With the appointment of Professor Ralph L. Watts as Head in 1908, the Department of Horticulture rapidly attained the mature status that it holds today. The Department might be said to have grown up. At this time the whole School of Agriculture was growing rapidly. In the year 1906-'07 the School enrolled 45 students; in 1908-'09 it enrolled 133; in 1909-'10 the number was 514, and in 1914-'15 reached a peak of 767, which was the highest figure reached until the late 1930's. The Department of Horticulture had its share of students and for a few years enrolled more students than any other Department in the School. In 1916 the number graduating in the Department was 55.

At the time of the reorganization of the Department, the work in Environmental Pomology was placed in a separate department until Professor Stewart left in 1918, when it was again merged with the Department of Horticulture. Professor Stewart continued the cooperative projects with fruit growers on soil, cultural, and fertilizer treatments in apple orchards, he also planted an experimental orchard in 1908 on the College Farms, from which many recommendations for orchard practices were later made.

Professor Watts was in charge of all of the rest of the work in Horticulture. He had to organize the curriculum, supervise the instruction, and develop experimental projects in vegetable work. The plan of instruction devised in 1908 and the next few succeeding years is essentially that followed today, and the projects conceived for vegetable experiments were the basis of most of the work in vegetables for the next 35 years.

Professor Watts had a good background for his work as Head of the Department . He was a graduate of the College in Agriculture in the class of 1890. He had subsequently served on the faculty of the University of Tennessee as Professor of Horticulture, later engaging in a commercial market gardening enterprise near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He also lectured at Farmers' Institutes, and in the winter of 1907-'08 was engaged to teach the short course in Horticulture at the College. He was very well liked, being a good speaker and a man of pleasant personality. With the death of Professor Butz in December, 1907, Dean Hunt needed a man to head the work in Horticulture, and he asked Professor Watts to take the position. Professor Watts accepted and remained as Head of the Department until 1914, then succeeding Dean Hunt when the latter left to go to the University of California.

At the time of his appointment on March 1, 1908. Professor Watts had one assistant, J. Plummer Pillsbury. The annual budget of the Department was $6,400, of which $2,200 was for maintenance. The only greenhouse available was that connected with the Botany Building, and Mr. Pillsbury had to act as his own fireman. A new range of greenhouses was connected in 1910, and it is still in use today. The Department moved to the Agriculture Building , which was completed by 1908, and in a few years moved into its own building, the former Horticulture Building. It was built first as a one-story structure and occupied about 1912. Construction was halted temporarily when the money ran out. The building was later completed and dedicated in 1914. It was a four-story structure and was at that time adequate for the work in Horticulture.

At the beginning, Professor Watts did most of the teaching himself. He was a great believer in practical experience, and students were required to spend the summers working in horticultural enterprises. Inspection trips were taken; these were longer than those taken at present and went to such places as market gardening areas of Virginia and the large fruit growing region of western New York. Student vegetable gardens were initiated in 1909 and are still a feature of instruction in the Department. The student club in Horticulture, the Crabapple Club, was organized; it continued as the chief student club until the 1930's.

When the School of Agriculture was reorganized in 1907 and 1908, seven four-year curricula were offered, including that in Horticulture. The studies in the first two years were common to all curricula; an introductory course in plant propagation was given in the second semester of the Sophomore year. In the Junior year the students began the specializations in their chosen department; all Horticultural students took the same curriculum without any choice of courses. Nine courses in Horticulture were then required, giving the students a well-rounded training. They included two in Pomology, two in vegetables, one in greenhouse construction, one in Plant Breeding, one in Floriculture, and one in Landscape Gardening. One hundred years of work were scheduled for the summer practicum and consisted of the inspection trips and actual work performed on some of the farms visited. The provision for work on the farms visited was not particularly successful, being difficult to arrange; and after 1912 the summer practicum consisted of practice and survey work in vegetable gardens, orchards, or greenhouses.

Through the next decade the curriculum was liberalized a little at a time to permit specialization in the various fields of Horticulture, and some other changes took place, new courses being added. Professor Watts started some work in photography in order to develop pictures of his research and work of the Department. The work in photography was later increased, and a course in it was offered. A professional photographer was sometimes employed; E. T. Kirk is the first one listed on the College staff, but the work was done at times by other people not so listed. Various other Horticultural specialties were taught from time to time, including a course in spraying, one in Horticultural literature, one in canning and by-processing, and one in nut culture.

