History is often written by winners. As a result when trying to understand where it originally began is always difficult because often the history of something is written with a ulterior motive and or with a certain bias. Therefore is it any surprise when studying and searching for the history of the squat it is dominated by US early 20th century lifters who were making a dollar from what back then was quite a sub culture rather than a billion dollar industry.From what I can tell it appears the squat originated in Europe and was then brought to the US by Henry Steinborn. there is an actual unique squat form called the Steinborn squat which is both difficult to perform but also a real test of strength. It appears Henry introduced the concept of squatting heavy for real benefits early in the 1900's and then it was adopted heavily by the likes of J.C Hise and Mark Berry. Both men in the 1930's and 40's when they adopted the concept of heavy squatting were able to put on considerable bodyweight in their first full month. Peary Rader the man who started Ironman magazine then spent considerable time promoting the squat as the best way to put on weight, mass and strength.
In an earlier blog I wrote a review of the famous 20 rep squat routine edited by Randall Strossen of Ironmind fame and can vouch for the difficulty that you will face if you approach this lift with all of your will. When your read some of the garbage written by people on those T Nation type blogs they talk a lot about how the 20 rep program is bollocks. What's bollocks is how few of them have actually stuck with the program. Give it a real crack for 6 weeks and if nothing else you will have trained hard for 6 weeks, there is no way around it.
Whatever can be disputed about the history of the squat there is one thing for sure. It is a true man maker and if you aren't adding weight to the bar each time you squat then you are doing yourself a disservice.