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Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard

A Cultural History

William Kerrigan

Publication Year: 2012

Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard illuminates the meaning of Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman’s life and the environmental and cultural significance of the plant he propagated. Creating a startling new portrait of the eccentric apple tree planter, William Kerrigan carefully dissects the oral tradition of the Appleseed myth and draws upon material from archives and local historical societies across New England and the Midwest. The character of Johnny Appleseed stands apart from other frontier heroes like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, who employed violence against Native Americans and nature to remake the West. His apple trees, nonetheless, were a central part of the agro-ecological revolution at the heart of that transformation. Yet men like Chapman, who planted trees from seed rather than grafting, ultimately came under assault from agricultural reformers who promoted commercial fruit stock and were determined to extend national markets into the West. Over the course of his life John Chapman was transformed from a colporteur of a new ecological world to a curious relic of a pre-market one. Weaving together the stories of the Old World apple in America and the life and myth of John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard casts new light on both.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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List of Maps and Figures

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

In the spring of 1970 my first-grade class at Lewis Sands Elementary in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, began preparing to put on a pageant on the American story, to be performed for a cafeteria full of parents eagerly wielding their Kodak Instamatic cameras. Most details of that pageant are lost to me today. But I do have...

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pp. 1-6

Johnny Appleseed is an American legend. Most people first encounter the myth of the wandering apple tree planter in their childhood. No wonder, for this tale is told in over one hundred children’s books, and at least one new or reprinted Johnny Appleseed picture book is published every year. He remains a staple in...

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1. Seeds

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pp. 7-35

In 1638 a miller from the north of England named Edward Chapman, great-great-grandfather of John “Appleseed” Chapman, sold off his possessions and sailed for New England. Edward was part of a wave of religiously motivated English Puritans who crossed the Atlantic in a “Great Migration” between...

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2. Becoming Johnny Appleseed

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pp. 36-65

On March 29, 1853, members of the Warren, Pennsylvania, Lyceum gathered to hear Judge Lansing Wetmore, one of the town’s most prominent citizens, deliver the first in a series of addresses on the early history of the county. In his talk, the judge recounted the story of the arrival of one of the county’s first...

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3. Suckers

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pp. 66-100

One sign of an untended apple tree is the appearance of suckers. Suckers, also called root sprouts, water sprouts, and basal sprouts, are the thin branches that rise from the soil at or near the base of a tree. Fruit trees are prone to suckering, and a diligent orchardist regularly checks her trees for the emergence of suckers...

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4. Walking Barefoot to Jerusalem

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pp. 101-126

The War of 1812 settled the issue of whose vision for Ohio would prevail. Tenskwatawa’s dream of a land that remained thick with forest and abundant in game, punctuated only periodically by creekside Indian villages and cornfields, quickly disappeared. Fortescue Cuming’s dream of a land of farmhouses, fields...

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5. To Serve God or Mammon?

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pp. 127-161

In the decades after the War of 1812 the primitive central Ohio communities where John Chapman was building a life were rapidly transformed by the penetration of national markets into the hinterland. It was in these years that Johnny Appleseed the folk legend began to emerge. And one of the dominant...

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6. Yankee Saint and the Red Delicious

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pp. 162-194

In the fall of 1842, John Chapman turned sixty-eight years old. He was by this point a fixture in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and in the counties bordering the Great Black Swamp to the east. And he was still busy planting and selling apple trees. No doubt he had long ago reconciled himself to many aspects of the new...


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pp. 195-215

Essay on Sources

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pp. 217-223


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pp. 225-231

E-ISBN-13: 9781421407968
E-ISBN-10: 1421407965
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421407296
Print-ISBN-10: 1421407299

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 7 b&w illus., 4 line drawings
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 830023219
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Appleseed, Johnny, 1774-1845.
  • Apple growers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Middle West -- History.
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