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stevenkh1 March 7, 2015 11:58 PM

Livingston's Acme
Is this variety extinct? Livingston introduced this tomato in 1875 and it last appeared in the 1940 Livington dealer catalog - a 65 year run. Surely this tomato's seed still exists but I haven't found it yet...right? :?

ContainerTed March 8, 2015 01:27 AM

Sandhill Preservation has it listed in their latest catalog. Try their website:

BTW, it's on my grow every year list. AND, Sandhill is good people.

carolyn137 March 8, 2015 10:19 AM

The person who has perhaps the most knowledge about the Livingston varieties and used to have a long list of all of them and their status extinct or not, and which ones seeds were available for is Mike Dunton at Victory Seeds.

but a week or so I went there and could not find that dedicated article although he was listing a few of them.

And yes I've grown Acme and several other Livingston ones as well although right now I can't remember the others. The other person who used to very involved with Livingston ones is Craig LeHoullier, nctomatoman here, and he would send to Mike and myself quite a few of them as he got them from the USDA seed bank when it was still then possible to do, and I did the same, not just for Livingston ones.


Douglas_OW March 8, 2015 12:04 PM

Here are some pages from Victory seeds regarding Livingston tomatoes:

General info about Alexander W. Livingston:


Status of Livingston varieties:



carolyn137 March 8, 2015 12:34 PM

[QUOTE=Douglas_OW;455568]Here are some pages from Victory seeds regarding Livingston tomatoes:

General info about Alexander W. Livingston:


Status of Livingston varieties:



Now why didn't I find those links when I was there? I guess I was in too much of a hurry, but then I was able to list the ones I'd grown, which are:

Golden Queen, and the history on this one is great
Stone and Dwarf Stone
Gold Ball
Honor Bright, aka Lutescent
Magnus, and quite a story on this one as well, of which I was a participant.

Many that Livingston introduced were used to create many new varieties as well.


stevenkh1 March 8, 2015 02:23 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Thank you for your kind responses. Sandhill describes Acme as a pink variety vs the old Livingston catalogue describes it as a "dark glossy red"...???? Also, I've read somewhere in an old google books' farmer/market/catalogue somewhere that Acme had a blossom end inward indentation like the bottom of an apple? It reads like two completely different tomatoes...???

And I haven't ran across these two Livingston's tomatoes before...anyone know the story? Are they a re-labelled tomato from another seller?

Livingston's New Hawkeye tomato (1893)
Livingston's Atlantic Prize tomato (1896)

Thanks, All!

stevenkh1 June 30, 2015 06:51 AM

I think I found the answer to my question in an old article by Charles A White in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club (published in 1901):

"My observations were made while engaged in amateur gardening upon my house-lot in Washington D.C. and were briefly as follows: In the spring of 1898 I purchased from a dealer in Washington two dozen tomato plants of the Acme variety and transplanted them in my small garden. They produced a uniform crop, both fruit and plants answering in all respects to the reputed characteristics of Acme, the plants of which variety are typical representatives of the atavic group. I selected seeds from fruit of the best plants of the crop and planted them in the same garden plot in 1899, expecting to grow another crop of Acme tomatoes from them. The seeds germinated promptly and the crop of thirty young plants grew well, but from their first appearance above ground they showed a marked difference from Acme plants. When they had reached the fruiting stage, they had developed into typical representatives of the solanoid group, and not of their parent atavic group; showing the difference from their parent form was more than varietal in character. Furthermore, every plant of the crop possessed identically the same characteristics, all having shared equally and fully in the mutation. The new form was varietally characterized by an excellent quality of fruit, but it was different in flavor and shade of color from that of the Acme, and ripened earlier than did that of the parent plants. I saved no seed from the fruit of the new variety and therefore supposed it to be lost, as indeed it was.

