Southwestern Historical Qudrterly
Gilbert Onderdonk: The Nurseryman of Mission Valley, Pioneer Horticulturist. By Evelyn
Oppenheimer. (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1991. Pp. ix+159.
Acknowledgments, black-and-white photographs, illustrations, index.
Gilbert Onderdonk came to Texas as a young man in 1851 hoping to restore
his health. He did so, and at the same time became a pioneering horticulturist.
In her book, Evelyn Oppenheimer treats Onderdonk's life in three sections. In
the first, she has selected and edited letters Onderdonk wrote during his early
years in the state. In them, he expresses his apprehension at starting a new life in
Texas. He discusses many important decisions, including his marriage and his
purchase of the land that would sustain his nursery business in Victoria County.
The second section of the book brings together press clippings and parts of a
journal Onderdonk kept during visits to Mexico between 1898 and 1902. In it,
he noted the climate, vegetation, and some social conditions in San Luis Potosi,
Mexico City, and Maltrata. The third and longest section of the book reprints
Onderdonk's 1888 Mission Valley Nurseries catalog, along with photographs
from the Texas Agriculture Department bulletin "Pomological Possibilities of
Texas." The catalog offers instructions in selecting soils, planting, and treating
orchards. Nearly half of it is devoted to listing and briefly describing varieties of
peach, plum, apple, pear, and mulberry trees, grapes, and deciduous trees. This
listing is of some importance, since Onderdonk received credit for the first
botanical classification of peach trees.
Unfortunately, Oppenheimer provides only a few pages relating these docu-
ments to the social context in which Onderdonk lived. For example, while the
last section is entitled "Gilbert Onderdonk the Nursery Businessman," Oppen-
heimer offers no analysis of Onderdonk's business practices, nor does she place
his business within the larger context of agricultural enterprises in Texas during
these years. Nor does the catalog itself reveal much about how Onderdonk oper-
ated his business.
Oppenheimer has given readers a useful collection of primary materials about
this important horticulturist. It should gain the interest of scholars and general
University of Texas at Austin SALLY CLARKE
Bale o'Cotton: The Mechanzcal Art of Cotton Ginning. By Karen Gerhardt Britton.
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992. Pp. xvii+138. Preface,
illustrations, black-and-white photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Bale o'Cotton provides the general and specialized reader with insights into not
only cotton ginning from Eli Whitney to the present, but also the development
of the cotton business as a whole.
After a series of rather derivative chapters on the plantation South, Karen Brit-
ton moves to the most valuable portion of the book to discuss the history of gin-
ning and cotton in Texas. A Texan, Robert S. Munger, revolutionized the
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/. Accessed July 25, 2014.