The origin and use of the phrase ‘An apple for the teacher’ offers great reading…..
Allegedly, the origin came from America where school children giving an ‘apple to the teacher’ cannot be traced to one definitive moment or source, but tradition seems to have been born between 1880 and 1920, with an early-19th century prologue. But let’s investigate deeply into the worlds history.
John Chapman, also know as Johnny Appleseed—‘ironic’, considering this story is about apples in the 19th century, first settled back in the early 1600s, with the none English first apple, it was the efforts of Mr Appleseed and fellow settlers in Northwest Territories in the early 1800s that made its way into society throughout the country.
Early-American apple trees were usually grown from seeds, not trained and nurtured, which results in sour or bitter fruit not suitable for eating. Well known for the makings of hard Apple Cider. Drunk by the ton full, back in those days it kept dysentery at bay. You could suggest it may have been the medicine of the era.
W.H. Ragan, the author cites more than 14,000 varieties of apples that were grown in the United States in that 100-year span. By comparison, approximately 100 varieties are commercially grown today.
So what happened to the other 13,900?
Cider became unwelcome by alcohol makers in the 19th century and apple orchards suffered from backlash from distilleries, but this welded the apple’s connection to alcohol.
Growers of the light green fruit had to rebrand if they wanted to continue to turn a profit. By 1904, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” was a popular phrase on the general publics lips. The apple was now publicised as a healthy food for eating, not just for making cider related drinks.
So the phrase “An apple for the teacher” was born~
By 1918, every state required children to complete an elementary education. Even before these reforms, there was a tradition, passed down from life on the frontline, of giving the teacher food in return for their services. And while by the late 1800s, teachers were typically no longer paid in food harvested by a pioneer of families who couldn’t afford anything else, the custom symbolically persisted and spread, to the point where teachers and apples became synonymous.
Thus “An apple for the teacher” was born
Grabbing an apple for the teacher seems like an obvious choice. In short, we give apples to the teacher because of sheer practicality—with more students than ever reporting in the peak apple season of September—along with there being a quick grab and go, universally available, cheap, loved by a healthy nation.
Legendary songs followed, Bing Crosby and Connee Boswell sang “An Apple For The Teacher” in 1939. The film, Pinocchio saw Geppetto giving an apple to his little wooden son for his first day of school.
And so the legendary saying is rarely used these days but stemmed from a really interesting birth.