Johnny Appleseed, Gentle Hero

Johnny Appleseed, Gentle Hero is a one-person play written and performed by Marc Levitt. The performance takes audiences (Grades1-8) on a forty-minute journey into the life and times of the man whose real name was John Chapman. Mr. Levitt presents Chapman as both mythical and real, depicting the doubts, successes and philosophy of America’s great planters, travelers and philosophers. Mr. Levitt weaves together comic moments as well as theme music written by storyteller/musician, Bill Harley.

Who was John Chapman or Johnny Appleseed?

According to Richard Price, the only biographer of John Chapman, he was born in Leominster, Massachusetts on September 26th, 1774. He left home at fifteen to travel west, starting in Warren, Pennsylvania, where he began to plant apple trees. A devotee of the philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg, John saw planting apples as part of a spiritual journey in a time when many in the United States were interested in philosophies that emphasized the importance of ‘nature’. Apples were also a smart to plant financially. They could be eaten fresh, used in pies, dried and made into cider, hard and not hard. In many ways Johnny Appleseed was indeed an ecologist, realizing that planting trees was not only good for pioneers but for the environment

A Map where Johnny Appleseed traveled

Questions and answers about Johnnie Appleseed

1. Did he really where a pot on his head?
As far as I know Johnny Appleseed never traveled with a pot on his head. This idea seemed to be the creation of the Walt Disney studios

2. Did he have a pet wolf?
From what I read, Johnny Appleseed never had a pet wolf but he did seem to have a very special relationship to animals

3. Did he really stop wearing shoes to punish his feet for stepping on a snake?

Hard to say, but he was a vegetarian

4. Was he ever married?
Nope. He didn’t want anyone to live the kind of rugged life he did.

5. Did he get to California?

No, but his legend did.

6. Where did you learn so much about Johnny Appleseed?

I visited the John Chapman archives in Leominster, Massachusetts

1. Ask your students if they would like to live a life like Johnny Appleseed did? Why or why not?
2. How many different kinds of apples do you know about? Were there ever other kinds available and if so, why aren’t they available now?
3. What was different about the way Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana looked in 1830 than they do now?

Purchasing Marc Levitt’s CD Johnnie Appleseed: Gentle Hero (one person performance with music and audio effects)
If you’d like to purchase Marc Levitt’s audio tape or CD, Johnny Appleseed, Gentle Hero please write to:

Audio Tapes: $12 plus $2.50 for postage


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Words to Bill Harley’s Johnny Appleseed Song:
All these gifts from just one seed,
The apple, soul and body feed,
Plant a seed and time will show,
That from one seed a tree will grow.
Oh the glorious apples.
In the fall we pick the trees,
All these gifts for you and meet
We eat them cooked. We eat them raw,
We string them; dry them, in the fall.
Oh the glorious apples.
They hang from rafters in your house,
Away from dog, away from mouse
When the winter winds do blow,
You stir them and a sauce will grow,
All the glorious apples
When the snow is on the ground
And there’s no food left to be found.
The work you’ve done will make you glad
For apple butter’s, what you have.
Oh the glorious apples