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Williamson-White Medal


The highest award given by the American Iris Society strictly to Miniature Tall Bearded Irises

History by Clarence Mahan

....................................................related links; Awards; 2015 Williamson-White Medal Candidates.

This medal is restricted to miniature tall bearded (MTB) irises. It is named in honor of E. B. Williamson (1877-1933), his daughter Mary Williamson (1909-1987) and Alice White (1886-1969).

Edward Bruce Williamson was born in Marion, Indiana in 1877, and grew up in Bluffton, Indiana, where his father was a bank president. His friends called him Bruce, but he is known to the iris and zoological worlds as "E. B. Williamson." After graduating from Ohio State University, Williamson worked as Assistant Curator of Insects in the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. Succeeding his father as bank president in 1928, he continued to study and conduct research on insects, particularly dragonflies. He was later appointed Research Associate in the Museum of Zoology at the University of Michigan. He wrote many monographs and articles, and was recognized as a world-class authority on dragonflies.

Williamson began growing irises in the early 1900s, and collected many different species, which he then grew from seed. He grew thousands of seedlings, frequently used mixed pollen, and kept few records. He established Longfield Iris Farm in Bluffton, and it became a mecca for iris lovers. His 'Lent A. Williamson' (1918, TB) and 'Dolly Madison' (1927, TB) were considered masterpieces, and are to be found in the pedigrees of nearly all modern tall bearded irises. He introduced many outstanding cultivars including 'Cinnabar' (1928, TB), 'Dorothy Dietz' (1929, TB), and 'Amigo' (1934, TB). The TB 'Wabash', which won the Dykes Medal in 1940, was hybridized and introduced by his daughter Mary in 1936 after his death. His beautiful Louisiana iris hybrid 'Dorothea K. Williamson', introduced in 1918, tends to breed true to form, and it has the distinction of now being naturalized in some areas of the eastern U.S. where Hexagonae species are not indigenous.

Although others had introduced irises that fit into the miniature tall bearded iris class before Williamson, he and his daughter were the first to breed them as cultivars in a distinctive class of irises. They were apparently byproducts of breeding for tall bearded irises. Thura Hires and Ethel Peckham were the first to sort them out of the Williamson's seedling beds. They recognized that these smaller irises had great potential as garden plants and for use in floral designs. Mrs. Peckham gave them .the name "table irises." The first of these table irises to be introduced (Ed.: before the MTB classification was established in 1958 so they were registered as intermediate irises) were 'Siskin' (1934, IB), and 'Pewee' (1934, IB) which later became the "type" when the MTB classification was formalized. 'Chewink' (1937, IB) and 'Daystar' (selected clone) followed. Mary Williamson produced 'Widget' (1943) and 'Nambe' (1946).

Although table irises had a number of proponents such as Mrs. Hires, Mrs. Peckham, and Charles Gersdorff, they languished in the shadow of tall bearded irises for many years. In the early 1950's, Alice White of Hemet, California began a crusade to gain recognition of the assets of these wonderful smaller irises. She organized table iris robins and wrote many articles for the AIS Bulletin and gardening magazines promoting their virtues. She encouraged iris hybridizers to breed these irises to obtain new and finer cultivars. She led the campaign to have a separate class established for table irises. When the class was finally approved, Alice White graciously accepted the name "miniature tall bearded" irises, although she always preferred to call them table irises.

( Much of the iris literature extant only associates E. B. Williamson's name and not his daughter's with the MTB Williamson-White Medal. However, extensive research by Jim Morris for this 50th Anniversary issue has uncovered proof positive that the medal was for both Williamsons. In the AIS Bulletin No. 190, July 1968, pp.68-69 are the words prepared by the Editorial Staff of the Median Iris Society, which included Donald Tufts, Bee Warburton and Jean Witt: "It is a great pleasure to all interested in the smaller bearded irises that the newly named award [Williamson-White Award], which is the equivalent of the Award of Merit for tall bearded irises, should commemorate E.B. Williamson and his daughter, Mary, who carried on his work for many years; and also our friend Mrs. David K. (Alice) White, who so ably started the work of rescuing them from oblivion."

