Fifty Years Ago
Reflections on 1958

Ken Cobb
AHS Archivist/Historian


AHS President Wilmer Flory began his first President's Message of 1958 by writing, "A new year and a fresh start on the same old problems." He did not delve into the problems, but he did mention the recent launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite and, thus, the need to regenerate our energies and have the "courage to be happy." Flory viewed the art of gardening as "the best cure for the stress and strain of our complex Atomic Age." Surely that feeling still exists in the hectic age of today. It is interesting to observe the changes that have brought us to the present, but at times one sees little difference. Judge for yourself!

The Society began 1958 with 2,546 members and ended with just over 2,700 – a modest 6% growth rate.

Long-term AHS Registrar, William E. Monroe, entered the age of technology with authorization to purchase a standard typewriter! Can you imagine doing that job with just a pencil!

Growers of other plants were drawn to become daylily aficionados. Fred McGee of SC, a self-proclaimed "dyed in the wool" camellia grower, wrote of his conversion when shown a "small plant about the size of a good specimen of nut grass (which it looked like) and was advised that it cost $25.00" He reflected on the nice camellia he could buy for that money. Yes, he was soon growing daylilies! Sound familiar, anyone! Just change the story by inserting your name and former favorite flower, and yes, increase the price of that small plant by a factor of ten or so!


The President's Cup was won at the 1958 Houston National Convention by Hugh Russell of Texas with Hemerocallis 'Marsha Russell'. Turns out he won the Stout Medal in '51, the Helen Field Fischer award in '57 and both the Bertrand Farr Award and the President's Cup in '58. Now that is something.

Round Robins had been the driving force in the formation of the Society and by 1958 there were 29 robin leaders running 36 robin groups. One had a most intriguing name – the 'Hem' Men Robin. It shared excerpts in The Hemerocallis Journal by such notable personalities as D. R. McKeithan, Robert Schriner, Carl Carpenter, Eldren Minks, and others who offered their views on hybridizing. One presumes that women were restricted from that robin, but they were well represented as 24 of the 29 group leaders.

Prior to 1958, the AHS Board voted in secret at their Fall Meeting for the Society's top honors – the Helen Field Fischer gold medal for service and the Bertrand Farr Silver medal for excellence in hybridizing – and then proceeded immediately to announce them. In 1958, announcement of the secret vote was delayed until the subsequent national convention – a tradition that continues today.

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© Copyright 2008 by the American Hemerocallis Society, Inc.