William Henry Appleton

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William Henry Appleton
Portrait of William Henry Appleton.jpg
Born (1814-01-27)January 27, 1814
Haverhill, Massachusetts
Died October 19, 1899(1899-10-19) (aged 85)
Riverdale, Bronx, New York
Occupation Publisher
Spouse(s) Mary Moody Worthen
(m. 1844; her death 1884)
Children 4
Parent(s) Daniel Appleton
Hannah Adams
Relatives George Swett Appleton (brother)
William Ezra Worthen (brother-in-law)

William Henry Appleton (January 27, 1814 – October 19, 1899) was an American publisher, eldest son and successor of Daniel Appleton.[1]

Early life[edit]

William Henry Appleton was born on January 27, 1814 at Haverhill, Massachusetts.[2] He was the eldest of eight children born to Daniel Appleton (1785–1849) and Hannah Adams (1791–1859), the daughter of John Adams and Dorcas Falkner.[3]


In 1838, Appleton he joined his father as a partner in the family publishing business, D. Appleton & Company, which he had began clerking for in 1831 at the age of 16.[2]

In 1848, he became the senior member of D. Appleton & Company upon the retirement of his father.[2] In partnership with his brother John Adams Appleton; they were joined in partnership by three younger brothers.

In 1853, William became the firm's London representative. He was active in the struggle for an international copyright, and served a term as president of the American Publishers Copyright League. His firm published works by a range of noteworthy authors, including Hall Caine, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Darwin, Thomas Henry Huxley, Herbert Spencer, and John Stuart Mill, as well as leading American scientists and philosophers of his era.

Among the reference books brought out by him were The New American Cyclopædia (1858–63); Webster's Spelling Book; Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography (1887–1900), Applied Mechanics (1897), and an Annual Cyclopœdia (1885–1903). He wrote Letters on International Copyright (1872).[2]

Personal life[edit]

On April 16, 1844,[2] he married Mary Moody Worthen (1824–1884), a daughter of Ezra Worthen and sister of William Ezra Worthen.[4]

  • William Worthen Appleton (1845–1924),[5] who married Anna Debois Sargent (1845–1908).[6][7]
  • Kate Appleton (1848–1873), who married Hobart Seymour Geary (1838–1918), a merchant,[8] in 1872.[9]
  • Mary Appleton (d. 1934), who died unmarried.[10][11]
  • Henry Cozzens Appleton (1863–1925), who married Dora Threlkeld (1847–1927).[7]

Appleton was a prominent figure in publishing for a period of sixty years. He lived at Wave Hill (New York); the house was later turned into a botanical garden in the Riverdale section of The Bronx, New York.[12] He was one of the earliest members of the Century Association, joining in 1847, a member of the Union Club of New York, the Riding Club, and the Aldine and Players' Clubs.[2]

He died at his home in Riverdale on October 19, 1899.[2]


His grandson, through his son William, was William Henry Appleton (1866–1951),[13][14] a prominent yachtsman who married Noel Johnston, granddaughter of John Taylor Johnston, former president of the Central Railroad of New Jersey and the founding president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[6]


Appleton City, Missouri was named after the publisher, in appreciation of his 1870 donation to the town's library.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

Appleton is a character in the time travel novel "The Plot to Save Socrates" by Paul Levinson. As depicted in the book, Appleton had an extensive secret life as a time-traveler, had visited Classical Greece and met in person some of the famous ancient Greek writers and philosophers whose works he published, and also several times visited the 21st Century - but always found his own 19th Century milieu to be the most congenial.


  1. ^ Adams, Andrew N. (2002). A Genealogical History of Robert Adams of Newbury, Mass., and His Descendants, 1635-1900. Heritage Books. ISBN 9780788421457. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "DEATH OF W.H. APPLETON; Last of the Early Founders of Publishing Houses Here. INCIDENTS IN HIS CAREER Striking Indications of His Shrewdness and Tact in Business -- His Charities and Benefactions.". The New York Times. 20 October 1899. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  3. ^ Cutter, William Richard (1913). New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  4. ^ "WILLIAM E. WORTHEN DEAD.; The Well-Known Civil Engineer Succumbs to an attack of Paralysis -- His Public Services.". The New York Times. April 3, 1897. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  5. ^ "WM. W. APPLETON, PUBLISHER, DEAD; Chairman of Board of D. Appleton & Co. a Victim of Pneumonia at 78 Years. CHIEF EDITOR FOR FIRM President of Publishers' Copyright League Was a Grandson of Pioneer Daniel Appleton.". The New York Times. 28 January 1924. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  6. ^ a b "W. H. APPLETON AND NOEL JOHNSTON WED; Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Johnston a Bride in Her Washington Square Home. THE WEDDING ATTENDANTS Little Flower Girl and Page in Costumes Copied from Romney Portraits -- The Guests.". The New York Times. 15 April 1915. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  7. ^ a b Social Register, New York. Social Register Association. 1902. p. 11. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  9. ^ "DIED -- GEARY". The New York Times. 27 July 1873. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  10. ^ Times, Special To The New York (28 October 1934). "MISS MARY APPLETON.". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  11. ^ "Miss Mary Appleton". Newport Mercury. November 2, 1934. p. 3. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  12. ^ A Brief History of Wave Hill , Wave Hill. Accessed May 3, 2008.
  13. ^ Times, Special To The New York (6 August 1951). "DEATHS -- APPLETON". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  14. ^ Times, Special To The New York (5 August 1951). "WILLIAM H. APPLETON, YACHTSMAN, WAS 85". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  15. ^ Wolfe, Gerard R. (1981). The House of Appleton. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press. p. 166-167.