History of Gourds
Gourds are believed to be the earliest plant domesticated by man. Genetic testing has shown that gourds originated in Asia, but were eventually grown throughout Africa, Polynesia and the Americas. It is speculated that they made their way to America carried across the Bering Strait and by floating on ocean currents. Gourds are in fact related to squash and pumpkins but unlike squash and pumpkins, gourds are inedible.
Gourds are a natural resource that has been considered a staple in many societies. They are one of the first plants to be cultivated throughout the world and have been in use for thousands of years. The gourd is the only plant that experts believe to have spanned the entire globe. Early man decorated gourds by cutting and scraping images using the sharp edge or tip of a hot stick. This method of incising and burning is still being used in some South American countries. Many cultures have been and are still using gourds for; bowls vessels, hats, musical instruments and many other utilitarian purposes. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and vary in thickness from eggshell thin to an inch or more in thickness.
Walk around a fall crafts fair anywhere in the U.S. and you are sure to see some amazing gourd pieces. Hard-shelled, gourds have a long history of ornamental use, being turned into bowls and banjos alike. Painted, carved, or crafted, gourds have a cult following that shines during harvest season. They can be a rather difficult medium to work with, but skillful artists have turned these weird fruits into masterpieces. There was such an interest in this art medium that in 1937 the “Gourd Society of America” was founded by Mr. Sterling Pool of Rockport, Massachusetts. In 1970 the society was moved to Ohio and renamed The American Gourd Society. Today, AGS has over 4,000 members and acts as the unifying body for 24 state chapters. State chapters are chartered in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The American Gourd Society (AGS), Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education and instruction of those persons who are interested in the culture, uses, history, and/or crafting of gourds. There are a number of activities that AGS pursues to achieve these goals. The society publishes four issues a year of “The Gourd” magazine for members. This publication is a vehicle for news and information about people, events, state Chapters, books, seeds, crafting and other gourd related subjects both domestic and foreign. AGS is the unifying body for all state Chapters and provides a network of contacts for people and organization worldwide.