SAN MARCOS (CNS) - The poinsettia-growing Ecke family have donated about a century of business and family records to Cal State San Marcos, the school announced Mondday.
The documents will be digitized and presented in a way that tells the story of the family enterprise and its impact on coastal North County, said Jeff Charles, an associate professor of history at CSUSM.
The correspondence, photographs, publications and multimedia items cover 100 years of family history and 90 years of business records, according to the university. At its peak, the Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas produced 90 percent of the poinsettias in the world.
Paul Ecke III worked with local author Diane Welch to cull, box and catalogue tens of thousands of documents.
"When I began the cleanup, I soon realized that I could not throw these items away but I also could not keep them, so this is a win-win-win for me, CSUSM and the community -- and of course the historians," Ecke said.
Welch said the collection was "priceless."
The donation included $60,000 to pay for digitizing the collection and creating a public website and online catalogue, according to CSUSM.
The family business was started by German immigrant Albert Ecke in 1909 and took root in Encinitas in 1923 with his son, Paul Ecke, in charge. The poinsettia was marketed as a flower for the holidays in the 1960s by Paul Ecke Jr., who provided the flowers to Bob Hope's Christmas specials and "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson."
Paul Ecke Jr. also sat on an advisory council that led to the founding of Cal State San Marcos in 1989.
"The Ecke family collection includes a whole range of marketing materials, including tapes from these TV shows that we will be digitizing," Charles said. "From a historic perspective, the Ecke family had a major impact on the way people think about the holidays -- they really cemented the image of the poinsettia as a Christmas symbol."
Paul Ecke III took the reins in 1992 and established a farm in Guatemala with 1.2 million square feet of greenhouses and packing facilities.
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