The Early Years
Selling the Library
Building The Bancroft
Joseph C. Rowell. Letter to Ora Oak. Berkeley, 16 July 1906. File copy.
Before the library could be moved to campus, the great earthquake of April 18, 1906, and the fire that followed, ravaged San Francisco. The fortuitous location of Bancroft’s library placed it just outside the fire zone--and it was the only major library in the city to escape severe damage or complete destruction. The fire destroyed the library of the Mechanics Institute, the San Francisco Public Library, half of the Sutro Library, a great part of the Library of the Society of California Pioneers, the records of the State Surveyor General, and the entire Hall of Records. Among those concerned about the fate of Bancroft’s library was Ora Oak, brother of Henry L. Oak, who had died the previous year.
Benjamin Ide Wheeler. Letter to Mrs. Hubert Howe Bancroft. Berkeley, 9 May 1906.
"What a blessing that The Bancroft Library survived," Wheeler writes, in reporting progress in transporting it to Berkeley. "Three great vans full consisting of over three tons have already arrived . . . but it occupies five hours for a wagon to come from Valencia Street to Berkeley."
"Find Rare Volume in Bancroft Library," and "Mummy is Found Hidden in Library," unidentified clippings, 1906.
A number of surprises awaited those who unpacked the treasures of the library! Among them were the mummy of an Aleut Indian, presumably sent back by Alphonse Pinart, and the long sought Carondelet manuscripts documenting the history of the Louisiana purchase. These latter were, however, mentioned somewhat obliquely by Thomas Savage in his August 1, 1898, letter to University Librarian Joseph C. Rowell as "a very large quantity of mss (also original) connected with Louisiana and Florida during the Spanish domination." Thwaites had also noted them in his 1905 evaluation.
Menu, University of California, Faculty Club, 18 July 1906.
A photograph of the Valencia Street library building, together with a rhyme celebrating the transfer of The Bancroft Library to campus, adorned the cover of the menu for the dinner marking the start of the University’s summer session.
Henry Morse Stephens. "The H. H. Bancroft Library." Typescript, with holograph corrections, ca. 1906.
In this speech, prepared soon after the library came to campus, Professor Stephens extolled the Regents, who "showed that although they were a body of keen business men, they had the imagination to understand what the H.H. Bancroft Library meant for the future of historical scholarship upon the Pacific coast." He ended impassioned survey of the importance of collection by the prophetic evaluation that "the name of Mr. Bancroft will be perpetuated rather by his great library than by the volumes of his history."
"Report of the Commission on the Future Organization, Maintenance, and Regulation of the Bancroft Library." University of California Chronicle, v. IX, no. 1 (Jan. 1907), pp. 48-53.
The Commission’s report, accepted by the Regents on September 20, 1907, confirmed that "the Bancroft Library is a great deal more than a department of the Library of the University of California; it is a great deal more than the historical laboratory of the History Department of the University, it is the indispensable nucleus of a great research library." It went on to recommend the establishment of an "Academy of Pacific Coast History" to build up "a graduate school of historical research outside the limits of the actual work at present now done in the History Department of the University of California." Finally, it set forth regulations for the administration of the collection.
"Bancroft Library to Be Cared for by Council," San Francisco Examiner, 21 September 1906. "Regents Plan New Academy," San Francisco Chronicle, 22 September 1906.
On September 20, 1906, the Regents accepted the report of The Bancroft Library Commission on the future organization, maintenance, regulation of The Bancroft Library. In its report the Commission recommended the formation of an Academy of Pacific Coast History to oversee The Bancroft Collection, encourage its study, and promote publications based on its holdings. In order to raise the estimated $10,000 per year needed, twenty members of the Council, who each would pledge $500 a year for three years, were sought. In anticipation of the successful establishment of the Council, a constitution was drawn up and approved by the Regents on June 11, 1907.
Frederick J. Teggart. Letter to Henry Morse Stephens. Berkeley, 1 September 1909. Typescript.
