Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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apple tree salesman's sample book
  • Rochester Lithographing and Printing Co.
    active 1870–1900s
  • apple tree salesman's sample book, early 1900s
  • Where object was made: Rochester, New York, United States
  • 12 chromolithographs on paper, bound into accordion fold book
  • Object Height/Width: 440 x 880 mm open
    Object Height/Width: 17 5/16 x 34 5/8 in open
    Object Height/Width/Depth: 219.07 x 142.87 x 12.7 mm completely closed
    Object Height/Width/Depth: 8 5/8 x 5 5/8 x 1/2 in completely closed
  • Museum purchase: Elmer F. Pierson Fund
  • Not on display
  • 2013.0043
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Big Botany: Conversations with the Plant World", 27-Mar-2018
This early 20th-century traveling salesman’s sample book advertises 11 varieties of apple trees. About the time that this sample book was printed there were several thousand apple varieties commercially available, but this is now reduced to five or six parent varieties: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Macintosh, and Cox’s Orange Pippin.

The ancient origins of the apple point to the mountainous regions in Kazakhstan, but it has since undergone a long trajectory of selection and cloning by humans. Author Michael Pollan asks, has the apple trained people to assure its remarkable success as a plant? As Pollan reminds us, Henry David Thoreau had expressed these ideas in rough form when he noted, “It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.”