"In 1900 I planted in the same garden-plot Acme tomato seed which I purchased from a seedsman who grew it on a Pennsylvania farm, more than a hundred miles from the place where the seed of my first crop was grown. These seeds also produced a uniform crop of typical Acme plants and fruit. I selected seeds from fruit of the best of that crop of thirty Acme plants and sowed them in my garden in the spring of 1901, and grew in that year also thirty plants from those seeds, again expecting to get a harvest of Acme tomatoes. On the contrary, the result was an exact duplication of my experience in 1899, every plant and every fruit partaking fully and uniformly in the duplicated mutation.

"One naturally inquires whether mutation of any other variety than the Acme would have occurred in my garden, whether it is an inherent quality of that variety to give only one mutative result, and that toward the solanoid group, and what are the natural and artificial conditions of my garden. I have made no experiments with any other variety than the Acme and its progeny, the new one, and can therefore only refer to these. The Acme variety is now twenty-five years old, and has been one of the most stable of the many known varieties of tomato; but of late years it has shown so much tendency to atavic reversion that gardeners are abandoning its cultivation."

So it appears after 25 or go generations, Livingston's Acme mutates so it may explain why it appears to be extinct. There is another account discussing the same issue featured in Science (November 29, 1901) as well.

carolyn137 June 30, 2015 06:14 PM

Just adding the updated info from Mike Dunton at Victory Seeds who is the person with the most interest and knowledge about Livingston introductions.


Honor Bright is the same as Lutescent, and I've grown it.


Livingston varieties that are still available


Livingston and the Tomato


I have this book as a gift from Andrew Smith who wrote the forward


And Mike Dunton at Victory sells the above paperback for less money than Amazon.


stevenkh1 July 1, 2015 11:16 AM

Thank you very much, Carolyn. I have purchased most of the Livingston varieties from Mike and are growing them right now (63 plants worth) in addition to my Burpee Romas.

I've been reading a lot of old gardening books from the late 1800s and as you know, Acme was not only one of the standard tomatoes of that era, but a popular tomato which created a couple of sports and a popular sort to breed with.

Naturally I wondered what happened to this purple variety so I thought I would post what I found in my readings. I did find a 3rd source whose findings mirrored Mr White's findings that Acme mutates to another variety (unsure if it's a parent or a new variety).

At least we're reasonably sure what happened to Acme and why it became extinct. At least it didn't become extinct because it was a bad tomato. :)

FLRedHeart July 2, 2015 02:41 AM

Hi Steven,

Let me do an abstract of what you've accepted as an answer so I can be critical of Mr. White's answer which I don't believe for a second. White's reasoning sounds very silly in 2015, but was probably very bold and cutting edge in 1902 and would have been a great topic at the time.

My summary:
Mr. White wrote a book in which he described two alleged experiments he conducted without any controls on his seed source or proof of any kind the first time - he did not even save any seeds the first time although his result was earth-shattering to him.

He then goes on to claim he replicated the experiment a second time a year later, and got identical results, and he did save the seeds the second time.

His theory is that species spontaneously morph from one species to another during a period of "evolutionary heat", due to a substance in them (benefit of the doubt - call it a gene in modern terms). He got this theory because he is a tomato enthusiast and seed saver and read de Vries treatise on a type of "leapfrog evolution", a period of time when species decide it's morphing time, which he learned of the year after his first experiment.

So, the details of his experiment:
First time, plants 24 transplants, all regular leaf Acme, gets Acme fruits.
Saved seed, but only to grow 30 new plants the next season in his garden.
Claims the 30 new plants were each identical to each other but were potato leafed and stouter, and the fruit was different and good.
Saves absolutely no seeds from his original plants or the F2s.

Reads about the spontaneous creation of species by a leading evolutionist, de Vries, who argued for spontaneous new species being formed after a species has its run during a period of evolutionary heat the plants all somehow go into.

Buys unknown quantity of Acme seeds from a farm he says is 100 miles away.
Plants them and gets all normal, regular leaf Acme plants.
Saves seeds and starts next season producing 30 F2 plants from the second purchased seed.
Claims the 30 new plants were each identical to each other but were potato leafed and stouter, and the fruit was different and good, and identical to his original attempt which he saved no seeds from.

