Apple Facts

A Short History of Apples

Ancient Times
Although the origins of apples seems to be an ongoing debate; historians generally will start a talk about apple history with the ancient Egyptians or other civilizations around the Caspian Sea and also in China. However we do know that the ancient Egyptians kept excellent records about almost everything including their apple crops. 

In the 13th century BCE, the famous Ramses II decreed that apples of various varities were to be cultivated in the Nile Delta. Evidence also shows that the ancient Greeks , as far back as the 7th century BCE were growing and harvesting apples. (

In ancient Rome the great Roman statesmen Pliny the Elder, recognized 37 different types of apples in his ancient scroll the Historia naturalis. (vegparadise)

The Americas & Johnny Appleseed
Most Americans can identify apples as strictly American; however it wasn't until westward expansion that the apple played a part in American history with the famous Johnny Apple seed. Johnny apple seed was indeed a real person, going by the name of John Chapman. John was born in Leominster, Massachusetts on September 26,1774.  His story starts around the turn of the 19th century when he started to purchase apple seeds from a Pennsylvania cider mill.  

After purchasing seeds Johnny started to the Midwest where he started nurseries. In the growing frontier newly established homesteads were required under law to plant 50 apple trees in their first year. Apples quickly became a staple in settlers diets. To help these settlers Johnny would sell seeds and help pioneers in growing their own trees. Johnny apple seed settled to the Ohio and Indiana region where he owned a lot of land. The misconception is that he walked with a satchel and planted seeds across the U.S. he did do a lot of traveling and helped settlers, however he spent most of his time on his own tracts of land. He primarily spread apples by selling and giving settlers trees.

Johnny appleseed information is from  (

Quick Apple Facts

  • The pilgrims planted the first US apple trees in their Colony
  • Apple trees take 4 to 5 years to produce fruit
  • An average tree can fill 20 boxes that weigh 42 lbs. when harvested
  • Americans eat 19.6 pounds or about 65 fresh apples a year
  • 25% of an apple is air
  • The largest apple picked weighed 3 pounds
  • It takes the energy of 50 leaves to produce 1 apple
  • One of George Washington's hobbies was pruning his apple trees
  • Apples ripen 6 times faster at room temp rather then refrigerated
  • Out of 700 varieties grown in Maine; 200 were originated in this state.



History of Maine Apples

Time Line (1500-1970)

1500's Apples grew on the offshore islands of Maine as early as the 1530's when they were planted by European fishermen.

1600's It is said that the first apples grown in New England were planted in 1638. Relics of trees and Orchards indicate that not long after that date apples were grown in Maine.

  There is reference to an old orchard near Fort Castine and one in Old Falmouth where, during the second French and Indian War (1688-99) Captain Brackett was slain by Indians who "had crept stealthily up into the orchard."

1700's The town of Old Orchard Beach was obviously named for a planting of trees, a portion of which still stood in 1770.

1800 The first commercial nursery in the state is established by Ephraim Goodale some time between 1804 and 1812 in the town of Buckstown, now Orrington

1850 The 1850's had been years of great expansion in the business of fruit growing in the state. Great quantities of trees were imported from nurseries in Connecticut and New York.

  The Winter of 1856-57 killed many trees; most not replanted due to growing concern of the effect of hard cider upon society which forced growers out of the market.

  January 14 to 17, 1873; The Maine Pomological Society is created to promote education among growers as well as promote their businesses.

  A Catalog of Apples is then created by the Pomological Society listing some 87 different varieties grown in Maine.

  In 1895 the first storage facility is created in Maine by FH Morse of  Waterford- it stored 600 barrels and had no cooling facilities but kept the apples between 32 and 40 degrees.

1900 The winter of 1906-07 is exceptionally brutal killing many trees; more notable Baldwins.  

  1904 Maine produced 1 million barrels (most apples at this time were shipped around the world in barrels). A high percentage of orchards remained un-harvested due to poor prices.

  The winter of 1917-18 does extensive damage

1920 The advent of storage facilities helped increase the popularity of various varieties, this in effect crippled the Ben Davis in foreign markets. Many orchards start to change what they grow. The Mac, Cortland, & Delicious became more popular.

  Many orchardists believe that the McIntosh is the apple for Maine; that could survive the winters and sell well in the fall.

1930 The winter of 1933-34 was the worst in history killing 300,000 trees and making others useless. Many orchards went out of business. Baldwins & Ben Davis varieties were hurt the most. Most all of the lost trees are replaced with the McIntosh.

  The tough winter of 33-34, the loss of foreign markets, and the decline of farms in NE helped change the apple industry into more of a commercial farm backed industry.

  Cold Storages became more popular due to the McIntosh's popularity.

  A hurricane on September 21,1939 did considerable damage to crops and trees taking off as much as 80% of the fruit in some cases.

1940 Young orchardists returning from the war join family farms and help bolster them into new practices.

1950 Low prices in 1951 plagued the industry

  1954 the industry was hit again with three large hail storms in the summer; Then Hurricane carol came across the State on August 31& then hurricane Edna came in September 11. A survey was done revealing orchards had lost from 25% to 90% of their crop that year.

  CA storage (or controlled atmosphere storage) becomes more popular; helping the industry as more commercial growers could produce more apples and store them longer for markets throughout the months when apples wouldn't normally be available. 6 facilities were created in 1956 alone holding 78,000 bushels.

1960 1962 the building of CA storage facilities continued to boom as there was now space for more than a million bushels of apples.


  Commercial Orchards   All Orchards in Maine
1925 956 farms   35,561 farms
    425,180 trees       2,877, 028 trees
average 445 trees per farm       82 trees per farm
15% of total trees were in commercial orchards
1940 266 farms 12,025 farms
  208,835 trees       662,693 trees
average 785 trees per farm 55 trees per farm
32% of total trees were in commercial orchards
1955    119 farms 1,943 farms
   173,988 trees  384,733 trees
average 1,462 trecs per farm  202 trees per farm
45% of total trees were in commercial orchards
1965 130 farms  885 farms
  240,790 trees 324,048 trees
average   1 ,852 trees per farm 377 trees per farm
74% of total trees were in commercial orchards
1970 167 farms 322,921 trees
average 1,934 trees per farm  

(Note: 1970 Census records not yet available)


Data from the State of Maine Pomological Report- the First Hundred Years (1873-1972)

Commercial Orchard data:

1925 - Maine Agricultural Experiment Station BuIletin, 1927 1940 - Maine Agricultural Experiment Station Misc. Doc

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