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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 50, July 1946 - April, 1947

Hook Reviews
Hubert Howe Bancroft, Historian of the West. By John Walton
Caughey. Berkeley and Los Angeles (University of Cali-
fornia Press), 1946. Pp. xiii+422. Illustrations. $5.00.
Nobody who has had occasion to use any portion of Hubert
Howe Bancroft's massive Works has ever questioned the solid
value of his history; and appreciation and amazement have
usually increased in direct proportion to acquaintance and in-
tensity of use. The very magnitude and excellence of the pro-
duction, however, combined with Bancroft's tenacious claims to
responsible authorship of the whole and bitter controversies
concerning his methods have obscured the credit due for his
great contributions.
By any standard, Bancroft was a remarkable man and, in
some respects, a great one. Born in Ohio in 1832, he began his
business career in New York, peddling books from his brother-
in-law's store. He carried a stock of books and business sta-
tionery to California in 1852 and soon built the largest and
best book business in the West, including the printing and pub-
lishing of regional books and magazines. Before reaching the
age of thirty-five, he had established a fortune and felt able
to retire-an indulgence that he never quite allowed himself,
possibly because his business became complementary to his more
interesting intellectual industry. The conception of his great
library was fortuitous and expanded gradually to include a
comprehensive collection on the history of all the Pacific Coast
from Central America to Alaska and extending over the interior
eastward to Texas.
When the history project began, about 1870, the library had
grown to twenty thousand volumes, and its utilization for writ-
ing raised a problem which Bancroft attacked, much as he
would have approached any other business undertaking, by
organizing a crew of workers to index his material and make
topical notes according to a laboriously evolved plan. In the
course of this preliminary drudgery, some men showed ability
to write, and Bancroft encouraged them to submit independent
compositions. First and last, over a period of twenty years, he
used some six hundred people on various phases, of the task. A
dozen made direct contributions to the Works, ranging from a
fourth of a volume to ten volumes. These estimates were made

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 50, July 1946 - April, 1947. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 29, 2016.

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