Occasionally I’ll head over to eBay just to see what history-related items they have. Lincoln-related items are usually easy to come by; I got my set of the Collected Works by online bidding. Today I typed “Abraham Lincoln” into the search field and encountered this listing: “Abraham Lincoln RARE Heirloom Tomato 50 Seeds for 2009.”
‘Abraham Lincoln’ was introduced in 1923 by the W. H. Buckbee seed company of Rockford, Ill., which named the tomato in honor of the state’s favorite son. It was released without much fanfare, but over the years it has proved itself to be one of the great tomato classics that happily survived the big shift to hybrids during the 1940s. After the demise of the Buckbee firm, the tomato was continued by R. H. Shumway of Randolph, Wis.
I’d always drawn very broad distinctions between tomatoes; you’ve got your big ones that you slice and put on sandwiches and your little ones that you add to salads. Apparently, though, this is a very serious business. Tomato varieties are “released” with or without fanfare, and then “continued” in the same manner as automobile models or limited edition porcelain figurines. “Don’t be confused with Abraham Lincoln improved,” urges the eBay vendor. “In my opinion, it isn’t as good as the original!”
At the very least, this is a cheaper alternative to collecting original Lincoln documents or artwork.