Guide to the Edward Alsworth Ross Papers

Daniel Hartwig
Stanford University. Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
Stanford, California
October 2010
Copyright © 2015 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.


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Call Number: SC0110
Creator: Ross, Edward Alsworth, 1866-1951.
Title: Edward Alsworth Ross papers
Dates: 1892-1970
Physical Description: 1 Linear feet
Summary: Correspondence about Professor Ross' dismissal, including resignation letters of faculty departing in protest, news clippings, pamphlets, and pamphlets by Ross.
Language(s): The materials are in English.
Repository: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
Green Library
557 Escondido Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6064
Phone: (650) 725-1022

Administrative Information

Information about Access

This collection is open for research.

Ownership & Copyright

All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94304-6064. Consent is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner, heir(s) or assigns. See:
Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

Cite As

Edward Alsworth Ross Papers (SC0110). Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

Biographical/Historical Sketch

In the late 1890s, sociology professor Edward A. Ross gained notoriety following several years of political activism in favor of the free silver movement, municipal ownership of utilities (including the railroads), and Japanese exclusion. While Mrs. Stanford found his opinions personally objectionable, her main concern was the reputation of the univeristy which, she felt, would be damaged by hasty espousal of political and social fads. The founders had intended the university to be free from the pressures of political partisanship; the apolitical nature of the university was now endangered by Ross's activities. Publicly, Mrs. Stanford affirmed President Jordan's power as defined in the Founding Grant to "remove professors and teachers at will," giving him full responsibility for clearing up the matter; however, privately, she pressed for Ross's dismissal. She disagreed with Ross's economic theories and was indignant about the idea of municipal ownership of the railroads, but she was particularly shocked by his anti-Japanese stand. Mrs. Stanford identified such attitudes with the earlier anti-Chinese movement instigated by Dennis Kearny and its resulting "reign of terror" which had pervaded San francisco. Ross, she felt, was a racist.
Mrs. Stanford wished Ross to go quietly, as a gentleman; President Jordan surmised that the activist had little intention of doing so. A man whose administrative style had strongly impressed the academic community, Jordan now vacillated between pleas ing Mrs. Stanford and upholding his image. After several confused attempts at compromise, which engendered misunderstandings between Jordan, Mrs. Stanford, and Ross regarding the latter's reappointment to the faculty, Jordan finally asked Ross to resign in November 1900.
To ensure public sympathy, Ross promptly issued his version of the dismissal to the press on November 14, 1900. He had been dismissed arbitrarily by Mrs. Stanford, he declared, over the opposition of President Jordan. The actual roots of dissension were immediately blurred by extreme public reaction to the touted issue of academic freedom. The entire matter proved to be greatly embarrassing to the university, particularly to its President. Mrs. stanford was thenceforth disturbed by the notoriety the university received from the incident. Having assumed that in her absence (she was traveling in Europe) Jordan would handle the situation discreetly and with dispatch, she failed to understand that Jordan had no control over Ross's continuing press statements. Her trust in Jordan was shaken; following the incident, she increasingly questioned his actions in the areas of salaries, hiring, planned growth of the academic program, and faculty control of student conduct.
For more detail on the Ross Affair, see: Elliott, Orrin Leslie. Stanford University the First Twentv-five Years; Mohr, James C. "Academic Turmoil and Publ ic Opinion: The Ross Case at Stanford," Pacific Historical Review, v . 29, #1 (Feb. 1970) pp. 39-61.

Description of the Collection

Correspondence about Professor Ross' dismissal, including resignation letters of faculty departing in protest, news clippings, pamphlets, and pamphlets by Ross.

Access Terms

Howard, George E.
Jordan, David Starr, 1851-1931
Ross, Edward Alsworth, 1866-1951.
Shaw, Albert, 1857-1947.
Stanford University. Department of Sociology. Faculty.
Stanford, Jane Lathrop, 1828-1905.
Stillman, John Maxson, 1852-1923.
Wheeler, Benjamin Ide, 1854-1927.
Academic freedom.
Ross Affair.
Stanford University--Administration.

Collection Contents




Box 1, Folder 1

Jordan, David Starr--statements

Box 1, Folder 2

Jordan, David Starr--statements

Box 1, Folder 3

Jordan, David Starr--statements

Box 1, Folder 4

Jordan, David Starr--statements --Correspondence 1893, 1900

Box 1, Folder 5

Jordan, David Starr--statements--Correspondence; correspondence with the Committee of Economists 1900-1909

Box 1, Folder 6

Correspondence, miscellaneous

Box 1, Folder 7

Report of the Committee of Economists

Box 1, Folder 8

Writings about the case

Box 1, Folder 9

Wrltings--Statements by several faculty in support of the university

Box 1, Folder 10


Box 1, Folder 11


Box 1, Folder 12


Box 1, Folder 13


Box 1, Folder 14


Box 1, Folder 15


Box 2, Folder 1

Publications by Ross

Box 2, Folder 2

Publications by Ross

Box 2, Folder 3

Publications by Ross

Box 2, Folder 4

Publications by Ross

Box 2, Folder 5

Publications by Ross


Shaw, Albert and Wheeler, Bejamin correspondence 1900

Scope and Content Note

Edward A. Ross. Autograph Letter Signed. Stanford University, Stanford, California, December 9, 1900. 4pp. To Dr. Albert Shaw, Editor-in-chief of the Review of Reviews, with a typed copy of a letter from David S. Jordan of Stanford University to Dr. Ross, June 15, [1900], sent to Shaw by Ross with his signed note: "This letter is confidential and I am not at liberty to print it. It must not be published, quoted, or even alluded to. Even the phraseology should not be followed closely. Please keep it in your own hands and return it to me when you are through with it. ... " With Benjamin I. Wheeler. Typed Letter Signed as President of the University of California. Berkeley, Calif. December 8,1900. 1pg., marked "Confidential". To Dr. Shaw.
Ross first sent Shaw - in confidence - a copy of the letter he had received from President Jordan explaining that Mrs. Stanford "likes you personally, and respects your brilliancy", and, while having "no desire to limit freedom of speech ... feels that the reputation of the University for serious conservatism" was impaired by "hasty acceptance" of "social and political fads" not approved by "conservative thinkers" and businessmen. While she was indeed disturbed by Ross' views on immigration, her greater concern was for "the good name of the University" in upholding what Jordan called "the status quo". Ross' accompanying letter to Shaw said that Jordan had been placed in an "intolerable position" in "seeming to restrict free speech", which "galled him into resentment toward me ... ", being "alarmed lest Mrs. Stanford should break with him" because he had made no secret that it was her demand that Ross be fired. A week later, the President of the University of California, Benjamin Ide Wheeler, sent Shaw still another confidential letter lamenting the "sharply divided" academic opinion on the Ross case, especially at Stanford, where "two hostile camps" were divided by "very bitter feeling". Wheeler noted that Jordan had privately defended Ross and "urged Mrs. Stanford, in every possible manner, to desist from her resolution that Ross must go" - until Ross dishonorably revealed things Jordan had told him in confidence, making public statements "which he had no business to make at all." Ross himself was "not a true university man ... has not the university scientific spirit"; "his place is not in a university faculty", but "the way in which he has been dislodged" and" the spirit in which it was done is entirely wrong." Moreover, "there is no doubt that Mrs. Stanford, and her opinions concerning him, were the sole cause of his removal."