A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 29, 2007
Wine Root Stock Capital of the World (Denison nickname)

Denison was named the Wine Root Stock Capital of the World by the Texas legislature in 1989. Denison citizen Thomas Volney Munson (1843-1913) studied grapes and discovered many new varieties. His work with grape hybrid rootstock helped save France’s wine industry from fungus and insect attacks. Grayson County College in the Sherman-Denison established a Thomas Volney Munson Memorial Vineyard to recognize Munson’s contribution to horticulture.


Wikipedia: Denison, Texas
Denison is a city in Grayson County, Texas, United States. The population was 22,773 at the 2000 census. It is also one of two principal cities of and is included in the Sherman, Texas-Denison, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area.

A Texas Grape and Wine History
T. V. Munson
Texas viticulture history requires a discussion of T. V. Munson of Denison, Texas. Few persons have or will ever study, describe, classify, breed, select, propagate, market, record, and exhibit greater technical excellence about the grape than Mr. Munson. For 30 years, 1880 to 1910, he traveled 50,000 miles by horse, train, and foot in 40 states, making concise notes on over 1,000 native vines. He then dedicated three years to the development of the first draft of his classification, and later supplied the leading Viticulture colleges of the world with a complete set of American grape specimens. He received national recognition for his comprehensive Exhibit of American Grapes at the 1893 Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. The Exhibit was subsequently given to the USDA in Washington, D. C., and was the largest and most accurate single collection of grape species ever made.

T. V. Munson not only classified grapes, he collected a vast number of native vines and their current varieties which he bred and evaluated for selecting outstanding cultivars. This was one of the most outstanding private plant breeding programs ever developed. When a superior cultivar was identified, it was propagated for sale to the public from The Munson Nurseries. The railroad system at Denison, Texas was ideally located for shipping vines and other horticultural plants throughout the South. Profits from the nurseries subsidized Munson’s life-long study of the grapevine.

The greatest contribution of T. V. Munson was his cooperation with the French wine industry in developing phylloxera resistant rootstocks. Once the problem was identified as an insect and it was learned that American species were resistant, the great challenge of moving rootstock material to France was taken by Munson. For four months in south central Texas, from Bell to Bexar counties, Munson organized dozens of workers and land owners who collected 15 wagons of dormant stem cuttings for shipment to France. Most importantly, all lots were identified by species and shipped via three ships to southern France. The vines were the breeding stock for the rootstocks which saved the European wine industry. Hundreds of villages were saved and thousands of grape growers were able to grow grapes again. The rootstocks used throughout the world today originated in Europe from the Texas native grape material from Munson. For this effort, T. V. Munson was awarded the Legion of Honor, Chevalier du Merite Agricole, by the French Government.

Munson, the man, was truly an outstanding individual. He was highly intelligent, extremely motivated, and physically strong. Munson was a deep thinker. Religion, nature and philosophy were very important, as he studied the Bible, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and especially Francis Bacon. Munson strived to capture “the nature of life,” how it evolved and how it interacted with the environment. He was 100 years ahead of his time, breeding grapes to match the variety to the climate and to naturally prevent insect and disease damage. He believed in accomplishment. To write an idea down was not enough for Munson, it must be worked through to completion. In 1909, Munson published his life’s work on viticulture, Foundations of American Grape Culture, which is in print today and available from the Denison, Texas Public Library. 

Handbook of Texas Online
MUNSON, THOMAS VOLNEY (1843-1913). Thomas Volney Munson, viticulturalist, son of William and Maria (Linley) Munson, was born at Astoria, Illinois, on September 26, 1843. He became one of the leading experts in native American grape species, and his studies were instrumental in saving the European grape and wine industry from disaster during the late nineteenth century. From early childhood, Munson had expressed an interest in horticulture. In the 1860s he taught school in Illinois for three years, and in 1870 he graduated from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He worked there as a professor of science in 1870-71. He stated the direction his career would take when he declared the grape “the most beautiful, most wholesome and nutritious, most certain and profitable fruit that can be grown.” Munson married Ellen Scott Bell on June 27, 1870, and from 1871 to 1873 worked in the nursery business with her father, Charles Stuart Bell. In 1873 the Munsons moved to Nebraska, where Thomas began in earnest his career as a horticulturalist and viticulturalist. He opened a small horticultural nursery in Lincoln. Munson experimented on local rootstock, but found little success because of the area’s weather extremes; he once remarked that the droughts, the hard winters, and the grasshoppers made life difficult for a nurseryman. Even so, he began to notice that northern labrusca and vinifera were subject to various diseases, but that native or wild grapes were little attacked by disease.

