Johnny Appleseed

views updated May 18 2018

Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed was the name given to John Chapman, an eccentric wanderer who planted apple trees on the American frontier. Like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, Chapman was a real person from the early history of the United States whose deeds were romanticized and embroidered by later writers until the man became a folk legend.

Chapman was born in Massachusetts in 1774, shortly before the outbreak of the American Revolution. As a young man, he settled in Pittsburgh, which then looked out on the frontier of American settlement in the Ohio River valley He became an orchardist, someone who cultivates trees to sell their fruit or the seedlings of new trees.

In the early 1800s, Chapman began traveling west into the Ohio Territory with bags of apple seeds and loads of seedlings to sell to the pioneers settling there. When he came upon pioneers who could not afford to buy from him, he gave his seeds and seedlings away or exchanged them for a meal or a piece of cast-off clothing. Although he owned a sizable portion of land himself, Chapman preferred the life of a wanderer and became famous for his simple tastes. He often walked barefoot, no matter what the weather, and he was content to wear any old clothes he could find. In later life, he favored a shirt made out of a coffee sack with armholes cut in it.

Chapman came to be known on the frontier as Johnny Appleseed. His gentle and generous behavior won the affection and respect of everyone he met. Even the Native Americans of the region, who were involved in conflicts with white settlers over land ownership, treated Johnny Appleseed kindly.

By the time Chapman died in 1845 near Fort Wayne, Indiana, he had planted apple orchards across a large part of the Midwest. Vachel Lindsay's poem In Praise of Johnny Appleseed and Charles Allen Smart's play The Return of Johnny Appleseed are among the literary works that have helped promote his legend.

Johnny Appleseed

views updated Jun 11 2018


JOHNNY APPLESEED. As the American frontier moved into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, the settlers lacked fruit until orchards could be planted and could grow. Since the settlers did not have money, they could not have bought young trees even if nurseries had existed. Not surprisingly, horticulture languished. Therefore, between 1801 and 1847, John Chapman dedicated himself to bringing seed from Pennsylvania to the frontier forests and planting flowers and fruit trees, especially apple trees. He intended them to be ready for the free use of the settlers when they arrived. Meager documentary evidence and rich tradition have preserved Chapman's fame under the sobriquet "Johnny Appleseed."


Price, Robert. Johnny Appleseed: Man and Myth. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1954.

BlissIsely/a. e.

See alsoFolklore ; Frontier ; Fruit Growing .

Appleseed, Johnny

views updated May 29 2018

Appleseed, Johnny byename for the American nurseryman John Chapman (1774–1845), who sold or gave apple seedlings to pioneers to establish apple trees throughout the midwest; according to legend, Johnny Appleseed is a figure who constantly travels planting apple seedlings for others to enjoy.

Johnny Appleseed

views updated Jun 27 2018

Johnny Appleseed 1986

True story of the legendary American who spent his life planting apple trees across the country. Comedy the entire family will enjoy from Shelly Duvall's “Tall Tales and Legends” cable series. 60m/C VHS . Martin Short, Rob Reiner, Molly Ringwald. CABLE