A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 25, 2009
New York City’s Official Apple Proposal—Newtown Pippin (2009)

In 2009, an effort was made to declare the Newtown Pippin the official apple of the Big Apple. Newtown—now called Elmhurst, Queens—had a creek; some time about the 1730s, Gershom Moore planted the first sapling. The original tree died in 1805. Newtown Pippins have been called “the prince of apples” and were also grown by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia. A West Virginia name for the same apple is the Albemarle Pippin.

New York City’s “Big Apple’ designs have almost always involved red apples. The Newtown Pippin is a green apple, and city environmentalists see it fitting in with “green apple” energy conservation programs. However, the early Newtown Pippins had both yellow and green varieties. The yellow variety might have been the original apple.


Wikipedia: Newtown Pippin
The Newtown Pippin apple (also known as Albemarle Pippin) is the most famous colonial American apple. It was cultivated by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and was exported to Great Britain in large quantities, and is still grown today for its superior flavor.

Characteristics
The Newtown Pippin is typically light green, sometimes with a yellow tinge. It is often russeted around the stem. The flesh is yellow and crisp. The flavor is complex and somewhat tart, and requires storage to develop properly; some sources ascribe to it a piney aroma. Green and yellow varieties are sometimes distinguished but it is not clear that they are in fact distinct cultivars. It is one of the best keeping apples.

Originally grown as a dessert apple, it is now used commercially primarily for cider.

Origins
This variety originated as a chance seedling (a “pippin") on the Gershom Moore estate in the village of Newtown (now called “Elmhurst”; the Moore property stood in the vicinity of what is now Broadway and 45th Avenue) in Queens County on Long Island, New York in the early Eighteenth Century. It was widely grown and praised in colonial America. Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote from Paris that “They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown pippin.”

It was widely cultivated in the Virginia piedmont, brought there by Col. Thomas Walker, who grew it on his estate, Castle Hill. Virginia growers included U.S. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. It there acquired the alternate name “Albemarle Pippin” after Albemarle County, Virginia, however the two are the same. It came to the fore in 1838 when Andrew Stevenson, the American minister to Great Britain, presented Queen Victoria with a gift basket of the apples from his wife’s Albemarle County, Virginia orchard. In response Parliament lifted import duties on the variety, and it was an important export until World War I, when duties were reimposed.

Of late has been eclipsed by the Granny Smith apple, which is handsomer and not susceptible to russetting. It is still grown commercially in New York, where it is an important component in a major brand of cider. On a larger commercial scale, the California based company Martinelli’s uses this variety still for its sparkling ciders. Newtown Pippin is still available in Virginia, New York, and a few other places in the East along roadside stands and at farmer’s markets. It continues to attract attention as an heirloom variety, and was identified as one of the parents of the Ginger Gold variety.

Epicurious.com: Food Dictionary
Newtown pippin apple
This all-purpose apple is great for both eating and cooking. The skin is greenish-yellow to yellow, the flesh crisp and juicy and the flavor slightly tart. Also called simply pippin or sometimes yellow pippin, this flavorful apple is available midwinter through midspring. See also APPLE. 

Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants
Newtown Pippin: “Prince of Apples”
In comparing the fruits of Europe to those of America, Jefferson wrote from Paris, “They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown pippin.” The Pippin originated along Newtown Creek on the estate of Gershom Moore, in what is now Queens across the East River from Manhattan, early in the eighteenth century. The original tree reputedly died in l805 after being maimed by decades of scionwood hunters who repeatedly exhausted the tree from excessive cutting. Its appearance in the Williamsburg, Virginia nurseries of William Smith in 1755 and Thomas Sorsby in 1763, and the orchards of numerous eighteenth-century Virginians, suggests the widespread distribution and reputation the Pippin achieved at an early date.

The Newtown Pippin was the only American fruit to achieve lasting fame and fortune in England. Benjamin Franklin is credited with importing barrels of the fruit in 1759 when he was in London, while John Bartram supplied scionwood to the English botanist, Peter Collinson, a few years later once word of the quality of this apple had spread. By 1807 the Newtown Pippin appeared on the Horticultural Society of London’s “Select List” of apples.

