Bancroft Library

The Bancroft Library in the center of the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is the university's primary special-collections library. It was acquired from its founder, Hubert Howe Bancroft, in 1905, with the proviso that it retain the name Bancroft Library in perpetuity. The collection at that time consisted of 50,000 volumes of materials on the history of California and the North American West. It is the largest such collection in the world. The building the library is located in, the Doe Annex, was completed in 1950.

Coordinates: 37°52′20″N 122°15′32″W / 37.87226°N 122.25885°W

Bancroft Library
Bancroft Library, September 2010.


The Bancroft Library's inception dates back to 1859, when William H. Knight, who was then in Bancroft's service as editor of statistical works relative to the Pacific coast, was requested to clear the shelves around Bancroft's desk to receive every book in the store having reference to this country. Looking through his stock he was agreeably surprised to find some 50 or 75 volumes. There was no fixed purpose at this time to collect a library. Noticing accidentally some old pamphlets in an antiquarian book-store, he thought to add these to his nucleus; then looked more attentively through other stores and stalls in San Francisco, Sacramento, Portland and Victoria, purchasing a copy of every book relating to his great and growing subject. During his next visit to the eastern states, without special pains or search, he secured whatever fell under his observation in second-hand stores of New York, Boston and Philadelphia.[1]

Hubert Howe Bancroft
Hubert H. Bancroft, the library's founder and namesake

He had collected in all not far from a 1,000 volumes and had begun to feel satisfied. "When, however, (he declares) I visited London and Paris, and rummaged the enormous stocks of second-hand books in the hundreds of stores of that class, my eyes began to open. ... And so it was, when the collection had reached one thousand volumes, I fancied I had them all; when it had grown to 5,000, I saw it was but begun." (177) Finally, special journeys were made to all parts of Europe, as well as the Americas, in the interest of his collection. "And not only was every nook and corner of the world thus ramsacked, but whole libraries were purchased as opportunity offered." While his vague ideas of materials for writing a history gradually assumed more definite form, Bancroft had as yet no idea of writing a history himself. As the collecting proceeded his subject enlarged, until the territory covered was the entire western part of North America from Panama to Alaska, including the Rocky Mountain region, all Central America and Mexico, or about one-twelfth of the earth's entire surface.[1]

The bibliophile reached the settled determination to make his collection as complete as it was possible to make it. Neither time, nor money, nor personal attention would be spared. Agents were appointed in all the leading book marts of the world; no book must be lost because of its high price; no opportunity was to be missed to obtain everything in existence on the subject. By buying up at auction in European cities' individual collections, and even libraries, the Bancroft Library was enriched beyond measure. In 1869, it is reported that Bancroft held, including pamphlets, about 16,000 volumes. These were lodged on the fifth floor of the Market Street building, the original home of the library having been a corner of the second story of the building on Merchant Street.[1]

Bancroft now decided to begin literary work, but the collecting went rapidly forward without interruption. Trembling for the safety of the library through fear of fire, he lent a willing ear to his nephew's proposal to absorb the fifth floor for the purposes of the manufacturing department, of which he had charge. He would erect on some convenient spot a fireproof library building. Among the places considered were Oakland, San Rafael, Sonoma, San Mateo, and Menlo Park; but after a careful canvass and consideration, he selected the well known site on Valencia Street, near its junction with Mission. The library was moved to the building October 9, 1881. There the library stood for years.[1]

State purchase

When the question of State purchase was taken up, the Bancroft Library was said to contain from 50,000 to 60,000 volumes of books, pamphlets, maps and manuscripts. Prof. Joseph Cummings Rowell, Librarian of the State University, after careful personal examination, estimated the number at 40,000 as a total. For many years, the collection had been offered for sale, Bancroft holding it at US$250,000, which is but a fractional part of the original cost and yet doubtless above the then market price, which Rowell estimated at about $140,000, if the complete subject index be included. In 1887, a bill was presented in the State Legislature to purchase the library for the State for $250,000, but the proposition was quickly defeated. Some years later, the University of Chicago considered buying it; naturally there was strong sentiment against permitting the Library to be removed from California and the Pacific States.[1]

In 1905, Reuben Gold Thwaites, Librarian of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and one of the foremost book experts in America, was invited to examine the Bancroft Library, "with a view to ascertaining its condition and, so far as may be, its marketable value." In his report, Thwaites characterized the collection of documents, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, and other materials, estimating the total value at upwards of $300,000. The report itself was published November 14, 1905, as a 20-page pamphlet.[1]

