James Simonton

SIMONTON, James (1786?-1857) — Dublin

Geographer, schoolmaster, mapmaker and globemaker. Wrote “Geography and astronomy, scientifically managed (being a new system)” 1821, with maps and diagrams, as well as a printed two-dimensional globe attached by ribbon: the author’s advertisements note him as a globemaker; a fourth edition appeared in 1830. “We were shown, a few days ago, a small globe and a set of maps, for schools, constructed on a new plan, by Mr Simonton, master of Killasandra school in Ireland. The maps have the merit of extreme perspicuity. The sea and land are distinguished merely by colours, the sea being invariably coloured blue and the land yellow; and the pupil is led on by easy steps from the most elementary ideas to the more complex. The globe is about four inches in diameter, and is made to answer the purpose both of a celestial and terrestrial sphere. The earth and sea are distinguished as in the plane maps by colours, and the constellations by black outlines. The globe is of rude construction, but has the advantage of being very cheap; and we are too apt to forget, that for the schoolboys’ purposes, cheapness is of much more importance than either elegance or perfect accuracy. Mr Simonton sells his globe at 7s, and it might probably be sold at 4s or 5s, were the manufacture of the article to become a regular trade. The great expense of the apparatus of this and other kinds now in use does in effect exclude the poor from many valuable branches of education. If Mr Simonton succeeds in his plan of rendering globes as cheap and as common in schools, as spelling-books, he will effect a very great improvement” (The Scotsman, 10 Oct 1827). The same or similar globes were later on sale at Simonton’s “Institute for Special Education” in Dublin — “A new system of globes, viz: one small, cheap globe, made to answer for either a celestial or terrestrial sphere, as occasion may require; (the two spheres in one), by which all the problems are solved“ (Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail, 4 Nov 1843).

Born about 1786. Principal of the Killashandra School, a “mercantile academy” in County Cavan, Ireland, in 1824-1827. In 1840-1852, as “J. Simonton & Son(s)”, he was running “The Institute for Special Education, Classical. Mathematical, and Philosophical” in Jervis Street, Dublin, moving to Middle Abbey Street in 1852. In October 1841, his elocution class, in the presence of “a respectable audience”, debated the question, “Is the moon a peopled world?”, concluding that it was: “uncommon interest was excited” (Freeman’s Journal, 13 Oct 1841). A public performance of “experiments, in various branches of natural philosophy, viz., chemistry, electricity, optics, pneumatics, hydraulics” was given at the Institute in December of the same year, in the “presence of a numerous and highly respectable auditory … each student, as called on by the ladies who sat in front, gave satisfactory explanation” (Dublin Evening Packet, 23 Dec 1841). Similar public performances and debates continued through the 1840s. An advertisement in the Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail of 13 July 1850 notes a number of cheap educational texts by Simonton, not all of which appear to survive, as well as again offering the globes for sale. A James Simonton at the same address is referred to as a wood engraver in 1851, although this probably a son. He was the father of the Joseph Simonton who was killed in an accident in Australia in 1853. He died in Dublin 4 Feb 1857 at the age of seventy-one, The Institute continuing for a number of years after his death.

1 Jervis Street, Dublin — 1842-1852
80 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin — 1852-1857