.
Mr. Wintzer is vice-president of the Conard & Jones Co. and has been general manager of the greenhouse department, ever since the company started in 1897.
SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FLORISTS