The Report of the Secretary to the Regents of the University of California, year ending June 30, 1906 noted, "The Bancroft Library, incomparably superior to any other existing collection as a mine of primary historical material for all western America, a collection which could not even remotely be imitated, at no matter what cost, was acquired by the University on November 24, 1905, at a cost of $250,000. Of this amount Mr. H. H. Bancroft, whose ingenuity, perseverance and skill created this collection, donated $100,000. Of the remaining $150,000. $50,000 was paid by the Regents on November 24, 1905; $50,000 is to be paid November 24, 1906, and the remaining $50,000 in November 1907." On June 11. 1907, the regents of the University approved the Constitution of the Academy of Pacific Coast History, submitted by the Bancroft Library Commission, thus making the Library itself "the indispensable nucleus of a great research library, like that of the British Museum," which has for its object "the promotion of the study of the political, social, commercial, and the industrial history, and the ethnology, geography, and literature of the Pacific Coast of America, and the publication of monographs, historical documents, and other historical material relating thereto.[1]

Later history

Herbert Eugene Bolton 1905
Herbert Eugene Bolton, founding director

The university named history chairperson Herbert E. Bolton its founding director, a position he held for the library's first 22 years. In his dual capacity, he made Bancroft Library a great research center for American history in congruence with the department's rise to prominence.[2] Until the decade of the 1960s, The Bancroft Library continued to focus exclusively on the history of the American West, particularly the borderlands of northern Mexico and the southern United States, from Florida to California, an area associated with the research interests of long-time directors Bolton (1918–1940) and George P. Hammond (1946–1966).

In the 1950s and 1960s Bancroft added the University of California archives and the Regional Oral History Office, both significant to the history of California. In 1970, under new director James D. Hart (1970–1990), Bancroft's scope expanded dramatically when the University Library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections was merged into it. These included the Tebtunis Archive of ancient papyri, excavated by an Egyptian expedition funded by Phoebe Apperson Hearst in 1899-1900 and the largest such collection in the Western Hemisphere; the papers of Mark Twain, the object of the Mark Twain Project, which since 1965 has been editing everything written by him; a large collection of medieval manuscripts, incunabula, and rare printed books from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries; and the literary manuscripts of such California writers as Ina Coolbrith (California's first poet laureate), Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, George Sterling, William Randolph Hearst, Rube Goldberg, C. S. Forester, figures associated with the Beat Generation in San Francisco, such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, Philip Whalen, and William Everson (Brother Antoninus), and contemporary authors such as John Mortimer, Seán Ó Faoláin, Maxine Hong Kingston and Joan Didion.

From June 2005 to October 2008, the library underwent a total renovation and seismic retrofitting. Normal operations have resumed since January 20, 2009. The library's director from 1995 through June 2011 was Charles B. Faulhaber, professor of medieval Spanish literature at Berkeley. In September 2011, Elaine Tennant, a medieval and early modern specialist in the German and Scandinavian departments at the University of California, Berkeley, became the James D. Hart Director of UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library.

Holdings and services

Bancroft is one of the largest special collections libraries in the United States. In 2009, it holds approximately 600,000 books, 55,000 linear feet of archival and manuscript collections, almost 8 million photographic prints and negatives (including the photographic morgues of the San Francisco Call-Bulletin and the San Francisco Examiner), and over 20,000 historical maps.

Although the library itself is open to anyone who wishes to use it, access to some of its more valuable materials are restricted to researchers with a demonstrated need. The library website and the Online Archive of California offer access to online catalogs as well as to numerous collections in digital form.

The library's Bancroft Gallery offers changing public exhibits from the library's collections, including art, photographs, documents, letters, architectural drawings, illustrations, newspaper clippings, ephemera, and oral histories.[3] The library's publications include Bancroftiana, a newsletter published by the Friends of The Bancroft Library, and Keepsakes, a series of publications.[4]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Rockwell D. Hunt (1911). Hubert Howe Bancroft: his work and his method. The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly (Public domain ed.). Historical Society of Southern California. pp. 163–.
  2. ^ "University of California: In Memoriam, April 1958". Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  3. ^ "Bancroft Gallery: On Exhibit". Bancroft LIbrary. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  4. ^ "Publications | UC Berkeley Library". Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Historical Society of Southern California's "The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly" (1911)

Further reading

  • Exploring the Bancroft Library, co-edited by Charles Faulhaber and Stephen Vincent, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 2006. ISBN 1-893663-18-3
    • Complete Table of Contents (Full title: "Exploring the Bancroft Library: The Centennial Guide to Its Extraordinary History, Spectacular Special Collections, Research Pleasures, Its Amazing Future & How It All Works")

External links

Autobiography of Mark Twain

The Autobiography of Mark Twain refers to a lengthy set of reminiscences, dictated, for the most part, in the last few years of American author Mark Twain's life and left in typescript and manuscript at his death. The Autobiography comprises a rambling collection of anecdotes and ruminations rather than a conventional autobiography. Twain never compiled these writings and dictations into a publishable form in his lifetime. Despite indications from Twain that he did not want his autobiography to be published for a century, he serialised some Chapters from My Autobiography during his lifetime and various compilations were published during the 20th century. However it wasn't until 2010, in the 100th anniversary year of Twain's death, that the first volume of a comprehensive collection, compiled and edited by The Mark Twain Project of The Bancroft Library at University of California, Berkeley, was published.

