University of Minnesota
William Remson Appleby
William Remson Appleby was born to Jacob Charles and Julia (Curtis) Appleby in Hoboken, New Jersey on
February 11, 1865. His paternal grandparents were Leonard Appleby, born NYC on 4th October 1798, and Ann
Amanda FitzAllen Van Wickle of Old Bridge, Middlesex County, New Jersey.
He was a graduate of Hasbrook Institute, Jersey City, New Jersey and later graduated from Williams
College in 1886. He was a graduate student and professor's assistant in the School of Mines of Columbia
University. Later, in 1888 he was an Assistant Chemist in the New York College of Pharmacy. William
Appleby accepted a professorship at the University of Minnesota in May 1891, but was given until the end of the
year to visit other schools of mines and otherwise prepare for the enormous challenge awaiting him.
It was just before Christmas and little more than a month from his twenty-seventh birthday, when he arrived at
the University of Minnesota in time for the January 1892 classes. As the newly-appointed professor to the
University's newly-formed School of Mines, William Remson Appleby was "a most affable gentleman' according
to the University's President at the time.
Minnesota in 1891 was considered the uncivilized wilderness to those living in New England, and Professor
Appleby's family and friends shared this opinion. A worried relative wrote, "How many miles do you have to go
church." There are only four churches," he replied, "within a distance of three blocks, and there are two cars
which are the laughing stock of the town."
His humor may have subsided when he discovered the School of Mines existed only on paper. He shared a
classroom with an engineering class, had one mining book written in French and one student. There were signs of
progress, though, when Professor Appleby was the first one on campus to have a telephone. He was entitled to a
certain number of calls for a flat rate, then each call cost five cents. So many people asked to use his phone, he
had it changed to a regular pay phone.
With this beginning, and originally intending to stay only two or three years, Appleby retired forty-four years
later as Dean Emeritus of the University of Minnesota School of Mines and metallurgy.
During that time, covering almost a half a century, Professor Appleby was appointed Dean of the improve and
completely reorganized School of Mines in 1900. Under his direction, new buildings were erected and there was
no lack of students.
In 1915, he served on the Jury of Awards in the Division of Mining and Metallurgy at the Panama-Pacific
Exposition. In 1921, he led a group of selected engineers to report on coal and iron deposits in Manchuria. He
was, also, a Consulting Metallurgist to the United States Bureau of Mines.
He conducted annual field trips for his classes to Minnesota's Mesate Iron Range, to the South Dakota
mining areas and for senior students, established extended field trips to western mining regions. There was no
phase of mining that was omitted from the courses, much to the chagrin of some Eastern parents, whom were
appalled to learn their sons were actually working in mines with picks and shovels.
Upon his retirement in 1935, Dean William Remson Appleby and his wife, the former Elizabeth Waller of New
London, Connecticut, semi-retired to Newton Center, Massachussetts, to live near their daughter, Edith. There
were, also, two sons, Curtis and William Leonard Appleby. The Applebys maintained their Minneapolis home and
William continued his interest in the students as Councellor and in assisting the graduates in career placements.
January 1942 was a time for remembering, when the Minnesota School of Mines and Metallurgy celebrated
it's fiftieth anniversary. They spoke of William Appleby, saying in part, "He believed in teaching the
fundamentals of his subject so thoroughly that in later life, the graduate could adapt his field of knowledge to any
situation." The building housing the School of Mines and Metallurgy was formally dedicated and given the name
The School of Mines is now a division of the Institute of Technology, giving distinction to Wiliam Remson
Appleby as the first and only dean of the School of Mines and Metallurgy of the University of Minnesota. On
April 8, 1941, he died in Newton Center, Massachussetts.
Thanks to the University of Minnesota and descendents of William Remson Appleby, in Tiberon, California
(1975) for providing some of the information presented here.
19 May 2001
review: 09 March 2005