After detailing his duties as curator-- "the work of a librarian in putting The Bancroft collection in order, the work of an archivist in arranging the manuscripts and determining their contents; and the work of assisting advanced students"--Teggart discusses at length the advisability, the necessity, of making the historical manuscripts available in printed form. He ends by outlining the proposed contents of seven volumes of publications for the Academy of Pacific Coast History.
Publications of the Academy of Pacific Coast History. Berkeley, Cal., 1909-19. 4 volumes.
At first, Professor Henry Morse Stephens secured three teaching fellows for two hours work each day in The Bancroft Library, "where an opportunity will be afforded them of calendaring manuscript material and thus getting practical experience in historical work." Attention soon shifted to editorial work and the publication of items from the collection, issued under the aegis of the Academy of Pacific Coast History specifically founded for that purpose.
Frederick J. Teggart. Academy of Pacific Coast (Hubert Howe Bancroft Collection), fifth annual report, 1 July 1910. Reprint from the President’s Biennial Report to the Governor of California.
Teggart, Curator of the collection, describes the ongoing work, additions to the library, the steadily growing use of the materials, and the Academy’s publication program.
Charles E. Chapman. "Report on Project of Photographing Documents in the Archivo de lndias." Seville, Spain. Typescript, April 1913.
Just as Hubert Howe Bancroft had employed copyists to obtain materials not available to him in the original, The Bancroft Library from its earliest days at the University sent Native Sons’ of the Golden West fellows, staff members, and scholars to foreign archives to list, transcribe, and obtain photographic copies of materials concerning western North America and the Pacific coast, Mexico, Central America, and related regions. This was at first seen as basic to the Academy of Pacific Coast History’s publishing program. It soon evolved into a vast supplementary resource for scholars. Particularly beginning in the early 1950s, Bancroft developed one of the most extensive and useful microfilm collections of documents from foreign archives, with filming carried out in the archives of France, Great Britain, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.
Secretary of the Regents. Letter to Herbert E. Bolton. Berkeley, 14 November 1916. Carbon copy for Professor Henry Morse Stephens.
Letter appointing Bolton as Curator of The Bancroft Library, effective 1 November 1916.
Entrance, reading room, and storage area of The Bancroft Library, 1922-1950. Photographs, 1949.
In 1922, The Bancroft Library was relocated from the first to the fourth floor of Doe Library. There the new Director, George P. Hammond, found it in 1946 "wedged under the eaves in cramped quarters which not only provided improper housing for the Library’s fine and rare materials, but hampered scholars in their research because of lack of facilities."
Bancroft Library. "The Needs of The Bancroft Library." Typescript, 1933.
This report, most probably written by Priestley, focuses on the geographical scope and subject coverage of Bancroft and library operations. In a remarkably contemporary document, he raises a range of issues concerning funding of the collection; coordination with the main library; need for floor and collection space; preservation of materials; administrative strengthening and outside support from the faculty; staff financial needs; the advisability of a field collector and a full-time, professional librarian without teaching duties.
Report of the Advisory Committee on The Bancroft Library. Typescript copy for Professor Sauer, 17 December 1935.
In 1935, Herbert Priestley was surprised by a move by Associate University Librarian Leupp to have The Bancroft Library brought under the administration of the University Library, with a reconfigured staff. Director Bolton, however, handled the crisis by calmly suggesting to President Sproul, whose office had actually issued the plan, that a committee be convened to study the matter. The report, sent forward on December 17, successfully skirted the takeover issue, while working out some cooperative agreements.
Monroe E. Deutsch, "Report of the Administrative Committee on Bancroft Library to the President." Carbon typescript, 29 November 1943.
The most important recommendation of this committee was "that The Bancroft Library become part of the University Library and its administration be under the supervision of the General Library. It is our belief that under those conditions appropriations may be more wisely and often more adequately made, cooperation between the General Library and The Bancroft Library will be increased and it will become possible to set up a definite division of fields between the two and maintain such a division."
Resolution establishing the Friends of The Bancroft Library, 1 August 1946. Typescript copy.
The organizational meeting of the Friends of The Bancroft Library was held at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco. Those present and signing the resolution included: Charles L. Camp, Francis P. Farquhar, George L. Harding, George P. Hammond, Warren R. Howell, George R. Stewart, Henry R. Wagner, and Carl I. Wheat.
