Daffodil Dilemma

A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

Here’s a fun fact for your Monday: Maryland is home to the country’s oldest daffodil club.  The Maryland Daffodil Society was founded in 1923, and held its first show at the Elkridge Club in 1924.

Truth be told, I was not previously aware that there were any daffodil societies in the U.S., let alone that Maryland had the oldest one.  However, I am a fan of both daffodils and dedicated affinity groups, so I was delighted to learn about the Society through some archival evidence in our collections: Mr. Malcolm’s Daffodil Dilemma, circa 1970.

Gift of Rita Lowenstein. JMM 1993.73.1
Gift of Rita Lowenstein. JMM 1993.73.1

Artist and gardener Malcolm W. Lowenstein (1899-1973), descended from several notable Baltimore Jewish families, was himself a noted figure in the city.  You might remember shopping at Malcolm’s Gifts on North Charles Street, or Malcolm’s House and Garden Store on Reisterstown Road; or perhaps you’ve come across the memorial sundial at Cylburn Arboretum, made by local artists Reuben Kramer and Perna Krick from Lowenstein’s design and installed in his honor in 1974.

Malcolm W. Lowenstein and his tame mockingbird, ca. 1960.  Gift of Rita Lowenstein. JMM 1992.185.3
Malcolm W. Lowenstein and his tame mockingbird, ca. 1960. Gift of Rita Lowenstein. JMM 1992.185.3

As a young man, Lowenstein studied at the Philadelphia Textile School, and in the 1930s and ‘40s he took out a number of design patents for housewares, many featuring birds, sea creatures, and other natural elements.  Throughout his life he worked with many local organizations including the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, the Horticultural Society of Maryland, and Beautiful Baltimore, Inc.

“Gold Crown” detail, from JMM 1993.73.1
“Gold Crown” detail, from JMM 1993.73.1

Among the papers and photographs donated to the JMM by Lowenstein’s widow Rita was this little handmade booklet, featuring eleven drawings of daffodil varieties.  It’s not clear if this was directly related to the Maryland Daffodil Society, but it seems likely; Lowenstein served as Vice President for many years, and the Society still awards the Malcolm W. Lowenstein Memorial Award “for the design showing the most originality or creative effort” at its annual daffodil show.

“Cheerfulness” detail, from JMM 1993.73.1
“Cheerfulness” detail, from JMM 1993.73.1

I’m partial to daffodils, but thanks to this booklet I’m realizing that I know very little about them.  I’d thought “cheerfulness” was simply an evocative title for the drawing above, but no, it’s the name of an official variety. I now know that, according to the American Daffodil Society, “there are between 40 and 200 different daffodil species, subspecies or varieties of species and over 25,000 registered cultivars (named hybrids) divided among the thirteen divisions of the official classification system.”  So much for my own classification system, which can be summarized as “there are big ones and little ones, and some of them have different colors.” I do prefer the yellow ones, which is why I’ve chosen these three drawings to share.

“Stoke” detail, from JMM 1993.73.1
“Stoke” detail, from JMM 1993.73.1

Baltimore’s daffodils seem to have bloomed early this year, but if Mr. Lowenstein’s drawings have whetted your appetite, hurry to the Maryland Daffodil Society’s annual show, which will be held in Towson tomorrow and Wednesday (April 19th and 20th, 2016).

Bonus daffodils! An illustration from a giveaway bookmark, advertising the book department at Joel Gutman & Co., circa 1915. Anonymous donation.  JMM 1993.141.17
Bonus daffodils! An illustration from a giveaway bookmark, advertising the book department at Joel Gutman & Co., circa 1915. Anonymous donation. JMM 1993.141.17
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2 replies on “Daffodil Dilemma”

Would love announcement of next year’s

show – my granddaughter visited your show last week

{Founder of NJ Daff Society}

Thanks

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