Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography

Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography is a six-volume collection of biographies of notable people involved in the history of the New World. Published between 1887 and 1889, its unsigned articles were widely accepted as authoritative for several decades. Later the encyclopedia became notorious for including dozens of biographies of people who had never existed. The apostrophe in the title is correctly placed and indicates that more than one person, i.e. a company, authored the work.

Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography (1900, volume 5).djvu
Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography (1900, volume 5)


The Cyclopædia included the names of over 20,000 native and adopted citizens of the United States, including living persons. Also included were the names of several thousand citizens of all the other countries of North and South America. The aim was to embrace all noteworthy persons of the New World. The work also contained the names of nearly 1,000 people of foreign birth who were closely identified with American history. The Cyclopædia was illustrated with about sixty full-page portraits supplemented by some 1,500 smaller vignette portraits accompanied by facsimile autographs, and also several hundred views of birthplaces, residences, monuments, and tombs famous in history.[1]

None of the articles are signed either with names or with initials. The clue to authorship is obtained, when obtained at all, through a list of contributors and their contributions arranged alphabetically as to contributors. One reviewer found this a rather inconvenient method, complaining that the finding of the author of a particular sketch often involved a voyage of discovery through the entire list. These lists are searched in vain, however, for the authors of many sketches, including the one of President Grover Cleveland.[2]

Fictitious biographies

Appletons' Cyclopædia is notorious for including an estimated 200 biographies of fictitious persons.[3] The first to discover these fictions was John Hendley Barnhart, in 1919,[4] who identified and reprinted, with commentary, 14 biographical sketches of supposed European botanists who had come to the New World to study in Latin America. By 1939, 47 fictitious biographies had been discovered, though only the letters H and V had been systematically investigated.[5] The status of fictions in Appletons' Cyclopædia was assessed by Margaret Castle Schindler, of Goucher College, in 1937.[6] According to Schindler

The writer (or writers) of these articles must have had some scientific training, for most of the creations were scientists, and sufficient linguistic knowledge to have invented or adapted titles in six languages. He was certainly familiar with the history and geography of South America. Most of the places visited by his characters are real places, and most of the historical events in which they participated are genuine. However, he sometimes made mistakes by which his fraudulent work can be detected.[7]

Some, such as Huet de Navarre, were about a real person but in most details were fictional.[6] George Zorn identifies the author of "phantom Jesuit" articles as William Christian Tenner, and identifies 42 fictitious subjects of this genre.[8] Dobson suggests Hermann Ritter, who appears as the source of “Articles on South and Central Americans” beginning with volume 3, as a likely author of the fictitious articles. Dobson notes that the first two volumes, where Juan G. Puron appears in this role, are practically free of problem articles, although Barnhart identifies the article on “Dávila, Nepomuceno” as suspicious, but not fictitious beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Contributors to Appletons' Cyclopædia were free to suggest new subjects and were paid according to the length of the article. Articles were only checked for form by the editorial staff.[9] While conceding that Appletons' Cyclopædia was a "valuable and authoritative work," and that her results should not reflect on the many authentic articles, Schindler noted that articles on Latin American subjects should be used cautiously until verified against other sources.[10]


Appletons' Cyclopædia incorporated an earlier work by Francis Samuel Drake called Dictionary of American Biography (not to be confused with a more modern and comprehensive work of the same name). The original of this work was issued in 1872, and along with the original material, Drake's latest corrections, and all the materials that he had gathered for a new edition, were used in the Cyclopædia.[11] The original work had 10,000 biographies.[12]


The first edition of the Cyclopædia was published between 1887 and 1889 by D. Appleton and Company of New York City. The general editors were James Grant Wilson and John Fiske; the managing editor from 1886 to 1888 was Rossiter Johnson.[13][14] A seventh volume, containing an appendix and supplementary lists, and thematic indexes to the whole work, was issued in 1901.

