Adam Willis Wagnalls
Adam Willis Wagnalls

September 24, 1843September 3, 1924 (80 years old)
Hometown: Lithopolis, OH
September 24, 1843September 3, 1924
(80 years old) | Lithopolis, OH

Life Story

Adam Willis Wagnalls was an American publisher. He was the co-founder and co-eponym of the Funk & Wagnalls Company in 1877.

Wagnalls was born in Lithopolis, Ohio, but moved away at age 5. Wagnalls attended Wittenberg College (now Wittenberg University) in Springfield, Ohio with Isaac Kaufmann Funk, where he became a lutheran minister. He married Hester Anna Willis, also a native of Lithopolis. They had one child, Mabel Wagnalls Jones.

Isaac Kaufmann Funk had founded the business of I. K. Funk & Company in 1876. In 1877, Adam Wagnalls joined the firm as a partner. The two changed the name of the firm to Funk & Wagnalls Company in 1890. Prior to 1890, F. & W. published only religious-oriented works. The publication of The Literary Digest in 1890 marked a change for the firm to a publisher of general reference dictionaries and encyclopedias. The firm followed in 1894 with its most memorable publication, The Standard Dictionary of the English Language. 1912 saw the publication of the Funk & Wagnalls Standard Encyclopedia.

On the death of her mother in 1914, Mabel Wagnalls Jones established the Wagnalls Memorial Library as a gift to Lithopolis and Bloom Township. The Wagnalls Memorial Library is constructed of native free stone in the Tudor-Gothic Style. A few years later she established the Wagnalls Foundation. The Wagnalls Memorial Foundation is constructed of native free stone in the Tudor-Gothic style. This facility provides people living in the area and its visitors with a center for educational, cultural and literary arts activities.

Wagnalls died on September 3, 1924 in Northport, New York and is buried with his wife and their daughter at Lithopolis Cemetery.