Ontario Living Magazine - Spring 2014 - page 5

John S. Armstrong lived until a few months before his one-hundredth birthday in 1965.
Arriving in the Model Colony of Ontario, California in 1889 with only twenty-three dollars to his
name, Armstrong eventually created an organization which not only tapped into California’s bountiful
landscape but that also established him as a world famous nurseryman.
One of the new businesses earliest challenges was the expansion into producing a full line of
fruit trees and ornamentals. Beginning in 1902, such products were made available to the public in
the mail order catalogs. By the 1930s, however, roses were the most popular product sold by
Armstrong and the one with which it would be most identified.
Armstrong Nurseries was a family business. John Awdry Armstrong, John S. Armstrong’s son,
joined the firm after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1922. He eventually
served as executive Vice President and General Manager after the nursery was incorporated in 1932.
By the 1950s, his grandsons, David and John Jr., were also employees – David was the firm’s Research
Director and John Jr. was Vice President/Sales Manager. This legacy of personal responsibility
continues into the modern era as today’s Armstrong Nurseries is wholly owned by its employees.
Although The Armstrong Nurseries was sold off to a separate party in 1988, and the last
Ontario based sales yard closed in 1992, John S. Armstrong left an indelible footprint within his
adopted city and the entire horticultural community.
For more information, visit the
Museum of History and Art, Ontario, 225 South Euclid
Avenue, Ontario, (909) 395-2510.
Paradise of Fruit and Flower:
Ontario’s Armstrong Nursery and
the 20th Century Garden Ideal
Armstrong Rose field in the Ontario Area
Courtesy of the Ovitt Family Community Library,
Robert E. Ellingwood Model Colony History Room.
Armstrong Garden Center building on
Mountain Avenue in Ontario, California
Courtesy of the Museum of History and Art, Ontario
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