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Encyclopedia Britannica© - Errors

The following is a sampling of errors contained in various editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica© or the Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac (also spelled Encyclopaedia Britannica). Additional information on each error correction can be found by clicking on the link at the beginning and/or end of each entry below.

Without question, the Encyclopedia Britannica error that received the most amount of press coverage was an entry offering details on the Salem Church Dam on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It gave all the particulars, such as its height, length and location. They reported it was located upstream from Fredericksburg, produced hydroelectric power and was used for flood control. The only problem was, no such dam existed. Although the Army Corps of Engineers drew up plans for it in the 1940s, it was never built. The article continued to appear in each new edition of EB for more than 20 years. Not until someone wrote to inform them of the error was the article cancelled.

We highlight this error to demonstrate the importance of bringing reference book errors to the attention of our organization, so the errors can be corrected, and the public informed of errors that may appear in books they have in their homes or public libraries.

Eddie Albert (actor) - Some editions mistakenly report he was born in "1908."
Correction: Because he was born out of wedlock, his mother altered his birth certificate to read "1908." His son, Edward Albert (also an actor), confirmed this, and the fact that Eddie Albert was actually born in 1906 in Rock Island, Illinois. Consult Eddie Albert's profile for more information.

Barbara Bush (Former First Lady) - Some editions erroneously claim she was born in "Rye, New York."
Correction: She was born at Booth Memorial Hospital, in New York City, New York, not Rye, New York, where she was raised. Mrs. Bush specifically addresses this issue in her autobiography and confirms her New York City birth. Additional biographical data can be found in our profile of Barbara Bush.

Truman Capote (writer) - Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year 1967 erroneously reports he was born "September 12."
Correction: He was actually born September 30th, 1924, at the Touro Infirmary, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Visit our profile of Truman Capote for additional information.

Mamie Eisenhower (Former First Lady) - Some editions mistakenly state her full name was "Marie Geneva Doud."
Correction: Mamie was actually christened Mamie Geneva Doud, not "Marie Geneva Doud," or "Mary Geneva Doud." Mamie's own family has repeatedly addressed this issue and quashed these rumors, but for some reason, this erroneous data continues to resurface. Visit our biography of Mamie Eisenhower for additional information.

William Faulkner (writer) - Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year 1963 erroneously reports he died in "Oxford, Mississippi."
Correction: Oxford certainly is where he lived and spent most of his life, but he died more than 60 miles away at Wright's Sanitarium, in Byhalia, Mississippi.

Betty Ford (Former First Lady) - Some editions erroneously offer the spelling "Anne" as Betty Ford's middle name.
Correction: In point of fact, it's spelled Ann. Mrs. Ford confirms numerous times throughout her autobiographies that it's spelled Ann. Visit our profile of Betty Ford for additional information.

Hermann Goering (Nazi German war criminal) - Some past editions erroneously report he died "October 16th."
Correction: He actually died October 15th, 1946, at 10:50 p.m., in Nuremberg, Germany. His death was a suicide by poison cyanide capsule.

Senator Barry Goldwater (U.S. Senator) - Some editions erroneously report "January 1" as his date of birth.
Correction: This is one error that is perfectly understandable. Not only did nearly every reference source on the planet report the same erroneous date of birth, but Barry Goldwater himself reported January 1st as his date of birth in his various autobiographies and other books because he truly believed it was his actual date of birth. Late in life, Senator Goldwater learned he was actually born at 3 a.m., on January 2nd, 1909. For additional biographical data, drop by our profile of Senator Barry Goldwater.

Ned Harrigan (playwright/actor/producer/lyricist/comedian) - Some editions mistakenly list "1845" as the year of Ned's birth.
Correction: He was actually born October 26th, 1844, at 34 Scammel Street, in New York City, New York. For additional in-depth biographical data, drop by our biography of Ned Harrigan.

Audrey Hepburn (actress) - Some editions erroneously report her name at birth.
Correction: Members of her family have addressed, at length, the erroneous birth name attributed to her and have confirmed that Audrey Kathleen Ruston is the name on her birth certificate, not "Edna," or "Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston" as countless reference sources erroneously report. Consult Audrey Hepburn's profile for more information.

Heinrich Himmler (Nazi German war criminal) - Some past editions erroneously report "November 7" as his date of birth. Encyclopedia Britannica carried the incorrect data for decades, but thankfully recent editions of EB have the correct date of October 7.

Billie Holiday (singer) - Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year 1960 erroneously reports her name as "Eleanora Fagan McKay" and her birthplace as "Baltimore, Maryland."
Correction: She was actually born Elinore Harris, April 7th, 1915, at 2:30 a.m., at Philadelphia General Hospital, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Consult Billie Holiday's profile for more information.

Vyvyan Holland (writer) - Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year 1968 erroneously reports "Nov. 3, 1886" as his date of birth.
Correction: He was actually born November 5th, 1886, at 16 Tite Street, Chelsea, London, England. His parents were not thrilled that his birth fell on Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th), so they changed his birth to "November 3rd," and celebrated it on that fabricated date throughout his life. Additional biographical data can be found in our profile of Vyvyan Holland.

Steve McQueen (actor) - Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year 1981 erroneously reports "Indianapolis, Ind." as his place of birth.
Correction: He was born in Beech Grove, Indiana.

Senator George W. Norris (U.S. Statesman) - Some editions of Encyclopedia Britannica erroneously state he died "Sept. 3."
Correction: He died September 2nd, 1944, at 706 Main Avenue (now Norris Avenue), McCook, Nebraska. Visit our profile of Senator Norris for additional information.

Jessica Savitch (TV journalist) - EB Book of the Year 1984, erroneously reports her place of birth as "Kennett Square, Pa." and also has her date of death wrong, misreporting it as "October 24."
Correction: She certainly was raised in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, but she was born February 1st, 1947, at 11:51 a.m., at Delaware Hospital, in Wilmington, Delaware. She died October 23rd, 1983, at 7:20 p.m., in the Delaware Canal, near Chez Odette (the restaurant later became simply Odette's), 274 South River Road, New Hope, Pennsylvania. For additional in-depth biographical data, visit our biography of Jessica Savitch.

Vivian Vance (actress) - Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year 1980 erroneously reports her year of birth as "1913."
Correction: She was born July 26th, 1909, at 311 East 5th Street, in Cherryvale, Kansas. Visit our profile of Vivian Vance for additional information.

Oscar Wilde (writer) - Early editions erroneously report "October 15" as his date of birth.
Correction: He was born October 16th, 1854, at 2:38 a.m., at 21 Westland Row, Dublin, Ireland. For additional biographical data, visit our profile of Oscar Wilde.

It is not our intent to denigrate this fine publication, but merely to point out the above inaccuracies to prevent further dissemination of the erroneous data.

Visit our list of errors contained in other reference books.

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