Amos Urban Shirk

Amos Urban Shirk (c. 1890 – October 20, 1956) was an American businessman, author and reader of encyclopedias.

As a businessman he worked in the food industry. He wrote Marketing Through Food Brokers, published in 1939 by McGraw-Hill. He invented a synthetic chicle and introduced vitamin capsules to grocery stores.[1]

He was also renowned as a prodigious reader. Shirk read the entire 23-volume 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica from cover to cover in four and a half years, reading on average three hours per evening, and taking two to six months per volume.[2] As of 1934, he had begun reading the 14th edition, saying he found it a "big improvement" over the 11th, and saying that "most of the material had been completely rewritten".[2]

Shirk did not limit himself to Britannica. He also read Henry Smith Williams's 24-volume Historians' History of the World, which took him two years, as well as an 18-volume set of works by Alexandre Dumas, a 32-volume set of Honoré de Balzac, and a 20-volume set of Charles Dickens.[2]

Shirk had other hobbies including painting and record collecting.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "A. URBAN SHIRK, SALES SPECIALIST; Merchandising Authority in Food Industry Dies at 66—Invented Synthetic Chicle". The New York Times. October 22, 1956. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Reader". The New Yorker. March 3, 1934. p. 17.
  3. ^ "Encyclopedist Says: Read to Understand War Events". The Sunday Times-Signal. Zanesville, Ohio. August 9, 1942. p. 9. Retrieved May 5, 2017 – via  

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