Famous and Infamous

Stories of famous (or infamous!) Dalrymple’s throughout history will go here!  If you have historical stories of Dalrymple’s down through the ages that you think would make a good addition to this site, please send it along to us!

Here’s some to get us started:


The re-issue of Alexander Dalrymple’s book, An Account of the Discoveries Made in the South Pacifick Ocean, provides an opportunity for New Zealanders and people interested in the history of discovery to reflect on the achievements of a brilliant 16-th century geographer and hydrographer.  The discoveries of James Cook were to a large degree the outcome of the theorizing and scholarship of Dalrymple.

Few New Zealanders have heard of Dalrymple (1737-1808).  he was born near Edinburgh in 1737 and from an early age took a keen interest in geography and travel.  In later life he became a brilliant chart maker and the first Hydrographer of the Admiralty.

History books virtually ignore Dalrymple, and if he is mentioned at all it is usually in unkind terms, as he was known as an arrogant and self-opinionated individual. Yet, if he had not persisted with his belief in the existence of a great continent in the south Pacific, Cook would almost certainly not have been instructed to conduct a southern search in 1769 and Britain might never have claimed and settled the islands of New Zealand.

Dalrymple’s support for an ancient theory

Although a number of Spanish, Dutch, and English expeditions had crossed the central Pacific before the middle of the 18th-century, little exploration  had been carried out in the south Pacific.  However, in a probe from the west in 1642-43, Abel Janszoon Tasman discovered part of the west coast of New Zealand and some of the Tonga and Fiji Islands.

Some 17th- and 18th- century geographers, including Dalrymple, believed that Tasman’s discovery of a section of New Zealand’s west coast proved that a large continent extended eastward across the south Pacific.  In fact, Tasman himself recorded in his journal that he thought it possible he had discovered a continent, which stretched as far as South America.

From ancient times in the Middle East, sages had theorized about large continents in the west and south, needed to “balance” the known land masses in the northern hemisphere. The discovery of America proved the east-west part of the theory and as far as Dalrymple was concerned, Tasman’s discovery of a length of coastline was confirmation of the existence of a huge southern land mass. In fact, Dalrymple’s obsession with the idea is reflected in his book where he refers to New Zealand as ‘The Continent.’

Dalrymple thwarted in his plan to lead a Pacific expedition

In the early 1760s the Royal Society began preparations for making astronomical observations at Tahiti to study the transit of Venus across the disk of the sun in 1769. At the same time Dalrymple started a long campaign not only aimed at influencing the planning authorities to extend the object of the expedition to include a search for the southern continent but also to draw attention to himself. He wanted to take an active part in any proposed voyage. However, when it was proposed to the Admiralty that Dalrymple, a civilian, be given command of a Royal Navy ship, the Admiralty refused the request and handed the command to Lieutenant James Cook.

Withdrawing in a huff, Dalrymple wanted no part in the expedition if he was not going to be commander.

But before the expedition left England, Dalrymple gave Joseph Banks (1743-1820), who accompanied Cook on the Endeavor, and advanced copy of his book, An Account of the Discoveries Made in the South Pacifick Ocean which contains a map of the south-west Pacific.

In the book, Dalrymple expands on his theory about the large southern land, and even discusses the question of whether a passage existed where Cook Strait was later discovered.

When Cook returned from his first Pacific voyage, Dalrymple was shattered to learn that New Zealand consisted only of islands and that Cook had explored vast areas in the south seas without finding a continent. Dalrymple mounted a vicious campaign to discredit Cook but in two further Pacific voyages of exploration, Cook proved conclusively that no southern continent existed.

Cook rightly deserves the credit he has been given for the important part he played in Pacific exploration and discovery and in particular the first circumnavigation of New Zealand.  However, Dalrymple also deserves to be remembered as a major contributor towards Cook’s discoveries.  – http://findingnz.com.nz/ad/mad1_alexander_dalrymple.htm

ABNER FRANK DALRYMPLE (The Babe Ruth of His Day)

In the old days, baseball could be a game of trickery. So it was when a smoky haze swept the diamond in Buffalo, New York. The bases were loaded and two men were out, when the batter lofted a fly ball toward Dalrymple in left. The agile outfielder made the leaping “catch”, preserving his team’s victory. Only later was it revealed that the ball had actually cleared the smoke-shrouded fence—and Dalrymple had replaced it with one conveniently hidden in the blouse of his uniform. It was the talk of the baseball world for years.  (Seems like Dalrymple’s haven’t changed much, right? – Galen)

Abner Frank Dalrymple was born on September 19, 1857 near Gratiot, Wisconsin, the son of New York-born auctioneer Samuel L. Dalrymple. By the early 1860s, the family had removed across the State line, to Warren, Illinois. This growing community, astride the tracks of the Illinois Central, was to nurture the twin passions of young Abner— railroading and baseball. Both of his future careers were to be rooted in Jo Daviess County.