In 1838 Andrew Stevenson of Albemarle County (the seat of Jefferson’s Monticello) was the American minister to the Court of St. James in London. He imported two barrels of locally grown Pippins “ . . . in as good a state of preservation as we have them in Richmond, and never did a barrel of apples obtain such a reputation for the fruits of this country!” Stevenson presented them to the new British queen, Victoria, who responded to the fine flavor of the variety ("a great sensation at the palace") by lifting an English export tax on imported apples. “They were eaten and praised by royal lips, and swallowed by many aristocratic throats.”

The name Albemarle Pippin first appeared in print on the editorial page of Richmond, Virginia’s The Southern Planter in 1843 when a disgruntled writer complained about the importation of northern apples to Virginia, when “the very best pippin we know is grown in the county of Albemarle.”
(...)
Peter J. Hatch, Director
Monticello Gardens and Grounds
January 1995

Newtown Pippin! The Green Apple of NYC.
FAQ
Q: When was the first Newtown Pippin grown, and where?
A: The first Newtown Pippin grew in the 18th century near a marshy creek bank in Newtown, Long Island. Never heard of Newtown? That’s in large part because as the Newtown Creek became further and further despoiled by industry over the following generations the town elders decided that it was best to not be associated with it.

The person to discover the fortunate mutation that we know as the Newtown Pippin was the man on whose estate it grew, Gershom Moore. His descendent, who spent much of his youth on the property, did pretty well too; Clement Clark Moore wrote “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Today part of the estate is a small park.

Q: When will the trees planted now bear fruit?
A: These are very young saplings, so the earliest fruits should ripen in 2011.

Q: By supporting the Newtown Pippin as NYC’s official apple, will I be undermining another heritage variety?
A: Absolutely not! There simply isn’t a comparable heritage fruit unique to the five boroughs. The Newtown Pippin was colonial America’s most famous fruit, and we hold deep respect for other heirloom fruits and vegetables. In fact, the sapling sponsor Green Apple Cleaners plans to plant Lodi Apples (which originated in Lodi, NY) around its Lodi, New Jersey facility.

18 November 1751, New-York Gazette, or Weekly Post-Boy, pg. 3 ad:
As also an orchard with 500 Apple-Trees, a great Part of which is grafted with Newtown Pippins,...
(A property in Somerset County, New Jersey—ed.)

Google Books
Descriptive Poems Containing Picturesque Views of the State of New-York
By John D. M’Kinnon
New-York, NY: T. & J. Swords
1802
Pg. 72:
Pomona comes to scatter on the board
Her loitering fruits. that with the ardent grapes
Fermented juices blend their fragrance, striped
With searing red nectareous Spitzenberg,
And with its vestment yellow as at eve
Th’ autumnal west, the Newtown pippin dropt
With corrosive purple.

Google Books
Travels Through the States of North America, and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, During the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797
By Isaac Weld, Jun.
Vol. II
London: John Stockdale
1807
Pg. 373:
The soil of Long Island is well adapted to the culture of small grain and Indian corn; and the northern part, which is hilly, is said to be peculiarly favourable to the production of fruit. The celebrated Newtown pippin, though now to be met with in almost every part of the state of New York, and good in its kind, is yet supposed by many persons to attain a higher flavour here than in any other part of America.

2 September 1834, Huron Reflector (Norwalk, OH), “Apples,” pg. 3, col. 4:
Newtown Pippin, April.

16 August 1872, Petersburg (VA) Index, pg. 5, col. 1:
The Pilot and Albemarle pippin are the great apples of the red oxide lands of the Piedmont section.

