Jeremiah N. Reynolds

Jeremiah N. Reynolds

Jeremiah N. Reynolds (1799–1858), also known as J.N. Reynolds, was an American newspaper editor, lecturer, explorer and author became an influential advocate for scientific expeditions. His lectures on the possibility of a hollow earth appear to have influenced Edgar Allan Poe's "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket" (1838) and his account of the whale Mocha Dick influenced Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" (1851).

Early life

Born into poverty in Pennsylvania, he moved to Ohio as a child. In his teenage years and early 20s, he taught school, saved his money and attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio for three years. He then edited the "Spectator" newspaper in Wilmington, Ohio, but sold his interest in it in about 1823. [] Web page titled, "The Romantic History of Jeremiah N. Reynolds" at the "American Studies at the University of Virginia" Web site, accessed August 12, 2006]

The next year, Reynolds began a lecture tour with John Cleves Symmes, Jr.. Reynolds had become a convert to Symmes' theory that the earth is hollow. Symmes' idea was accepted as possible by some respected scientists of the time. [Philbrick, Nathaniel, "Sea of Glory", pages 19-20, Hereafter: Sea of Glory] The two presented talks on the subject. When Symmes died, Reynolds continued his lectures, which were given to full houses in Eastern U.S. cities (with a charge of 50 cents for admission).

Over time, Reynolds became willing to accept the possibility that the theory was wrong. In Philadelphia, Reynolds and Symmes parted. ["Sea of Glory", page 20]


Gaining the support of members of President John Quincy Adams' cabinet, and speaking before Congress, Reynolds succeeded in fitting out a national expedition to the South Pole. But Andrew Jackson opposed the project, and after he became president it was squelched.

Reynolds garnered support from private sources and the expedition sailed from New York City in 1829. With much danger, the expedition reached the Antarctic shore and returned north, but at Valparaiso, Chile, the crew mutinied and set Reynolds and another man on shore.

In 1832, the United States frigate "Potomac" under Commodore John Downes arrived. The ship had been ordered to the coast of Sumatra to avenge an attack on an American ship, "Friendship", of Salem, Massachusetts and was returning home in what became a circumnavigation of the globe. Reynolds joined Downes as his private secretary for the trip and wrote a book about the experience.

Later life

Back in New York City, Reynolds studied law and became a success as an advocate. In 1848 he organized a stock company in New York City for a New Mexico mining operation.

Reynolds missed joining the Great U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842, even though that venture was a result of his agitation. He did not participate because he had offended too many in his call for such a trip.

His health broke down and he died in New York at 59 years old in 1858.

Influence on Poe's "Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym"

In the January 1837 issue of the "Southern Literary Messenger," Edgar Allan Poe reviewed an "Address, on the Subject of a Surveying and Exploring Expedition to the Pacific Ocean and South Seas (New York, 1836) first given to the House of Representatives on April 2, 1836." In his review, Poe said of Reynolds:

:To the prime mover in this important undertaking--to the active, the intelligent, the indomitable advocate of the enterprise --to him who gave it birth, and who brought it through maturity, to its triumphant result, this result can afford nothing but unmitigated pleasure. He has seen his measures adopted in the teeth of opposition, and his comprehensive views thoroughly confirmed in spite of cant, prejudice, ignorance and unbelief. … With mental powers of the highest order, his indomitable energy is precisely of that character which will not admit of defeat. (SLM, p. 65)

"Perhaps as a further tribute to Reynolds (or perhaps as a desperate effort to provide copy to the publisher), Poe used some seven hundred words of Reynolds' Address in the fifteen hundred words of Chapter XVI of "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," wrote Daniel Tynan of The Colorado College in an article about the Poe text. [] Web page titled: "Text: Daniel J. Tynan, 'J. N. Reynold's Voyage of the Potomac: Another Source for The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym,' from Poe Studies, vol. IV, no. 2, December 1971, pp. 35–37." From the Web site of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, accessed August 12, 2006]

Influence on Melville's "Moby-Dick"

"The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine" of May 1839 published Reynold's account of Mocha Dick a whale near Mocha Island in the South Pacific that rammed a ship, sinking it. Herman Melville used the idea in his novel, "Moby-Dick." [ [] Web page titled "Mocha Dick: Or the White Whale of the Pacific: A Leaf from a Manuscript Journal", by J.N. Reynolds, Esq. (from The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine. Vol. 13, No. 5, May 1839, pp. 377-392.)" part of "The Plough Boy Anthology" Web site, which is in turn part of Tom Tyler's Plough Boy Journals website at the University of Denver, accessed August 12, 2006] ""'(see "Mocha Dick" section in "External links" below)

Reynolds' article was one of a number on the subject of whales sinking ships (something which occurred extremely rarely). For instance, Owen Chase's "Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship 'Essex' of Nantucket" (New York: W.B. Gilley, 1821) would have also provided Melville with an account of a whale ramming a ship and sinking it.

Other literary influences

The novel "Our Plague, A Film From New York" (1993) by James Chapman includes scenes of Reynolds as a character, making his way in scientific circles and delivering a lecture in New York.

For further information

*Reynolds, Jeremiah N. "Voyage of the United States Frigate Potomac," New York: Harper and Brothers, 1835.
*Philbrick, Nathaniel, "Heart of the Sea"
*Almy, Robert F. "J. N. Reynolds: A Brief Biography with Particular Reference to Poe and Symmes." "The Colophon" 2 (1937): 227–245
*Howe, Henry. "The Romantic History of Jeremiah N. Reynolds." Historical Collections of Ohio, vol 2. Cincinnati, 1889.
*Sachs, Aaron, "The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism," (Viking, 2006), Reynolds is one of four Americans the author focuses on who were influenced by Alexander von Humboldt.

Official papers on funding an expedition

Reynolds was mentioned in numerous documents related to the federal government's decisions to fund exploratory missions:

"On the Expediency of Fitting Out Vessels of the Navy for an Exploration of the Pacific Ocean and South Seas" (Washington: Gale's & Seaton, 1860):
* [] 1828: March 25, 1828,. American State Papers: Naval Affairs, Vol. 3, pp. 189–197
* [] 1829: February 23, 1829. American State Papers: Naval Affairs, Vol. 3, pp. 336–343.

From the same volume of the same title, but published in 1861:
* [] 1835: February 7, 1835. American State Papers: Naval Affairs, Vol. 4, pp. 707-715.
* [] 1836: March 21, 1836. American State Papers: Naval Affairs, Vol. 4, pp. 867–873.

Other, similar published collections of federal documents:
* [] 1829: "Exploring Expedition to the Pacific Ocean and South Seas", February 16, 1829.. American State Papers: Naval Affairs, Vol. 3, pp. 308–317.
* [] 1830: "Authorization of the Naval Exploring Expedition in the South Seas and Pacific Ocean, and of the Purchase of and Payment for Astronomical and Other Instruments for the Same", March 17, 1830.. American State Papers: Naval Affairs, Vol. 3, pp. 546–560.(Washington: Gale's & Seaton, 1860)


External links

* [] "The Romantic History of Jeremiah N. Reynolds" at the "American Studies at the University of Virginia" Web site. This appears to be a reprint of Henry Howe's article of the same title, which appeared in "Historical Collections of Ohio," Volume 2, Cincinnati (1889).
* [ Reynold's 1928 Report on the Pacific to House of Representatives]

Mocha Dick

* [ J.N. Reynolds: "Mocha Dick: Or The White Whale of the Pacific"]
* [ Moby Dick — Mocha Dick] — Article

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