Hubert Howe Bancroft

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Hubert Howe Bancroft
Hubert Howe Bancroft.jpg
Born May 5, 1832
Granville, Ohio
Died March 2, 1918
Walnut Creek, California
Occupation Historian
Known for Early histories of the North American west

Hubert Howe Bancroft (1832–1918) was an American historian and ethnologist who wrote, published and collected works concerning the western United States, Texas, California, Alaska, Mexico, Central America and British Columbia.

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

Hubert Howe Bancroft was was born May 5, 1832 in Granville, Ohio to Azariah Ashley Bancroft and Lucy Howe Bancroft. The Howe and Bancroft families originally hailed from the New England states of Vermont and Massachusetts, respectively.[1] Bancroft's parents were staunch abolitionists and the family home was a station on the Underground Railroad.[2]

Bancroft attended the Doane Academy in Granville for a year, and he then became a clerk in his brother-in-law's bookstore in Buffalo, New York.[3]

Move to California[edit]

In March 1852, Bancroft was provided with an inventory of books to sell was sent to the booming California city of San Francisco to set up a west coast regional office of the firm.[1] Bancroft was successful in building his company, entering the world of publishing in the process.[1] He also became a serious collector of books, building a collection numbering into the tens of thousands of volumes.[1]

In 1868, he resigned from his business in favor of his brother, A. L. Bancroft. He had accumulated a great library of historical material, and abandoned business to devote himself entirely to writing and publishing history.[4]

Bancroft's library consisted of books, maps, and printed and manuscript documents, including a large number of narratives dictated to Bancroft or his assistants by pioneers, settlers, and statesmen. The indexing of this vast collection employed six persons for ten years. The library was moved in 1881 to a fireproof building, and in 1900 numbered about 45,000 volumes.[4]

He developed a plan to publish a history in 39 volumes of the entire Pacific coast region of North America, from Central America to Alaska. He employed collaborators for the preliminary work, and then revised it all, and wrote the most important chapters himself. In 1886 the publishing establishment of A. L. Bancroft & Company burned, and the sheets of seven volumes of the history he had written were destroyed.[4]

Personal[edit]

Bancroft's first marriage was to Emily Ketchum in 1859. They had one daughter, a girl who died in 1869. Bancroft married again in 1879. His second wife was Matilda Coley Griffing, with whom he had four children.[1]

Although he never graduated from college, in 1875 Bancroft was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from Yale in recognition of his massive historical work on Native Races of the Pacific States.[5]

Death and legacy[edit]

Hubert Howe Bancroft died on March 2, 1918 at his country home in Walnut Creek, California.[6] "Acute peritonitis" was blamed as the cause of death in published newspaper reports.[5] Bancroft was 86 years old at the time of his death. His body was interred in the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.

The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, named in his honor, was founded when the University of California purchased his 60,000 volume book collection in 1905. Brancroft is also the namesake of Bancroft Way in Berkeley, California.[5]

In 1885 Bancroft purchased a ranch with an adobe cottage located in Spring Valley, in San Diego County, as a retirement home. The Hubert H. Bancroft Ranch House is now a National Historic Landmark. In addition, part of a property Bancroft bought around 1880 in Contra Costa County, California is now the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

Several schools are named for Bancroft, including Bancroft Middle School (Long Beach, California), Bancroft Middle School (Los Angeles, California) and Hubert H. Bancroft Elementary School in Sacramento.

An archive of Bancroft family correspondence, collected by his daughter Kate, is held in the Mandeville Special Collections Library in the Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego.

