First Ladies and their Cattleyas
Blc. Mrs. Herbert Hoover (U.S. First Lady 1929 to 1933)
Several months before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, a large cut flower cattleya grower in New Jersey named a new hybrid after the wife of the President of the United States. This hybrid would make history as it started a tradition of naming cattleyas after First Ladies that continues today.
Joseph Manda and Sons of Bridgeport NJ had over one acre under glass in cattleya plants for the wholesale trade in the Northeast. While their primary business was cut flowers, there was also a small potted plant division. Blc Mrs. Herbert Hoover was targeted for the hobbyist market. In keeping with the formal custom of the day, Manda employed the prefix Mrs. along with the husband’s first name – Mrs. Herbert Hoover. (The namesake cattleyas for the next 13 First Ladies would all use the woman’s first name).
It is interesting to note that Manda did not use any of the large round species in the Hoover hybrid. There was no C trianaei, C mossiae, or C lueddemanniana. Instead, the lineage drew upon such starry species as L tenebrosa, C dowiana, C warscewiczii as well as B digbyana on both sides of the parentage. Three of the grandparents were primary hybrids Bc Empress of Russia (B digbyana x C mendelii), C Lord Rothchild (C dowiana x C gaskelliana), and Lc Bletchleyes (C warscewiczii x L tenebrosa).
There are few examples of this hybrid in circulation today as it was bred over 80 years ago. One specimen showed up recently at a Delaware Orchid Society show table. The tag was barely readable and the plant was mostly overlooked. The blossoms, however, were most unusual and nothing like those of the other plants at the meeting. Blc Mrs. Herbert Hoover ‘First Lady’ was the lovely lavender early hybrid with classic B digbyana shape and a winter blooming time.
Lou Henry Hoover was born in 1874 in Waterloo, Iowa. She and her husband, Herbert, as well as their two children all graduated from Stanford University. Today, the Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover House is the official residence of the President of Stanford. Both Lou and Herbert were proficient in Chinese and their first home was in Tianjin, China. Lou Hoover was the first First Lady to give regular radio broadcasts to the American public and she was the National President of the Girl Scouts before and after her tenure in the White House.
Mrs. Herbert Hoover will be remembered not only for her lovely namesake orchid but also for her many contributions as First Lady.