This drawing of Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman, 1774-1847), by Charles Child accompanied a poem in Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét's 1933 A Book of Americans.
Johnny Appleseed by John R. Neill
The earliest drawing of John Chapman, artist unknown, was sketched from a description given by Rosella Rice. While consistent with the most credible physical descriptions of John Chapman, the grafting knife in his right hand is the artist’s own innovation. Chapman grew trees from seed and did not practice grafting. Horace S. Knapp, A History of the Pioneer and Modern Times of Ashland County (Philadelphia, 1863), frontispiece.
He had not a hatTo encumber his head.He wore a tin panOn his white hair instead.
Glen Rounds in Walter Blair's Tall Tale America, 1944, also portrays Johnny Appleseed wearing a cook pot for a hat.
Here was the small, wiry man with the un-shaven beard and penetrating eyes; the ragged, castoff clothing; and the pasteboard hat with the huge brim. The tin pot hat seems to have been purely a fabrication by Henry Howe.33The picture of Johnny is variously supposed to have been drawn by a student at Otterbein College who knew Johnny or from a description given by Rosella Rice.33. None of the writers who claimed to have known or seen Johnny mentions the tin pot hat. The first recorded mention of the hat is in Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio, 1847 ed. It is not known where Howe got his information.
However, the illustration in Howe, at least in the 1904 edition, shows Johnny Appleseed in the same pose as in Knapp but wearing a slouch hat. Howe says he got the illustration from A. A. Graham's History of Richland County, and attributes it to the “personal recollection” of Rosella Rice.
This 1913 sketch, following the woodcut above, appeared in The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne, Indiana by B. J. Griswold and Mrs. Samuel R. Taylor, 1917.
John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed's real name) had a successful nursery business beyond the frontier in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana from 1797 to 1838. He planted orchards and sold the young trees to newly arriving settlers. Chapman would clear a patch of land “where he thought at a future day appletrees would be wanted; then, in the fall, repair to Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, and wash out of the pomace at cider mills a bushel or two of seeds, and return with them on his shoulder, plant them at the proper time, enclose the spot with a brush fence, and pay some attention to the cultivation” (Price 1967, p. 36).This basic endeavor—collect seeds at a mill, transport them beyond the frontier, and plant orchards to sell to future settlers—made Chapman a relatively wealthy man. In his lifetime, “...he had owned either by deed outright or on long-time lease no less than twenty-two properties totaling nearly twelve hundred acres. These holdings never represented great wealth, but they were considerably better than those of the average settler in the Middle West” (Price 1967, p. 224).Chapman's fortune grew by selling apple trees to settlers, but his trees also performed an important function. Depending on the location, apple trees were a formal or informal requirement for obtaining property rights to a piece of land. Selling apple trees to settlers was equivalent to selling them a stronger and better-defined property right.
He has no statue.He has no tomb.He has his apple treesStill in bloom.