Below is an excerpt from Gardening for Profit. ©1891 by Peter Henderson I'm supplying some general facts the author states then jumping down to the various types of tomatoes at the time. You can find this book at google books and if you're interested in the state of how the new "modern" seeds produced compared to the old you might want to read the entire excerpt.
This vegetable is one of the most important of all garden products; hundred of acres are now planted with it in the vicinity of all large cities, and the facility with which it is managed, places it readily under the control of the least experienced. It is now grown here almost entirely by those who grow Peas, Potatoes, Melons, and other crops of the " farm gardens," as our market gardens proper are too highly enriched and much too limited in extent to render the cultivation of the Tomato profitable. To produce early crops, the seed must be sown in hot-beds or forcing-pits, about ten weeks before the plants may be safely put in the open ground. Thus, in this district, we sow in the hot-bed about the first week in March; in April the plants are fit to be set out, at a distance of four or five inches apart, in another hot-bed. They are grown there (proper attention being given to the hot-beds, as directed under that head) until the middle of May, when it is safe to place them in the open ground. They are planted, for early crops, on light sandy soil, at a distance of three feet apart, in hills, in which a good shovelful of rotted manure has been mixed. On heavy soils, which are not suited for an early crop, they should be planted four feet apart. Some attach great importance to topping the leading shoot of the Tomato, so that it will branch, arguing that by this means we get an earlier and heavier crop; all our experience shows that little benefit is derived from the practice. Like all vegetables grown on so large a scale, and in such varying soil and climate, the Tomato sells in our markets at prices varying widely, from $6 down to 25 cents per bushel, the average price for those raised in the district, being about 75 cents per bushel. The quantity raised per acre is about 400 bushels. This may seem at first glance to be quite a profitable crop for a farmer \, but every acre necessitates the use of at least 100 sashes, for, on the second transplanting, only about fifty plants'can be grown to a sash, and about 5,000 plants are required for an acre. On one occasion, having a very suitable soil, I grew about four acres of Tomatoes for three years, which realized me from $1,500 to $2,000 annually in receipts; but I discovered that the operation was a losing-one, as, to raise 20,000 plants for my four acres, I had to make use of 400 sashes, in which, .n rather less time and with far less labor than it took to grow the Tomato plants, Lettuce could have been grown that would have sold for at least $2 per sash. Thus I lost annually, in preparing for the Tomato plants, half the receipts of the crop even before they were planted out. But there are many parts of the country where Lettuce, thus forwarded, could not be sold, while Tomatoes could, which would materially change the aspect of the operation. In the southern sections of the country, convenient to shipping, Tomatoes are largely grown for the northern markets, and sold there at prices highly remunerative to the grower. In many instances, in the Southern States, the cultivation of Tomatoes for market is carelessly done, the seed being sown in the open ground and the plants transplanted, as we do Cabbages. No doubt, by starting in January or February with the hot-beds, or even cold frames, and planting one in March or April, they could be had at least two weeks earlier than they are now sent to us. In some localities thousands of acres of Tomatoes are now grown by farmers, under contract for canning purposes, often as low as 30 cents per bushel, and, on suitable land, even this low price will pay better than most farm crops, as there is usually no necessity for having the crop early for canning.
There are always some one or more varieties, said to be earlier than others, sent out every spring, but it must be confessed that the varieties that we cultivated twenty years ago are not a day behind in earliness those issued as "vastly superior" in 1886. To test them thoroughly, I planted twenty-five plants each of the four most popular sorts, under circumstances exactly similar in all respects; there was no difference whatever in earliness, and but little perceptible difference in productiveness.
The following, at this date, are the leading kinds :
Mikado.—(See figure 96.) This is the second season that we have grown this variety, and I predict that it will be certain to become a standard sort. It is one of the earliest of the large Tomatoes ; in color purplish-red ; fruit produced in immense clusters, single fruits often weighing one pound and a half each. The Mikado is entirely distinct in foliage from any other Tomato, which allows it to always be distinguished.
Acme.—Very early and handsome, fruit of medium fize, perfectly smooth and regular, very solid, and a good keeper. Color distinct, being crimson with a pinkish tinge. In some markets the color would be a detriment; in others, again, it would be considered no disadvantage.
Paragon.—The description of the Acme will answer for this, except that in the Paragon the color is of a
bright, glossy crimson, and entirely free from the pinkish tinge that characterizes the Acme.
Perfection.—(See figure 97.) Color blood red. It is as early as the Canada Victor (one of the first to ripen), almost round in shape, perfectly smooth, and very solid. Of the best quality and enormously productive.
Canada Victor.—One of the earliest, of medium size, bright red, and very symmetrical in shape.
Trophy.—No Tomato ever introduced created the furore that this did when it was first brought out. It is unsurpassed in size, flavor, and productiveness, but is now superseded by others in eavliness and smoothness.
General Grant.—The fruit of this is large and of good quality, and ripens evenly and thoroughly.
Hathaway's Excelsior.—An early variety, of medium size, smooth, very solid, and of excellent quality.
Red and Yellow Plum Tomato.—Beautiful varieties, never exceeding two inches in length by one inch in diameter. Mainly used for pickling and preserving.