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Collection Overview
 
Table of contents What's This?
Description
The collection contains the notebooks, clippings, AV recordings, and photographs of Eric Hoffer, who wrote a best-seller while working on the docks of San Francisco and became known as America's "longshoreman philosopher."
Background
Eric Hoffer was born either in 1898 or 1902 in the Bronx, New York City. What is known of his early life is based on his own recollections. Hoffer's parents came to the U.S. from Alsace-Lorraine and Hoffer himself spoke with a German accent throughout his life. He learned to read English and German by the time he was five. Hoffer became blind shortly after his mother's death when he was 7, but regained his sight at age 15, leading him to become a voracious reader lest he lose his eyesight again. He never received any formal education. After his father died in 1920, he left for Los Angeles. For the next two decades, he worked a series of odd jobs on LA's Skid Row, then as a migratory farm worker and gold miner, travelling up and down the state of California. He accumulated library cards from various towns along the way and carried books with him wherever he went. Drawing from his readings, experiences, and observations, he began to write in the late 1930's. In 1943, he gained steady employment as a longshoreman on the San Francisco waterfront. The job, which allowed him more time and income, enabled him to focus heavily on his writing. After many trips to the San Francisco Public Library, Hoffer completed his first book The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, which was published in 1951. The book sold 500,000 copies and brought Hoffer celebrity. After the success of his first book he published a book of aphorisms, The Passionate State of Mind in 1955, and then another study of the psychology of mass society, The Ordeal of Change, in 1963. He went on to write seven more books as well as a syndicated column in the San Francisco Examiner. He was interviewed on national television and for a variety of publications on numerous occasions. In February 1983, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan for his life work. He passed away shortly after in May in San Francisco.
Extent
4 pamphlet boxes, 1 carton, 1 flat box, 1 oversize folder (3.5 cubic feet)
Restrictions
Original notebooks may be photographed but not photocopied.
Availability
Collection is open for research and is available for use during Book Arts & Special Collections hours.