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Finding Aid to the Bancroft Reference Notes for the Western States, excluding California, circa 1870s-1890s
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Bancroft reference notes for the western states, excluding California
    Date (inclusive): circa 1870s-1890s
    Collection Number: BANC MSS B-C 8
    Collector: Bancroft, Hubert Howe, 1832-1918
    Extent: Number of containers: 28 cartons Linear feet: 35
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: Consists of bibliographic and research notes pertaining to and used in preparation of v. 25-31 of Hubert Howe Bancroft's History of the Pacific states of North America. His research notes track the settlement and development by Europeans and American pioneers of the western states, including various political, religious, military, and economic upheavals, changes, and developments in each new state or territory between the 1450s and the 1890s. References are to both primary sources, including ship's logs, diaries, and military and church correspondence, and secondary sources, including pamphlets, journals, and newspapers. The variation in scripts found in these handwritten notes provide evidence of the team of researchers employed by H.H. Bancroft. The majority of notes were taken from manuscripts and books which were part of Bancroft's collection during the years 1879 to 1890.
    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.

    Publication Rights

    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: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Bancroft Reference Notes for the Western States, excluding California, BANC MSS B-C 8, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Related Collections

    Hubert Howe Bancroft, Records of the Library and Publishing Companies, BANC MSS B-C 7
    Hofmann & Curtis Architects, Specifications ... in the erection of a … library building for H. H. Bancroft, 1881, BANC MSS 73/122 c: [no.] 64
    Catalogue of the Bancroft Library of Pacific Coast Books, Maps, and Manuscripts, BANC MSS B-C 4
    William Henry Knight, Bancroft Library MS Scrapbooks, 1860-64, BANC MSS C-E 200
    San Francisco Bulletin index, 1855-1872, BANC MSS B-C 2
    Publishing Companies
    Hubert Howe Bancroft, In these Latter Days, BANC MSS B-A 1
    John S. Hittell, A History of the City of San Francisco, 1878, BANC MSS 90/19 c
    History Company. The History Company periodical index, BANC MSS B-C 3
    Hubert Howe Bancroft, Letters and papers from Mexico, 1886-91, BANC MSS M-M 384
    Porfirio Diaz Collection of Papers, 1881-93, BANC MSS M-M 392
    Hubert Howe Bancroft, Authorities quoted in the History of California, BANC MSS B-C 1
    Thomas Savage, Report of labors in archives and procuring material for the History of California, 1876-79, BANC MSS C-E 191
    Hubert Howe Bancroft, Preliminary notes and plans for the Pioneer Register, BANC MSS C-E 170
    Hubert Howe Bancroft, Correspondence relating to the History of Oregon, 1863-1889, BANC MSS P-A 169
    Hubert Howe Bancroft, Correspondence, BANC MSS C-B 362
    Bancroft Reference notes for Central America, BANC MSS B-C 9
    Bancroft Reference notes for Mexico, BANC MSS B-C 10
    Bancroft Reference notes for British Columbia and Alaska, BANC MSS B-C 11
    Bancroft Reference notes for California, BANC MSS B-C 12
    Bancroft Reference notes--Bibliography, BANC MSS B-C 13
    Bancroft Reference notes on the conquest of Mexico, BANC MSS B-M 1
    Bancroft Reference notes, BANC MSS 97/31 c
    Bancroft Miscellaneous Newspaper Clippings, 1860-1890, BANC MSS B-C 14
    Henry Cerruti, Sketches of the California Pioneers, BANC MSS C-E 65
    Ivan Petroff, Journal of Trip to Alaska in Search of Information for the Bancroft Library, 1878, BANC MSS P-K 62
    Harry Bishop Hambly, Information for the Bancroft Library, 1936, BANC MSS C-D 5081
    Henry Lebbeus Oak, Correspondence and papers, BANC MSS C-B 387
    Henry Lebbeus Oak, Letters from H.H. Bancroft and diary, 1874-87, BANC MSS 67/153
    Frances Fuller Victor, Correspondence and notes relating to the History of Oregon, 1865-[ca. 1886], BANC MSS P-A 170
    A.L. Bancroft & Co., Account of stock, Jan. 1, 1879, BANC MSS C-E 195
    A.L. Bancroft & Co., Resolutions for the year 1890, BANC MSS C-E 196
    Bancroft family
    Albert Little Bancroft, My Brother Hubert Howe Bancroft, 1907, BANC MSS 73/122 c:109
    Hubert Howe Bancroft family papers, BANC MSS 73/64 c
    Bancroft family, Family genealogical data, 1886-1907, BANC MSS 89/91 c
    Hubert Howe Bancroft letters to his family, 1882-1918, BANC MSS 77/169 c

