Hendrik Willem van Loon
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He was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the son of Hendrik Willem van Loon and Elisabeth Johanna Hanken. He went to the United States in 1902 to study at Cornell University, receiving his degree in 1905. In 1906 he married Eliza Ingersoll Bowditch (1880–1955), daughter of a Harvard professor, by whom he had two sons, Henry Bowditch and Gerard Willem. The newlyweds moved to Germany, where van Loon received his Ph.D. from the University of Munich in 1911 with a dissertation that became his first book, The Fall of the Dutch Republic (1913). He was a correspondent for the Associated Press during the Russian Revolution of 1905 and again in Belgium in 1914 at the start of World War I. He lectured at Cornell University from 1915 to 1917; in 1919 he became an American citizen.
Van Loon had two later marriages, to Eliza Helen (Jimmie) Criswell in 1920 and playwright Frances Goodrich Ames in 1927, but after a divorce from Ames he returned to Criswell (it is debatable whether or not they remarried); she inherited his estate in 1944.
From the 1910s until his death, Van Loon wrote many books, illustrating them himself. Most widely known among these is The Story of Mankind, a history of the world especially for children, which won the first Newbery Medal in 1922. The book was later updated by Van Loon and has continued to be updated, first by his son and later by other historians.
However, he also wrote many other very popular books aimed at young adults. As a writer he was known for emphasizing crucial historical events and giving a complete picture of individual characters, as well as the role of the arts in history. He also had an informal and thought-provoking style which, particularly in The Story of Mankind, included personal anecdotes. As an illustrator of his own books, he was known for his lively black-and-white drawings and his chronological diagrams.
After having revisited Germany many times in the 1920s, he was banned from the country when the Nazis came to power. His 1938 book Our Battle, Being One Man's Answer to "My Battle" by Adolf Hitler earned him the respect of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in whose 1940 presidential campaign he worked, calling on Americans to fight totalitarianism.
The titles and subtitles of his books are notable for being lengthy. Van Loon had a remarkable command of the English language, and the 1946 and other editions of "Roget's International Thesaurus" are dedicated "To the memory of Hendrik Willem Van Loon who month after month, year after year, sent additions and changes for this edition".
A list of works by van Loon, with first publication dates and publishers.
- The Fall of the Dutch Republic, 1913, Houghton Mifflin Co.
- The Rise of the Dutch Kingdom, 1915, Doubleday Page & Co.
- The Golden Book of the Dutch Navigators, 1916, The Century Co.
- A Short History of Discovery: From the Earliest Times to the Founding of Colonies in the American Continent, 1917, David McKay
- Ancient man; the Beginning of Civilizations, 1920, Boni and Liveright
- The Story of Mankind, 1921, Boni and Liveright
- The Story of the Bible, 1923, Boni and Liveright
- Witches and Witch-Finders, 1923, article from the June 1923 Mentor Magazine
- The Story of Wilbur the Hat, 1925, Boni and Liveright
- Tolerance, 1925, Boni and Liveright
- The Liberation of Mankind: the story of man's struggle for the right to think, 1926, Boni and Liveright
- America: The Story of America from the very beginning up to the present, 1927, Boni and Liveright
- Adriaen Block, 1928, Block Hall
- Multiplex man, or the Story of Survival through Invention, 1928, Jonathan Cape
- Life and Times of Peter Stuyvesant, 1928, Henry Holt
- Man the Miracle Maker, 1928, Horace Liveright
- R. v. R.: the Life and Times of Rembrandt van Rijn, 1930, Horace Liveright
- If the Dutch Had Kept Nieuw Amsterdam, in If, Or History Rewritten, edited by J. C. Squire, 1931, Simon & Schuster
- Van Loon's Geography: The Story of the World We Live In, 1932, Simon & Schuster
- To Have or to Be—Take Your Choice, John Day (1932)
- "Gold" 1933, article from the Cosmopolitan March 1933
- An Elephant Up a Tree, 1933, Simon & Schuster
- An Indiscreet Itinerary or How the Unconventional Traveler Should See Holland by one who was actually born there and whose name is Hendrik Willem Van Loon, 1933, Harcourt, Brace
- The Home of Mankind: the story of the world we live in, 1933, George G. Harrap
- The story of inventions: Man, the Miracle Maker, 1934, Horace Liveright
- Ships: and How They Sailed the Seven Seas (5000 B.C.-A.D.1935), 1935, Simon & Schuster
- Around the World With the Alphabet, 1935, Simon & Schuster
- Air-Storming: A Collection of 40 Radio Talks, 1935, Harcourt, Brace
- Love me not, 1935
- A World Divided is a World Lost, 1935, Cosmos Publishing Co.