In 1910 the curriculum in Landscape Gardening was first offered. J. Plummer Pillsbury was appointed Assistant Professor of Landscape Gardening and was in charge of the curriculum. Nine courses were offered during the Junior and Senior years; in succeeding years the number of courses slowly increased, including one introductory course to students not majoring in that subject. In the teaching of these courses Professor Pillsbury had the assistance of some other members of the Department in particular that of John William Gregg, who was appointed as an Assistant in Horticulture in 1909. The curriculum in Landscape Gardening led a hybrid existence with that in the Department of Horticulture for many years until it was finally merged with the regular program of instruction in that Department in the 1940s. The work in Landscape Gardening, which was changed in name to Landscape Architecture in 1917, was in part autonomous under the direction of the professor in charge; but it was also considered to be a part of the Department of Horticulture, and the faculty of the curriculum in Landscape Architecture were members of that Department and even taught courses with the Horticulture title.

At the same time that the program of instruction was being developed, the research program in vegetables was also being organized. In August, 1908, Charles Emory Myers was appointed as an assistant to Professor Watts. He was placed in charged of the experimental work in vegetables. Eighty-six (86) different research projects were contemplated. The work was concentrated in cabbage, asparagus, and tomatoes, but included some with many other vegetables. Professor Myers spent the rest of his career 35 years with the Department of Horticulture in working on this program. From the strain tests of vegetable varieties, particularly those with cabbages and tomatoes, the work in Plant Breeding developed. Studies on the effects of fertilizers on asparagus and other vegetables were also carried out.

With the rapid increase in the number of students and with the development of research work, the personnel of the Department increased rapidly. Changes in personnel were also rather frequent during this period.

In 1909 William Joseph Wright was appointed as Instructor in Horticulture to teach the work in fruit growing. He resigned suddenly in 1912 to go to a horticultural school in Alfred, New York; and Frank Nelson Fagan, a graduate of the Ohio State University, was appointed to replace him. Mr. Fagan became Professor of Pomology in 1920 and was in charge of the work until his retirement in 1948. Much of he character of the work in instruction and of the orchard plantings of the Department during a thirty-year period were the result of his planning.

In 1909 John William Gregg, a graduate of Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1904, was appointed to the staff, becoming Assistant Professor in 1911. He seems to have worked first in Floriculture and Olericulture and then in the Curriculum in Landscape Gardening. The nature of one's work was less restricted than it is now and the men worked in the different fields of Horticulture as the need arose, Professor Gregg served here for three tears, resigning in 1912 to go with Dean Hunt to California.

On February 1, 1910 Walter B. Nissley, a graduate of Penn State, was appointed to the staff and worked with vegetable crops until 1913. He later returned and served for many years as Professor of Vegetable Gardening Extension. Several other men during this period held positions as Assistants for one or two years.

On September 1, 1911, Professor Pillsbury, who had served in the Department since 1898, resigned to go to the University of North Carolina. Professor John W. Gregg took over the work in Landscape Gardening temporarily. When Professor Gregg resigned in 1912, Arthur W. Cowell was appointed to take charge of this work, later becoming Professor of Landscape Architecture. He had received the Degree of Bachelor of Sciences at Cornell University in 1903.

In 1912, Earl I. Wilde was appointed as Assistant in Horticulture and became Instructor the following year. He advanced in a few years to become Professor of Floriculture and was in charge of both the greenhouse work in flowers 'and the outdoor work in ornamental plants until his retirement in 1949. He was a graduate of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, having received the Degree of Bachelor of Science there in 1912.

On February 1, 1913, Professor Watts became Dean of the School of Agriculture. Dean Hunt had resigned in he preceding year to become Dean and Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of California. President Sparks decided to make Arthur Holmes, who had recently been appointed as Dean of General Faculty, the new Dean of the School of Agriculture, and he called the heads of the departments in the School to his office to inform them of his decision regarding an appointment he had made for Dean. On their way to return to their own offices, the department heads stood outside the Horticulture Building in a discussion of the appointment, and one of them declared emphatically that Dean Holmes (the candidate mentioned by Pres. Sparks) was unacceptable to them. The other men agreed, and they later returned to see President Sparks, saying that they would accept one of their own members. President Sparks consented, and the department heads then selected Professor Watts to become the new Dean.

Dean Watts continued to serve as Head of the Department until 1914. Then Maurice G. Kains was appointed as Professor of Horticulture and Head of the Department. He was at that time editor of that publication, The American Agriculturist. He was a specialist in plant propagation and during his term of office published a textbook on that subject. His work of administration seems not to have been too successful, and he resigned in 1916, being replaced in September of that year by Professor Stevenson Whitcomb Fletcher.

