John Shelton Curtiss

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from John S. Curtiss)
Jump to: navigation, search
John Shelton Curtiss
Born July 15, 1899
Buffalo, New York
Died December 27, 1983(1983-12-27) (aged 94)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Residence Durham, North Carolina, most of his career
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Education Princeton University: B.A. & Ph.D. in History, Columbia University
Alma mater Princeton University & Columbia University
Occupation historian & professor
Employer Duke University: 1947 to 1969;
Home town Buffalo, New York
Title James B. Duke Professor at Duke University
Spouse(s) Edna Sutter Curtiss
Children Anne Curtiss Fong and John Sutter Curtiss
Parent(s) Harlow Clarke Curtiss and Ethel (Mann) Curtiss

John Shelton Curtiss (July 15, 1899 – December 27, 1983), was an American historian of Russia and historical scholar of old Yankee stock. Curtiss was a longtime professor of history at Duke University.

Early life and education[edit]

John Shelton Curtiss was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of prominent attorney, Harlow Clarke Curtiss and his socialite wife, Ethel (Mann) Curtiss. His maternal grandfather was Dr. Matthew D. Mann

In 1921 Curtiss received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University, where he had been an oarsman on its undefeated crew team.

In 1925 he decided to do graduate work in history at Columbia University. His first published work appears to have been his 1933 article Sloops of the Hudson, 1800-1850.[1] He taught at Brooklyn College from 1933-1936 as well as at Columbia from 1934-1936. After teaching himself Russian as a graduate student, he made his first of many trips to the Soviet Union in 1934. He completed his Ph.D. in Russian history at Columbia in 1939.


After receiving his Ph.D. in 1939, Curtiss was hired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to be an archivist at his library at Hyde Park. Among Curtiss' responsibilities there was to oversee FDRs ship model collection.

After World War II began, Curtiss was called to Washington, D.C. along with other Slavic experts to do classified work in the Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). After finishing his wartime work in 1945, he joined the history department at Duke University where he remained for the rest of his career. From 1946-1948, he was also a fellow of the Russian Institute at Columbia. In 1954 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Russian history.[2] In 1966 he was designated James B. Duke Professor of history.[3][4]

His work on debunking the Protocols[edit]

During World War II, in 1941 and 1942, while Jews were being, or about to be, exterminated by the Nazis in Europe, Curtiss published his 118-page monograph denying the truth and authenticity of the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It is to be noted that this was accomplished years before Norman Cohn had published his work on the subject, Warrant for Genocide (1967). This work was endorsed by thirteen American historians, as attested to in the work's Foreword. The book concluded that the Protocols of Zion are, "beyond doubt," a "rank and pernicious forgery."

Marriage and later life[edit]

John Shelton Curtiss married Edna Sutter on September 21, 1925, in Buffalo, New York. She died May 22, 1981, in Durham, North Carolina. They had two children, Anne Curtiss Fong and John Sutter Curtiss (1928-2015).[5] After his wife's death, he moved to Honolulu, Hawaii to live with his daughter and her family. He died December 27, 1983 in Honolulu.


In 1940 Curtiss received the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize from the American Historical Association for Church and State in Russia, 1900–1917. [1] Curtiss also wrote The Peasant in nineteenth-century Russia with Wayne S. Vucinich.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sloops of the Hudson, 1800-1850 Archived 2014-04-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation: All Fellows: C Archived 2013-04-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Historical News and Notices, The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Nov., 1966), pp. 572-581
  4. ^ Curtiss, John Shelton, The Russian Revolutions of 1917, New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1957, frontispiece note about the author
  5. ^ "John Sutter CURTISS (1928 - 2015)". Retrieved 28 October 2015. 

External links[edit]

8 John Shelton Curtiss at Find a Grave