Fifty Photographs: selections from SCUA collections

Super squash

by J. L. Lovell, ca.1874

Squash played an outsized role in the early history of research at Massachusetts Agricultural College. The college's charismatic president, William Smith Clark, devised an experiment to measure the mechanical force that could be exerted by a growing plant. Plant power may have been the means, but Clark's true goal was to show the research capacity of the new college and more generally, the value of science to the practice of agriculture.

During the summer of 1874, Clark strapped a Chili squash into a wood and iron rig to measure the pressure it exerted when growing. One might imagine that watching a squash swell would be as enticing as watching paint dry, but the experiment became quite the public spectacle, drawing more than 10,000 squash gawkers to Durfee greenhouse. In the end, the 47 pound squash was victorious, lifitng two and a half tons of weight.