John Theodore Scheepers was known as the “Tulip King”, because he was the major force for popularizing the tulip in North America, and especially in the United States, during the 1920’s and 1930’s, prior to the Second World War. He was the founder of a tulip importing and distribution company, currently still in existence, and known as John Scheepers, Inc.
John Scheepers was born in Arnhem, the Netherlands on January 20, 1878. His parents were Johannes Theodore Scheepers and Anna Berendina Carolina van Heauman. In the early 1900’s, John Scheepers emigrated to the United States, and he became a United States citizen in 1905. Following his arrival in the United States, he married Rose Dorothy Heywood of Troy, Ohio. While in the United States, he founded John Scheepers, Inc., a bulb importer, which later also became a bulb grower. He distributed tulip and other flower bulbs through a catalog, which was published in hard cover format, with color illustrations of the tulips and flowers, which the bulbs would produce.
In 1918, Scheepers became a director of the Horticultural Society of New York. Over twenty successive exhibits in New York Flower shows, Scheepers won literally hundreds of gold medal awards. The medals were awarded by the Garden Club of America, the Horticultural Society of New York, President Calvin Coolidge, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and numerous other organizations.
Scheepers also initiated the Garden Lovers’ Pilgrimages from the U. S. to Heemstede, the Netherlands, during the peaks of the tulip blooming season in the spring. Scheepers was appointed to be the Special Ambassador from New York by N. Y. State Governor Smith in 1926, and by N. Y. State Governor Lehman in 1935. In the late 1930’s, just prior to his death, Scheepers induced the Dutch government to donate a million bulbs to the New York World’s Fair Grounds. The flowers were in bloom during the duration of the fair in the 1939-1940 period. And also during that time, he induced the Dutch government to donate 250,000 bulbs to the San Francisco Golden Gate Exposition, held in 1939.
In 1932, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands gave recognition to Scheepers achievements at cementing the relations between the United States and the Netherlands, by making Scheepers a Knight of the Order of Orange Nassau. Scheepers was also instrumental in establishing Holland House, located in Rockefeller Center, in 1936.
John Scheepers, Inc. is currently owned and operated by a descendant of John Scheepers. His name is Jan Ohms, who was born and raised in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in the middle of Dutch tulip bulb country. Ohms is also the owner of Van Engelen, Inc. another Dutch bulb importer and distributor.
John Scheepers Flower Bulbs, http://www.johnscheepers.com/about.html
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