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The Buttercup


This date in 1932 would have been just about ideal for enjoying the inaugural harvest of the new Buttercup Squash developed by the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo. The Buttercup was the result of work done by horticulturist Albert F. Yeager, chemist T. H. Hooper, and Constance Leeby and Esther Letzke of the Home Economics Research department. The team had spent the past ten years crossing different types of squash. Their aim was to develop a variety to take the place of the sweet potato, which had hadn’t grown well in the region.

The team examined each hybrid they produced, performing chemical analyses, looking for the perfect ratio of moisture and desirability. The squash that Yeager would name the Buttercup reached that golden ratio. The Harvey Herald reported that the "outstanding" features of the squash included its weight, which clocked in between three and four pounds, a "nice family size"; a low moisture content, which was helped eliminate watery squash; skin that peeled smoothly and easily after baking; and a plant that matured well during the short summer season of North Dakota.

This success story exemplified the mindset at the Agricultural College. In the 1930 yearbook, the school noted the importance of agricultural studies, stating, "The modernistic note in college education in America was struck when Senator Morrill laid the foundation which made possible college education in agriculture and the mechanic arts. The School of Agriculture in this college has been ringing the changes on that note ever since the college was established in 1890." It also said that, "Chemistry is the keynote in the arch of our modern civilization." It went on to show forward thinking in stating that, "Today, if a girl does not like housework and does enjoy another interest more, she can continue her career and supervise her home."

So here’s to the Buttercup … created in North Dakota … and still popular today.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


The Harvey Herald, Thursday, Dec. 4, 1930

1940 census (Albert F Yeager - Durham Strafford New Hampshire)

1930 North Dakota State College Yearbook