From Publishers Weekly
Former Washingtonian editor Means (Colin Powell: A Biography) employs extensive research to dig out facts buried in the mythic past about Johnny Appleseed, "not only the best-known walker in American history but also one of its most notable loners." John Chapman was born in 1774, grew up on a Massachusetts farm, but left in the 1790s, sowing seeds and planting apple nurseries while spreading Swedenborgian spirituality. Means considers conflicting claims on Chapman's family tree, then traces his treks through Ohio orchards; looks at Appleseed pop culture; and considers the theory that Chapman's fame came from inferior seedlings and scrub apples used for hard cider that kept the frontier in an "alcoholic haze." Tracing the roots and routes of this American folk hero, Means concludes that Chapman "almost certainly was insane," yet this nature lover's life was a critique of industrialization: "The nature he loved and gave himself over to vibrated through his entire being." Due to scant records, much is speculative, but Means's considerable skills as a wordsmith and historian produce a bountiful harvest. 15 b&w illus.; 7 maps. (Apr. 12)
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“Engaging . . . Means scrubs away nearly two centuries of rumor and myth to uncover the truth about 19th-century pioneer nurseryman John Chapman. . . . Mean’s meticulous research reveals Chapman as an ascetic, conservationist and pacifist well-suited to serve as patron saint of today’s faith-based ‘creation care’ movement.”
--St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“We all know the caricature, but few of us know the man. Howard Means produces a feast of a story that strips away the myths of this folk-tale hero and gives us the real John Chapman and the rough-and-tumble world he lived in. This is a thoroughly fascinating and fun book.”
--Jay Winik, author of April 1865 and The Great Upheaval
“Johnny Appleseed is one of the great myths of our childhood. With insight and a lively touch, Howard Means tells us the story of the real Johnny Appleseed, John Chapman, a mystic and visionary who turns out to be a most memorable American character.”
--Evan Thomas, author of The War Lovers
“Means supports the legend with hard-earned fact in his portrait of Chapman as a ‘nurseryman; religious zealot; real-estate dabbler’ and even altruistic capitalist.”
--The Wall Street Journal
“Delightfully wry and perceptive . . . a captivating achievement in Americana.”
--Booklist (Starred Review)