Goes on to claim a theory and take credit for naming new species:
1. Regular leaf plants are the original tomato species.
2. After X generations (25 years?), all of the Acme variety, regardless of whether they came from Washington or Philadelphia spontaneously mutated in this generation into a new species because they had potato leaves and were stout and it had nothing to do with his growing practices. (does not address why there was a 2 year difference in seed age though :-))
3. Says to keep the original species of tomato for the old Acme's but that the new one is not only a new variety, but also a new species. (Durn Potato leaves!)

Oh boy, more claims:
In its entirety, all F2 plants bred true to the new PL species variety.
4. Names the species [I]L. potatoish[/I] or something like that, and names the variety "Washington" (hey, Washington was the first president of a new country, get it?)
5. Also names another leaf type while he's at it as another new species, arguing, if a botanist found these in the wild they would call them different species even though there is some overlap in the fruit forms.


OK we read the conclusion that after 25 (or so) generations Acme leapfrogs into a new species, and by the way it is potato leaf (LOL - do you see the problem with having all of them PL?).

Our modern understanding of genetics would say after 25 generations, Acme would be so fixed you could set your clock by it, not the other way around as White argues. Whether the farmers he is buying this from are isolating them from cross breeding is another question entirely, but he never even bought seed from Livingston! What sort of control is that?

I would explain the incident as follows. Mr. White got some crossed seed. A minority of plants produces an F2 PL version. He saved seed from the PL version intentionally or by accident, and made the rest fit the theory, and tried to take credit to name new tomato plant species within the genus, and varieties #1: Washington.

So he was unscientific or dishonest about his experiment. But he probably believed he was right, and he was probably as amazed an we are today to see the occurrence of PL varieties from similar accidents coming from regular leafed varieties as they genetically will do in F2, but not F1 (this is key).

The reference he gives being "more scientific" lol, apparently was written by him as well where he took off his turnip head and put his scientist head on. You said you found a third reference that is independent. That's interesting I agree, but does not support anything like this. The Livingston Company was a reputable company at the time, but with people saving seeds and selling the plants without taking good precautions, I wouldn't treat these "mutations" (in modern lingo they are only crosses) as anything more than the standard most popular tomato variety getting contaminated with other pollen by seed and plant savers/sellers, just like today. The way all varieties are eventually lost ...

Hope that helps, and I think it is very interesting, fun and educational to dig up these old accounts, but we really need to get into the mindset of who's writing them. The loss of Acme, if in fact it is lost, would be for the same reason as other varieties.They fall into disuse as newer, more sexy varieties were developed. Then they are relegated to a few motivated seed savers that dwindle and can be eventually lost into folklore. Perhaps Acme is out there: the good news. I hope Acme isn't lost and would like to grow it myself. I'm a great fan of the Livingston varieties as well and enjoyed the account you pulled up. It brings back memories in my protoplasts ([I]sic[/I]?)somewhere :-) I think that was where White imagined the genetic regulation and ticking species morphing bomb was going on. In its time it was pretty sci-fi! Cool!:)
EDIT: Another shortcoming of so many of Whites: He claims all his 'Washington' F3s bred true. That makes no sense for a cross, but he had no idea of the crosses parents to compare to, and his idea was different anyway: that it is a brand new pre-programmed species created that was latent in all Acme ... ludicrous idea today. Today we know that PL is recessive. He didn't have that clear yet. So the answer is that all of his observations were likely based on PL's and that he had no other separating criteria to study the unknown cross. Besides he was in love with the new species idea and was obviously writing his account to fit it. Today he would be called out for fraud. Then, it was probably common. There was no peer review that I can see done on him. PL is an easy trait, but looking at similar fruits, he said his criteria were they all tasted good but were a little different from Acme :-)

stevenkh1 July 2, 2015 09:34 AM

Thank you for taking the time to educate us on Mr White's voodoo science.

