Lost Apple Searching and a question for the brain trust

Hi, all! I’m hoping to tap into the collective wisdom of those familiar with antique and heritage apple varieties.

I’m helping out with the Lost Apple Project, Midwest Edition. Much of the searching gets done at a desk, so this is the time of year for it.

In this particular instance, I have tracked down an article from a local paper that lists the winner of the apple division at the County fair in 1902. The varieties listed in the winning entry were Blenheim, York Imperial, Bryant, and Nuby. Now, Blenheim and York Imperial are pretty obtainable, even now. So I’m focusing on the last two. The article in question also noted that the winner’s son worked for the National Department of Agriculture, and had sent him some scions.

(Note for the interested: I have tracked down the farm in question, and managed to speak with the owner of one of the parcels that it was divided into. Yes there are still some very old trees. Yes I’m invited to come check them out)

Bryant isn’t too terribly difficult to at least find mention of. Archive.org is my friend. It’s listed as a very late season, fine dessert quality apple that ripens late winter or even early Spring in Virginia.

Nuby, OTOH, I can find no mention of. There is, however, a Nuba IS listed in a compilation of all mentions of all apple varieties in all the literature available around the turn of the century. (I found a VERY useful compendium).

Here’s the tricky bit. It’s entirely possible that the reporter for the newspaper got it wrong and the variety was really Nuba. However, Nuba is described as an early season apple of good quality but not a great keeper.

SO - How would it have been possible for ONE County Fair entry in the middle of September to have included both of these varieties and still be of sufficient quality to win? My knee-jerk would be to assume that the summer apple would still be decent by then, but Bryant ought not to have been ripe, especially in Michigan.

Thoughts or advice?


Yeah, Bryant doesn’t make any sense.

About miss-spellings, The Nebraska Nut Growers Association evaulated ‘Hark’ pecan for 2020 and named it the winner. Now everybody in the world practically because of its’ attention knows Hark

The Nebraska Nut Growers Association incorrectly spelled its’ name on their publications. So, who knows about Nuba/Nuby. If a prominent and I mean prominent nut group makes a simple mistake, then who knows what a reporter could do.

I’m not an apple information source but I’m throwing this at you as an example of simple errors.

It’s Bryant that makes the least sense of it all. It truly seems as if the apple they were calling Bryant was a mistaken label of a different apple brought to be evaluated. I think the true Bryant was never there and that another variety took its’ place at the evaluation. On accident, of course.

The true only way to know is to match a drawing of the supposed (true to name) apples to the apples at the farm in question where they may or (may not) have have been grafted.

You’re cracking the code and it’s gonna be a toughie possibly.

I think The Nebraska Nut Growers Association looked at the name ‘Hark’ and thought it to by a miss-spelling for the name of a person, which is what they went and did.

One last thing and this is another big one. The National Hazelnut collection lists no ‘Normoka’ hazelnut cultivar but there’s a big, giant sign next to the tree. The do however list (a) Manoka. You’d have to go to their USDA plant database to find Manoka but this seems to be the closest name to what they have on their great, big, sign.

Human error. With plants it causes a lot of headaches. Then you get companies that trademark and patent names for an already named cultivar and now there’s (2) names for one-cultivar. That’s another gripe I have.


Well, you see, there was this guy named Norman…


Great one, Jim, lol.

Love the detective work you’re doing. Well done! Here in Maryland I found a ton of old apple info searching at Google Books. I stumbled upon “The Proceedings of the Peninsula Horticultural Society” formed in 1880’s or so. I’m guessing there were Horticultural Societies all over- they wrote in depth articles, gave prizes, quite scholarly for the time. If you haven’t, poke around under that heading. Also- have you checked in Dan Bussey’s huge compendium of apple varieties that came out in last several years? Not sure if Dan is a member here. I just emailed Dan, will let you know what he says.


I’m curious to know more about the lost apple project. Is there a webpage? I just joined the FB group, but it seems really inactive.

More seriously, Brambleberry, here’s a hypothesis for you.

William Cullen Bryant was one of the most famous American poets of the nineteenth century (a time when poets could actually be famous…).

According to this source, he was also an enthusiastic orchardist, planting more than 800 apple trees on his property in the hill towns of Western Massachusetts:

Significantly this was during a period when the cultivation of seedling apples was common. In Massachusetts, for instance, this led to the introduction of varieties such as Mother and Hubbardston Nonesuch (among many others - Baldwin and Westfield Seek-no-further were slightly earlier, end of the 18th century).

Bryant also wrote this poem, “The Planting of the Apple Tree”:

I’m not sure of the composition and publication dates, but given the time frame of Bryant’s career and fame, it seems likely that it would have been pretty well-known in the second part of the 19th century. (Again, we’re talking about a time when poets could become well-known public figures, which Bryant was.)

Taking this information together, we might hypothesize that there were multiple “Bryant” apples in circulation in the late 19th c.

One possibility is that a seedling apple from Bryant’s own orchard was introduced into wider cultivation and named after him.

Another possibility is that Bryant’s poem inspired one or more of his readers to name their new varieties in his honor. (This seems rather more likely to me. People named a number of things after Bryant in this period - for example, Bryant Park in NYC)

One of these “Bryant” apples becomes the late dessert apple you found via Archive. Another, quite different, “Bryant” becomes the apple that appeared at the county fair.

