In 1850 Law, Somner & Co who were purveyors of seed for flowers, vegetables, and pasture, were the first seed traders to establish themselves in Melbourne. Their customers were domestic gardeners and farmers from Australia and beyond. Like many of their peers that followed, Law Somner & Co produced annual seed catalogues, and driven by ever growing demand, printed literature incorporating gardening advice. They were vigorous participants in shows and exhibits around Australia and New Zealand, winning numerous prizes along the way. Law, Somner & Co supported industry participation and innovation. They provided free seed to any pasture plots connected with the Young Victorian Farmers Association, on request, and in return enjoyed annual prizes being awarded in their name, donating seeds and plants as prizes for each district of Victoria.1
Their head office and shopfront was located in the centre of Melbourne at 83 Swanston Street and then later at 21-23 Elizabeth Street. They also had branches at 258-260 Pitt Street South Sydney and in Octagon, Dunedin New Zealand. Their nursery was located at Orrong Road, Armadale.
Here at the Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library we have digitalised a now rare catalogue from Law Somner Pty Ltd (incorporated in 1912), dating back to 1938. Items in our collection from Law Somner & Co (their original name) span 100 years of trading history.
Printed material by seed purveyors began as simple catalogues listing available varieties, sometimes with accompanying prices. Due to demand for information and specific advice, their literature often expanded to include gardening advice, backstory, and marketing blurbs. As this printed material evolved, historical context grew.
Michelle Sadler, Student Intern