Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co. is a mail-order seed and garden plant company based in Greendale, IN. Founded in 1866, Gurney’s specializes in vegetable and flower seeds, gardening supplies and nursery stock, including trees, shrubs, perennials, fruit trees and berries, fertilizers and plant foods. Gurney’s distributes catalogs throughout the nation, and maintains a considerable web presence.
Charles W. Gurney (born May 13, 1840) a Lieutenant Colonel during the Civil War, opened his first nursery, Hesperian Nurseries, in 1866 in Monticello, Iowa. The business remained in Monticello until 1882, when the business was moved to Dixon County, Nebraska. After realizing the trade potential in towns near rivers, Gurney moved Hesperian Nurseries to Yankton, South Dakota, in 1897.
Gurney’s seven sons were very involved in the family seed business, and in 1906, C.W. Gurney and his sons, and one nephew, had the nursery incorporated as Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Company. The company started listing products on a generic price list for mailing purposes, until 1910, when Gurney’s published its first large seed and nursery catalog with a full-color cover.
Upon Charles W. Gurney’s death in 1913, his sons and nephew continued the seed and nursery business. In 1919, Deloss Butler Gurney, one of the Colonel’s sons, became CEO. The company diversified and grew quickly. By 1924, the Gurney seed house was one of the largest in the world, receiving orders from 46 of the 48 states and many foreign countries.
In 1925, John Chandler “Chan” Gurney, Deloss Butler’s son, made a name for himself as a radio announcer and programmer for the Yankton radio station WNAX. In 1927, Chan convinced his father to buy the radio station, which became known as WNAX – Voice of the House of Gurney in Yankton. The station was used to promote Gurney products and services, making Gurney’s a household name.
In the early 1930s, the large Gurney’s seed house and storefront became one of Yankton’s first shopping centers, housing a retail greenhouse, a barber, a grocery store, a jeweler, a medicine store and a restaurant/hotel. These products and services were all promoted by Chan at WNAX. The company also experiment in the fuel industry in the 1940s and, later, it was active in the home front war effort during World War II.
D.B. Gurney died in 1943, but the business sustained. D.B.’s son, John Chandler “Chan” Gurney, became involved in politics, and served as a U.S. Senator for the state of South Dakota from 1939 to 1951.
Focusing on continuing the legacy and objectives of C.W. Gurney, Gurney’s targets home orchard enthusiasts and beginners alike. The horticultural experts at Gurney’s regularly seek out vegetables and fruits that combine taste with disease resistance, yield and ease of planting. Some of Gurney’s popular exclusive home gardening produce varieties, available only to Gurney’s customers, include Gurney’s Gotta Have It Sweet Corn, Gurney’s Burpless II Hybrid, Gurney’s Pride Hybrid Zucchini and Gurney’s Early Girl Hybrid (VFF) Tomatoes.
Today, Gurney’s continues as one of the leading seed and nursery companies in the United States, having provided customers with seeds and nursery products for over 130 years.