To escape the adverse weather, Munson moved to Denison, Texas, in April 1876. His brothers William Benjamin Munson and J. T. Munson lived in the area and were involved in insurance and real estate businesses; eventually Thomas became involved in a realty business, as well as other endeavors. William spent most of his time with the business, but Thomas began to involve himself with his real love-grapes. He quickly realized the enormous biodiversity of Texas and soon began to conduct wide-ranging collection trips. For the rest of his life he traveled extensively throughout Texas and forty other states, as well as Mexico, covering more than 50,000 miles by rail and hundreds of miles on horseback and by foot. He once wrote that these trips “rekindled my passion for experimental work with grapes.” Munson soon began to publish the results of his collection trips and observations. He wrote many articles on the classification, hybridization, and varieties of grapes, published in the American Agriculturalist, Farm and Ranch, and the Revue de Viticulture. In 1883 he received a master of science degree from the State Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky for his thesis, Forests and Forest Trees of Texas, which was eventually published in the American Journal of Forestry. In 1885 he exhibited in New Orleans for the American Horticultural Society a complete classified herbarium of all known species of American grapes. These were displayed in glass frames; he also had plants of the same species growing in pots. Much of this work became the definitive source on grapes for horticultural authorities. In 1893 he exhibited his collection of grape species at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Much of Munson’s work centered around improving the different varieties of American grapes, and his studies led to the introduction of more than 300 grape varieties. In 1909 he published his Foundations of American Grape Culture, which became the standard reference for grape culture in the United States.

Munson’s work enabled him to help save the European grape and wine industry from devastating fungus and insect attacks. In the 1840s European vineyards had been ravaged by the fungus parasite oidium. During that time France suffered losses of nearly 80 percent of its vines. The European wine industry imported native labrusca rootstock from the United States, but these cuttings brought in phylloxera, a plant louse, which attacked the slowly recovering vineyards. In 1868 phylloxera was discovered in southern France; more than 6 million acres of vineyards were destroyed in France, Germany, and other regions of Europe. The French wine industry, knowing of Munson’s expertise, requested that he send some of the grape hybrid rootstock that he had developed during his studies at Denison. He shipped phylloxera-resistant rootstock to France, where it was grafted with varieties of European vinifera. Munson’s work and that of another horticulturalist, Hermann Jaeger, helped save the European wine industry from total devastation. Because of Munson’s role, the French government in 1888 sent a delegation to Denison to confer on him the French Legion of Honor Chevalier du Mérite Agricole. Munson also received numerous other awards and honors. In 1898 he was elected as a foreign corresponding member of the Société Nationale d’Agriculture de France and as an honorary member in the Société des Viticulteurs de France. The University of Kentucky awarded him an honorary doctor of science degree in 1906. He was a founder and served as president of the Texas Horticulture Society and was a member of the American Horticultural Society and the American Pomological Society. He was also a member of the Texas World’s Fair Commission in 1903-04 and in 1904 was on the International Jury of Awards for the St. Louis Exposition.

Munson continued to live in Denison with his wife and seven children until he died, on January 21, 1913. Around 1975 Grayson Community College in the Sherman-Denison area established a Thomas Volney Munson Memorial Vineyard to recognize Munson’s contribution to horticulture and to cultivate and preserve many of the Munson grape varieties. In 1988 the T. V. Munson Viticulture and Enology Center opened next to the vineyard. Several statues honoring Munson have been erected in France.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Dallas Morning News, January 23, 1913. Dictionary of American Biography. Sarah Jane English, The Wines of Texas (Austin: Eakin Press, 1986). Frank R. Giordano, Jr., Texas Wines and Wineries (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1984). Who Was Who in America, Vol. 1.
Robert C. Overfelt

Grayson County College
The T.V. Munson Viticulture and Enology Center, which officially opened on September 10, 1988, serves as a state and regional center for the delivery of educational programs in viticulture and enology and a repository for historical documents of international significance to the wine industry. The building houses a library for research documents and historic memorabilia; classroom and office space; and workroom facilities for processing grape plants, juice, and wine. Academic credit and credit-free courses, as well as meetings, are conducted in the facility.
(...)
The T.V. Munson Viticulture and Enology Center, which officially opened on September 10, 1988, serves as a state and regional center for the delivery of educational programs in viticulture and enology and a repository for historical documents of international significance to the wine industry. The building houses a library for research documents and historic memorabilia; classroom and office space; and workroom facilities for processing grape plants, juice, and wine. Academic credit and credit-free courses, as well as meetings, are conducted in the facility. 

Official Capital Designations - Texas State Library
Wine Root Stock Capital of the World
Denison
House Concurrent Resolution No. 14, 71st Legislature, Regular Session (1989)

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Monday, January 29, 2007 • Permalink


This is a GREAT post! I hope you not mind. I published an excerpt on the site and linked back to your own blog for people to read the full version. Thanks for your advice.

Posted by French Wine  on  04/13  at  05:12 PM

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