I want to grow the original, Acme - the purple variety. It was one of the primary tomatoes grown from 1875 well into the 20th century with Livingston's last offering in 1940. This was not a novelty tomato - Livingston's competitors also sold this tomato because it was one of America's tomato staples so after 65 years of being sold (which is millions upon millions of seeds), it's shocking that Acme appears to be extinct. Trophy & Paragon are still available...why not Acme?

SOMETHING happened where this once wildly popular purple variety appears to be extinct. But I have to believe someone still grows it...

carolyn137 July 2, 2015 10:39 AM

Please read he following and back then some were called purple b/c that was the word they used then to describe pink,


And now the De Georgie one


and now the de Georgie one from Victory seeds


The one that I grew was the de Giorgie one from Sandhill Preservation. Glen had saved others from that company that originally were in IA where he is.This listing in the pink section.

And here'shis brief description from his 2015 catalog:

midseason, ind, globe shaped fruit, 14 oz, PL


stevenkh1 July 2, 2015 01:04 PM

Hi Carolyn,

I've read the links you provided (thank you) and the Tatiana & Mike/Victory state the Di Giorgi Acme appears to be a different tomato from Livingston's Acme.

FLRedHeart July 2, 2015 05:26 PM

[QUOTE=stevenkh1;486009]Thank you for taking the time to educate us on Mr White's voodoo science.

I want to grow the original, Acme - the purple variety....

... Trophy & Paragon are still available...why not Acme?

SOMETHING happened where this once wildly popular purple variety appears to be extinct. But I have to believe someone still grows it...[/QUOTE]

I haven't read Carolyn's links so forgive me if my opinion is covered anywhere in them (I sort of doubt it is). I think Acme simply ran its course. By all accounts, except seed company catalog blurbs, Acme was not bred for taste. I think that is pretty amusing because I relate the name Acme to the Coyote's mail order catalog and the supermarket that was never distinguished for quality.

The innovation of Acme way back, was that it simply was the best shipper in the business for many years. That happened because it was the smoothest and firmest of its generation, the fresh market reds were still more fluted and damaged in shipping. If you were a produce buyer at that time, the pink Acme was so generic you could get away with calling all your 'purple' tomatoes Acme. Acme was considered to have a purple sheen when looked at, due to the effect of having deep red flesh, even though that causes confusion today it was part of the definition of the variety then.

When you ask what happened, I would say the tomato just became obsolete. As new flavorful etc varieties came out, Acme became a southern tomato for shipping to northern markets as those in the north replaced it. It enjoyed great popularity with southern growers since it was a dependable shipper.

In the first 2 decades of the 20th century, fungal and bacterial diseases proliferated further in the south, and what was a dependable tomato became one with increasing complaints of wilt, blossom end rot and loss. Farmers being generally a conservative lot, abandoned it in favor of resistant varieties, but it took time.

Acme had another huge strike against it: It was relatively late as the newer varieties were introduced. The catalogs don't say this negatively but reading them comparatively this was true. The they even offered an "Early Acme".

Why no one saved Acme seems strange, but I imagine the lack of disease resistance made it basically an heirloom shipper with blah taste. People who got used to it though, like in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and S. Illinois and Indiana, if you notice, were shipping the furthest to the NE markets, and some still prefer pink to this day, which is probably due in part to Acme..

It is nice to think some is undiscovered out there that we might get to grow for historical curiosity. But the reality I think is that too many generations have passed to be optimistic. The best best would be to grow a modern version claiming to be Livingston's Beauty. That tomato was said to be a little lighter pink, slightly larger, but apparently not too much else distinguished it from Acme.

About Mr. White and how to best remember him, in his time he was influential but had passed his prime. I wouldn't want to remember him as Voodoo to be balanced as times, standards and knowledge have changed. He was more of an inspiration to young breeders to challenge their thoughts. When he was promoting his theory of species "jumping" (leapfrogging), the new crop of breeders probably benefited greatly from his discussion. It would have dominated the winter reading thread on T-ville ca. 1905.

