LIVINGSTON STORY IS RICH IN TRADITION
The first known commercial variety of the tomato was the"Paragon", produced by Alexander W. Livingston in a field of many varieties on his Buckeye Farm, located at 1792 Graham Road.Livingston was born Oct. 14, 1821, the son of John and Mary Livingston. His Scotch-Irish parents had migrated from Pennsylvania seven years before, to the new country described as a "wild wilderness of Primeval forest".
As a plant breeder, horticulturist and seed merchant, Livingston became internationally known for his development of the tomato for commercial use.
His first experience with the wild tomato came when he was about 10, when he discovered a plant growing in a fence corner,which his mother called a "Jerusalem Apple" or "Love Apple". She said they were fit only for beauty and that the small, hollow,tough, sour and watery fruit of the plant must be poisonous,because even hogs would not eat them. At the age of 21, Livingston hired out to work for a gardener in the small but growing community of Reynoldsburg. At the age of 23, he married Matilda Graham and went to gardening and farming on his own.
Alexander and Matilda became parents of seven boys and three daughters. His interest in the tomato he had found as a boy generated the foundation of Livingston's gardening, including some seed production, He was convinced something could be done about the acidity of the fruit of the plant that had first been discovered by explorers in South America.
He started saving seed from selected specimen tomatoes. Trial after trial over the years brought no appreciable improvement of the kind he sought, yet he did not become discouraged.
An early plant selection was of a vine carrying heavy foliage and uniformly smooth fruit. Trouble was, the tomatoes were too small to be of market value. Five years of selection with best cultural practices each season resulted in Livingston evolving a type including desired growth characteristics, plus the all important capacity of the plant to yield fleshly, size able fruit.
In 1870, when he was 48, Livingston was able to introduce the"Paragon" tomato, his first commercial variety. The variety, yielding uniform fruit over a full harvest season, produced are volution. The Paragon allowed culture of the tomato as a fieldcrop. Ohio canneries in 1892 packed 90,950 cases of tomatoes. Inrecent years, the yearly Ohio tomato pack has amounted to approx.5 million cases.
Livingston died in 1898, seeing his life's work contribute to the success of Ohio's agricultural economy and proving that the tomato, far from being poisonous, was a welcome addition to the palates of people worldwide.
Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society © 2016