Earlier this year, Gulfport Historical Society welcomed a charming donation from a longtime Gulfport resident: a lucky clover keyring from Gulfport’s original “green” business, Daniels Clover Specialty Company.
Some say the four-leafed clover’s magic dates all the way back to Eden, when Eve snuck a shamrock out of Paradise to remember it by. Daniels Clover Specialty Company traveled nearly as far, originating in the Panama Canal Zone, where Charles T. Daniels worked as a telephone wire chief for the US government in the 1930s.
Growing clover began as hobby. But when Charlie’s daughter, Marion, placed a dried clover in a card for her boss, US Consul to Panama Herbert O. Williams, an idea for a new business was born.
Daniels transformed his floricultural talent into a unique enterprise, developing new methods for cultivating, sizing and chemically treating and preserving four-leaved clovers, which could then be inserted into cards, calendars and a large assortment of gift items for corporate customers.
Daniels Clover Specialty Company came to Gulfport in 1953, where it took root and thrived at 4904 9th Ave. S. Daniels clovers were shipped by the thousands to companies from Australia to Jamaica to South Africa, most notably to a German pharmacy chain, drogerie markt (dm), which used them to make novelty calendars for their customers (“A lucky charm for you – and your wallet!”).
The company’s unlikely success – described in one of its brochures as a true “Cinderella story” – attracted national attention, with profiles and stories appearing over the years in Time Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, National Geographic and The New York Times.
When Charles’s children – William, Charles and Marion – sold the company in 1983, the new owners Andy and Dandy Safko kept the Clover Specialty legacy alive, entering their fashionable four-leaf clover pins into QVC’s “Quest for America’s Best” program at Cypress Gardens in 1995.
All 2,000 pins (at $13.25 each) sold out in just two minutes.
Though the business moved out of Gulfport in 2008, it is still thriving just up the road as Clover Specialty Company in the Riviera Bay neighborhood (and online at fourleafclover.com). And while headlines about this much-beloved business have indulged in some delightful wordplay over the years – “A Lucky Crop Charms Millions,” “Family Is Just Rolling in Clover,” etc. – Dandy Safko may have had it just right when she told the Evening Independent in 1983, “This is a business that has to be handled with tender, loving care.”
Careful cultivation, as much as good fortune, has helped this extraordinary piece of Gulfport’s history grow. Indeed, it would be hard to find a better illustration of the old adage that we make our own luck.
Amanda Hagood lives in Gulfport and is the current secretary of the Gulfport Historical Society. Florida is her adopted home and she loves exploring its unique history, culture and environment through writing. Her work has appeared in Salt Creek Journal, Bay Soundings and Creative Loafing. She teaches courses in Environmental Humanities at Eckerd College.