"Field of The Bancroft Library," University of California, General Library, Berkeley, General Order No. 30. Mimeograph typescript, 18 November 1946.
Among University Librarian Coney’s first actions after The Bancroft Library transferred to his administration was to issue a directive concerning Bancroft’s collection areas. Later committees would refer back to this as the definitive statement excluding South America materials; but the debate about the Latin American components of the collection continued.
Roscoe R. Hill. "Report on The Bancroft Library, with Special Reference to Guides to the Source Materials." Berkeley, 1947. Typescript.
In 1947 Bancroft’s new director, George P. Hammond, requested Roscoe R. Hill, then a senior staff member of the National Archives, to survey the Library and offer recommendations. Hill’s report included observations and recommendations on housing and space, arrangement of manuscript materials, and the acquisitions program. He gave major attention, however, to proposals for a series of descriptive guides for the manuscript collections.
Friends of The Bancroft Library. Annual Letter. 1 September 1948.
The first publication of the Friends of The Bancroft Library was an Annual Letter, written by Chairman George L. Harding. Issued following the first annual meeting, it detailed the organization and plans of the new support group which, in two years, had grown to nearly 150 members.
California Centennial Buildings, 1949.
In the autumn of 1947, a move was initiated to obtain a building for The Bancroft Library under the Centennial Celebration Program. President Sproul counseled postponing plans until the 1949 legislative session. A proposal was then introduced as Assembly Bill 784 to construct a new building on the Berkeley campus for The Bancroft Library and another Centennial Building in the south as a history and cultural center. The Library and the Friends mounted an energetic campaign and the bill successfully moved through the Committee on Governmental Efficiency and Economy. It emerged later, however, from the Committee on Ways and Means without further action.
Bancroftiana, no. 1, March, 1950.
This first issue of Bancroftiana celebrated Bancroft Library’s move into three floors of the Annex-- "lots of color, and lots of light, and so much more space that it still seems almost unbelievable"--while at the same time waxing nostalgic about the previous attic quarters.
Doris Marion Wright. A Guide to the Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo Documentos para la Historia de California, 1780-1875. Bancroft Library, Guides to the Manuscript Collections, 1. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953.
This was intended to be the first of a series of specialized guides to individual manuscript collections in The Bancroft Library, as recommended by consultant Roscoe R. Hill. The need for a guide to the entire manuscript holding library, however, soon took precedence.
George P. Hammond. "The Bancroft Library Program." Typescript, 20 May 1954.
A recurring topic of discussion for faculty committees involved in The Bancroft Library was the Latin American component of the collection. Soon after coming to The Bancroft Library, Dr. Hammond researched the library’s collecting history, reaching an agreement with University Librarian Coney that Bancroft would continue to include Colonial Latin America. In 1954, however, he found himself once again needing to present The Bancroft Library Committee with an impassioned argument for the centrality of the Mexican and Central American materials in the library: "The Spanish history of North America is the basis on which California and the Pacific Coast were built, and these records are tied into the very fabric of Mexican History."
Carl I. Wheat, "The Bancroft Library: Whence--What--Whither," an address delivered by Carl I. Wheat on May 22, 1955, before the Friends of The Bancroft Library in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of its acquisition by the University of California. Berkeley, California, 1955.
Carl I. Wheat--lawyer and noted historian of the West, particularly of cartography--was one of the founding members of the Friends of The Bancroft Library and, in this anniversary year, was also Chairman of the Friends’ Council. While gracefully tracing the origin and growth of The Bancroft Library, Wheat concentrated his remarks on the budgetary constraints preventing the library from developing its collection to full potential.
"Future Quarters for The Bancroft Library." Bancroft Library Committee agenda, Meeting 22, 3 April 1956. Typescript.
After only six years in the Annex, The Bancroft Library was found to be inadequate and beyond capacity.
James M. Cline. "A Report on The Bancroft Library." Typescript, 27 May 1963.
This report, prepared for the Chancellor of the Berkeley campus and submitted on November 1, 1965, received wide review and comment. It examined and made recommendations regarding three aspects of The Bancroft Library that had been long-debated: collecting policies, particularly relating to California, the American Southwest, and Latin America; administration, specifically the qualifications for Director; and Bancroft’s relationship to the General Library.
