Ohio History Journal

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Better Known as Johnny Appleseed. By Mabel Leigh Hunt. (Phila-

delphia and New York, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1950. 212p. $2.50.)

History is a mixture of legend and fact. And, of the two, legend is

the more important. For it is what people think happened or say happened,

not what actually did happen, that becomes significant over a period of time.

Truly, no matter how close to an historical fact the research scholar may

come, the mass of people do not pay heed to him. They believe the fiction

that has been created by and for them. And this fiction is what influences

and is perpetuated by future generations and what one is eventually com-

pelled to recognize as the important impact of history as a cultural force.

The stories of Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, Franklin Delano

Roosevelt, and, to a lesser extent, of Paul Revere and Miles Standish are

cases in point. So might I say is the story of John Chapman.

Mabel Leigh Hunt in her recent study Better Known as Johnny

Appleseed attempts to explore the intermingling of fact and legend that

has survived from the times of this nineteenth century planter and mystic.

Her purpose and method, as stated on the flyleaf and in the Preface, is "to

answer, as truthfully as possible, that oft-asked query, 'Was Johnny Apple-

seed a real man?'" by means of "the contrivance of both fiction and

biographical narrative." The book, to the publisher, is "the result of a con-

scientious student's long research and a creator's art." The book, to me, is

not fully satisfactory from the point of view of either the scholar or the

amateur reader.

From the scholar's point of view, I have two major objections to

the work. First, the book adds little or nothing to the work already done in

Appleseed lore. The two most rewarding areas left to the Appleseed scholar

are the study of Chapman's relation to the Swedenborgian faith and the

study of what might be called Johnny Dog Fennel lore (anti-Chapman

material). Neither of these areas is given more than a passing glance.

Second, the material that is covered is covered in the most subjective and

abstract of ways. For even though Mabel Leigh Hunt says that in the

book she is trying to present the real man as he has appeared to her, the

manner in which the narrative is continually built on speculation results

in a view of Chapman almost without meaning. For example (p. 17),

"Although there is no actual record of the captain's motherless children