Hans and Jacob Sass were born in Alt Duvenstedt, Germany and immigrated to the United States with their parents in 1884. They settled on a farm in Nebraska, and were interested in breeding garden flowers at an early age. They bred irises, peonies, daylilies, lilacs, gladiolus, lilies and other garden plants. When they became charter members of the AIS, they had been breeding irises for more than a decade. Their irises were famous for being strong growers because they used 'Amas' and I. trojana as tetraploid stud irises instead of the tender I. mesopotamica and I. cypriana.
The two brothers were very close and shared ideas on hybridizing as well as seedling pollen. When someone complimented Jacob on one of his seedlings, he would say: "Wait until you see what Hans has!" If you praised one of Hans's seedlings, he would say: "Wait until you see what Jake has!" They each introduced scores of irises, and what irises! Two of Hans Sass's irises won the Dykes Medal: 'Rameses' in 1932, and 'Prairie Sunset' in 1943. Likewise, two of Jacob Sass's irises won the Dykes Medal: 'The Red Douglas' in 1941, and 'Ola Kala' in 1948. Hans was the first to introduce true reblooming cultivars, the tall bearded 'Autumn King' and the intermediate bearded ' Autumn Queen', in 1926.
Both of the Sass brothers bred all types of irises that would grow in Nebraska, but their early fame as hybridizers came for their work producing intermediate bearded irises. Crossing dwarf irises with tall bearded irises, they were the first American breeders to develop many new colors and forms in the intermediate class. They saw the great advantage of intermediate bearded irises on the windy prairie, and the value of a type of iris that filled out the bloom season between the early dwarf irises and the later tall bearded irises.
The Sass brothers were two of the world's greatest plant breeders. Their irises won many awards and are to be found throughout the pedigrees of nearly all the modern tall bearded irises in our gardens. A number of their peony introductions are still considered outstanding cultivars, including Jacob's 'Nebraska' and Hans's 'Elsa Sass', 'Hans P. Sass', and 'Sea Shell'.List of Hans & Jacob Sass Medal winners - Intermediate Bearded (IB) Irises: 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. They are designated with an (A) beside the date on which they won the AM-equivalent, and an (M) on Medal status.
| ‘Black Comedy’
2023 - Paul Black
| 'Apple Crisp'
2022 - Paul Black
| 'Code Of Honor'
2021 - Thomas Johnson
| 'Backlit Beauty'
2021 - Richard Tasco
| 'Leave The Light On'
2019 - Riley Probst
| 'Cat In The Hat'
2018 - Paul Black
| 'Red Hot Chili'
2017 - Michael Sutton
| 'Star In The Night'
2016 - Paul Black
| 'Man's Best Friend'
2015 - Paul Black
2014 - Paul Black
2013 - J. Terry Aitken
2012 - Paul Black
| 'Garnet Slippers'
2011 - Keith Keppel
|2010 - 'Ruby Slippers' - K. Keppel||2009 - 'Devil May Care' - P. Black||2008 - 'Ming' - M. Smith|
|2007 - 'Delirium' - M. Smith||2006 - 'Midsummer Night's Dream' - Lowell||2005 - 'Starwoman' - M. Smith|
|2004 - 'Gnu Rayz' - B. Kasperek||2003 - 'Bottled Sunshine' - H. Nichols||2002 - 'Protocol' - K. Keppel|
|2001 - 'Maui Gold' - T. Aitken||2000 - 'Dark Waters' - T. Aitken||1999 - 'Prince of Burgundy' - D. Niswonger|
|1998 - 'Cee Jay' - C. Lankow||1997 - 'Hot Spice' - T. Aitken||1996 - 'Lemon Pop' - L. Lauer|
|1995 - 'Blue Eyed Blond' - A. Ensminger||1994 - 'Ask Alma' - C. Lankow||1993 - 'Maui Moonlight' - T. Aitken|
|1992 - 'Hot Fudge' - B. Hager||1991 - 'Butter Pecan' - B. Hager||1990 - 'Hellcat' - T. Aitken|
|1989 - 'Honey Glazed' - D. Niswonger||1988 - 'Oklahoma Bandit' - H. Nichols||1987 - 'Az Ap' - A. Ensminger|
|1986 - 'Rare Edition' - J. Gatty||1985 - 'Silent Strings' - P. Dyer||1984 - 'Shampoo' - V. Messick|
|1983 - 'Peachy Face' - B. Jones||1982 - 'Pink Kitten' - V. Wood||1981 - 'Raspberry Blush' - M. Hamblen|
|1980 - 'Appleblossom Pink' - J. Boushay||1979 - 'Swizzle' B. Hager||1978 - 'Voila' - J. Gatty|
|1977 - 'Vamp' - J. Gatty||1976 - 'Sea Patrol' - C. Palmer||1975 - 'Butterscotch Frills' - M. Hamblen|
|1974 - 'Little Bit Blue' - G. Plough||1973 - 'Lemon Flurry' T. Muhlestein||1972 - 'June Prom' - A. Brown|
|1971 - 'Sing Again' - G. Plough||1970 - 'Drummer Boy' - Schreiner||1969 - 'Lime Ripples' - A. Brown|
|1968 - (M) 'Moonchild' - T. Craig||1967 - (M) 'Lillipinkput' - G. Douglas||1966 - (M) 'Kiss Me Kate' - P. Cook|
|1965 - 'Cutie' - Schreiner||1964 - (A) 'Lillipinkput' - G. Douglas||1963 - 'Cloud Fluff' - W. Greenlee|
|1962 - 'Blue Asterisk' - W. Greenlee||1961 - (A) 'Moonchild' - T. Craig||1960 - (A) 'Kiss Me Kate' - P. Cook|