"University Archives to Bancroft," Bancroftiana, no. 31 (April 1963), pp. 3-4.
The University Archives was established by Joseph C. Rowell in 1938. By the 1960s, it was totally out of shelfspace, with materials piling up both in the Archives stack area and in the work room on the third floor of Doe Library. Not only did the historical character of the Archives make it a natural for placement in The Bancroft Library, but doing so would apportion some of the work for reference, arranging, and cataloging among the library’s existing staff. Custody of the University Archives transferred to The Bancroft Library on October 1, 1962, and the transfer was formalized on July 1, 1963.
Dale L. Morgan and George P. Hammond, editors, A Guide to the Manuscript Collections of The Bancroft Library. Berkeley: Published for The Bancroft Library by the University of California Press, 1963-1972. 2 volumes.
In his 1947 report, Roscoe R. Hill had recommended that the Library make its holdings known through a series of published guides which would provide access to the thousands of individual items contained in the various Bancroft collections: 1) a general guide to the manuscripts collections in The Bancroft Library, 2) a detailed description and listing of the documents included in the 612 California volumes, 3) a calendar of the original Spanish documents in the Library, 4) a description of the items in the 361 volumes of Mexican manuscripts, and 5) a list of the transcripts and photographic reproductions, particularly from Spanish and Mexican archives, compiled for the library by Native Sons fellows and others over the years. Volume I, Pacific and Western Manuscripts, of A Guide to the Manusciprt Collections of The Bancroft Library, edited by Dale L. Morgan and George P. Hammond, appeared in 1963. Volume II, Manus- cripts Relating Chiefly to Mexico and Central America, edited by George P. Hammond, followed in 1972. A third volume, for California manuscripts, was planned but not undertaken.
A. Hunter Dupree. Letter to Donald Coney. Berkeley, 24 July 1964. Carbon Typescript.
Beginning in 1964, when the materials from the Sources of Quantum Physics Project, assembled by Professor Tom Kuhn, became available, there was interest in establishing a History of Science Archive at Berkeley. University Librarian Coney was inclined to place it in the library’s Rare Books and Special Collections Department but Hunter Dupree, a strong advocate of the proposed archive, argued for its placement in The Bancroft Library.
"Library Becomes Landmark," Oakland Tribune, 27 November 1964; and "A Landmark of History," unidentified clipping.
In 1964, the original site of The Bancroft Library became California Registered Historical Land- mark No. 791. After the removal of the collection in 1906, the building had become a sasparilla plant. From 1920 until it was demolished in 1954, it was used by St. Luke's Hospital as a clinic.
"Bancroft’s New Director, Dr. A. Hunter Dupree," Bancroftiana, no. 37 (June 1965), pp. 2-3; "Changes in Leadership," Bancroftiana, no. 38 (March 1966), p. 7.
Presented as a condition for his acceptance of the position of Director, Dupree’s statement set forth a program of active research and aggressive collecting. Among the changes he proposed were an extension of collection emphasis to include 20th-century collecting of "modern history in all its phases," not limited to the traditional geographic areas; "special attention to the development of sources in the history of modern science," "a greater degree of autonomy from the General Library;" the creation of a curatorial staff of scholars; a new building, or the refurbishing of an existing one; and an augmented budget.
Catalogue of the Regional Oral History Office, 1954-1979, edited by Suzanne B. Riess and Willa K. Baum. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1980.
In 1953, Hubert Howe Bancroft's practice of training his assistants to interview the early settlers of the American West was revived at The Bancroft Library. At the suggestion of Professors James D. Hart and George Stewart, the library conducted its first tape-recorded oral history session, an interview in Paris with Alice B. Toklas concerning Gertrude Stein's life in Oakland, to supplement Bancroft’s holdings of Toklas-Stein papers. The next year the Regents of the University formally established the Regional Cultural History Project, making it one of the earliest such projects in the nation. On July 1, 1965, after a decade in the Main Library, the Regional Oral History Office--as it at that time came to be called--returned to The Bancroft Library. Over the years, ROHO has conducted hundreds of interviews and has been instrumental, as in the early days, in bringing many manuscript collections into the library.
