Henry Vignaud (1830-1922)
Henry Vignaud was a journalist, diplomat, and historian. He was born and educated in New Orleans. His career as a journalist commenced with articles for the newspapers of New Orleans. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he became a captain in the 6th Louisiana Regiment but was imprisoned in 1862, when New Orleans was captured by the Union Army. He escaped, went to Paris, and never returned to the United States.
In Paris, Vignaud entered the service of the Confederate mission under John Slidell. In 1869, he was appointed to a secretaryship in the Roumanian legation at Paris. On December 14, 1875, he was appointed second secretary of the United States legation in Paris, and on April 11, 1885, was promoted to be first secretary. For thirty-four years, he was an indensable member of the Paris mission, frequently acting as chargé d’affaires, and serving always with distinction.
Vignaud’s distinction was achieved after the age of seventy. His special interest in Columbus grew out of his close association with Henry Harrisse and with the Peruvian scholar Manuel Gonzalez de la Rosa, and the publications of the Columbian anniversary in 1892. He published several works on Columbus and European exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries, including: La Lettre et la Carte de Toscanelli (1901), Toscanelli and Columbus (1902), Études critiques sur la vie de Colomb avant ses découvertes (1905), Histoire critique de la grande entreprise de Christophe Colomb (2 vols., 1911), Améric Vespuce, 1451-1512 (1917), and Christophe Colomb et la Légende (1921).
Vignaud also displayed a broad interest in the whole range of studies of aboriginal America and of the earliest European contacts with the new world. His work was recognized by the award of numerous honors and prizes, and by election as a foreign corresponding member of the Institut de France.
Vignaud’s library of many thousand books, pamphlets, and maps now resides at the University of Michigan.
Vignaud’s work also includes an unfinished history of cartography in approximately 650,000 words.
Biographical note has been excerpted from Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936), s.v. “Vignaud, Henry”
Link to article above:
1911 Click here to view “Henry Vignaud, After Fifty Years of Research, Issues Historical Work in Which Famous Explorer is Branded as Imposter and Humbug” article in the March 21, 1911 issue of the Ohio Plain Dealer.