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Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?

 
Anonymous Coward
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09/24/2012 02:55 AM
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Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
"What's the story with Johnny Appleseed?
January 20, 2004

Dear Straight Dope:

What's the story behind Johnny Appleseed? Did some guy really wander around spreading apple seeds? Where did he get all the seeds? Are any of his trees still left?

— M. Crawford

I've been accused of being long winded, so here's the short answer:

The story of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, is intimately tied to the domestication of America. In the early 1800s, he wandered what was then the frontier, planting apple seeds and helping to make the wilderness a home for the advancing pioneers. He planted over a hundred thousand square miles of apple orchards in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.

Some of the orchards are well documented and still exist. The trees in the orchards may well be descended, by seed or by grafting, from the ones he planted.

Johnny Appleseed was, to put it kindly, eccentric. He was a vegetarian and traveled barefoot, and, equally out of character with his times, showed kindness to animals and befriended the Indians. He preached a Christianity that was close to nature-worship. He was known as "Johnny Appleseed" in his lifetime, a folk hero about whom legends and stories were told, then and since. He became a mythic figure, who helped to tame the wilderness by planting apple orchards. He embodied two extremes: the rugged individualist and the gentle humanitarian.

So much for the short answer. The definitive biography was written by Robert Price (see resources at the end of this article), based on writings by people who knew him. We have lots of documentation of the bare bones of his story, such as land leases and promissory notes. But many of the memoirs were written long after the fact and so are of dubious trustworthiness.

Before we get into Johnny Appleseed's life, though, we need to learn something about apples. Much of the following comes from Michael Pollan's wonderful book, The Botany of Desire, also cited below. If you took Pomology 101, you'd learn that apples don't "grow true" from seeds. An apple tree grown from a seed bears little resemblance to its parent, and the fruit normally is almost inedible, very sour or bitter. To get edible apples, you graft trees, producing a clone of a tree that you know bears tasty fruit, rather than plant from seeds.

Apples were brought to the New World by the earliest immigrants. Trees grown from seedlings, called "pippins," prospered in New England, especially after the colonists imported honeybees to improve pollination.

Soil, climate, and sunlight hours in America were different from those in Europe, but the apple was able to adapt to the New World in a remarkably short time. Pollan says, "Every time an apple failed to germinate or thrive in American soil, every time an American winter killed a tree or a freeze in May nipped its buds, an evolutionary vote was cast, and the apples that survived this great winnowing became ever so slightly more American. A somewhat different kind of vote was then cast by the discriminating orchardist. Whenever a tree somehow distinguished itself for the hardiness of its constitution, the redness of its skin, the excellence of its flavor – it would promptly be named, grafted, publicized, and multiplied." The adaptation of the apple to America was thus the result of a "simultaneous process of natural and cultural selection."

Here's something else you probably didn't know. In the 1700s and 1800s, most apples were grown not for eating but for making hard cider. Johnny Appleseed didn't just bring fresh fruit to the frontier, he brought the alcoholic drink of choice. "

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Anonymous Coward
User ID: 15637921
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09/24/2012 03:00 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
the apple is the light, johnny was the one who beared its seeds.
Anonymous Coward
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09/24/2012 03:10 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
We need more apple trees!
Dark Stranger
User ID: 3003754
United States
09/24/2012 03:15 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
I was captivated by this character as a kid.

God Damn! Am I Happy he's real!

HE's Someone to look up to

HArd Cider... LOVE IT!

I wanna be the weed version of that guy
NightWisp

User ID: 942369
United States
09/24/2012 03:30 AM

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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
John Chapman. Planted apple seeds for trees and fruit for the people migrating west.
Anonymous Coward (OP)
User ID: 24312423
Australia
09/24/2012 06:08 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
John Chapman. Planted apple seeds for trees and fruit for the people migrating west.
 Quoting: NightWisp


What if he led the way for the peace loving people moving to the east?

Ghostappleseed ftw?
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 22395366
United States
09/24/2012 06:30 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
IM RELATED TO HIM :D

He didnt just go around "Skipping like a school girl dropping appleseads" like some people think.

He planted an apple orchard, and gave away apples and seeds to people/familys in hard times (Remember, we couldnt just go to the store back then lol) and he also (like a guy above said) helped out people about to travel great distances.

So basicly, "Johnny Appleseed" was just an american who really understood what being an american should be. And do to his great generosity many storys and praise began. And like any story, it became romanticed after spreading threw so many mouths.

Ah,,,i wish i was born back then to meet him. my great great grandma (according to my mom and grandma) would talk about him for hours if anyone brought him up, to enlighten them that hes not just a story book character.



Im happy you brought this up :) i enjoy talking about him. Just wish i could have met him.
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 9052311
Australia
09/24/2012 08:09 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
IM RELATED TO HIM :D

He didnt just go around "Skipping like a school girl dropping appleseads" like some people think.

He planted an apple orchard, and gave away apples and seeds to people/familys in hard times (Remember, we couldnt just go to the store back then lol) and he also (like a guy above said) helped out people about to travel great distances.

So basicly, "Johnny Appleseed" was just an american who really understood what being an american should be. And do to his great generosity many storys and praise began. And like any story, it became romanticed after spreading threw so many mouths.

Ah,,,i wish i was born back then to meet him. my great great grandma (according to my mom and grandma) would talk about him for hours if anyone brought him up, to enlighten them that hes not just a story book character.



Im happy you brought this up :) i enjoy talking about him. Just wish i could have met him.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 22395366


Gee, some johnny juniors would be a real GODSEND right about now....
Anonymous Coward
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United States
09/24/2012 08:13 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
He also believed this was hell too
Anonymous Coward
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09/24/2012 09:47 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
So basically he was a real estate speculator.

A lot of settlers got fed up with that bullshit, and headed north to Canada to get free land.

These "late loylaists" later teamed up with the Indians to defeat Napoleon's USAn allies in the War of 1812.

They grew their own apples.
Zombietard

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09/24/2012 09:59 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
Johny Appleseed is slenderman!alone.
When he died in the 1800´s he turned into slenderman, he nows stalks the children that eat his apples.
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 3152269
United States
09/24/2012 10:51 AM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
They call me Johny Testicle seed. i spread the fruit around for girls to eat.
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 6069405
United States
10/10/2012 09:56 PM
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Re: Who was Johnny appleseed and why apples?
I like apples.

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