California Here We Come

Apple pie and Mom: what could be more American? The problem is: apple pie was a British invention and English colonists brought apples to America. The unique American aspect of apples, are the varieties developed here: Golden and Red Delicious, Jonathan, and McIntosh. More than 2,500 varieties of apples grow in America today, and 4,300,000 tons are produced annually. From "an apple a day," to icon of the computer industry.... American apples have unique stories


According to some accounts, the first apple tree in the Pacific Northwest sprang from a seed brought from London in 1824 by Captain Aemilius Simpson. The story goes that at a farewell banquet held in his honor, a young lady -- as a joke -- gave him the core of the apple she had eaten and asked him the plant the seeds in the American wilderness. When Captain Simpson arrived at Fort Vancouver in what is now Washington state, he gave the seeds to Dr. John McLoughlin, then Chief Agent for Hudson's Bay Company in the Pacific Northwest. Delighted by the gift, Dr. McLoughlin entrusted the seeds to his gardener, who planted and nurtured them in a glass house. A single tree grew from McLoughlin?s seeds and was carefully protected: the first year it bore one fruit, but the second year the apples flourished.

By the 1850's, production was high enough to begin exporting apples to California. Apples were shipped to San Francisco in theft-proof iron bound crates and fetched incredible prices. One account dated to 1853 reported that four bushels of apples were sold in San Francisco for $500. Because of the potential for profit by selling apples to Gold Rush miners, Californians began to plant their own orchards. Ultimately, the demand for Pacific Northwest apples declined and prices dropped sharply. Construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1893, however, made it possible to ship Pacific Northwest apples to eastern markets and the industry prospered once again. [4: 1]

Did You Know?

Apple Bee


"Bees" were rural gatherings that combined work with socializing. Women got together for apple bees to preserve apples for winter. They pared, quartered, cored, and strung apples to dry, while catching up on all the news. These activities declined after labor saving machines emerged during the mid 19th century. [4: 3]

Postage Stamp - Johnny Appleseed


John Chapman is better known to Americans today as "Johnny Appleseed." Although depicted by artists as scattering apple seeds across the land, he actually planted apple seedlings, expertly and rationally, in nurseries. By 1801 he had created a chain of apple nurseries from the Allegheny mountains, through central Ohio, as far west as Indiana.
[4: 2]

On the banks of the Platte


The banquet hall was formed of four wagons - two on each side covered over with tent cloths. There were tin platters and iron spoons, and knives and forks for the ladies. Down the center, the luxuries of the season were placed in tin pans: boiled beans and salt pork, bean broth, middling bacon, ship bread, and hot rolls of wheat bread, dried apple and peach pies, and stewed dried apples. The Star-spangled banner, floated through an opening in the roof.

     J. Goldsborough Bruff, 1849 [4: 5]

A cabin on the farm


Courageous slaves escaped using a system of safe houses known as the "Underground Railroad."

I came to a corn-field... Grain by grain I worked away... when my jaws grew tired, I would rest, and then begin afresh... I felt that my life was at least safe from death by hunger.

     James Pennington, 1850 [4: 6]

Peeling Apples


To make this excellent breakfast dish, proceed as follows: Take a sufficiency of water and a sufficiency of flour, and construct a bullet-proof dough. Work this into the form of a disk, with the edges turned up some three-fourths of an inch. Toughen and kiln-dry it a couple of days in a mild but unvarying temperature. Construct a cover for this redoubt in the same way and of the same material. Fill with stewed dried apples; aggravate with cloves, lemon-peel, and slabs of citron; add two portions of New Orleans sugar, then solder on the lid and set in a safe place till it petrifies. Serve cold at breakfast and invite your enemy.

     Mark Twain
     A Tramp Abroad, 1907
[4: 7]


1848 Gold discovered in California

1849 Gold-seekers flock to California

1852 Self-rising flour invented

1853 Potato chips invented

1853 Transcontinental railroad survey

1854 First Texas to New York cattle drive

1856 Commercial baking powder

1858 Steam-driven field tractor

1860 Milk sterilization (Louis Pasteur)

1861 Start of American Civil War

<Previous Page Exhibit Home Further Resources Library Home >Next Page