Biology & Natural History

Cotton, Lizzie E. | Bee Keeping for Profit

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  • RESERVED Second edition of this rare example of a commercial beekeeping work by a woman, first published in 1880.

    Author Lizzie Cotton describes herself in the introduction as a professional apiarist “engaged in raising honey for market”, and this volume was published to advertise the “Controllable Hive”, which she invented, and the “New System of Bee Management” she developed for it. The hive was designed with separate glass boxes on the tops and sides for honeycomb production, and she claimed that her system provided regular feeding so that colonies survived the winter, prevented swarming, and increased honey production and profits. Cotton writes that she distrusted “patented” hive designs as often being swindles, and did not patent hers so that anyone could construct their own “for much cheaper than I furnish them”, though she was willing to sell a hive with two sample glass honey boxes for eight dollars, or with a full set of glass boxes for twelve.

    It seems that there was much controversy about Cotton within the apiarist community. “Her name cropped up regularly in the Humbugs and Swindlers column in Bee Culture. People complained that their bees had swarmed, and they had not made a profit from their bees. Cotton also had a tendency to advertise a sale on her hives after the sale had already expired” (Horn, Beeconomy, p. 187). In a letter to bee culture in the 1886 a correspondent writes that a swarm he ordered from her was of high quality and producing well in a Controllable Hive. The editors respond that “We are very glad to get the above report... With the very large prices Mrs. Cotton charges for whatever she advertises, she certainly ought to give good measure and good quality, and we are very glad if she is beginning to do so” (Bee Culture, July 15, 1886, p. 588).

    Cotton herself hits back in the introduction to this volume, writing that “Since the day I introduced my Controllable Hive and New System of Bee Management to the notice of the public, the worthless bee hive swindlers and their tools have been boiling over with wrath against me, lying and slandering me through the public journals, and especially through the Bee Journals, and all because, that I, a woman, had succeeded in inventing a bee hive and new system of bee management superior to anything yet produced, and which was fast coming into use on its merits, among bee keepers; and consequently the sale of other hives was decreasing in the same proportion.”

  • ...A New System of Bee Management. Second Edition. Illustrated. Price One Dollar. West Gorham, Maine: privately published, 1883.

    Octavo. Original purple cloth with Greek key design blocked in blind to the boards. Engraved portrait frontispiece and illustrations throughout the text. Contemporary ownership inscription of Marcus J. James to the front pastedown. Cloth rubbed and marked with wear at the extremities, upper corner bumped, hinges cracked. Good condition.