About thirty years ago (1892) I compiled an inventory of all the varieties of apple-trees sold in North America, as listed in the ninety-five nurserymen's catalogues that came to my hand. The inventory contains 878 varieties. In the present year, however, perhaps not more than 100 varieties are handled by nurserymen in Eastern United States. Probably the dealer and grower would consider even this small number much too great. The highly developed standardized business of the present day, aiming at quantity-production, naturally reduces the variety of products, whether in manufacturing or horticulture, and aims at uniformity. Under the influence of this leadership, we are losing many of the old products, varieties of apples among the rest.
Why do we need so many kinds of apples? Because there are so many folks. A person has a right to gratify his legitimate tastes. If he wants twenty or forty kinds of apples for his personal use, running from Early Harvest to Roxbury Russet, he should be accorded the privilege. Some place should be provided where he may obtain trees or scions. There is merit in variety itself. It provides more points of contact with life, and leads away from uniformity and monotony.The leading varieties of apples, that have become dominant over wide regions, have been great benefactors to man. The original tree should be carefully preserved till the last, by historical or other societies; and then a monument should be placed at the spot. Monuments have been erected to the Baldwin, Northern Spy, McIntosh and other apples. We should never lose our touch with the origins of men, events, notable achievements, outstanding products of nature.
I fear it is now a habit with many fruit-growers to minimize the interest in varieties, placing the emphasis on tillage, spraying and management of plantations. Yet, the only reason why we expend all the labor is that we may grow a given kind of apple; the variety is the final purpose. -L.H. Bailey, The Apple Tree