Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Henry Nash Smith Papers
Date (inclusive): 1927-1986
Collection Number: BANC MSS 87/136 c
Smith, Henry Nash
Number of containers: 8 boxes, 4 cartons
Linear feet: 8.3
The Bancroft Library.
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Abstract: Collection primarily consists of correspondence & research materials pertaining to Smith's published works, lectures and other
professional activities and interests. The correspondence files are particularly extensive.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information
on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research with the following exceptions: Box 4, folder 15 is closed until the year 2025.
Materials in this collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction
of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions,
privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond
that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be
commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the
Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See:
[Identification of item], Henry Nash Smith papers, BANC MSS 87/136 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
American literature--19th century--History and criticism
West (U.S.)--In literature
The principal body of the Henry Nash Smith papers was received as a gift to the library from Smith's wife, Elinor Smith, in
April 1987. Four additional card files of note cards were received as a gift from Duke University in June 1988.
Henry Nash Smith was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1906. He took his bachelor's degree in English at age 19 from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he taught from 1927 to 1941, taking time out for his M.A. in English (1929) and his Ph.D. in the History
of American Civilization (1940), both at Harvard. He subsequently taught in the English departments of the University of Texas (until 1947) and the University of Minnesota (until 1953), when he was invited by Robert Gordon Sproul to join the English Department at Berkeley—coinciding with his apppointment as the literary editor for the Mark Twain Estate,
succeeding Dixon Wecter.
In 1950, following a year as a Fellow of the Huntington Library and Rockefeller Foundation, Smith published
Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, a comprehensive revision of his Harvard dissertation.
Virgin Land was immediately recognized as a seminal book in the study of American culture, and it established Smith's standing in the
very first rank of the academy. Ten years later, in 1960, Smith likewise transformed the study of Mark Twain when he published the
Mark Twain—Howells Letters, in collaboration with William M. Gibson and Frederick Anderson. This edition was the first truly scholarly edition of Mark Twain letters ever published, and it established a new standard
of excellence for Mark Twain scholarship as a whole. Two years later, Smith published
Mark Twain: The Development of a Writer, considered to be the single most important critical examination of Mark Twain.
In 1964, Smith resigned as editor of the Mark Twain Papers at The Bancroft Library, though he continued to play an absolutely crucial role in the subsequent development of the Mark Twain editions and indeed
of scholarly work on American writers in general. During the late 1950's and early 1960's, Smith served both on the Board
of Directors of the American Council of Learned Societies and on the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association, both of which were intimately connected with the creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and its program for comprehensive editions of American writers. He played a prominent role in the resistance to the
Loyalty Oath in 1967 and during the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley.
Smith retired from teaching in 1974, but remained highly active writing critical pieces and at the time of his death had at
least two prepared for publication. Henry Nash Smith died in an automobile accident near Elko, Nevada, on May 30, 1986.
(Excerpted, in part, from a memorial to Henry Nash Smith by Robert H. Hirst,
CU News, Vol. 41:22, 5 June 1986)
||Born in Dallas, Texas
||Married Elinor Lucas
||Died May 30 in an automobile accident near Elko, Nevada
||B.A., Southern Methodist University in English
||M.A., Harvard in English
||Ph.D., Harvard in History of American Civilization
||Fellow, Huntington Library and Rockefeller Foundation
||Bancroft Prize in American History (Columbia University) for
||John H. Dunning Prize (American Historical Association)
||Member Board of Editors, John Harvard Library
||Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences
||Special Award for Distinction in the Humanities (American Council of Learned Societies)
||Board of Directors, American Council of Learned Societies
||Executive Council, Modern Language Association
||Fulbright lectureship, Italy
||Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
||President of MLA
||LL.D., Colorado State University
||Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
||Jay B. Hubbell Award, American Literature Section, MLA
||Member, American Philosophical Society
||Litt.D., University of Nebraska
||Instructor to Associate Professor, S.M.U.
||Professor of English and of American History, University of Texas
||Professor of English, University of Minnesota
||Literary Editor of Mark Twain Estate, UC Berkeley
||Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley (Emeritus, 1974)
||Hurst Professor, Washington University
||Retired from University of California
Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth
Mark Twain: The Development of a Writer
Mark Twain's Fable of Progress
Democracy and the Novel: Popular Resistance to Classic American Writers
James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie
Mark Twain of the "Enterprise"
Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain, Roughing It
Mark Twain-Howells Letters (with William M. Gibson)
Popular Culture and Industrialism, 1865-90
Harvard Library Bulletin
Huntington Library Quarterly
Mississippi Valley Historical Review
New England Quarterly
University of Texas Studies in English
Western American Literature
Scope and Content
The Henry Nash Smith Papers came to The Bancroft Library after his death in 1986. For the most part, the present arrangement
reflects the original order of the materials as received.
The Papers primarily contain correspondence, personal papers, and research materials pertaining to Smith's published works,
as well as his lectures, conference papers, and book reviews. The correspondence files provide a rich resource on the development
of Smith's thought and his contributions to the evolving field of American Studies. They contain letters from many prominent
writers, including J. Frank Dobie, Jessica Mitford, Alfred Kazin, Wallace Stegner and Robert Penn Warren; from publishing agents; and from such noted American scholars as Leo Marx, Perry Miller, Henry May, Richard Hofstadter, John William Ward, C. Vann Woodward, and John Chapman.
Smith's personal papers consist of biographical information, including memorials. There also are watercolor drawings and pen
and ink sketches done by Smith, as well as
New Yorker editorial cartoons depicting the impact of technology on American society in the 1950s.
In the research and publications series, there are files on several of Smith's major publications. However, these files contain
relatively little in the way of early or heavily revised drafts of Smith's works. The series also includes college papers,
copies of lectures delivered by Smith, conference materials, reviews by Smith and about his works, and papers by others on
topics of interest to Smith. His notes include reference cards and notebooks, one of which contains notes for Smith's doctoral
thesis, the basis for
Virgin Land. There also are files of correspondence directly relating to materials in this series.