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Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story Paperback – April 17, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
--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)
Top Customer Reviews
John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed was born on 9/26/1774 to Nathaniel and Elizabeth Simons Chapman in Leominster, MA. He grew up with his sister Elizabeth and ten half-brothers/sisters near Longmeadow, MA before taking off when he was 22 with his half-brother Nathaniel who was six years his junior. With a family of 13 living in a small house one can understand why Johnny and Nathaniel might want to experience the west and more leg room as young vibrant males. The Chapmans first tramped about Pennsylvania for a while before moving westward into Ohio. In fact a great part of the book discusses the early settling of primarily Ohio with great mention of Pennsylvania with lesser note of Massachusetts, New York, and Indiana.
Johnny not only planted apple trees using the seeds he got free from Western Pennsylvania cider mills, as he thought that was more in keeping with God's way than grafting onto established trees. It was also infinity cheaper and he could carry all his future plants in a sack or two rather than needing a horse and wagon to transport seedlings. The problem was Johnny's big heart in giving away trees to people who couldn't pay. He did establish some orchards and sold some trees from them but was much more famous for simply planting apple seeds to start trees. Johnny supposedly loved all animals and nature alike. The myth goes that he would rather let a rattlesnake bite him than kill it. That seems to be a big of a stretch to me, but fighting the falsehoods in a legend is a no win situation.Read more ›
Part of the challenge is to put Chapman in context. That context includes early pre-revolution history, an obscure version of Christianity, and culture and society that have long since vanished into our dimly-remembered past. To do that, Means is not afraid to take some side trips that help us understand who Chapman was and how his story could take root and grow. Means could have stayed strictly focused on the man, but the story would have made so much less sense without the context.
So in a sense you get lots of bonus history in this book, but it's all history that helps make sense of the main thread.
Means uses a chatty and personal voice. He's clear and fair about including various tales, explaining where they came from and explaining how likely they may or may not be; he doesn't try to set himself up as the final arbiter, and he hasn't thrown away all the pieces of research that he deemed inauthentic. This, again, can give the book a bit of a ranging feel, and readers who like their info in quick direct tightly-fileted bursts may find this book a bit rambly for their tastes.
But I loved it. Thoroughly researched, richly unfolding, and filled with illuminating (and occasionally surprising) connections, it's a great study in obscure biography, the growth of the American identity, and the ways in which a man's story can become a nation's beloved myth. Not so much "Let me tell you how it is" as "Hey, come look at this cool stuff I found." Whether you know a little about Johnny or a lot, you will find much to enjoy here. Very readable, and highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There just is not enough historical data to make Johnny Appleseed a worthy writing project. The author made a valiant attempt but there is simply too much fluff in this book.Published 3 months ago by V Mountain
Mostly about westward expansion and not its subject. Means can't even get such basics correct as who was king of England in 1750. Don't waste your time.Published 23 months ago by bga
I enjoyed it. Could have gone a little deeper into Swedenborgian philosophy so we would have understood Johnny better, but that is available elsewhere for those who care. Read morePublished on April 17, 2014 by Ol' Jon
Howard Means does a fabulous job unraveling the myth of Johnny Appleseed (aka John Chapman). His research into the life and legacy of Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed), despite... Read morePublished on March 8, 2014 by Hugh Lowther
Just started reading but so far this looks excellent. I'm really enjoying learning about this fascinating character from our nation's history.Published on March 14, 2013 by Alan D. Skipper