Seeking to divorce California from its rough and tumble Gold Rush–era image of lawlessness and barbarity, turn-of-the-century Californians capitalized on the state's climate, soil, and relatively open landscapes to try to create businesses and a society that promoted messages of California as a cultured space. Drawing on increased commercial possibilities created by the completion of the transcontinental railroad and later the Panama Canal, many of these California companies focused on their connectedness to the middle and eastern portions of the nation as well as their European roots. For some, a range of ethnic, native, and foreign plants demonstrated the fecundity of the space and the civilized cosmopolitanism of the state. Others focused on specific blooms; by examining this phenomenon within seed company C. C. Morse & Co. and through the work of its employees—including Chinese immigrant cousins Wong Ah Hem and Henry Ohn—the sweet pea emerges as the perfect flower to explore the efforts of those crafting their narrative of California as a blossom routinely drenched in British whiteness.
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