List of a Few Tulips
Sold to the highest bidder on February 5th 1637. In the hall of the ‘Nieuwe Schutters Doelen’ in the company of the Gentlemen and Guardians of the Children of Wouter Bartelomeus Winckel, who was owner of the ‘Oude Schutters Doelen’ during his life.
I know what you might be thinking: what exactly did I just read?
But I wanted to highlight one of the gems of our nursery in this newsletter: the Tulip Zomerschoon.
Today, it has been exactly 401 years since she came on the market. But more importantly, she is the only surviving Tulip of the Tulip Mania in the 30s of the 17th century.
The highlight of her career is described in the text you see above. It says that at an auction held on February 5, 1637, one bulb of Zomerschoon (Somer-Schoon) was sold for 1.010 Florijn.
But the best part of this auction is not that price, but the story before- and after it. I do have to admit that, like all good stories, this one comes largely from the imagination, but that should never ruin the fun.
It is a story that could have a whole book dedicated to it, and who knows, one day I might even write it.
Wouter Winckel was the owner of a thriving pub located on the Waagplein in Alkmaar. Parties and festivities, gin, beer, and unhealthy food: it was always a good time with Wouter. During the Tulip Mania, when Tulips were sold for the prices of a house in the center of Amsterdam, an auction was held at Wouter’s pub every Thursday. Tulips were sold, well, not even real ones: what you got was a piece of paper that said that one was now the owner of a Tulip bulb. Those papers were sold from person to person without the real bulb ever being there, but that did not seem to matter.
Wouter Winckel watched this phenomenon from behind the bar. He saw his customers grow richer and richer, while he, a widower, and his seven kids barely had enough to eat. Wouter did have a few savings meant for the children’s future, but he was only human after all… so one day, he traded all his savings for those pieces of paper that declared him the owner of a few of those highly demanded Tulip bulbs.
As you can probably imagine, Wouter’s life was not all that healthy. A lot of stress and work, and probably a bit too much to drink… one day, his children found him dead at the bottom of the stairwell: his large heart had given out, leaving the children orphaned.
The children went to the orphanage. The guardians probably hoped that they would have some money to their names, but all they found were those papers that claimed the Tulips. It was unanimously decided that that would not do, so an auction would be held at Wouters pub.
The thing was, everyone thought that Wouter was probably an expert on Tulips. He had watched the trades going on for years and invested everything he had in these Tulips: were these the golden ones, then? It must be!
So the Tulips were sold for the incredible prices you see on the list. The children went from being dirt poor to being the richest children of Alkmaar!
But, like the older ones among us may remember, the winter of 1637 was a harsh one, and the trade on Tulips had just been forbidden a few days ago. But the horses had stranded in Haarlem and had not reached Alkmaar yet. When they did, it appeared that Wouter Winckel’s children would be the last ones to become so obscenely rich because of a few flower bulbs.
This is how the story ends, but there is a little sequel: at least one of the Tulips on this list still exists today. They are hard to grow due to old age and virus, but we have the Zomerschoonen in our nursery. It is one of the bulbs we are most proud of!
The Zomerschoon and grower Jan Hein
Groeten from Holland,
Carlos van der Veek