Given the state of communications in the nineteenth century, it’s quite possible that nobody realizes that there are multiple Bryants out there, or maybe they realize at some point, but don’t bother to differentiate them. (Think of how many “Golden Russets” of one kind or another were running around.)

Just a hypothesis, of course, but an attractive one, I think.


Hmmm, you may have hit on it JinMA.

I think ID’ing these apples will also be made more difficult by the fact that it would seem the Rev. Taylor was quite the fruit enthusiast. At one point, he put out his own leaflet advertising the sale of 50,000 peach seedlings. Given information like this, the tidbit about his son being employed by the Nat. Dept of Ag, and the general proliferation of orchards in that area, at that time, there is nothing that says that any of the surviving trees are any of the varieties named in the original article. The owner of the property did say that there are quite a few trees remaining, some on her property, some on other parcels that were also part of the original farm. But noted that a couple of the trees have excellent apples that are never wormy or rotten, for all that they don’t do any spraying or pruning. So it’s worth a good explore, regardless.

Hambone, indeed. In fact, one of the local newspapers regularly ran a column around the turn of the last century regarding the local Horticultural societies. I’ve spent quite a bit of time pouring through old Pomological Society proceedings, old nursery catalogs, and the like. One of the things that has made my life a bit more efficient was finding this:


LTCider, there is not a webpage that I am aware of. The very kind lady in charge of the Midwest FB page tends to prefer people who are interested in helping out to message her/switch over to e-mail contact. Which I think is just easier to keep track of, as well as keeping deep discussion of particular properties off the intarweebs.

If you do have an interest, I can point you at a few resources. One of them is that (due to Covid), the Hertiage Apple Conference was made into a series of webinars instead this year, free to participate in. And past webinars are viewable. The first one is presented in part by one of the original founders of the Lost Apple Project in the PNW.


That’s great…thank you!

I’m not so aware of abandoned orchards around here, but do know of a few. I doubt I’d be able to help much on the discovery end.

One thing I’m thinking right now… I might be able to help on the preservation end. I have a row of 17 established G890 in the ground, waiting for scion. Having once lost varietals growing in numerous places seems like a wise idea to keep them from returning to the lost category. I’d love to grow a few with the understanding that I’d share scion in the future.

Is help of that nature useful to the cause?


LTCider - Yep it is.

I don’t have anything at the moment, and it will probably next year at the earliest before I do. But my intent is, if I find any particularly intriguing varieties, to ask the owners if I can cut a bit of scion wood for myself and to distribute for preservation.

I actually have another centennial farm in my sights with 2 very elderly trees on it that I mean to try to snag scion wood from this winter, if at all possible. I’m also hoping the nephew of the owner, who has inherited the place, might know what varieties they are.


Dan Bussey is researching Nuby for me as we speak. He’d never heard of it off top of his head.

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I just checked Dan Busseys books “the illustrated history of apples in the united states and canada” . There is no entry for Nuby, BUT if you check Nuba…it does mention that there was talks of giving it a different name because it could be too close to the apple Nuby…so this does seem to prove they are 2 separate varieties. Also it says Nuba ripens in late June in kentucky… probably wouldn’t have won the competition previously mentioned.


Wait…I didn’t catch it upon first reading…but the apple mentioned above was spelled Newby not Nuby. So could Nuby=Newby??

Here is one mention of Newby from 1904 indiana horticultural society : Newby apple mentioned pg 262.pdf (8.8 MB)

Update #3: come to find out, the Newby apple gained notoriety around the turn of the century but was found to be a rediscovered apple by the name of “Doctor” a well documented apple from Pennsylvania named around 1803.

So, can one believe Nuby was a misspelling of Newby and is in fact Doctor of pennsylvania?


So is mystery solved? Shall I tell Dan to stop his search? Don’t want him going down a blind alley if we can help it.

It sounds like Nuba is NOT Nuby. But Nuby might be Newbie/Newby which might be “Doctor.” Although that leaves the question of WHICH Doctor. I’m going to go dig through some more Pomological Society books and see what comes up.

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Lee Calhoun’s old southern apples has doctor listed and tells the story of its many names, one again, being Newby (named by the indiana horticultural society after thomas Newby who championed/grew the apple at the time). Red doctor, deWitt, Coon, Doctor deWitt and American Nonpariel are also listed as synonyms of doctor. It is said the USDA made the connection that the Newby and Doctor apples were the same…perhaps another connection to the original publication that listed the “Nuby”. You mentioned the winners son worked for the feds and was sent scion around this same timeframe? I think we have a very plausible working hypothesis here. Nuby=Newby=Doctor.


Certainly looks like that’s a possibility. Which would make Nuby less “lost” than misidentified in this case.

I haven’t found any further references, although I have found a couple more mentions of other varieties grown by the same gentleman. That may be helpful when I go visit.

I notice the son also maintained a membership in the Michigan Pomological Society, while his address is listed as Washington, D.C. So that part of the story holds. He submitted the occasional article for their annual proceedings.

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Definitely keep us updated when you go visit or if anything else comes up in the literature. This was a fun mystery to dive into today! :+1:

Also the USDA watercolor of doctor from 1900 may be of some help as well if you do come across some apples on your visit: