The President And The Mole People

By Karen Harris

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) American diplomat and Sixth President of the United States of America 1825-1829. c1848. Source: (Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

No doubt U.S. presidents use their position of power to do some strange things, but John Quincy Adams just may win the award for the weirdest appropriation of tax dollars. Believe it or not, John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, authorized an expedition to the center of the earth to search for the mole people who he believed inhabited the bowels of the planet. Here’s the story of the President and the Mole People. 

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President Adams Loved Science and Nature

John Quincy Adams, the son of our second president, John Adams, was interested in science and nature and had a passion for exploration. During his lifetime, scientific exploration was reaching new heights. Lewis and Clark had been commissioned to explore the western frontier and, around the world, adventurers were setting out for uncharted territories in search of the unknown. 

The Hollow Earth Theory. Source: (

Adams Believed the Hollow Earth Theory

Although it has been suggested by many historians that John Quincy Adams had the highest I.Q. of any president, he had some deeply-held beliefs that we would scoff at today. One of them was his support of the Hollow Earth Theory. During the 1810s and 1820s, many academics and scientists thought that the Earth was a hollow sphere. Actually, it was theorized that the Earth was made up of a series of concentric layers, each containing its own subterranean world. This world was illuminated by a sun-like heat and light source at the very center of the Earth. 

Scene from the 1956 sci-fi movie, "The Mole People". Source: (

Adams Wanted to Meet the Mole People

Life would thrive, 1820s scientists believed in the worlds beneath the Earth’s surface. There would probably be vast natural resources to be found there, as well as subterranean people. Darwin’s theories on evolution were still decades away, but believers of the Hollow Earth Theory, like Adams, assumed that some sort of human-like beings had adapted to the underground lifestyle and that there were communities of mole people. 

John Cleves Symmes, Jr. Source: (

Adams was Influenced by John Cleves Symmes, Jr.

During this time, a self-education scientist and ex-soldier named John Cleves Symmes, Jr. was making the rounds across the United States speaking to crowds about his Hollow Earth Theory. The purpose of his lectures wasn’t just to educate his audience. He was trying to recruit “one hundred brave companions,” Since Symmes believed, as other Hollow Earth theorists did, that there were chasms in the ground at the North and South Poles that served as gateways to the center of the Earth, he planned to launch an expedition in Siberia. 

John Quincy Adams. Source: (

Symmes Needed Adams and Adams Needed Symmes

Not everyone took Symmes’ theory seriously. In fact, most people laughed at him. It looked as though he wouldn’t be able to raise the support he needed for his expedition to the center of the Earth. But he found a supporter in John Quincy Adams. Adams was a brainy introvert who was more academic than presidential. In the presidential campaign of 1824, Adams was viewed as indecisive and cautious while his opponent, Andrew Jackson was seen as bold, decisive, and authoritative. During the campaign, Adams promised to back Symmes’ expedition. Even though plenty of people scoffed at the idea, they saw the move as proof that Adams did have a backbone. They had a newfound respect for Adams that helped him win the election. 

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Symmes Wanted to Establish Trade with the Mole People

Adams was interested in the thrill of discovery and was curious to see what natural resources would be found beneath the Earth. He was also hoping that the new discovery would be the legacy of his presidency. As for Symmes, he sought to establish trade with the Mole People. No doubt he was hoping to gain profits for himself by establishing trade routes between the surface world and the subterranean one. 

The Smithsonian Institution. Source: (

The Expedition Never Happened

John Quincy Adams only served one term as president and, in that time, he was not able to pull together the support and resources needed to fund Symmes’ journey. When Jackson was elected president, he immediately nixed the project. Despite this failure, Adams’ presidency did see some lasting scientific endeavors. He established the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. and, more importantly, helped to make sure that the money from the estate of James Smithson went to the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution. So far as we know, no other president has attempted to establish diplomatic ties with the Mole People of middle earth. 

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Karen Harris


Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.