Benzyladenine (BA), carbaryl (CB), daminozide (DM), and naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) were applied postbloom as fruitlet thinning agents to mature `Empire' apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) trees. BA, NAA, and CB reduced fruit set and yield per tree, and increased fruit size, percent dry weight, soluble solidscontent and return bloom. Fruit size was reduced, return bloom, length: diameter ratio and flesh firmness were increased, and fruit set and yield unaltered by DM. Although fruit set and yield were similar for BA, NAA, and CB, BA treated fruit were larger, indicating that BA increased fruit size beyond the effect attributable to chemical thinning alone. BA increased the rate of cell layer formation in the fruit cortex, indicating that BA stimulated cortical cell division. NAA, CB and DM had no effect on cell division rate. Mean cortical cell diameter at harvest was increased by NAA and CB and reduced by DM. Cell diameter at harvest in BA-treated fruit was similar to the control. These data support the hypothesis that BA-induced fruit size increase in `Empire' apple results from greater numbers of cells in the fruit cortex, whereas the fruit size increase due to NAA or CB is a consequence of larger cell size. Chemical names used: N-(phenylmethyl)-1H-purine-6-amine [benzyladenine (BA)]; 1-napthaleneacetic acid (NM); 1-naphthalenyl methylcarbamate [carbaryl (CB)]; butanedioic acid mono (2,2dimethyl hydrazide) [daminozide (DM)].