Herman W. Liebert. Memorandum to James E. Skipper. Mimeograph typescript, 25 February 1969.
Liebert, Head of the Beinecke Library at Yale University, surveyed the space needs of the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of the Berkeley Library in December, 1968, and recommended to the University Librarian that the department be combined with The Bancroft Library to form the "Bancroft Rare Book and Manuscript Library." He also proposed extensive expansion and remodeling of the Annex Building.
James D. Hart. "Comments on the Liebert Report." Photocopy of typescript, .
University Librarian Skipper accepted and summarized the report. James D. Hart, however, saw that The Bancroft Library, even without the addition of the rare books collection, needed an immediate doubling of space. "We cannot afford to wait a decade to realize the fine Liebert plan for an augmented Bancroft Library," he commented. Instead, he recommended a three- stage construction plan, with immediate augmentation and remodeling of existing Annex space and long-term planning for further construction.
The Friends of The Bancroft Library. Minutes, Council Meeting No. 43, 18 July 1969.
At this pivotal meeting, the new University Librarian James Skipper announced the approval of his plans for the expansion of the scope of The Bancroft Library and the appointment of a new Director, Professor James D. Hart. Hart spoke of his purpose "to preserve the integrity and growth of the present Bancroft collections, and to strengthen them by amalgamation with the Rare Books and other divisions, to the benefit of all of them."
Installation of name over the entrance to the Library. Photograph, 1970.
As a first step in the library's expansion into additional space in the Library Annex and the remodeling to accommodate its expanded mission, "The Bancroft Library" was designated in bronze lettering over the main entrance.
Mark Twain. Roughing It. Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith, Edgar Marquess Branch . . . . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
The Mark Twain Papers constitute the most complete personal archive of a major American writer now available in a research library. Preserved intact following the novelist’s death in 1910, the papers were bequeathed to the University of California by his daughter, Mrs. Clara Clemens Samossoud, in 1962. The collection, together with a major publications program, came to the Bancroft Library in 1970. The Mark Twain Project is editing and publishing comprehensive scholarly volumes of all of Mark Twain's private papers and published works. A popular trade edition, drawn from the texts of the scholarly edition, is also being issued in a series known as the Mark Twain Library.
Charles J. Hitch. Dedication, Research and the Library: Remarks at the Dedication of the Enlarged and Remodeled Bancroft Library, May 6, 1973. The Friends of The Bancroft Library: Berkeley, 1973.
Friends of The Bancroft Library gathered at their 26th annual meeting to dedicate the library’s new home and, in particular, the Edward Hellman Heller Reading Room. With Mrs. Gerald H. Hagar presiding, speakers were (seated, left to right): Director James D. Hart, President Charles J. Hitch, Chancellor Albert H. Bowker, and University Librarian Richard M. Dougherty.
"History of Science and Technology," Bancroftiana, no. 55 (June 1973), pp. 6-7.
With roots in the summer work of 1971 and 1972 by Professor Roger Hahn who, as advisor to the library, studied the feasibility of the program and began assembling materials, the History of Science and Technology Program was formally established in The Bancroft Library on 1 July 1973. Building on materials already in the library as part of the University Archives, Regional Oral History Office, and the rare books collection, the program was charged with the collection of source materials in the history of science and technology in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Some Treasures of The Bancroft Library Celebrating the Dedication of the Enlarged and Remodelled Library, May 6th, 1973, edited by J. R. K. Kantor. Berkeley: Friends of The Bancroft Library, University of California, 1973.
The treasures celebrated in this inaugural exhibit in the new exhibition gallery were chosen not because of their rarity or monetary value, but because they are resources for scholarship in diverse fields, representing in 1973 the various new divisions of The Bancroft Library, in addition to The Bancroft Collection: rare books and literary manuscripts, the University archives, history of science and technology, pictorial collections, and the Mark Twain papers.
The Friends of The Bancroft Library paperweight.
In 1975 this special keepsake began to be issued to each member who renewed membership.
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