28 March 1895, Northern Vindictor (Estherville, Iowa), pg. 2, col. 4:
The Newtown Pippin.
The apple that commands the highest price in both home and foreign markets is the Newtown pippin, says the Orange Judd Farmer. When Balwins and other choice varieties sell at $3 per barrel at Liverpool, the Newtown pippin sells at $9, and the same proportion holds true in our domestic market. The fruit often retails as high as $12 or $15 per barrel. Downing, the authority on fruits, says as follows of this variety: “It stands at the head of all apples, and is, when in perfection, acknowledged to be unrivaled in all the qualities which constitute a high-flavored dessert apple, to which it combines the quality of long-keeping without the least shriveling, retaining its high flavor to the last.”

In the early apple history of this country the Newtown pippin was prominent. It originated at Newtown, on Long Island, and its merits soon spread its cultivation, It was especially successful on the hillsides along the Hudson River, and for many years large quantities were grown there and annually shipped to Europe. Later it spread all over the country, but it found few places which were congenial. To-day it is but very little grown outside of the mountainous regions of West Virginia, where it is famous to-day as the Albemarle pippin. Scab and insects, coupled with the general decline of orchards by reason of want of proper care, fertilizing, etc., have practically driven it out of cultivation.

Google Books
The Apples of New York
Volume I
By Spencer Ambrose Beach, Nathaniel Ogden Booth, and Orrin Morehouse Taylor
Report of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station for the Year 1903
Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Company, Printer
1905
Pg. 147:
The “Newtown Pippin” was the first American apple which attracted attention in Europe. After the receipt of specimens by Franklin while in London in 1759, and the subsequent seeding of grafts to Collinson by John bartram, numerous attempts were made to grow the variety in England. As early as 1768 it was cultivated in the Brompton Park nursery under the name “Newtown Pippin of New York.”

It is probably that the large apple exports of 1773 included considerable quantities of the Newtown, for it was at that time quite generally distributed through the apple-growing districts of the Atlantic slope. Thomas Jefferson recorded in his “Garden Book” that in March, 1773, grafts of “Newtown (Pg. 148—ed.) Pippin,” received from Mordecai Debnam, at Sandy Point, were “ingrafted by P. Morton,” and in March, 1778, he noted that the grafted trees were planted out at monticello.

Prior to 1803 Forsyth said of the variety in England, “The New-Town Pippin is a fine apple in good season, but seldom ripens with us. It is held in great esteem in America.” McMahon, in 1806 included Newtown Pippin in his select list of “Long-keeping apples” and also in a list of “Cyder apples.”

Previous to 1817 we have no record that more than one type of the Newtown was recognized, but Coxe, whose work appeared in that year, described as distinct varieties the “Large Yellow Newtown Pippin” and the “Green Newtown Pippin,” characterizing the latter as “a variety of the preceding kind.” Since the time of Coxe the two types have been recognized as distinct by our leading American pomologists, though fruit growers are by no means unanimous on this point.

The original seeding tree of Newtown Pippin is allged to have stood near a swamp on the estate of Gershom Moore, in Newtown, Long Island, until about 1805, when it died from excessive cutting of cions and exhaustion. Its origin is credited to the early part of the eighteenth century. It is not clear at this time whether the original tree was of the “green” or the “yellow” type, nor has any record of a distinct origin of the two been discovered.

the Yellow Newtown has for many years been considered the better apple for exportation, however, and in commercial orchards has almost superseded the Green Newtown on account of its larger size, brighter color, and better keeping quality.

New York (NY) Post
BITTER FRUIT FOLKS
‘OFFICIAL APPLE’ GRAPPLE
By AMBER SUTHERLAND and SALLY GOLDENBERG
April 23, 2009
An obscure green fruit that’s as hard to find as a cab on a rainy day could become the Big Apple’s official apple.

The idea comes from City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Queens), who wants to honor the Newtown pippin, which originated in the Elmhurst section of his borough.

But people shopping yesterday at the Union Square farmers market and nearby stores—none of which sold the pippin—were offended to the core.

Nándor Sala of Queens, who works in real estate, said, “I know my apples,” and added he’d have preferred the Winesap variety.

