John S. Apperson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

John Samuel Apperson, Jr.[1] (6 April 1878 – 1 February 1963), known as Appie,[2] was a General Electric engineer best known for his role in the protection of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.


He was born and raised in Virginia, the son of John Samuel Apperson, Sr., a medical doctor. After attending, but not graduating from Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, Appie went on to work at General Electric's Schenectady, New York manufacturing plant for 47 years. Trained in their Test Program, despite his not having an engineering degree, he was promoted up to the second most senior engineer working in the Power and Mining Department. After World War I he moved into a management position in Engineering General, where he dealt with coordination of the most difficult orders for the many branches of the company.[1]

As a lifelong preservationist and conservation activist, he was intensely focused on the protection of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and the preservation of Lake George and its islands. He was prominent in coercing NYS to acquire lands in the High Peaks and around Lake George for inclusion in the Forest Preserve. He single-handedly preserved shoreline around several of Lake George's islands, most notably Dome Island, from erosion due to varying water levels at paper mills. He actively lobbied NYS governors, conservation commissioners and other prominent officials as well as other similar thinking activists and organizations to achieve his desired goals.

He was a pioneer in grass-roots activism. During the earliest years of the twentieth century, he developed a powerful modus operendi utilizing an officially registered NYS 'front' organization with a recognized title and ostensibly, a wide membership. In reality, the membership was nominal and relatively inconsequential. His organizations were merely a front for himself and a very few of his closest associates. Under this umbrella organization, Apperson gained a degree of unanimity as well as an implied widespread assemblage of like-minded citizens whose influence he could wield as the situation demanded. Under this scenario, it was easy for Apperson to set the agenda and focus of the organization and to react quickly with press releases and letters to prominent land managers and other officials. He had set it up so there were no meetings (except the annual meeting required by the articles of incorporation), no rules, no fees (except annual dues), and no haggling with others of disparate opinion. He and his associates could move fast and decisively under the cover of the organization. He learned to use the power of the photograph and the news release and used it to his advantage against the slower moving state agencies.

Among the most notable of Apperson's organizations: Forest Preserve Association of New York State, organized 1934. New York state Trails Conference, Inc., organized 1936. Lake George Protective Association, Inc., 1944.

Apperson was a charter member of the Adirondack Mountain Club and served for many years on its Conservation Committee, the Wilderness Society of America, and the American Skate Sailing Association. He was a member of the Adirondack Moose River Committee, American Canoe Association, Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, Citizens Northway Committee, Constitutional Council for the Forest Preserve, Lake George Association, New York-New Jersey Trails Conference, Schenectady County Conservation Council.

In the early 1930s, Apperson became the mentor of and guru to the next generation of conservation activists, most notably, Paul Schaefer. Other associates at this time were Phil Ham and Art Newkirk. This group developed grass-roots activism to the point where they achieved some local notoriety as the 'Schenectady mafia'. Between themselves and their associates, they sometimes had press releases in the media refuting official state announcements before the official announcement was issued.

John Apperson was also one of the earliest ski mountaineers and proponents of skiing in the Adirondacks and is considered by some to be among the earliest ski mountaineers in North America. Together with his friend and fellow GE co-worker, Dr. Irving Langmuir, Apperson pioneered some of the earliest ski ascents of several Adirondack High Peaks as well as many peaks around Lake George. Apperson and Langmuir can also be credited with very early ski treks into Tuckerman Ravine and Mount Washington in New Hampshire as well as early ski ascents of Mount Killington (Vermont) and Mount Greylock (Massachusetts).

Somewhat ironically, despite their roles in the earliest history of skiing in the Adirondacks, both Apperson and Langmuir came to oppose the development of commercialized skiing in the Adirondack Forest Preserve because it seemed to them contrary to the 'forever wild' clause in the New York State constitution (currently, Art. XIV Sec. 1).

Apperson was a prolific author of pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles regarding conservation issues. His personal papers and photographic archive are housed at the Adirondack Research Library of Union College, Niskayuna, NY.


  1. ^ a b Getting ready for the electrical age, March 22, 2002, HighBeam Encyclopedia, Retrieved 2007-6-2
  2. ^ A Brief History of Lake George, Retrieved 2007-6-2