Biographies of American Seedsmen and Nurserymen Burpee, David–(1893-1980)–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Doylestown, Pennsylvania; Lompoc, California; Swedesboro, New Jersey–when W. Atlee Burpee died on November 26, 1915, his son David, then 22, dropped out of Cornell University and took over the family business, W. Atlee Burpee & Company.  David was interested in flowers, while his father had been interested in vegetables.  World War I cut off the company’s oversees seed supply and caused a food shortage in the United States.  David began a “war gardens” campaign, that was to later become the “Victory gardens” campaign in World War II.  These programs were aimed at city people and taught them how to grow food during shortages caused by wartime.  After World War II, the company also sent thousands of pounds of seeds to Allied countries under the Lend-Lease Act.  In the 1930's the company began cross-breeding to produce hybrids that were healthier and more resistant to disease.  The Big Boy tomato was developed during this time, along with the Ambrosia cantaloupe, as well as new kinds of petunias, nasturtiums, and red and gold marigolds.  In the 1940s the company created new forms of flowers by altering their chromosome structure with a chemical called colchicine.  This led to varieties Bright Scarlet and Rosabel snapdragons and Ruffled Jumbo Scarlet zinnia.  In 1954 David Burpee announced his company would pay $10,000 to the first person who could supply seeds that produced a white marigold.  Over the next 20 years, gardeners submitted 8,208 entries, and Burpee spent over $250,000 evaluating the seeds.  In 1975, Mrs. Alice Vonk of Sully, Iowa was announced as the winner.  During the 1960s, David campaigned to make the marigold America’s national flower.  In 1970, David Burpee sold his company to General Foods, the first of a series of non-horticultural owners,  for an estimated $10 million dollars, and in 1979 the company passed to ITT.  David Burpee remained as a consultant until his death in 1981.  In 1991 the Burpee company was acquired by George J. Ball, Inc., a diversified horticultural family business.
Sources: Kraft; ANBv22; NCAB; Reilly; Raver; Waldron; DVA; Rockwell; Beans; Lowe