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Admirers of Johnny Appleseed, the man who earned his nickname passing out seeds of his favorite fruit, celebrated his 209th birthday this week. But in his hometown of Leominster, Mass., historians say John Chapman was not a rube wearing a tin pot on his head. ''Johnny wore a wide-brimmed hat, not a pot, on his head,'' said Evelyn Hachey, chairman of Leominster's historical commission. ''He was a bit eccentric, walking all over the Midwest barefoot, but he was also a practical nurseryman who recognized homesteaders' need for apples and set up a business to supply them.''

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