THE APPLE BEFORE IT WAS APPLE: a Surprisingly Tipsy Tale
Do you remember The Million Tree Initiative a few years back? Plant trees, diminish carbon dioxide, reduce global warming. Noble concept. Did it work? Who knows? But forest creatures were quite happy.
The last time national tree planting like this got widespread attention is two-hundred years ago. It was not news at the time. But it was in the movies much later on. We are talking about John Chapman, an American nurseryman who treks around Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois throughout the 1800s planting acres of apple trees. You may know Chapman as Johnny Appleseed, the folk hero in a 1948 Disney animated short film.
Appleseed is a lovable, goofy guy, sporting a backwards tin-pot hat, literally bouncing across the land, laying seeds that become America’s healthy fruit as in “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
No. What Disney leaves out of this marketing folk myth is that Chapman/Appleseed is a drug dealer. His contribution to our country is alcoholism.
In the early-mid 1800s, there are no bowls of picturesque Red Delicious sitting under sunny windows. Nobody eats apples. Apples are not delicious, are not tasty and are not healthy. Plus, the bible made the apple the downfall of Adam, Eve and all mankind.
The seeds Chapman spreads across the land are hard cider apples. How hard? This apple cider is up to 15% alcohol by volume. For context, the average colonial knocks back 8.75 gallons of standard 80-proof liquor per year by the time of the American revolution. That is 45% more than we consume today. And by early-mid 1800s, alcohol consumption in America tops that and soars to an all-time high.
On behalf of all forest creatures, we thank the fine people who planted those millions of trees. And a special shout-out also to the clever folks at Disney for converting a serial drug dealer into a delightful myth. And let’s not forget the two Steves for converting a once unappetizing, once unappreciated and once discarded piece of fruit into a digitally global enterprise.
No matter what our intensions are when we each plant our own seeds for the future, the outcomes will certainly be most surprising…and perhaps a little intoxicating as well.