Ferry-Morse Seed Company

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Ferry-Morse Seed Company is a supplier of seeds, and was at one time the largest such company in the world. It is currently part of Jiffy International.

Ferry seed catalog for 1900

D.M. Ferry & Co.[edit]

In 1856, Milo T. Gardner, Dexter M. Ferry, and Eber F. Church[1] organized a small seed-growing company, M.T. Gardner & Company[2] (also known as Gardner, Ferry, and Church) in Detroit, Michigan. The first year the company did $6,000 in business.[3] Its profits continued to be stable until 1865, when Ferry bought out Gardner's share and took over the company.[4] Ferry changed the company name to Ferry, Church & Co, and two years later, when Church retired,[5] Ferry changed the name again, this time to D.M. Ferry & Co.[2]

The business grew steadily and, in 1879, was incorporated under the name D.M. Ferry & Co with $750,000 in capital, and Ferry as president,[4] James McMillan as vice-president, H. Kirke White as secretary, and Charles C. Bowen as treasurer.[3] A. E. F. White, John Stoughton Newberry, and W. K. Anderson were also officers.[3] At the same time, the Detroit Seed Company was absorbed into the new corporation. Business of the company continually increased for some time, until January 1, 1886, when a disastrous fire demolished the company's warehouse with the loss of near $1,000,000.[4] However, Ferry quickly re-organized the company, bought seeds from outside sources and absorbed two smaller seed companies, and the company managed to fill orders for its customers.[4]

Growth and operations outside Detroit[edit]

By the early 1900s, the company was doing over $2,000,000 per year in business, and supplying seeds to 160,000 retail outlets.[3] Ferry built a new warehouse, and by 1890 was doing over a million and a half dollars in business annually.[4]

Ferry began to operate facilities outside Detroit. Operations in Charlevoix Michigan began when the train lines extended up to that area in 1892, and a large Charlevoix warehouse facility was built in 1905 along the lake near the new Chicago and West Michigan Railway line. A 200' pier ran out into Lake Charlevoix. Seeds were accumulated from local farms, brought to this warehouse by horse-drawn wagons, then bagged and shipped by rail or freight to Detroit. Charlevoix operations continued until 1927.[6]

In 1905, Ferry sold one of their large corn fields to the Burroughs Adding Machine Company. That property is located on the north side of Detroit at the city's northern limits, currently bordered by Second and Third Avenues on the east and west and by Burroughs and Amsterdam Avenues on the north and south.[7]

C.C. Morse & Co.[edit]

Meanwhile, in 1874, R. W. Wilson began a seed-producing company based in Santa Clara, California.[5][8] However, Wilson's health was poor, and in 1877 he sold the operation to Charles Copeland Morse and A. L. Kellogg.[5] Morse built the company up, and in 1884 bought out Kellogg and incorporated as C.C. Morse & Co.[8][9] Charles Copeland Morse died abruptly in 1900, and his son Lester Morse took over the business. The 1906 earthquake demolished the firm's facilities, but they quickly moved to temporary space in San Francisco, and the company bought out Cox Seed and Plant.[8]


In the early 1900s, D.M. Ferry bought land in California to grow crops for seed.

In 1921, they bought the commission packet business from Morse.[8]

By 1930, Ferry was growing most of its seed in California, and the two firms had complementary businesses.[8] A merger made sense for both companies, and in 1930 they combined to form the Ferry-Morse Company.[5] The combined firm became the largest seed distribution company in the world.[8] In 1959, the headquarters of the business moved to western Kentucky.[10] In 1981, Ferry-Morse became part of France's Groupe Limagrain, the largest seed producer in the world.[11] In 2005, Groupe Limagrain sold Ferry-Morse to Jiffy International.[12]

Ferry-Morse today[edit]

Ferry-Morse is currently part of Jiffy International, a Norwegian Company established in 1943 selling pots and pressed fiber articles.[13] The company sells seeds as well as Jiffy seed starter kits.[14]


  1. ^ "Where it began". Ferry Morse Seed Company. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Clarence Monroe Burton; William Stocking; Gordon K. Miller, eds. (1922), The city of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Volume 3, The S. J. Clarke publishing company, pp. 8–12 
  3. ^ a b c d Compendium of History and Biography of the City of Detroit and Wayne County, Michigan, Henry Taylor & Co, 1908, pp. 174–176 
  4. ^ a b c d e Western Publishing and Engraving Co (1890), John Bersey, ed., Cyclopedia of Michigan: historical and biographical, Western publishing and engraving co., pp. 134–136 
  5. ^ a b c d "Striving for quality". Ferry Morse Seed Company. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Foster Boat Works Association Home". fosterboatworksassociation.com. 
  7. ^ "American Arithmometer Company". home.ix.netcom.com. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Judith M. Taylor (2011). "Ferry Morse Seed Company, San Francisco". Horthistoria. Retrieved June 28, 2011. 
  9. ^ Scenes along the Line of the San Jose & Los Gatos Interurban Railroad: Photographs by Andrew P. Hill, San Jose, California: San Jose Historical Museum Association, 1994, ISBN 0-914139-11-8, p. 44.
  10. ^ "Relocation". Ferry Morse Seed Company. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  11. ^ Mike Dunton. "Dexter Mason Ferry". Seedsmen Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 28, 2011. 
  12. ^ Limagrain Annual Report, 2005 (PDF), Groupe Limagrain, 2005, p. 53 
  13. ^ "Historical Background". Jiffy International. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Our Product Family". Ferry Morse Seed Company. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 

External links[edit]