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Joseph Bachman is widely recognized as Arkansas’s leading developer of grape varieties. During his career, he received national and international attention for his development of grape vines, winning several awards and supplying cuttings and plants to numerous nurseries.
Joseph Bachman was born in 1853 in Lucerne, Switzerland. Little is known about his childhood, including his family, education, and early career. According to immigration records, Bachman arrived in New York on May 9, 1878, on a ship that had departed Le Havre, France, earlier that year.
By 1881, following the advice of his relatives, Bachman had settled in the town of Altus (Franklin County), where many of his other countrymen resided. He held a wide array of occupations, serving as the organist at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and teaching deaf students at Central Institute (later Hendrix College) in Altus, but he found his true calling as a grape developer.
Bachman became interested in grape propagation in his new homeland. He learned of T. V. Munson of east Texas, one of the greatest viticulturists in America, and was soon emulating the veteran by producing new varieties by cross pollination. These merited recognition in the horticultural world. One of his new creations was named “Uncle Sam” in recognition of his new homeland. He entered this grape in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, and won a silver medal. Stark Brothers Nursery of Missouri purchased the rights to this grape and renamed it the “Stark Star.” In 1913, Bachman developed a grape that he called “Bachman Early,” which was sold to a nurseryman in New York and renamed the “Hubbard.” This grape won the Wilder Award in Berkeley, California, in 1913—one of the highest accolades in the field of grape growing.
On October 22, 1884, Bachman married Christina Glauderman, who had also immigrated from Switzerland to Arkansas. They had two sons and four daughters.
By about 1926, several of Bachman’s grape varieties were in commercial use by some of the principal nurserymen in the country. Among the most famous of his creations are the Banner, Sunrise, Bride, Christina, Junior, White Cross, and Garland. Christina was named after his wife, and Garland after Garland County, where he later moved for health reasons, settling in Hot Springs in 1920 or 1921 (the 1920 census showed him and his wife still living in Altus). He made grapes for both wine and juice and, living a very frugal life, made his work in the viticultural field his primary source of income, though he also invested in property.
Bachman was featured on the cover of Arkansas Fruit Grower magazine in 1928, with the title “Horticulture Genius of the Ozarks.” People from all over the country came to see him or corresponded with him about growing grapes or about his new varieties, and he sold grape cuttings and plants to people from many different states.
Bachman died on January 3, 1928, in Hot Springs. Many of his varieties, such as the Stark Star, remain in use, and some wines made from his grapes won notable awards.
For additional information:Arkansas Historic Wine Museum. http://www.cowiewinecellars.com/museum.htm (accessed October 28, 2008).
“J. S. Bachman Dead at Hot Springs.” The Spectator, January 6, 1928, p. 1.
Robert G. CowieArkansas Historic Wine Museum
Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated 11/18/2011
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