In September of 1939, the U.S. braced as World War II began in Europe. Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and while it would be two more years before Pearl Harbor and the United States’ official declaration of war against Japan, the country was just beginning to emerge from the throes of the Great Depression, the most troubled economic times in U.S. history.
Still, the characteristic nurseryman spirit carried with it the optimism that the industry would make the best of challenging conditions, and carry on.
From the October 15, 1939, issue of American Nurseryman:
“Twenty-Five Years Later”
Those who seek to forecast trade conditions by comparison with the time, twenty-five years ago, when war was previously declared in Europe, find little basis for parallel in the nursery field. In that earlier day this country was dependent to a large degree upon European sources for the merchandise nurserymen sold to the public. Today, because of the plant quarantine act and quarantine 37, we are dependent upon foreign sources for but a few items of importance.
Only indirectly, in consequence, will the present war conditions affect nurserymen. In this country they will not need to worry about the possibility of being obliged to clear nursery crops off their land, or part of it, in order to produce food, as are their fellows in England today. Ample supply of land and abundant agricultural crops would make that unnecessary here, in any event.
The question then is whether the general business situation will favor purchases of nursery stock. So far, marked stimulation has been felt by those lines of industry which may supply material to some of the warring nations or may replace the exports of those nations to neutral countries. At the present time, the stimulus is provided largely, not by foreign orders, but to replenish low inventories of domestic buyers as a matter of precaution. It is well worth nothing that salesmen are not seeking such orders, but are in many cases discouraging the buyers from adding to their inventories if they are at a satisfactory level. The purpose, of course, is to prevent a current stimulation which will result in a consequent reaction like that in the early months of 1938.
If that reaction can be avoided, the domestic outlook is encouraging. The present stimulus is constantly drawing more men off the relief rolls and reducing unemployment. The resulting volume of better wages paid, by increasing the national income, is certain to result in the purchase of nursery stock, as well as other items, especially by those whose reduced incomes have prevented their buying in previous seasons.
Particularly important to nurserymen is the likelihood of increased home building. Already the tendency in that direction is evident, to make up for the shortage occasioned for several years of low housing activity. The latter years of the war a quarter century ago were marked by a steady rise in home building, which continued for some years after the armistice of 1918. In this respect there are signs of a parallel rise, first because of the shortage of homes, and second, because increased employment will add to the number able to move into their own dwellings.