Monday, June 14, 2010

The Rose King of Canada

H.M. Eddie & Sons Ltd.
In 1926, Henry Matheson Eddie, who had worked locally for B.C. Nurseries started to prepare his own land for the production of roses. In 1927, Eddie & Sons Ltd, located on Yale Road near the Vedder Canal dike was opened. The original Eddie firm specialized in the development of roses and even prior to venturing out on his own Eddie was known as the "Rose King of Canada". During the growing season the business handled 500,000 plants and by August 1927, the company was the largest of its kind in Canada with additional operations in the United States through Washington and Oregon.

The Eddies did not specialize in one type of rose. Initially they grew more than 300 varieties including old favorites and modern colourings. It was this blend of old and new varieties that became their hallmarks and Mr. Eddie added to the rose legacy by creating new and better plants.

In 1929 the Chilliwack Board of Trade desired to turn Chilliwack into the "Rose District of British Columbia" suggesting the creation of a rose highway running the length of the district from the Vedder Canal to east of Rosedale. In April 1929, 450 H.M. Eddie climbing rose bushes were delivered to residents who lived along the Yale Highway. During the 1930s, the Eddies created the "most perfect rose" known as the "Mrs. H.M. Eddie", the first Canadian rose to be patented in the United States. The rose was white with a cream-coloured center, and was featured in the National Rose Garden of Britain sometime after 1936 and was later grown in Paris, France.

Eddie roses were in high demand; in 1938 a New York firm ordered 15,000 bushes. A short time later the T. Eaton Company of Winnipeg acquired 14,000 rose bushes for their markets, preferring to pay a higher price rather than buy cheaper imported varieties.

In February 1946 the Eddie firm acquired 80 acres on Lulu Island, near Steveston, as they were not able to expand their 60-acre growing operations in the Chilliwack district. At the time, it was thought that it would take two years for the firm to relocate its office and plantations, however, the 1948 flood hastened their move when the nursery in Chilliwack was completely destroyed.

With the death of H.M. Eddie in January 1953, the management of the business was taken over by his son, J. Henry Eddie. The business continued until the 1970s when the Richmond property was sold and the lease on a second operation located on the Musqueam Indian Reserve expired.

The Chilliwack Museum has two trophies donated to the Chilliwack District Agricultural Society for the annual Chilliwack Fair and a catlog from the company. We would be pleased to learn of other H.M. Eddie Company material, especially items related to their time in Chilliwack.

Image 1: H.M. Eddie in his field of roses.
Image 2: Eddie's Roses catalog circa 1967/68

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