In 1930, Sydney Croft was a struggling farmer with failing health. When his physician advised him to leave Michigan for a warmer climate, he relocated near Bandon on Oregon’s southern coast and began raising vegetables.
A neighbor gave Croft some lily bulbs and urged him to try them.
At first, Croft showed little interest, but a row of them planted between the beets and carrots grew so fast and hardy that he advertised the flowering plants for sale.
His promotion caught the attention of a nearby greenhouse owner, who began experimenting with the plant’s budding period. He found it could be controlled to bloom at Easter. This had a major impact on the lily business. Croft went on to develop his own hardy hybrids. He named the most successful one, resistant to disease with a leafy stem and long-lasting foliage, the Croft Lilly.
Croft’s first bulbs sold for 5 cents each. Three years later the price had increased to $1. Croft moved his enterprise to Harbor, Ore., but he died before his prototype acquired its ultimate market niche as the industry standard.
Sources: Adams, Mike W. Chetco - The Story of the River and Its People. Brookings, OR, The Chetco Valley Historical Society, 2011, pp. 241-42; "Sydney Nicholas Croft." Find A Grave, 2011, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/14334476. Accessed 26 Feb. 2018.