The History of the McIntosh

Posted on 2 September 2013 by Marie-France Dozois There have been 0 comments

The History of the McIntosh

A Group Read Aloud Story with Reminiscence Activity


Apple trees were introduced to Canada at the Habitation at Port-Royal (modern Port Royal, Annapolis, NS) as early as 1606 by French settlers. Following its introduction, apple cultivation spread inland.


The McIntosh’s discoverer, John McIntosh, left his native New York in 1796 to follow his love, Dolly Irwin, who had been taken to Upper Canada by her Loyalist parents. She had died by the time he found her, but he settled as a farmer in Upper Canada. He married Hannah Doran in 1801 and they farmed along the Saint-Lawrence River until 1811, when McIntosh exchanged the land he had with his brother-in-law Edward Doran for a plot in Dundela.


While clearing the overgrown plot, McIntosh discovered some wild apple seedlings on his farm. He transplanted the seedlings next to his house. One of the seedlings bore particularly good fruit. The McIntosh grandchildren dubbed the fruit it produced “Granny’s apple”, as they often saw their grandmother taking care of the tree in the orchard. McIntosh was selling seedlings from the tree by 1820, but they did not produce fruit of the quality of the original.


John McIntosh’s son Allan learned grafting around 1835; with his cloning, the Macintoshes’ could maintain the distinctive properties of the original tree. Allan and brother Sandy, nicknamed “Sandy the Grafter”, increased production and promotion of the cultivar. Earliest sales were in 1835, and in 1836 the cultivar was renamed the “McIntosh Red”, and entered commercial production in 1870. The apple became popular after 1900, when the first sprays for apple scab were developed.


Horticulturist William Tyrell Macoun of the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa is credited with popularizing the McIntosh in Canada. He stated the McIntosh needed “no words of praise”, that it was “one of the finest appearing and best dessert apples grown”. The Macoun, a hybrid of the McIntosh and Jersey Black grown by the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva NY, was named for him in 1923. In the northeastern United States, the McIntosh replaced a large number of Baldwin’s that were killed in a severe winter in 1933-34. In the late 1940s, Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Andrew McNaughton told Soviet Minister for Foreign Affairs Andrei Gromyko that the McIntosh Red was Canada’s best apple.


The McIntosh made up 40% of the Canadian apple market by the 1960s; and at least thirty varieties of McIntosh hybrid were known by 1970. Its popularity later waned in the face of competition from foreign imports; the first decade of the 21st century, the Gala accounted for 33% of the apple market in Ontario to the McIntosh’s 12%, and the Northern Spy had become the preferred apple for pies. Production remained important to Ontario, however as 30 000 000 kilograms (66 000 000 lb) of Macintoshes’ were produced in 2010.


The original tree discovered by John McIntosh was damaged by a house fire in 1894 but still continued to bore fruits until 1908; 97 years of production. It died in 1910. Horticulturalists from Upper Canada Village Heritage Park saved cuttings from the last known first-generation McIntosh graft, before it died in 2011, in order to produce clones. Out of the 12 grafting, 3 have survived and can be seen standing proud in the fenced garden at the Heritage Park.


Discussion topics:

1. What kind of apple is your favourite and why?

2. Do you remember picking apples during your childhood? What type of container did you use?

3. What memory, smell, taste comes to mind when you think of apples?

4. What is your favourite recipe that includes apples?

5. Can you name 5 ingredients used in an apple crisp?



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