In the subsequent July 1968 issue of The Medianite, p.40, Bee Warburton writes, "Members will be delighted to know that the Williamson-White Award for the miniature tall bearded irises has been activated by the American Iris Society this year. Your editorial staff prepared a notice and citation for the AIS Bulletin so we won't go into detail here. Suffice it to say that the original ‘type' of table iris was selected from the garden of E. B. Williamson, a man whose services to the iris world were considerable in all respects and included starting Paul Cook off on his lifetime interest in irises, and that Alice White almost single-handedly rescued this type from oblivion in the early 50s. This is not yet a medal award, and that must wait for awarding of more preliminary awards. For now, the award will be the equivalent of the Award of Merit. Our congratulations to Mary Williamson, long her father's assistant and his successor in the gardens he established; and to our valued member and friend Alice (Mrs. David K.) White." (See separate article on Mary Williamson)

List of Williamson-White Medal winners - Miniature Tall Bearded (MTB) Irises:
  ‘Black Cherry Sorbet’
2023 - Chad Harris
'Breakfast In Bed'
2022 - Charles Bunnell
'Moose Tracks'
2021 - Lynda Miller
'Hoosier Belle'
2021 - Charles Bunnell
2019 - Charles Bunnell
'Holiday In Mexico'
2018 - Riley Probst
'Tic Tac Toe'
2017 - Thomas Johnson
'Sari's Dance'
2016 - Ginny Spoon
'Hot News'
2015 - Stephanie Markham
'Rayos Adentro'
2014 - Carol Morgan
'Peebee And Jay'
2013 - Barbara & David Schmieder
'Plum Quirky'
2012 - Riley Probst
'Dividing Line'
2011 - Charles Bunnell
'Sailor's Dream
2010 - Kenneth Fischer
'Somewhat Quirky
2009 - R. Probst
2008 - D. Spoon
'Madam President'
2007 - H. Thurman
'Baubles and Beads'
2006 - L. Miller
2005 - L. Miller

2004 - 'Merit' - K. Fisher 2003 - 'Apricot Drops' - T. Aitken 2002 - 'Reminiscence' - C. Mahan
2001 - 'Bangles' - L. Miller 2000 - 'Pardner' - K. Fisher 1999 - (Tie) 'Billie The Brownie' - J. Burton
1999 - (Tie) 'Pretty Quirky' - A. Probst 1998 - 'Striped Pants' - K. Fisher 1997 - 'Zula' - K. Fisher
1996 - 'Petite Monet' - K. Steele 1995 - 'Frosted Velvet' - K. Fisher 1994 - 'Rosemary's Dream' - M. L. Dunderman
1993 - 'Bumblebee Deelite' - J. & G. Norrick    


Note that most classifications within the AIS Awards System began with Award of Merit (AM) equivalent Awards, later elevated to Medal status. At this transition, previous Award winners from a specified period of time re-competed for the higher Medal honors. Thus there are some duplicate entries (*).
1992 - 'Welch's Reward' - W. Welch 1991 - 'Crystal Ruffles' - M. L. Dunderman 1990 - 'Bumblebee Deelite' ( ) - J. & G. Norrick
1989 - 'Little Paul' - K. Fisher 1988 - 'Aachen Elf' - L. Kennedy 1987 - 'Abridged Version' - B. Hager
1986 - 'Rosemary's Dream' () - M. L. Dunderman 1985 - ‘Consummation' - W. Welch 1984 - 'Chickee' - M. L. Dunderman
1983 - 'Disco Jewel' - D. Guild 1982 - 'Doll Ribbons' - M. L. Dunderman 1981 - 'Spanish Coins' - J. Witt
1980 - 'Panda' - M. L. Dunderman 1979 - ‘White Canary' - E. Roberts 1978 - 'Quirk' - A. Brown
1977 - 'Cedar Waxwing' - E. Roberts 1976 - 'New Idea' - B. Hager 1975 - 'Bit O' Afton' - D. Guild
1974 - 'Carolyn Rose' - M. L. Dunderman 1973 - 'Ice Fairy' - J. Witt 1972 - 'Dainty Dove' - A. Brown
1971 - 'Dainty Damsel' - A. Brown 1970 - 'Mockingbird' - E. Roberts 1969 - 'Dainty Dancer' - A. Brown
1968 - 'Pewee' - B. Williamson    


-- Main.RPries - 2009-12-24
Topic revision: r53 - 06 Sep 2023, WayneMesser
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