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The home of John C. Brackenridge on Church (118th) Street north of 84th (Division) Avenue in North Richmond Hill, NY.

[Go to column 2] The home of John C. Brackenridge on Church (118th) Street north of Division (84th) Avenue in North Richmond Hill, NY.  [Courtesy of the Man Family.]

[The following article appeared in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p. 37 (July 6, 1902)].


B.R.T. Expert Gave Potatoes and Cabbages Chance to Grow at Night


His Garden a Wonder, the Vegetables Fairly
Jumping Over Each Other. Will They Collapse?

Many friends of J. C. Brackenridge, superintendent of maintenance of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit's hundreds of miles of railroad lines in this borough, have long been aware of his passion for electricity in almost every form, and his intimates know that his son has imbibed the same spirit to the extent that he delights only in electric toys. According to the Evening Sun, Mr. Brackenridge has been making a brand new experiment with his hobby out at Richmond Hill, where he lives, and between times industriously cultivates a vegetable garden.

Mr. Brackenridge is trying to help nature out in the garden and incidentally win the first agricultural prize of that interesting village, and he is doing this by giving the cabbages, potatoes and other vegetables plenty of light to grow by all night long as well as in the daytime.

Perhaps his envious neighbors will understand better how he so easily distanced them in the garden race. He gave his secret away to the Evening Sun in an interview in which he told all about it.

"The whole thing is of course an experiment," said he. "I have done some vegetable gardening along the regular lines for some years past and have been very successful. This year I thought I would try a new departure. Light is the stimulus to plant life. It would seem, then, that it would follow that the more stimulus you give the more rapid will be the drowth and the more healthy the plant. This spring I rigged up five large arc lights over my garden, which is about 125 feet square.

"There are a number of persons in Richmond Hill who are amateur gardeners, and I planted my seed at the same time as did they. My five arc lights were kept burning from the time the sun went down to the time it rose. In consequence my vegetables sprouted more than two weeks sooner than did those in the other gardens. Ever since then, they have been proportionately larger. They are particularly healthy, full and luxuriant."

I am not enough of a botanist to know exactly what effect the rays of an electric light will have upon plants. But I know from personal  [Go to column 2]
  experience that vegetables will grow much faster under such conditions as exist in my garden than under ordinary conditions.

"My potato plants this spring have been particularly fine. The potatoes which I planted came from the Vermont farm of Colonel William A. Jones, a Republican politician. The difference between my plants and those of the other gardeners of Richmond Hill, amateur and other, can be discerned fully fifty feet away.

"I go on the principle that if a little is good more is better. Give your plant light twenty-four hours in the day and it will be larger and more luxuriant than anyone else's."

Landscape Architect Samuel Parsons of the Park department thinks Mr. Brackenridge's experiment, while interesting, is likely to come to grief as contrary to nature. When told of it he said: "I confess that I have never heard before of arc electric lights being used. Perhaps there is something particularly beneficial about them.

"When you look at the matter from a scientific point of view there are certain things which must be considered. A plant must have rest. If you keep it stimulated for twenty-four hours of the day it will have no rest. I believe that if a plant is treated in the fashion Mr. Brackenridge treays his vegetables it will grow very fast for a time and floruish for a time. Then it will collapse. Its vital force will be expended. The remarkable fact to me is that Mr. Brackenridge's plants have survived thus far. The season is fairly well advanced.

"Artificial stimulation is on the face of it unnatural. Ultimately the best results will be obtained by the natural process. Here is an example: If when the game is half over, you stimulate a foot ball player with whiskey, he may be able to play snappily for ten minutes more. At the end of that time he will collapse completely. The man who has not been stimulated will be able to play through the entire game, with perhaps a little less vigor. There has been a good deal of experimenting in this line, and nothing has ever come of it. I am, therefore, inclined to think that Brackenridge's experiment will also come to naught."

Mr. Brackenridge has discovered it is a sure success in one way, however. He is never troubled by burglars. There is a trifle too much light for them to operate comfortably.  [Back to top of page]