- The Songs We Sing (with Grace Castagnetta), 1936, Simon & Schuster
- The Arts (with musical illustrations by Grace Castagnetta), 1937, Simon & Schuster
- Christmas Carols (with Grace Castagnetta), 1937, Simon & Schuster
- Observations on the mystery of print and the work of Johann Gutenberg, 1937, Book Manufacturer's Institute/New York Times
- Our Battle: Being One Man's Answer to "My Battle" by Adolf Hitler, 1938, Simon & Schuster
- How to Look at Pictures: a Short History of Painting, 1938, National Committee for Art Appreciation
- Folk Songs of Many Lands (with Grace Castagnetta), 1938, Simon & Schuster
- The Last of the Troubadours: The Life and Music of Carl Michael Bellman 1740-1795 (with Grace Castagnetta), 1939, Simon & Schuster
- The Songs America Sings (with Grace Castagnetta), 1939, Simon & Schuster
- My School Books, 1939, E. I. du Pont de Nemours[b]
- Invasion, being the personal recollections of what happened to our own family and to some of our friends during the first forty-eight hours of that terrible incident in our history which is now known as the great invasion and how we escaped with our lives, 1940, Harcourt, Brace
- The Story of the Pacific, 1940, George G. Harrap
- The Life and Times of Johann Sebastian Bach, 1940, Simon & Schuster
- Good Tidings (with Christmas songs by Grace Castegnetta), 1941, American Artists Group
- The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, with a short life of the Author by Hendrik Willem van Loon of Rotterdam who also illustrated the Book, 1942
- Van Loon's Lives: Being a true and faithful account of a number of highly interesting meetings with certain historical personages, from Confucius and Plato to Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson, about whom we had always felt a great deal of curiosity and who came to us as dinner guests in a bygone year, 1942, Simon & Schuster
- Christmas Songs, 1942
- The Message of the Bells (with music by Grace Castagnetta), 1942, New York Garden City
- Fighters for Freedom: the Life and Times of Thomas Jefferson and Simon Bolivar, 1943, Dodd, Mead & Co.
- The Life and Times of Scipio Fulhaber, Chef de Cuisine, 1943
- Adventures and Escapes of Gustavus Vasa, and how they carried him from his rather obscure origin to the throne of Sweden, 1945
- Report to Saint Peter, upon the kind of world in which Hendrik Willem van Loon spent the first years of his life - an unfinished, posthumously published autobiography, 1947, Simon & Schuster
Books about Van Loon
- Cornelis van Minnen (2005). Van Loon: Popular Historian, Journalist, and FDR Confidant. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-7049-1.
- Gerard Willem Van Loon (1972). The story of Hendrik Willem van Loon. Lippincott. ISBN 0-397-00844-9.
- Erasmus with a short life of the author by Gerard Willem Van Loon (1972). The Praise of Folly. For the Classic Club, by Walter J.Black of New York.
In popular culture
The Italian songwriter Francesco Guccini has composed a song, dedicated to the memory of his father, who was a lover of van Loon's works when he was young. The song is titled "Van Loon," and appears in the album Signora Bovary.
- Asked how to pronounce his name, he told The Literary Digest "I still stick to the Dutch pronunciation of the double o—Loon like loan in 'Loan and Trust Co.' My sons will probably accept the American pronunciation. It really does not matter very much."
- My School Books was a chapter from the unpublished autobiography of Hendrik Willem van Loon made by the DuPont chemical company to demonstrate their new 'PX Cloth' on school books, and distributed free at the New York Worlds Fair in 1939
- Funk, Charles Earle (1936). What's the Name, Please?. Funk & Wagnalls.
- National Archives and Records Administration. "Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925;". U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Retrieved 3 Jul 2013.
- Van Loon, Gerard Willem (1972). The story of Hendrik Willem van Loon. Philadelphia: Lippincott. p. 19.
- Van Loon, Eliza Bowditch. Papers, 1906–1907, Radcliffe College
- Helen "Jimmie" Criswell Van Loon at Find a Grave
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hendrik Willem van Loon.|
- Biography from the Universalist Historical Society (UUHS)
- Works by Hendrik Willem Van Loon at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Hendrik Willem van Loon at Internet Archive
- Works by Hendrik Willem van Loon at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Van Loon the Illustrator, Digital Exhibit, Ohio State University
- Hendrik Willem van Loon at Find a Grave
|Newbery Medal winner