Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres

By a Citizen of the United States

Cincinnati: Morgan, Lodge and Fisher, 1826


The writer of the following work is said to be a resident of the Miami country. After reading Captain Symmes' numbers, and hearing some of his lectures, he wrote the work, it seems, in the first place without the idea of publication, but afterwards corrected and enlarged it, and left it with a friend of Captain Symmes for publication, sometime in the autumn of the year 1824. The nett (sic) profits were then, as now, to be paid to Captain Symmes towards enabling him to promote and establish his principles: but owing to the absence of the author, and other circumstances, it has remained unpublished till now.

The author has chosen to present the work anonymously; and has obtained the promise of Captain Symmes to forebear criticizing it in manuscript,--reserving any reworks or corrections, he may wish to make, for future publication. Some errors of the press will doubtless be discovered; as (in the absence of both Compiler and Theorist) there was no proof-reader at hand, sufficiently versed in the New Theory, at all times; to detect them.


Cincinnati, April 1826


To the Public

THE following little treatise, was written in the autumn of the year eighteen hundred and twenty-four; when from the urgency of my common avocation, and from a desire to remain incognito, the manuscript was placed in the hands of a friend of Captain Symmes for publication. As it was not my intention to seek a publisher or make advances to facilate its progress, I left the country for a considerable length of time, without paying any further attention to the subject. Various difficulties intervening, delayed the publication, until subsequent events, have destroyed my chief inducement; which was, that these speculations, compiled from a cursory examination of facts, should go forth as a harbinger merely, and not "follow in the wake," of public investigation.


March 1826

It is possible that Poe was influenced by Symmes' Theory of Concentric Spheres. Though widely regarded as a crackpot--the cry of "Symmes' hole!" in the 1820s and 1830s was understood to denote something "quackish or fake" (Spufford)--Symmes did have a few ardent followers, such as James McBride, the author of Symmes' Theory of Concentric Spheres, and Jeremiah N. Reynolds. Reynolds petitioned Congress for funding for Antarctic exploration, in part with the aim of locating Symmes' hole; he procured this funding, but the honor of leading the expedition was given to Wilkes.

Evidence of Symmes' influence on Poe is largely speculative: the warm temperatures and the "chasm" found by Pym in the southernmost regions are in keeping with the notion of holes at the poles leading inward to a tropical region. A connection is also construed from the purported final utterance by Poe on his deathbed: the name of Reynolds, staunch advocate of Symmes' Theory.