We can thank Samuel Rumph for the peach.
In 1889, commenting on a local funeral, a Georgia newspaperman lamented that the coffin came from Cincinnati, the death coat from New York, and the breeches from Chicago. Only the corpse and the hole came from Georgia. And yet, as word of Samuel Rumph’s peach research spread, he was initially known as a “crank.” Although Georgia always had peaches, no one assumed they had a market in New York until Samuel Rumph made it happen.
Samuel Rumph had agricultural roots. Having grown up on a huge farm in a land rich family, he was interested in pomology (a great word to know). As someone that tinkered with seeds rather like Henry Ford experimented with the Model-T, his expertise ranged from the impact of frost to the creation of new breeds.
In 1875, when Rumph named his new peach after his wife Elberta, he knew he had a winner. Maturing early, it was sweet and juicy with a pit that was easily removed. As an “industrial peach,” it not only tasted and looked good, but it traveled well and resisted disease. In addition, he developed the ideal slatted crate and the appropriately refrigerated railway car. And, like Coca-Cola has Cherry Coke, Diet Coke, Vanilla Coke. Rump created 75 peach varieties, ranging from the lemon cling to Crawford’s Late.
Samuel and Elberta:
You get the picture. Selling peaches is about more than the peach. Instead, from the tree to the train or truck, Rumph looked at the entire supply chain. Knowing pomology, he figured out when a peach was not too ripe nor too green but just right for a long journey. Soon, Georgia’s railroads responded with track near the peach growers.
We could say that Samuel Rumph was a 19th century biotech entrepreneur.
Our Bottom Line: A National Market
Samuel Rumph brought Georgia peaches into the U.S. national market.
The story of the U.S. national market starts with the Erie Canal. Stretching from Albany to Buffalo NY, it connected the Midwest with the East. And, as a result, regions of the U.S. could specialize in what they did best. Grain from Minnesota could move to processing plants and then NYC. Textiles traveled from New England to the West. Raw cotton came up from the South. Regional specialization made the U.S. an economic behemoth.
And, it brought us the Georgia peach.