Professor Fletcher had a twenty-year career in Horticulture before coming here. He graduated form the Massachusetts State College in 1896 and had received the degree of Master of Science from Cornell University in 1898, and that of Doctor of Philosophy from the same institution in 1900. He had served on the faculties of several colleges, including Washington State College, West Virginia University, and Michigan State College, and had been the Director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, later engaging in a commercial orchard enterprise in Virginia. He was an authority on strawberries and later wrote several publications on that subject. He was well qualified to head the Department and served for 21 years, later succeeding Dean Watts as Dean of the School of Agriculture.

In 1918, the department was organized into five divisions. These were:

  • Landscape Architecture - in charge of Professor A. W. Cowell
  • Pomology - in charge of Professor F. N. Fagan
  • Vegetable Gardening - in charge of Professor John R. Bechtel
  • Floriculture - in charge of Professor E. I. Wilde

In that year, Dr. John P. Stewart, who was Professor of Experimental Pomology, resigned, and his department was then merged with that of the Department of Horticulture, being placed into the Division of Pomology. In the following year, Roy David Anthony was engaged to take care of the work previously carried on by Professor Stewart.

Professor Anthony had a considerable background in Horticulture and other sciences before coming to Penn State. His father and grandfather had been nurserymen near Rochester, New York. He was a graduate from the University of Rochester in an engineering curriculum in 1905 and practiced as an engineer before entering the field of Horticulture. He studied then at Cornell University, receiving degrees of Bachelor and Master of Science and later of Doctor of Philosophy at that institution. He also served on the staff of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. He served at Penn State as Professor of Experimental Pomology for thirty years until his retirement in 1949. His engineering training served well in some of his work with fruit storage, in which field he did considerable pioneer work.

Changes in personnel in the Department continued to be frequent during these years of growth. A slight slump in number of personnel as period of the occurred first World War, but he number began to climb again after the War was concluded.

Among the men on the faculty during this period were:

  • John R. Bechtel, an alumnus of the Class of 1913, who served from 1913 until 1919 as Instructor of Horticulture and Assistant Professor of Vegetable Gardening;
  • John S. Gardner, an alumnus of Muhlenberg College and Class of 1904, who received the degree of Master of Science at Penn State in 1915, and who served as Instructor in Vegetable Gardening from 1915 until 1920;
  • Albert F. Yeager, who graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College in 1912 and received a Degree of Master of Science from Oregon Agricultural College in 1916, and who served as Instructor in Horticulture and then Pomology from 1916 to 1918;
  • Leroy D. Jesseman, a graduate of New Hampshire State Agricultural College in 1914, and with the Degree of Master of Arts from the University of Missouri in 1916, who served as Instructor in Horticulture and then Pomology from 1916 to 1918;
  • Albert White, with the Degree of Bachelor of Science from Maryland Agricultural College in 1913, who served as Instructor in Horticulture and Superintendent of the Greenhouse in 1916 and 1917.
  • During this period several men assisted Professor Stewart in the Department of Experimental Pomology. Among them were:
  • Hiram F. Hershey, who graduated at Penn State in 1910, and served as Assistant in Experimental Pomology from September, 1910, until April 1, 1912. Mr. Hershey later became a prominent commercial fruit grower, with a large orchard a few miles east of Hamburg;
  • Robert Henry Bell, who also graduated from Penn State in 1910, and who served as Assistant in Horticulture in the year 1910-'11. He was appointed as Assistant in Experimental Pomology on June 15, 1912, and served until 1914, then leaving to become County Agent of Lycoming County;
  • Wilbur C. Gillespie, a graduate of Penn State in 1914, succeed to Mr. Bell's position and continued to serve in that position for several years.

Several other men worked for short periods in the Department. Some served for one year as substitutes for men who were on leave of absence to do graduate study. At that time the position was held open for a man who left for this purpose if he would provide a substitute. The substitute was paid out of the man's own salary. Mr. Bell serving as the substitute for Mr. C. E. Myers in 1910-'11, received one hundred dollars a year less than Mr. Myers had been drawing. Dean Hunt later raised the salary of Mr. Myers by another one hundred dollars, so that Mr. Myers total income for the year in which he was away was less than two hundred dollars.

Department of Plant Science


102 Tyson Building
University Park, PA 16802

Department of Plant Science


102 Tyson Building
University Park, PA 16802