Symmes, John Cleves, 1780-1829

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John Cleves Symmes, a native of New Jersey, was the nephew of the noted jurist of the same name. He entered the army in 1802 and was commissioned a captain in the War of 1812. He left military service in 1816 to reside in St. Louis and embark on a brief career of supplying the army and trading with the Fox Indians. Symmes had earlier developed a theory of the earth's formation, following his studies of mathematics and the natural sciences. He began to promulgate his theory of "Concentric Spheres and Polar Voids," while still living in St. Louis. Symmes believed the earth was hollow and contained a number of solid concentric spheres. He thought openings at the poles would allow discovery of the inner spheres. In 1819 Symmes moved to Newport, Kentucky. He began to travel around the country and give lectures concerning his theory. In 1824 he relocated to land given him by his uncle near Hamilton, Ohio. That same year he modified his theory to assert merely that the earth was hollow, rather than containing concentric spheres. J.N. Reynolds, a Newport resident, became associated with Symmes in the promotion of the theory. Reynolds also traveled and lectured in the hopes of obtaining support for an expedition. Reynolds and Symmes came to differ on plans for the expedition. Symmes thought the explorers should start from Siberia in the fall season with reindeer and sleighs over the ice-covered seas to the North Pole, expecting to find warmth past the eighty-second degree of latitude. Reynolds advocated a southern route, permitting geographical discoveries along the way, as earlier expeditions had not travelled in that direction. Ill health curtailed Symmes' lecture activities in 1827. He returned to Hamilton, Ohio, and died there in 1829. Reynolds persuaded Congress to authorize a southern expedition in 1828. Appropriations were not provided until 1836. The expedition became a voyage for geographical discovery alone, and Reynolds was not invited to take part.

From the description of John Cleves Symmes prospectus, 1818 Apr. 10. (Kentucky Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 43033819

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Symmes, John Cleves, 1780-1829. John Cleves Symmes prospectus, 1818 Apr. 10. Kentucky Historical Society, Martin F. Schmidt Research Library
referencedIn Draper, Lyman Copeland, 1815-1891. Collection of Lyman Copeland Draper Manuscripts, 1735-1890. Library of Congress
referencedIn Lee, Jefferson Francis Marion, 1834-1912. Jefferson Francis Marion Lee Papers, 1795-1900. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Shaler, Nathaniel Southgate, 1841-1906. Nathaniel Southgate Shaler : papers, 1841-1906. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Archives. Record Group IIb, 1807-1825 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Drinker, Johanna Colton Montgomery. Joanna Colton Montgomery Drinker poems and essays, 1821-1829. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Symmes, John Cleves, 1780-1829. Draper manuscripts: John Cleves Symmes papers, 1791-1846. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Hinde, Thomas S. (Thomas Spottswood), 1785-1846. Draper manuscripts: Thomas Spottswood Hinde papers, 1807-1845. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Drinker, Johanna Colton Montgomery. Joanna Colton Montgomery Drinker poems and essays, 1821-1829. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf McAfee, Robert B. (Robert Breckinridge), 1784-1849. Robert Breckinridge McAfee papers, 1824-1841. Kentucky Historical Society, Martin F. Schmidt Research Library
referencedIn War of 1812 mss., 1776-1879 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1668-1983, Bulk, 1750-1850, 1668-1983 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Smucker, Isaac, 1807-1894. Biographical sketches of eminent western pioneers, no. 1 : manuscript, [18--] Harvard University, Houghton Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Askin, Madeleine. person
associatedWith Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820 person
associatedWith Bell, Eben I. person
associatedWith Bissell, Lewis. person
associatedWith Brown, Ethan Allen, 1776-1852. person
associatedWith Campbell, Anthony. person
associatedWith Campbell, John, d. 1825. person
associatedWith Champney, William B. person
associatedWith Clemson, E. B. person
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith Dayton, Jonathan, 1760-1824. person
associatedWith Draper, Lyman Copeland, 1815-1891, person
associatedWith Drinker, Johanna Colton Montgomery. person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Eustis, William, 1753-1825. person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
associatedWith Foulk, Willis. person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Hamilton, Thomas. person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. person
associatedWith Harrison, William Henry, 1773-1841. person
associatedWith Hinde, Thomas S. (Thomas Spottswood), 1785-1846. person
associatedWith Hunter, John Dunn, 1798?-1827. person
associatedWith Kingsbury, Jacob, 1756-1837. person
associatedWith Lee, Jefferson Francis Marion, 1834-1912. person
associatedWith Lexington College (Ky.) corporateBody
associatedWith McAfee, Robert B. (Robert Breckinridge), 1784-1849. person
associatedWith McBride, James, 1788-1859. person
associatedWith McLean, John, 1791-1830. person
associatedWith Mitchill, Samuel L. (Samuel Latham), 1764-1831. person
associatedWith Moore, Hugh. person
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon person
associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
associatedWith Nicholas, Robert Carter, 1787-1856. person
associatedWith Peltier, J. C. A. (Jean Charles Athanase), 1785-1845. person
associatedWith Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851 person
associatedWith Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796 person
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813 person
associatedWith Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864 person
associatedWith Seybert, Adam, 1773-1825 person
associatedWith Shaler, Nathaniel Southgate, 1841-1906. person
associatedWith Smucker, Isaac, 1807-1894. person
associatedWith Spafford, Horatio Gates, 1778-1832. person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Stark, Horatio. person
associatedWith St. Clair, Arthur, 1734-1818. person
associatedWith Stevens, Henry person
associatedWith Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872 person
associatedWith Swan, William. person
associatedWith Symmes, Daniel. person
associatedWith Symmes, John Cleves, 1742-1814. person
associatedWith Symmes, Marianne. person
associatedWith Symmes, Mercy. person
associatedWith Symmes, Peyton. person
associatedWith Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 person
associatedWith Todd, Thomas. person
associatedWith Trimble, William A. person
associatedWith Turner, George, 1750-1843. person
associatedWith Walker, David. person
associatedWith Waterton, Charles, 1782-1865 person
associatedWith Wayne, Anthony person
associatedWith Worthington, Thomas, 1773-1827. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Northwest, Old
Cincinnati (Ohio)
Miami Purchase
Frontier and pioneer life
Land settlement


Birth 1780

Death 1829



Ark ID: w6p27hh9

SNAC ID: 69607442