Right Fresh from Heaven: Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, and the American Story

Howard Means, Author
Howard Means, Simon & Schuster, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4391-7825-6
Reviewed on: 01/17/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-4391-7826-3
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4391-7827-0
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Former Washingtonian editor Means (Colin Powell: A Biography) employs extensive research to dig out facts buried in the mythic past about Johnny Appleseed, "not only the best-known walker in American history but also one of its most notable loners." John Chapman was born in 1774, grew up on a Massachusetts farm, but left in the 1790s, sowing seeds and planting apple nurseries while spreading Swedenborgian spirituality. Means considers conflicting claims on Chapman's family tree, then traces his treks through Ohio orchards; looks at Appleseed pop culture; and considers the theory that Chapman's fame came from inferior seedlings and scrub apples used for hard cider that kept the frontier in an "alcoholic haze." Tracing the roots and routes of this American folk hero, Means concludes that Chapman "almost certainly was insane," yet this nature lover's life was a critique of industrialization: "The nature he loved and gave himself over to vibrated through his entire being." Due to scant records, much is speculative, but Means's considerable skills as a wordsmith and historian produce a bountiful harvest. 15 b&w illus.; 7 maps. (Apr. 12)
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