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A short history of the significance of the daffodil to Gloucester County, Virginia
Originally compiled by Carol Ray, 1991, updated by Denise Rhea Carter 2010. Initial funding provided by The Five River’s Woman’s Club with proceeds to be used for county beautification projects sponsored by the Daffodil Festival Committee. All rights reserved 1991, 2010.
The Daffodils Arrive
The history of the daffodil in Gloucester County, Virginia is almost as old as the county itself. When Gloucester was formed in 1651 from part of York County the early settlers brought these soft reminders of English springs as they established themselves in the area. The soil and weather conditions were ideal for daffodils. The bulbs were passed from neighbor to neighbor and spread from the orderly beds and burying grounds of the great houses to the fields. Some, such as the hardy Trumpet Major variety, seemed to thrive on neglect. By the beginning of the 20th century daffodils grew wild in the untended fields of Gloucester. It is from this abundance of natural beauty that grew the extensive daffodil industry which earned the county the title “Daffodil Capital of America” in the 1930s and 40s.
Everyone had daffodils but no one thought much about them except as wild ornaments. It was around 1890 that Eleanor Linthicum Smith, of “Toddsbury” on the North River, first saw the commercial potential of daffodils. She developed a good size bed of flowers and paid local children ten cents per hundred to pick them. The flowers were picked during their spring growing season, packed standing up in laundry baskets covered with cheesecloth, and shipped to Baltimore.
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