Evolution was a contentious subject then as it is today with some. White was simply a former 'scientist' who became distracted as a senior with the God vs. evolution debate. He was an early outspoken critic of God-based creationists but convinced there were two competing theories of evolution: 1) that based on natural selection and Darwin and 2) That based on "leapfrog evolution" de Vries had advanced. He argued with religious fervor for the leapfrog theory of evolution. I imagine a Richard Dawkins type who got it wrong.

While the leapfrog thing sounds like voodoo today, at that time, the theory was very useful and first discussed "pangenes", a precursor idea influential to the discovery of what we know as genes today, and influenced the reason genes today are so-named. Additionally, the word mutation we all use was introduced by de Vries, too. de Vries' concept of mutation is what I called "morphing" above since it was wide scale, as opposed to point mutations, though wide-scale was what White was stuck on promoting. De Vries' idea about genes was they were they contained all genetics of a race.

White himself, after his publications about the tomato experiment refused to publish anything else. It is not clear to me whether this was due to heat from creationists or that of evolutionists, but I strongly suspect it was the failure for evolutionists to accept his leapfrog beliefs that did him in.

Tomato was the third species that he believed he held the distinction of demonstrating leapfrog evolution in (de Vries thought he demonstrated two and was clearly very insightful). However one of de Vries leapfrog examples ("mutations") turned out to be the correct explanation for primroses which can duplicate chromosomes, which could be considered a case of "leapfrog evolution" ... far from voodoo. With tomatoes, though, White wasn't so lucky, it's clear to me it was sloppy or fraudulent data, using a recessive gene in the modern evolutionary sense of PL plants.

This may border on a wandering post:), but part of the lore of tomato varieties is the impact the varieties had on their contemporaries and I can think of nothing more deserving than this story Steven dug up and how Acme had a brief center stage in the debate on creation vs. evolution at the turn of the last century.

carolyn137 July 2, 2015 05:26 PM

[QUOTE=stevenkh1;486055]Hi Carolyn,

I've read the links you provided (thank you) and the Tatiana & Mike/Victory state the Di Giorgi Acme appears to be a different tomato from Livingston's Acme.[/QUOTE]

That may or not be true. As I've said before, back then the word purple meant pink so Eva Purple Ball, Aunt Ginny's Purple , Prudens Purple, and so many more are pink.

Please consider the following.

These days when someone is asking what color are the tomatoes I show, the first thing many will say is what is the color of the epidermis since that is the major determinate of exterior color, although we now know that the layer underneath the epidermis also can determine shades of pink or shades of red.

Back then no one knew of about the function of the epidermis color and now I'm speaking to just pinks and reds, and the epidermis has a reltively high rate of mutation.

I used to keep several varieties in both their orignial color, be it red or pink, and then the mutated color, but never sent out seeds of the mutated color, but many do that these days.

Then add the fact that color perception is an individual trait that can vary widely amongst we humans. Fusion has been known to say that he can't tell the difference between gold and orange. Each of us have different proportions of rods and cones in the eye that determines the colors we see.

Putting it all together I can understand why the original Acme would be red and I can understand why the de Georgie one could be pink, the one I grew.

Mike now has a new red Acme he says is from de Georgie, while others say the de Georgie one is pink.


I can certainly understand that that can be b'c of an epidermis mutation.

Sizes may vary as well, but no two folks grow their tomatoes the same, use the same amendments, grow them in the same season, etc, so I can understand differences as well.

Summary? Perhaps the glossy red one livingston described sustained an epidermis mutation somewhere along the way, and is now present and available with pink fruits.

A PL mutation? Yes, it's possible since PL variants for quite a few varieties are known such as Black Krim, Indian Stripe, Cherokee purple, Kelloggs' breakfast, etc.

I hope I can find someone to help me find my copy of Livingston and that Tomato written by Livingston so I can reread the individual entire descriptions that he gave.


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