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Interpreting the Evidence

Hauling Apples, Youngstown, NY, 1911

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Comprehension

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Hauling Apples, Youngstown, NY, 1911 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A load of apples in barrels being hauled from an orchard near Youngstown, New York, 1911.

Historical Context
Humans have been using apples for a very long time.  Archaeological evidence shows that people ate apples as far back as the Stone Age.  Apples appear in ancient Greek and Roman mythology as symbols of love and beauty.  The Romans brought the art of apple growing with them when they conquered England around the first century A.D.  

When the Pilgrims arrived in America, the only apples they found in the New World were crabapples, which were not very edible.  Later voyages of the Mayflower brought seeds and cuttings to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Other European countries brought apple stocks to other parts of the colonies.

New York has a long history of apple cultivation. Before New York was a state or even an English colony, Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant planted an apple tree from Holland in New York City in 1647. French missionaries planted orchards near the Niagara River in 1700.  Soon Native Americans were planting orchards, while colonists continued to bring seeds from Europe.

Throughout the 18th century, orchards were established in the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys.  Hudson Valley orchards shipped fruit down the Hudson River to New York City.  In the late 1700s, the Esopus Spitzenburg, a favorite apple of Thomas Jefferson, was grown for the first time in the Hudson Valley.

As America was settled, nearly every farm grew some apples.  Colonists used apples to produce cider, vinegar, and hard cider, which was used as currency in the 1700s. John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) became famous for planting trees throughout the Midwest.  The first orchard he planted was on his uncle’s farm in Olean, New York, in the late 1700s.

Over time, apple cultivation grew into a thriving industry.  Large commercial orchards were established for growing and selling fresh apples.  New varieties of apples were developed to be insect- and disease-free.  In the early 1900s, over 1,000 different varieties were described in The Apples of New York.  Today, over 2,500 varieties are grown in the United States, and 100 varieties are grown commercially.  

Compelling Question
How does geography impact local economies?

Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain how geography impacted this local economy.

Historical Challenges
Create a timeline of apple growing in New York State.

Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: How many years ago did the Romans bring apples to England? How long ago did Governor Stuyvesant plant an apple tree in New York City?

Math: If it takes two pounds of apples to make a pie, how many pounds of apples would you need to make a dozen pies?

Science: What do apples need to grow? (Consider climate, soil, pollination, etc.)

Family & Consumer Sciences: Taste pies made from different varieties of apples grown in New York State. Vote for the apple variety that makes the tastiest pie.