Happy Birthday ~ Moses Quinby, April 16, 1810
Moses Quinby is known as the “Father of Commercial Beekeeping in the United States,” Among his innovations in beekeeping, he is credited with the invention of the modern bee smoker with bellows. He is also the author of the book Mysteries of Bee-Keeping Explained (1853). At his peak, he kept over 1200 hives of bees.
Moses Quinby was born April 16, 1810, in Westchester Co.,N. Y. While a boy he went to Greene Co., and in 1853 from thence to St. Johnsville, Montgomery Co., N. Y., where he remained till the time of his death, May 27, 1875.
Mr. Quinby was reared among Quakers, and from his earliest years was ever the same cordial, straightforward, and earnest person. He had no special advantages in the way of obtaining an education, but he was an original thinker, and of that investigating turn of mind which is always sure to educate itself, even without books or schools. When about twenty years old he secured for the first time, as his own individual possession, sufficient capital to invest In a stock of bees, and no doubt felt enthusiastic in looking forward hopefully to a good run of “luck” in the way of swarms, so that he could soon “take up” some by the aid of the brimstone-pit. But “killing the goose that laid the golden egg” did not commend itself to his better judgment, and he was not slow to adopt the better way of placing boxes on the top of the hive, with holes for the ascent of the bees, and these boxes be improved by substituting glass for wood in the sides, thus making a long stride in the matter of the appearance of the marketable product. With little outside help, but with plenty of unexplored territory, his investigating mind had plenty of scope for operation, and he made a diligent study of bees and their habits. All the books he could obtain were earnestly studied, and everything taught therein carefully tested. The many crudities and inaccuracies contained in them were sifted out as chaff, and after 17 years’ practical experience in handling and studying the bees themselves as well as the books, he was not merely a bee-keeper but a bee-master; and with that philanthropic character which made him always willing to impart to others, he decided to give them, at the expense of a few hours’ reading, what had cost him years to obtain, and in 1853 the first edition of Mysteries of Beekeeping Explained made its appearance. Thoroughly practical in character and vigorous in style, it at once won its way to popularity. From the year 1853, excepting the interest he took in his fruits and his trout-pond, his attention was wholly given to bees, and he was owner or half-owner of from 600 to 1200 colonies, raising large crops of honey. On the advent of the movable frame and Italian bees, they were at once adopted by him, and in 1862 he reduced the number of his colonies, and turned his attention more particularly to rearing and selling his Italian bees and queens. In 1865 he published a revised edition of his book, giving therein the added experience of 12 years. He wrote much for agricultural and other papers, his writings being always of the same sensible and practical character. The Northeastern Bee-keepers’ Association, a body whose deliberations have always been of importance, owed its origin to Mr. Quinby, who was for years its honored president—perhaps it is better to say its honoring president, for it was no little honor, even to so important a society, to have such a man as president. In 1871 Mr. Quinby was president of the N. A. B. K. A.
It Is not at all impossible that the fact that so many intelligent beekeepers are found in New York is largely due to there being such a man as Mr.Quinby in their midst. The high reverence in which he was always held by the bee-keepers, particularly those who knew him best, says much, not only for the bee-master, but for the man.
On the occasion of the first meeting of the Northeastern Society, after the death of Mr. Quinby, Capt. J. E. Hetherington said in his address, in a well-merited eulogium on Mr. Quinby: “Of the great amount of gratuitous labor performed by him, to advance the science of bee culture, the fraternity as a whole will never know, nor can they realize the information imparted to the numbers who flocked to see him personally, especially in the busy season…
“His life has been in every sense a life of usefulness and not wholly devoted to the interests of bee culture, for he took it living interest in any movement he thought would benefit society : and as an advocate and helper in the temperance work he did no mean service. He possessed true kindness of heart, and regarded it as a religious duty to make all better and happier with whom he came in contact, and regarded that life a failure that did not leave the world the better for having lived.