Monday, January 14, 2019

Charles Dadant, Bee-Culturist and the Story of the American Bee Journal (est.1861) in Hamilton, Illinois.

Charles Dadant, was born in 1817 in Vaux-Sous-Aubigny, a small village in eastern France, the second of seven children born to a small village doctor. He became interested in bees as he helped a neighboring priest remove honey from straw skeps at the early age of 12. Disillusioned with the business possibilities in France, he decided to accept an invitation of an old friend Mr. Marlot, then of Basco, Illinois, to come to grow Champagne grapes and raise bees. In 1863, at the age of 46, he emigrated from France to America and settled in Hamilton, Illinois.

Charles Dadant
The growing of grapes here did not prove to be lucrative so he abandoned them in favor of honey bees. By the end of the Civil War, Charles had nine colonies of honeybees and traveled with his young son, Camille Pierre Dadant across the Mississippi River to sell honey and beeswax in a neighboring town. His interest in making quality candles grew from his love and knowledge of beekeeping.

Charles was once the largest producer of extracted honey in America as well as one of the first to import queen bees from Italy on a large scale as he was unhappy with the common black or German bees he found here. He began a series of experiments on the size of hives and wrote a great deal on the large hive that appeared in both American and European journals.

In 1872 he was offered the editorship of the American Bee Journal, but refused because of his unfamiliarity with the English language. He learned to read the New York Tribune by digging at the words one at a time with a pocket dictionary so that he could then translate it back into French for his wife. Charles was a dreamer, a man with ideas and determination. He was the experimenter who became more widely known abroad than in his adopted country.

When his father wrote home to France that he had settled on a 40-acre farm north of Hamilton that he had purchased from Mr. Marlot, the rest of the family packed their trunks and started for the unknown land that Camille had only dreamed of. Camille was only 12 years old when his father brought the family to America. When he first saw the Mississippi he couldn’t believe how magnificent it was in its beauty, almost equal to a lake. He described living in the small log house that his father had built as the happiest time in his life.

Learning to read at the age of 4, Camille was more practical than Charles and was given the responsibility of carrying the purse strings at a very young age – he was the businessman of the two. He built the business around his father’s knowledge and became a beekeeping leader. Every improvement and change for the better was made due to their own efforts and appreciated because of this. He would joke of a European businessman and a little boy digging out oak trees and using a brush scythe to mow down all the hazel brush. The concept of a plow (pulling on the handles to go down and pressing down to bring it out of the dirt) went against all of his notions of mechanics. It was necessary for him to devote himself to the family farm and the sale of his father’s honey and farm products.

In 1871 when his father suffered from an asthma attack, it became necessary for him to take over the families 70 hives as well. Because there was no bridge across the Mississippi at this time, it was necessary for him to get up by 4:30 in order for him to get himself and goods to the ferry by 6:15. He considered himself lucky for many years that he was small because Captain Van Dyke never charged him for the ferry. He knew he was a grownup for the first time when the Captain held out his hand for a dime. He learned at a young age not to spend his money on candy or other desirable frivolities as it would be like throwing his money in the Mississippi for him and his family. He always got a good price for his wares when he sold them as he was a firm believer that “it pays to furnish good goods”.
In 1875 Camille married Marie Marinelli and took her to the same log cabin his father had taken his family to. In 1878, they began manufacturing foundation for their own use and later, for sale. As the business grew, they improved upon manufacturing methods and helped to finance the invention of the Weed sheeting machine, still in use today. In 1885, the revision of Langstroth’s, “The Hive and the Honey Bee” (PDF) was entrusted to them and four revisions appeared under their names from 1889 to 1899. Charles translated it into French and later it was translated into Italian, Russian, Spanish and Polish. Charles died in 1902 and Camille proceeded to produce four revisions of the book himself. In 1904, Camille retired and built a home in Hamilton on what is now North 7th street overlooking the Mississippi.

In his retirement, he became a community leader helping to establish banks, the library, and was one of five to bring about the building of the dam between Hamilton and Keokuk. On his retirement, as he watched his three sons take over the business he stated; “So we have reared a family of beekeepers. Now they can speak for themselves and we can take a back seat and watch them work.” 

In 1912 however, his love of the honey bee beckoned to him once again. He assumed publishing of the American Bee Journal which has been published in Hamilton ever since. His goal was that the journal becomes the “finest publication on bees and beekeeping in the world.” Camille Dadant passed away in 1938.
Dadant and Sons is still in business with the sixth generation in control.

The Story of the American Bee Journal, since 1912.

The story of the American Bee Journal, its origin, and Samuel Wagner, the first editor, must be closely associated with the Rev. L.L. Langstroth. In 1851, Langstroth had invented his movable-frame hive. In September 1851, a few weeks after a call on Langstroth, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Frederick Berg, pastor of a church in Philadelphia, visited Wagner and told him about this extraordinary beekeeper and his movable-frame hive and his beekeeping methods. They agreed that Wagner should go and see for himself, but it was not until August 1852, almost a year later, that he was able to do so.
After visiting Langstroth's apiary and seeing his hive, Wagner made a decision at a sacrifice to himself. He had corresponded with Dzierzon, discoverer of parthenogenesis, proponent of a practical system of beekeeping and author of a book entitled Rational Beekeeping. He had received permission to translate the book into English to be published for the improvement of American beekeeping. Wagner had made the translation, but it was never published. Recognizing the Langstroth movable frame hive as superior, he decided to encourage Langstroth to write a book instead; for his part, he would place all his store of information at Langstroth's service.

