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Old July 4, 2015   #32
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Oregon
Posts: 18
Default My Two Cents on the Current Status of Livingston's 'Acme'

Hi All,

As Carolyn has alluded, A. W. Livingston is kind of a personal hero of mine and I have been working to first build, and now keep, his collection of tomato releases available to gardeners for some time now. She also asked me to chime in on what I have learned about this specific variety so here goes . . .

Regarding Michigan State A. E. S. Special Bulletin 290, that is one that I scanned a few years back. Here is a link to page 15 which is has the 'Acme' information:

In searching for old Livingston varieties over the past nearly 20 years, I always have found it strange that ‘Acme’ just up and disappeared. As noted in the link above, it was a popular variety from 1875 to 1930 and then just vanished. Although the author of the bulletin said that it was still offered by a few seedsmen at that time, it was largely replaced by ‘Gulf State Market’, which was a variety that Livingston carried (we have their "strain" available). What we do know is that there is no entry in GRIN, available or historical, for ‘Acme’. Very strange? Not really, I suppose, since many old varieties never made it into their care.

Regarding De Giorgi Bros. ‘Acme’ tomato . . . we offer it because it is a variety in the USDA’s seedbank, a decent tomato, but it is definitely not "The ‘Acme’." The variety is of unknown origin with no available documentation other than what I have written based on actual grow out data. Since what has been grown out from the USDA is red and the original ‘Acme’ from Livingston was pink, it cannot a selection of Livingston’s 'Acme'.

Glenn Drowns does sell a pink fruited 'Acme' but he does not list it as Livingston's. I have emailed him asking for the provenance on his original seed. It is likely that it is the one that has been circulating commercially since the late 1990s.

Back in the late 1990s, there was an offering of 'Acme' in SSE by Joe Cavenaugh from NJ. It grew out wrong. It was very ribbed. Acme's main claim to fame was as a smooth skinned variety ( I believe this is the same variety that has been commercially available.

Regarding the use of the words purple, pink, scarlet, crimson, red, etc. in historical tomato descriptions, yes it is a bit confusing in modern terms but all one has to do is to research the origins of the words we all use to describe color. Color in language is a relatively modern “invention” and the conventions have changed a lot over the years.

In our historical tomato description context, purple or crimson = pink and scarlet = red. In the color hue definitions, both crimson and scarlet are “reds” with crimson “inclining towards purple” in the color spectrum and scarlet being a “bright red with a slightly orange tinge.” By these definitions we can understand that the 18th, 19th and early 20th century seedsmen were not colorblind, they just had different definitions for words.

As far as "mining" random pink varieties, or even doing new selections from old varieties attempting to duplicate A. W.'s work to recreate 'Acme', those activities are perfectly fine, but you will not end up with "Acme." You will end up with yet another, medium-sized, smooth-skinned, pink tomato.

So in summary, after close to two decades of searching, I have yet to find a sample of "Livingston's Acme' tomato that (1) grows out to match the historical record and (2) has a credible provenance associated with it. So for now, it remains as I have noted, "presumably extinct."

Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

mike is offline   Reply With Quote