200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 66: “Habitable Within ”

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photo of the Symmes Globe
Symmes Globe

Habitable Within

Among the numerous rare books and illustrated works in the Academy’s Wolf Room, we have a globe that represents the Earth according to the theories of John Cleves Symmes Jr. (1779–1829). In 1818 Symmes proposed that the Earth was a hollow shell with openings at both poles. He believed that humans could inhabit this shell, which contained four inner shells also with polar openings.

The globe illustrating Symmes’ hypothesis was a gift to the Academy from member George Vaux (1863–1927), who acquired it among other curiosities from a collection of items belonging to historian and Symmes supporter James McBride (1788–1859) of Ohio. McBride built the mounted wooden model, which Symmes commissioned to illustrate his lectures. According to a letter found in the Academy Archives (Coll. 390) Symmes had used the globe to lecture about his idea at the Academy, perhaps catching Vaux’s interest.

What other “gems” did the Academy obtain from the Vaux family?

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