Images of Johnny Appleseed: Saint or Buffoon?

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Speakers: Russell Powell

John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, is among America’s most widely misunderstood folk heroes. Chapman (1774-1845) is widely credited with spreading the apple gene in America. But while schoolchildren everywhere learn some variation of Appleseed's story, it is usually inflated by myth. It seems as if we cannot decide whether to revere Chapman or ridicule him, and many depictions do both.

Author Russell Steven Powell will separate fact from fiction in describing Chapman’s peripatetic life and legacy, and show how many of the depictions of Chapman through the years reflect the values of the people portraying him rather than the man. Like Chapman, Powell is a Massachusetts native who has devoted much of his career to spreading the word about apples, most of that time as executive director of the New England Apple Association. Powell discusses Chapman and his legacy at length in his new book about apple growing in the United States, America’s Apple (2012, Brook Hollow Press).