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    Dakota Territory--History
    New Mexico--History
    Northwest Coast of North America--History
    Washington (State)--History

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Bancroft Reference Notes for the Western States, excluding California, were part of the Bancroft Collection purchased by the University of California in 1905.


    Hubert Howe Bancroft was born in Granville, Ohio on May 5, 1832. After working for some time in the Buffalo, N.Y. book store owned by his brother-in-law, George H. Derby, Bancroft came to California in 1852 to establish a West Coast outlet for the shop. In 1855, after selling the initial stock, he went east and returned with sufficient books and stationery to open a San Francisco store the following year. Within two years, his firm on Montgomery Street began to grow into a publishing house, issuing such items as law books and legal stationery, texts and maps for schools, and music and piano sales.
    In 1860, as an outgrowth of assembling research materials for publication of a Pacific Coast handbook, Bancroft began to collect regional writings: this was the beginning of his unparalleled collection of books and manuscripts on the West. Within a decade he had 16,000 volumes, encompassing not only California and the Pacific Coast as the central focus, but also British Columbia and Alaska to the north, the Rocky Mountains to the east, and Mexico and Central American to the south, extending back in time from the native Indian cultures of all these regions and the subsequent era of Spanish control. The collection continued to grow as a result of collecting trips to the east and Europe, as well as through extensive purchases at a number of major auctions. Eventually it included not only books and manuscripts, but pamphlets, maps, newspapers and other periodicals, and transcriptions of manuscripts made by his corps of copyists from originals still in private hands or in government and church archives. Bancroft and his staff also created original materials by interviewing pioneers whose recollections might not otherwise have been preserved, resulting in hundreds of early oral histories termed "dictations".
    By 1868, a move became necessary to relieve overcrowding in Bancroft's expanding and prosperous Montgomery Street headquarters. He bought property on Market Street near Third, and began to build in 1869. In April 1870, the completed five-story building boasted a modernized steam engine in the basement to provide power for the printing presses. The first four floors accommodated nine departments, including wholesale and retail books, and stationary, music, law, and education sales; a subscription department; and a printing, bindery, and blank book production division. The fifth floor of the new Bancroft Building was a literary workshop, completely divorced from the business, where Bancroft's collections could be put to use. He engaged Librarian, Henry Lebbeus Oak, to catalog the works he had acquired.
    Bancroft continued to collect materials as he planned a vast publication project of a series of histories of western North American, which in the end numbered 39 volumes: the History of the Pacific States of North America, also known as Bancroft's Works. First were five volumes on The Native Races (1874-1875), then three volumes on the History of Central America and six more on the History of Mexico, followed by two volumes on the Northern Mexican States and Texas, and one treating Arizona and New Mexico. All of these preceded his central topic, a seven-volume History of California (1886-1890), which were followed by nine more volumes on other parts of the west, and a number of more informal works, including Literary Industries, the author's biography.
    Bancroft's ten year marriage to his beloved wife, Emily Ketchum Bancroft, ended upon her death in 1869. Left alone to raise their daughter, Kate, born in 1860, Bancroft devoted his energies to family and literary productions. He placed the full responsibility of managing the business interests of the firm with his younger brother, A. L. (Albert Little) Bancroft, creating a new partnership in 1860 under the title, A. L. Bancroft and Company. The business expanded and prospered under A. L. Bancroft's direction until a fire destroyed the Bancroft Building and its contents in 1886. Old resentments and quarrels erupted following the traumatic event which eventually severed the brothers personal and professional relationships.
    Fortunately, the library (referred to as both the Bancroft Library and the Pacific Library) was spared. In 1881, it had been moved from the fifth floor of the Market Street location to a specially constructed fire-proofed brick building on Valencia Street. Following the fire and dissolution of his partnership with A. L. Bancroft in 1886, Hubert Howe Bancroft formed two new companies: The History Company, and the Bancroft Company. In August 1887, under these new imprints, the production, publication, and marketing of Bancroft's Works resumed in the rebuilt quarters at 723 Market Street, known thereafter as the History Building.
    Throughout the West, Bancroft's numerous sales agents continued to sell subscriptions to his Works and the seven-volume Chronicles of the Builders. Following a successful marketing campaign which secured orders for more than 6,000 sets of volumes during the 1870's and 80's, the canvassing effort was abandoned in 1892. In the late 1880's, Bancroft's methods for writing and marketing his works came under attack by literary critics and several of his former employees, including Mr. Henry Oak and Mrs. Francis Fuller Victor. Oak and Victor claimed authorship for major portions of the Works that were credited solely to Bancroft, calling the historian's methods and reputation into question. The retail book and stationary store finally closed its doors in 1894, after a long and bitter price war had made the business unprofitable.
    In 1905, Bancroft's accomplishments as an historian and collector were recognized by the University of California. The institution purchased the book and manuscript collections of the eminent historian, numbering over sixty-thousand items, for $250,000. Although the collector contributed $100,000 of the purchase price, the contents of the library had been appraised at twice the net cost to the University. The History of the Pacific States won recognition as an indispensable work for students of western history. The collection as a whole remains a distinguished primary source of unique books, maps, pamphlets, and documents on the early history of the West, from Alaska to Central America.
    In his later years, Bancroft wrote several volumes (Retrospection, The New Pacific, In These Latter Days) expressing his political, moral, economic, and social concerns for a modernizing world. On March 3, 1918, at the age of 86, Hubert Howe Bancroft died at his home, having been struck by a street car several days earlier. He was survived by his daughter, Kate, and his four children (Paul, Philip, Griffing, and Lucy Bancroft) by his second wife, Matilida Griffing Bancroft. They were married in 1876 and she predeceased him in 1910.


    • Harry Clark, A Venture in History: The Production, Publication, and Sale of the Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft. University of California Press, 1973.
    • John Walton Caughey, Hubert Howe Bancroft, Historian of the West. University of California Press, 1946.
    • The Bancroft Library, University of California, The Bancroft Collection of Western and Latin Americana , June 4, 1998, http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/bancroft.html .

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Bancroft Reference Notes for the Western States, excluding California, ca. 1870s-1890s, consist of bibliographic and research notes pertaining to and used in the preparation of volumes 25-31 of Hubert Howe Bancroft's, History of the Pacific States of North America, including the History of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming, the History of Utah, the History of Northwest Coast (v. I-II), the History of Oregon (v. I-II), and the History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The research notes as a whole track the settlement and development by Europeans and American pioneers of the western states. The notes follow, in a chronological manner, various political, religious, military, and economic upheavals, changes, and developments in each new state or territory between the 1450s and the 1890s.
    The western states notes reflect primary sources, such as ship's logs, diaries, and military and church correspondence. Secondary source notes, such as pamphlets, journals, and newspapers, focus on the interaction of the settlers and the native races, as well as internal relations in establishing governmental regulations. Of note is the vast amount of research preserved for the History of Oregon; Utah also presents a remarkable quantity of research concerning Mormon history.
    Notably, the variation in scripts found in these handwritten notes provide evidence of the team of researchers employed by H.H. Bancroft. While the assistants compiled notes using a systematic method of topic research, Bancroft himself collated and edited the notes, often in a literal cut-and-paste fashion. In this manner, he carefully documented the sources he intended to draw upon and quote as authorities while constructing chapter outlines and textual drafts for the history of the western states volumes.