The Cyclopædia was republished, uncorrected, by the Gale Research Company in 1968.[15]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Preface" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svgOur Men of Note,” The New York Times, April 3, 1887, p. 4.
  3. ^ Museum of Hoaxes
  4. ^ Barnhart, "Some fictitious botanists", Journal of the New York Botanical Garden 20 (1919:171-81). The event was amusing and momentous enough to be mentioned in the obituary written at Dr. Barnhart's death, Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 7.19 (November 1950:35-61) p.52.
  5. ^ Editorial note by "G.S." in Dobell (1939). The 47 are listed in Schindler (1937) — see below — which is cited on p. 272 of the note by "G.S." Dr. Uplavici was another fictitious person similar to the Cyclopædia's fictitious entries. Dobell's article revealed the spectral "Dr. O. Uplavici" to have his origin in non-Czech-literate writers' mistaking an article on amoebic dysentery by Dr. Jaroslav Hlava, which was titled "O úplavici" ("On dysentery").
  6. ^ a b Schindler, "Fictitious biography", American Historical Review 42 (1937:680-90)
  7. ^ Schindler (1937), p. 683.
  8. ^ Zorn, George, S.J. (1960). Woodstock Letters Index: Volumes 1-80 (1872-1951) (PDF). Woodstock, Maryland: Woodstock College Press. Retrieved 13 October 2011. Search on "Appleton's" or "phantom Jesuit".
  9. ^ Schindler (1937), p. 687.
  10. ^ Schindler (1937), p. 689.
  11. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Drake, Samuel Gardner" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  12. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Drake, Francis Samuel" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  13. ^ Editorial note by "G.S." (i.e. George Sarton) in Clifford Dobell, "Dr O. Uplavici (1887-1938)", Isis 30.2 (May 1939:268-272).
  14. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Johnson, Rossiter" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  15. ^ Appleton's cyclopaedia of American biography. Ausgabe 1968.

External links


Appleton's or Appletons' may refer to several publications published by D. Appleton & Company, New York, including:

Appletons' Journal (1869–1881)

Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography (1887–1889)

Appleton's Magazine (1905–1909)

Appletons' travel guides

Francis Samuel Drake (historian)

Francis Samuel Drake (February 22, 1828, Northwood, New Hampshire - February 22, 1885, Washington, D.C.) was a United States historian. His Dictionary of American Biography was a precursor of, and incorporated into, Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography.

Lancaster, Massachusetts

Lancaster is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, in the United States. Incorporated in 1653, Lancaster is the oldest town in Worcester County. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 8,055.

Marcus Benjamin

Marcus Benjamin (1857–1932) was an American editor, born at San Francisco, California, and educated at the Columbia University School of Mines. After following his profession of chemist for several years, he turned to editorial work.

Dr. Benjamin worked on a number of reference works, as:

Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography

Standard Dictionary

Universal Cyclopædia

New International Encyclopædia

Appleton's New Practical Cyclopædia, (six volumes, 1910).From 1896, he was the editor of the publications of the United States National Museum. He was an aide in the office of Naval Intelligence during World War I, and received a decoration by France. He was a fellow of the Chemical Society.


Moller, Möller, or Møller is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Adolf Möller, German olympic rower

Ale Möller, Swedish musician and composer

Alex Möller, German politician

Andreas Möller, German footballer

Axel Möller, Swedish astronomer

Baldur Möller, Icelandic chess master

Carl Møller, Danish rower in 1912 Olympics

Chris Moller, New Zealand businessman

Christian Moeller, German artist and architect born 1959

Christian Möller, German artist and painter born 1963

Christian Møller, Danish chemist and physicist born 1904

David Möller, German sportsman

Edvard Möller, Swedish athlete in 1912 Olympics

Egon Möller-Nielsen

Erik Möller

Faron Moller

Frank Möller, German judo sportsman

Frank Möller (athlete), German sprinter

Frans Möller (disambiguation)

Gustav Möller, Swedish Social Democratic politician

Gustav Möller (athlete), Swedish athlete

Hans Hartvig-Møller

Hans Møller Gasmann

Henry Möller (1749–1829), United States clergyman (see "Möller, Henry" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1900.)

Hermann Möller, Danish linguist

Irmgard Möller

Ivan Möller, Swedish athlete

Jan Möller, Swedish footballer

Joost Möller, Dutch politician

Julia Möller (born 1949), Uruguayan television presenter and model

Lillian Moller Gilbreth

Lorraine Moller

M. P. Moller, pipe organ builder

Marc Møller

Martin Moller, German poet

Mike Moller

Myra Moller

Olof Möller, Swedish science fiction author

Oscar Möller, Swedish ice hockey player

Paul Moller, engineer

Moller Skycar

Per Möller Jensen

Ralf Möller, German actor and ex-bodybuilder

Randy Moller

Rene Moller (born 1946), Danish footballer

Robert Moeller, Deputy Commander of Military Operations, US Africa Command

Roland Møller, Danish actor

Sandra Möller, German sprinter

Sebastian Möller, German expert for voice technology

Shona Moller

Silke Möller

Steffen Möller

Susan Moller Okin

Thomas Moller, German expressionist painter

Thomas Möller, Swedish criminal and ex-president of Hells Angels Sweden

Tommy Möller Swedish political science professor at Stockholm University

William Bruhn-Möller

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