Thursday, April 9

How Johnny Chapman Made a Fortune From His Apple Investment

image = American Orchard
By Grant Davies

Once upon a time.. oh wait, I think someone used that opening line for a story already. Let's try this one, I'm sure no one has used it before.

On this day, minus about a month, in 1845 (It was March 11th for you annoying people who insist on actual facts for history stories), John Chapman passed away and into history. Who?

Okay, don't bother Googling his name yet, I'll tell you who he was if you humor me a bit by letting me attempt to build some goofy anticipation first.

John was a hard working, forward thinking young man when he set off across the Midwest in the early 1800's building a real estate empire by exploiting a loophole in a law. No, he wasn't "The Donald's" great grandpappy.

The best way to acquire land back then, or now, is to get it without paying for it. And the best way was to plant something on land you happened across and claim it as your own as soon as the stuff grew into a profitable crop. It was quaintly described as "homesteading." John chose apple trees.  

All right, you clever folks have figured out who he was, Johnny Appleseed. He would plant groves of about thirty trees and sell the land to "settlers" when they showed up later. It was an instant cash crop and we can guess business was brisk, in a 19th century kind of way. 

The apples were brisk too. They were called "spitters." So named because if you bit into one you would immediately spit it out. Terrible for eating, great for making hooch. And back then it was way safer to drink alcoholic hard apple cider than soft microbe infested water. More profitable too.

John was an early animal rights activist and a committed vegetarian. So one of the earliest known liberals, right? Um, no, he held his views because of his devotion to Christianity. He also didn't believe in sex outside of marriage and since he never married...well, he planted apple seeds instead of the human variety. And he kept walking a lot. I guess I would, too.

What a great story! What could go wrong? Well, enter the much beloved IRS in the 1920's who chopped down huge numbers of apple trees across the country to make sure no one could have any fun drinking the medicinal brew. It didn't work, of course. But it helped people find safer alternatives, like booze made in old car radiators.

To celebrate his legacy, order a Redd's Apple Ale next time you go to the Appletree Inn or Johnny's Tap, but don't let on that you know about the evil influence of the profit motive in historical stories on the Disney Channel.

Most of the information in this story was gleaned from an article by Kristy Puchko on Mental

The most recent winner of the 15 seconds of fame award goes to Mike Dixon, history lover and liberty advocate extraordinaire!

Good going Mike, keep 'em coming!


  1. The first thing planted here in Ohio by our early settlers was peaches. They produce a crop in 3-5 years from seed and make dandy brandy. Whole riverbanks were planted along the Ohio River to feed the hunger and thirst of the river traffic before the 1800s rang a bell.


Thanks for making a comment. We love feedback.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...