Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story

Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story

by Howard Means
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Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story by Howard Means

This portrait of Johnny Appleseed restores the flesh-and-blood man beneath the many myths. It captures the boldness of an iconic American life and the sadness of his last years, as the frontier marched past him, ever westward. And it shows how death liberated the legend and made of Johnny a barometer of the nation’s feelings about its own heroic past and the supposed Eden it once had been. It is a book that does for America’s inner frontier what Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage did for its western one.

No American folk hero—not Davy Crockett, not even Daniel Boone—is better known than Johnny Appleseed, and none has become more trapped in his own legends. The fact is, John Chapman—the historical Johnny Appleseed—might well be the best-known figure from our national past about whom most people know almost nothing real at all.

One early historian called Chapman “the oddest character in all our history,” and not without cause. Chapman was an animal whisperer, a vegetarian in a raw country where it was far easier to kill game than grow a crop, a pacifist in a place ruled by gun, knife, and fist. Some settlers considered Chapman a New World saint. Others thought he had been kicked in the head by a horse. And yet he was welcomed almost everywhere, and stories about him floated from cabin to cabin, village to village, just as he did.

As eccentric as he was, John Chapman was also very much a man of his times: a land speculator and pioneer nurseryman with an uncanny sense for where settlement was moving next, and an evangelist for the Church of the New Jerusalem on a frontier alive with religious fervor. His story is equally America’s story at the birth of the nation.

In this tale of the wilderness and its taming, author Howard Means explores how our national past gets mythologized and hired out. Mostly, though, this is the story of two men, one real and one invented; of the times they lived through, the ties that link them, and the gulf that separates them; of the uses to which both have been put; and of what that tells us about ourselves, then and now.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439178270
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 04/12/2011
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,114,132
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Howard Means is a former senior editor and senior writer at Washingtonian Magazine. He is the author of many books, including The Avenger Takes His Place: Andrew Johnson and the 45 Days That Changed the Nation; Colin Powell: A Biography; and The Banana Sculptor, the Purple Lady, and the All-Night Swimmer, coauthored with Susan Sheehan. He lives in Virginia.

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Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
SuperReaderChick More than 1 year ago
Johnny Appleseed has always been a much-beloved historical figure for me as a former Kindergarten teacher. I found this book to be a thorough account of his life and great at distinguishing between the man and the myth. As a former resident of western Pennsylvania and someone who frequented the PA Turnpike, I found the description of the route during John Chapman's time to be humorously similar to my current feelings about the rough road; I had to laugh at that part of the book. This book really does well with painting the picture of John Chapman in entirerty. I had a much better understanding of his life and times than I expected. I enjoyed how in-depth the details were of the American frontier during his travels. It was really much more than just a biography of the man. It was a thorough look at the new frontier of America. It also showed how it was that John Chapman became Johnny Appleseed over time through the words of others. I enjoyed this book and definitely feel as if I have a much better understanding of the man, the myth, and the American legend.
hotfingers More than 1 year ago
The author does a great job of fleshing out an American folk character who is surrounded by myth. This isn't just a biography of a man but an interesting history of our country in the formative years following the Revolution. The book explores the many tales which exist about John Chapman and digs up many facts about his life. A must read for history buffs or anyone who just likes a good story.
Possomholler More than 1 year ago
I started this book looking forward to reading about this person. I found it difficult to follow all the jumping about in the book as to who , what or where anything was going on. Thus I gave up fustrated and dissapointed. I do not recommend it to the average person.
wordalone More than 1 year ago
This book, of manageable length, is a pleasant surprise as a history book, but a history of the actual events and a history of the mythology, separate, yet entwined and compared. Complete with maps in handy placement in the text, this work is long overdue and presents the real Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) and frankly admits the parts we don't know, and supports those we do. In addition to the good research that Means conducted to write the book, he makes it even better with his very readable writing style. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago