88 Teas Historical Association Quarterly.
Bancroft was a native of Ohio, who went to California in 1853,
while still a young man. In the course of several years he built
up a flourishing bookselling and publishing business. In the year
1859, the company happened to find itself engaged in the publica-
tion of a hand-book almanac. The small collection made for this
purpose was the nucleus of the great library of books and manu-
scripts relating to the history of the Pacific coast, which Bancroft
afterward collected in Europe and America.
Long before it was finished, the plan of a complete history of the
western half of North America had taken shape in his mind. His
first idea was to have his assistants classify and index the material,
take notes, and "prepare manuscript in the rough." His part was
to be to map out and direct the work, and re-write the manu-
script. As time went on, however, and the scope of the work grew,
he found it necessary to assign the "assistants," as he calls them,
certain parts to work up in practically finished form for the printer.
He was, in the main, therefore, simply a managing editor. He was
the actual author, as appears from Mr. Morris's analysis, of only
about four of the completed volumes. The North Mexican States
and Texas, it may here be noted, was not Bancroft's work at all.
The first volume of it was written entirely by Henry Lebbeus Oak.
In the second, the Texas part is by J. J. Platfield; the rest of the
volume is by a Finlander, who wrote under the name of William
Mr. Bancroft's lack of frankness, his failure to apprehend the
ethics of authorship, could not fail to bring discredit upon his work.
His business instincts and training, too, while they made him in
some respects an excellent director of a great undertaking, led him
to hurry his collaborators, with a view to saving expense, and,
what was worse, to distort the facts so as to make the work popular.
Moreover, as is the case with any contemporary history, much of the
work suffered from a lack of perspective.
It can not be denied, however, as Mr. Morris justly shows, that
in collecting and in organizing this immense amount of material,
much of which would have been lost with the passing of the West-
ern pioneers, Bancroft has done thankworthy service to humankind.
"He who shall come after me," he says in a letter quoted by Mr.
Morris, "will scarcely be able to undermine my work by laying an-
Texas State Historical Association. The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume 8, July 1904 - April, 1905. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101033/. Accessed March 14, 2014.