Abner attended the Warren grade school and took on odd jobs to help support his family. He also joined the local baseball team, immediately showing great promise as both a hitter and fielder.  At the tender age of 14, he was hired by the Illinois Central as a substitute brakeman—not because of his potential skill at this profession, but because the railroad had organized a ball club in Amboy, Illinois. After three years, it became apparent that Dalrymple’s own abilities as a baseball player far eclipsed those of his fellow workers. He began playing for more established teams in Freeport, Illinois and Janesville and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And while playing at the latter place, Abner Dalrymple’s dream was realized—the major leagues!

The National League, created in 1876, had a new member—the Milwaukee Cream Citys—and in 1878 Abner Dalrymple became their left fielder. And this, his rookie season, made him a star. He was among the top ten players in the league in nine offensive categories—and was credited with the 1878 batting crown, hitting a robust .354. Called “the demon hitter of his time”, his performance resulted in a spirited bidding war, as virtually every team sought his services for the 1879 season. A $2,500 offer sent Dalrymple to the Chicago White Stockings—beginning an association that would last an exciting eight years.

Player/Manager Cap Anson’s White Stockings were to be the team of the next decade, winning five National League pennants in seven seasons (1880-82, 1885-86). And the club’s leadoff hitter—the man to ignite their offense—was left fielder Abner Dalrymple. Four times “Dal” paced the league in at-bats. In 1880, he led in runs, hits and total bases, while batting a splendid .330. In one game that year against Worcester, Dalrymple and two of his teammates, normally all left-handed batters, switched over to the right side—each collecting a hit in a 4-0 triumph. In 1883, Dalrymple and Anson (a future Hall of Famer) each collected five hits in a 31-7 demolition of Buffalo. In that game, the blistering White Stockings collected a major league record fourteen doubles, four by Dalrymple himself.

And “Dal” could hit for power. In 1884 Abner socked 22 home runs for a Chicago team that, thanks to a short right field fence, totaled 140—a single season record that stood until the 1927 Yankees hit 158. His 11 homers in 1885 led the league. As Dalrymple continued to excel, his salary rose accordingly. At his professional peak, the White Stockings paid him the astronomical sum of $300 per month—an extraordinary amount for the time. And he traveled the country with some equally famous teammates—including Anson, the first player to amass 3000 hits; and fellow outfielder, and speedy base stealer, Billy Sunday, who would one day make a career of evangelism. Abner Dalrymple had journeyed far from Warren, Illinois and substitute railroad brakeman.

Following the 1886 season, when he hit a disappointing .233, Dalrymple was sold to another team—the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. It was written that “life never seemed the same to the old crowd of rooters at Harrison and Loomis streets in Chicago.” In 1887, four images of the famous left fielder appeared on tobacco trading cards advertising “Old Judge Cigarettes” showing an athlete in the waning days of his prime. Mainly due to illness, his batting average continued to decline during his two year stint in Pittsburgh.

After years with Denver and Milwaukee of the Western Association, “Dal” got his final chance in the big leagues in 1891. The American Association had a new team, the Milwaukee Brewers, a late season replacement for the departing Cincinnati Porkers. And Abner immediately became the fan favorite. In this, his farewell season, he hit an admirable .311. His career had come full circle—beginning and ending in Milwaukee.

On January 24, 1892, Abner re-entered railroad service—becoming a passenger conductor for the Northern Pacific line. But he obtained a ninety day leave of absence each summer for four seasons—finishing out his career in Spokane, Washington; Macon, Georgia; Indianapolis and Evansville, Indiana. His last appearance on the field, at the age of 50, was with a semi-pro team in Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1907.

On September 20, 1926, Abner returned to his boyhood home of Warren, Illinois to marry Mrs. Margaret Alderson Glasgow. The bride had a “beautifully and artistically furnished” bungalow there, where the couple spent the summer months prior to Abner’s retirement from the Northern Pacific in 1928.

And on January 25, 1939, Abner Dalrymple died at his home in Warren. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, within earshot of the train whistles so inspiring during his youth. In September of that year, a “unique marker” was placed on the grave. The J.P. Vincent & Sons Monument Works of Galena had created a granite stone, in the center of which is the image of a left-handed batter. And the inscription includes: Chicago White Stockings, 1879-1886.

Abner’s memory lives on. As does his team—now known as the Chicago Cubs. – Article by H. Scott Wolfe, http://www.galenahistorymuseum.org/abnerdalrymple.htm


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