Langstroth quickly prepared the copy for the first edition of his book with the assistance of his wife, and Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey-Bee, A Bee-Keeper's Manual appeared in May of 1853.

Inasmuch as there were already two bee journals published in Germany, Langstroth made this prediction: "There is now a prospect that a Bee Journal will before long be established in this country. Such a publication has long been needed. Properly conducted, it will have a most powerful influence in disseminating information, awakening enthusiasm, and guarding the public against the miserable impositions to which it has so long been subjected."

Wagner established the American Bee Journal and its first issue appeared in January 1861, and from the start, he had Langstroth as a contributor as well as an advisor. But after one year of publication, the Civil War resulted in the suspension of its publication until July 1866, when it was resumed.

To quote from Pellett's History of American Beekeeping, "The history of the American Bee Journal has been the history of the rise of beekeeping, and the one is inseparably linked to that of the other. Before this first copy of the first bee magazine in the English language appeared, there were few of the implements now in common use among beekeepers. Conventions of beemen had not been held, a practical smoker had not yet been invented, queen excluders were unknown, comb foundation was still to be perfected, the extractor had not come into use, nor had commercial queen rearing been suggested.

The early volumes of the Journal contain the names of many men of worldwide reputation in the beekeeping world. From the start, Langstroth was a contributor, but to mention a few of the others we would include Henry Alley, Adam Grimm, Moses Quinby, Elisha Gallup, Charles Dadant, Baron von Berlepsch, and Dzierzon. Charles Dadant made his first contributions in November 1867, introducing himself as a newcomer from France. From then until his death in 1902, his name frequently appears as a writer in its pages.

For a long time, much space was devoted to the discussion of patent hives, and hundreds of different kinds received attention. In one year, 1869, more than 60 patents were recorded on hives and appliances, which gives one an understanding of the public interest in beekeeping at that time. Charles Dadant's defense of the Langstroth patented beehive, which appeared in the Journal, had an important place in the final judgment which awarded credit to the frail minister who profited little from his effort.

In the 1870s, a number of other bee publications were started, some of which continued publication for a time. Most made their beginnings after that of Wagner in 1872. The American Bee Journal was continued by Wagner's son with the assistance of Langstroth, who may have done most of the editorial work until January of 1873 when the Rev. W. F. Clarke became editor and owner. When Samuel Wagner resumed publication of the Journal after the Civil War, it was published in Washington, D.C., but when Clarke assumed its management, he moved the Journal to Chicago, Illinois.

Clarke's connection with the Journal was short - in July of 1874, Thomas G. Newman purchased the American Bee Journal. Thomas G. Newman continued as editor and publisher until April 1892, when George W. York joined the staff and the masthead of that issue lists Newman as editor and York as assistant editor. The announcement of the sale of the Journal to George W. York appears in the June 1897 issue and the masthead reads: "Published weekly by George W. York & Co."

York continued editing and publishing the American Bee Journal as a weekly. In the May 1912 issue, is published a letter, dated April 1, 1912, and signed by George W. York, that announced he had sold the American Bee Journal and his business to Camille Pierre Dadant, Hamilton, Illinois. The masthead reads: "CamilleDadant, Editor; Dr. C.C. Miller, Associate Editor." Thus the American Bee Journal was moved to Hamilton where it has been published ever since. In 1916 Camille Pierre Dadant hired Frank C. Pellett as a staff correspondent. Pellett later was to be designated field editor, associate editor, and editor.

M.G. Dadant, returning from college at the University of Illinois, joined the staff of the Journal in October 1918, and his name appears in that issue as business manager. A title he was to hold until the death of his father, Camille Pierre Dadant. About the same time, G.H. Cale, Sr., was employed to take care of the Dadant apiaries, and his name first appears in the October 1928 issue of the Journal as an associate editor, and later he became designated editor on the death of Camille Pierre Dadant in 1938.

During the 1940s through the 1960s, Journal editors and associate editors included M.G. Dadant, Frank C. Pellett, J.C. Dadant, Roy A. Grout and Adelaide Fraser. In 1965, Vern Sisson came on board, first as an assistant editor and later as editor during the early 1970s. Others assisting with the Journal during the early 1970s included Dale Maki and Jim Sheetz. Bill Carlile, a long-time columnist, and Dadant beekeeper, also assisted in editorship duties during the 1970s. In 1974, Joe Graham was hired as editor and he has continued in this position until the present day.
Camille Pierre Dadant had earlier written, "I want the American Bee Journal to be the finest publication about bees and beekeeping in the world." We, the editors who are continuing its publication, have this as our goal and guiding light.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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