“It’s tart, but it’s sweet. It’s that attitude, like New York,” he said.

Robert Matysiewski of Long Island, who works in product development, noted that “people are used to the Big Apple being red, and choosing a green apple might confuse people.”

Gothamist.com
Can Green Newtown Pippin Apple Make It as NYC’s Big Apple?
A Queens Councilman has taken a brave stand on an urgent issue: New York City’s official apple. Councilman James Gennaro wants a resolution declaring the Newtown Pippin as the Big Apple’s apple. This light green apple originated in the early 18th century in the Elmhurst section of Queens, formerly the village of Newtown. It was grown by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who once wrote from Paris, “They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown pippin.” But when the Post fanned out around Union Square to gauge public reaction, reporters found some people “offended to the core.” Man on the street Robert Matysiewski worried, “People are used to the Big Apple being red, and choosing a green apple might confuse people.” And one Emily Martin opined that “the Newtown apple doesn’t sound promising. It sounds tasteless, sour and mealy.” But Gennaro won’t be deterred, and even sees a trendy green angle: “We’ve been working for years on the Environmental Protection Committee to turn this into the Big Green Apple, and little did I know we are a Big Green Apple.” Developing!
By John Del Signore in Food on April 23, 2009 5:44 PM

New York (NY) Times - City Room Blog
April 24, 2009, 5:09 pm
Should the Big Apple’s Official Apple Be Green?
By Jennifer 8. Lee
(...)
The apple in question is the Newtown Pippin, which originated in what is now Elmhurst, Queens, around 1720 and then ascended to become a trademark apple for Colonial America. It is believed to be one of the only — if not the only — apple that originated in the five boroughs of New York City. But the Newtown Pippin has long faded from local orchards (though it has remained a niche product in Virginia under the name Albermarle Pippin).

But historically, the Newtown Pippin has a rich legacy with the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were fans of the Newtown Pippin and planted them on their respective estates of Monticello and Mount Vernon, where they continue to grow to this day. Jefferson famously declared from France, “They have no apples here to compare with our Newtown Pippin.”

“It has a little bit more of a sophisticated flavor to it,” said Peter J. Hatch, the director of Monticello’s gardens and grounds and author of a book called “The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello: Thomas Jefferson and the Origins of American Horticulture.” “It’s both tart and sweet at the same time.”

The apple became popular in Europe, and Queen Victoria liked it so much that she lifted the import tax on American-grown apples. Benjamin Franklin is credited with importing barrels of the fruit in 1759 when he was in London.
(...)
So groups are trying to resuscitate the Newtown Pippin. In 2003, Slow Food NYC, which advocates for the consumption of locally grown food, brought Newtown Pippin cuttings from Virginia in an attempt to revive the apple in its home region. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared that the Newtown Pippin was the “most historic” apple during Slow Food NYC Apple Week in 2004.

Since then, Slow Food NYC has distributed dozens of apple trees to local orchards. The Green Apple Cleaners is bringing actual trees to New York City itself. It has given away dozens free Newton Pippin saplings for schools, community gardens and other local spaces.

City Councilman James F. Gennaro, the chairman of the environmental committee, is sponsoring a resolution to promote the apple as the official apple of New York. Others who endorse the idea include Michael Pollan, the food activist and author. “I don’t know of another important apple still around that has such deep roots in the city limits, so I’m all in favor,” Mr. Pollan wrote in an e-mail message. “However, the mayor should be warned that people in Virginia will probably blow a gasket, because they believe the same apple comes from their state, where it is known as the Albermarle Pippin. I’d hate to see this thing wake any sleeping Confederate dogs.”

(Incidentally, the reason why New York is called the Big Apple has very little to do with the city’s horticultural heritage, according to Barry Popik, a cultural etymologist. It has more to do with horse racing, as New York’s racetracks were known as the “Big Apple.”)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityThe Big Apple1980s-present: Big Apple work by Gerald Cohen, Barry Popik • Saturday, April 25, 2009 • Permalink