Happ(le)y Birthday, Johnny Appleseed. You Were One Fruit Obsessed Freak.

There are a few smells associated with fall. There is the smell of cinnamon, the smell of a campfire, the smell of a child’s vomit after too much Halloween candy (a smell comprised of two parts Snickers’ bar, one part Tootsie Pop, and four parts stomach lining).

One big smell people always think of, though, is apple.

This seems like a strange smell to think of. I eat apples in the spring and summer. There’s even a chance I will eat one in the winter, although more likely I will be in the midst of a comfort food binge, hoping to put on that winter weight before my long hibernation. By hibernation, I of course mean sitting on my couch with the TV on.

Apples are actually a fruit that always seems to be around. Try to think of the last time you went to the Supermarket and saw a sign that said “Sorry! We’re all out of Apples! Why don’t you try a delicious Pear instead? We also have some questionable cantaloupes two for $1.50.”

Since this fruit is put into people’s face holes year around, what possible connection could this fruit have with the fall?

While there may be several reasons (I’m too lazy to see if there are multiple causes), one reason is for sure: September 26th is Johnny Appleseed’s birthday!

For those who aren’t familiar with the story of Johnny Appleseed, it goes like this:

Once upon a time, there was a man named Johnny. Johnny was an odd person, so he decided to walk the countryside, planting apple seeds all while wearing a pot on his head. While I don’t know why the pot would have been worn, I’m guessing to protect his skull from falling apples. Anyway, Johnny continued to do this until, one fateful day, he died. Theorists say that he was killed by apple tree merchants because his free tree planting was really hurting their business.

(Just so you know, the only parts of that story that were made up involve the reason for his wearing a pot and how he died. The rest is a true folktale, thus making Johnny Appleseed look like a complete loon.)

Of course, this is the folktale version of Johnny Appleseed. The real version is not quite the same.

While pretend Johnny planted apples because he was mentally ill and loved to throw seeds on the ground, the real Johnny was an entrepreneur. He would go across the country planting nurseries. He would then hire locals to watch his nurseries, tending to them once every couple of years. While folktales would have you belief that Johnny Appleseed was a free spirit, planting seeds everywhere, he was actually a 1700’s apple tycoon!

Another thing about Appleseed is the real reason he traveled the countryside. No, it wasn’t all because of apples. It was also because he was a Swedenborgian missionary.

Swedenborgian missionaries spread the word of Emanuel Swedenborg, a theologian who is known for being a Christian mystic. This meant that Emanuel was a Christian who believed he could converse with spirits from Jupiter and had psychic powers. He was a great influence to J. Appleseed, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Swedish Chef (“SwedenborK Börk Börk Börk!!!”) amongst others.

What this teaches us is that Johnny Appleseed’s hat and apple planting did NOT prove he was crazy. In fact, it was his love for that psychic, space traveling theologian Emanuel Swedenborg that proved it.

Despite all of this, though, Johnny is a hero. Without him, we would not have easy access to apples, applesauce, apple pie, apple juice, or apple bottom jeans and boots with the fur. Actually, he probably didn’t have much to do with that last one.

So when you smell an apple pie and think, “Ah! Fall!” remember that this is because that nutty missionary apple tycoon Johnny Appleseed went out of his way to make money and convert Native Americans to a crazy, space related religion.

Thank you, Johnny Appleseed. Anytime I see an apple or a man wearing some sort of cooking utensil on his head, I will think of you.

You, Johnny Appleseed, are king of the fall.


5 thoughts on “Happ(le)y Birthday, Johnny Appleseed. You Were One Fruit Obsessed Freak.

  1. Pingback: Happ(le)y Birthday, Johnny Appleseed. You Were One Fruit … : GEA News

  2. Pingback: Where the Symbols on the Dollar Come From…

  3. sort of entertaining, but not very solid.

    Apples are harvested in the Fall. This used to mean you couldn’t get apples at other times (other than cellar stored through the winter). And it still means you can’t get real, fresh apples at any other times. Try eating freshly harvested road side apples for a couple years and you will once again realize why Fall, especially, is about apples. Year-round shipped and refrigerated super market apples are a different fruit all together.

    Further more, you characterization of religion based off Swedenborg’s writings as “crazy, space related religion” sounds like the kind of ignorant assertion which stems from thinking that a 20 minute google search constitutes “research.”


  4. Dear Brian,
    I know that apples are harvested in the fall. I, however, eat them frequently in every other season. In fact, I would say that the apple is the fruit that I most often consume. That is because they are very easy to come by. I’m sure roadside apples are better just as I am sure fresh bananas from South America are better. They are not, however, what I have readily available to me.

    Now, I am very aware of the apple situation in the 1700’s. It, much like every other food, health, or general life situation, was fairly dire. As you might have noticed, though, we do not live during this time period, a fact that I, personally, am a large fan of. I’ve heard there weren’t that many apps for your iPod back then, and I don’t think I can live in a world with less than 100,000 apps available for me.

    I want to thank you, though, for critiquing my view on apples. Here’s hoping you find something better to do with your time.


    P.S. My research was not 20 minutes on Google. It was fifteen minutes on Wikipedia, so there.


    • I thoroughly enjoyed your post about Johnny Appleseed. As a Canadian who only heard this folk tale incidentally as cartoons wedged in between Daffy Duck features, and not part of a civics class in school, I am sceptical of how literally this tale should be accepted as fact. If we look a little deeper, we can interpret his walking around with a pot on his head as a statement of Mr. Seed being a pothead so maybe we should question whether he was planting apples at all. Perhaps he was planting the green leafy substance that is smoked yearly on Highway 420 in protest of repressive interdictive laws. Perhaps Johnny Appleseed was killed by Big Alcohol when they realized that the non-apple plants he was propagating would compete for the intoxication dollars of the population. I also wonder, with all due respect, if Brian partakes of this herb as he missed that this post is tagged “humor” and not “research material for your history thesis”.


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