Published works[edit]

Bancroft's written works include the following:[7]

  • Native Races of the Pacific States (vols. 1–5, 1874)
  • History of Central America (vols. 6–8, 1882–87)
  • History of Mexico (vols. 9–14, 1883–87)
  • History of Texas, and the North Mexican States (vols. 15–16, 1884–89)
  • History of Arizona and New Mexico (vol. 17, 1889)
  • History of California (vols. 18–24, 1884–90)
  • History of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming (vol. 25, 1890)
  • History of Utah (vol. 26, 1889)
  • History of the Northwest Coast (vols. 27–28, 1884)
  • History of Oregon (vols. 29–30, 1886–88)
  • History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana (vol. 31, 1890)
  • History of British Columbia (vol. 32, 1887)
  • History of Alaska (vol. 33, 1886)
  • California Pastoral (vol. 34, 1888)
  • California inter Pocula (vol. 35, 1888)
  • Popular Tribunals (vols. 36–37, 1887)
  • Essays and Miscellany (vol. 38, 1890)
  • Literary Industries (vol. 39, 1890)[8] This volume gives an account of his methods of work.[9]
  • The Early American Chroniclers (1883)
  • Chronicles of the Builders of the Commonwealth: Historical Character Study (1891–1892)
  • Book of the Fair (1893)
  • Resources and Development of Mexico (1893)
  • The Book of Wealth (1896)
  • The New Pacific (1912)
  • Retrospection, Political and Personal (1912, 1915)
  • Why a World Centre of Industry at San Francisco Bay (1916)
  • In These Latter Days (1917)

Note on production methods[edit]

Bancroft made use of index cards in the organization and compilation of facts for his lengthy and massive series of historical volumes.[6] In the course of his organization of source material and writing, Bancroft made use of scores of research assistants, the contributions of some of whom amounted to the output of co-writers.[6]

Originally he seems to have intended to use topical sections of writing produced by his assistants as the basis of a broad narrative which he himself would write, but as the work progressed he came to use the statements as they were, with only slight changes. He said his assistants were capable investigators, and there is evidence that some of them deserved his confidence; Frances Fuller Victor, in particular, was a well-known author. However, his failure to acknowledge each contribution created doubt about the quality of the work. Overall, although Bancroft considered himself the author of his works, in contemporary terms it is more accurate to consider him an editor and compiler.[10]

Neither Bancroft, nor most of his assistants, had enough training to avoid stating their personal opinions and enthusiasms, but their works were generally well received in their time. Historian Francis Parkman praised Bancroft's The Native Races in The North American Review, but Lewis H. Morgan was more critical, based on his newly published theory of Indian culture, in an article named Montezuma's Dinner. Bancroft's response to Morgan's criticism suggests that he did not understand Morgan's theory, which is now generally accepted by scholars.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Men and Women of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries. New York: L.R. Hamersly and Co., 1910; pg. 87.
  2. ^ "Bancroft House," Denison University, www.denison.edu/ Retrieved July 17, 2011.
  3. ^ Ann Natalie Hansen, "Hubert Howe Bancroft, Historian of the West," The Historical Times: Newsletter of the Granville, Ohio, Historical Society, vol. 9, no 4. (Fall 1997).
  4. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Bancroft, Hubert Howe". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  5. ^ a b c "H.H. Bancroft, Historian, is Summoned: Greatest Writer of California's Achievements is Stricken at Home," Oakland Tribune, vol. 139, no. 11 (March 3, 1918), pp. 27, 30.
  6. ^ a b c "H.H. Bancroft, Historian, Dies at Age of 86: Prolific American Writer Passes Away at His Home in Walnut Creek," San Francisco Chronicle, vol. 112, no. 47 (March 3, 1918), pg. 1.
  7. ^ Historical Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft. Internet Archive (retrieved September 24, 2012)
  8. ^ Library of Congress online text (retrieved 29 October 2010)
  9. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bancroft, Hubert Howe". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  10. ^ "Hubert Howe Bancroft – Author or Editor?", 12 March 2011. Retrieved on 10 November 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • John Walton Caughey, Hubert Howe Bancroft: Historian of the West. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1946.
  • Harry Clark, A Venture in History: The Production, Publication, and Sale of the Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1973.

External links[edit]