Doe Memorial Library

The Doe Memorial Library is the main library of the UC Berkeley Library System. The library is named after its benefactor, Charles Franklin Doe, who in 1904 bequeathed funds for its construction. It is located in the center of the UC Berkeley campus and is adjacent to the Bancroft Library. In 1900, Emile Benard won an architectural competition for the design of the library, and the Neoclassical-style building was completed in 1911. The Doe Library houses both the undergraduate and Gardner (main) stacks collections.

Domingo Ghirardelli

Domenico "Domingo" Ghirardelli, Sr. (Italian pronunciation: [doˈmiŋɡo ɡirarˈdɛlli]; February 21, 1817 – January 17, 1894) was the founder of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in San Francisco, California.

Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography.

Drake's Plate of Brass

The so-called Drake's Plate of Brass is a forgery that purports to be the brass plaque that Francis Drake posted upon landing in Northern California in 1579. The hoax was successful for 40 years, despite early doubts. After the plate came to public attention in 1936, historians raised questions regarding the plate's wording, spelling, and manufacture. The hoax's perpetrators attempted to apprise the plate's finders as to its origins. Many presumed the plate to be authentic after an early metallurgical study concluded it was genuine. In the late 1970s, scientists determined that the plate was a modern creation after it failed a battery of physical and chemical tests. Much of the mystery surrounding the plate continued until 2003, when historians advanced a theory about who created the plate and why, showing the plate to be a practical joke by local historians gone awry. The plate was acquired by—and is often on display at—the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley.

Free Speech Movement

The Free Speech Movement (FSM) was a massive, long-lasting student protest which took place during the 1964–65 academic year on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. The Movement was informally under the central leadership of Berkeley graduate student Mario Savio. Other student leaders include Jack Weinberg, Michael Rossman, George Barton, Brian Turner, Bettina Aptheker, Steve Weissman, Michael Teal, Art Goldberg, Jackie Goldberg, and others.With the participation of thousands of students, the Free Speech Movement was the first mass act of civil disobedience on an American college campus in the 1960s. Students insisted that the university administration lift the ban of on-campus political activities and acknowledge the students' right to free speech and academic freedom. The Free Speech Movement was influenced by the New Left, and was also related to the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement. To this day, the Movement's legacy continues to shape American political dialogue both on college campuses and in broader society, impacting on the political views and values of college students and the general public.

George P. Hammond

George Peter Hammond (September 19, 1896 – December 3, 1993) was an American professor of Latin American studies. He published works related to the founding of New Mexico and other Spanish settlements in the United States. He was the director of the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley for 17 years.

Haraden Pratt

Haraden Pratt (July 18, 1891 - August 1, 1969) was a noted American electrical engineer and radio pioneer.

Pratt was born in San Francisco, California, where his parents were telegraph operators. He learned Morse code when young and worked briefly as a shipboard wireless operator before entering the University of California (Class of 1914). After graduation, he joined the American Marconi Company and helped to install and operate its 300-kilowatt trans-Pacific radio station at Bolinas, California and its companion receiver station in Marshall, California.

From 1915-1920 Pratt was a radio aide to the United States Navy, leading its radio laboratory and engineering at Mare Island Navy Yard, California. In this role he installed radio equipment on Navy ships and maintained West Coast shore stations until 1918, when he moved to Washington, DC, to take charge of the construction and maintenance of all high-power Navy radio stations.

From 1920-1926 Pratt worked for the Federal Telegraph Company in Palo Alto, California, where he designed a system for commercial radio telegraph service. When in 1926 the United States Congress passed the Air Commerce Act to fund radio aids to air navigation, J. Howard Dellinger of the National Bureau of Standards tapped Pratt and Harry Diamond to create a suitable radio beacon system in 1927-1928.

In 1928 Pratt became chief engineer of the Mackay Radio and Telegraph Company, subsequently acquired by the International Telephone and Telegraph Company (ITT), where he eventually became vice president and general manager. During World War II, Pratt served as Division Chief in the Office of Scientific Research and Development and was Chairman of the Radio Technical Planning Board 1945-1949, and in 1946 was an official observer of the Bikini atomic bomb tests. He remained with ITT until 1951 when he served from 1951-1953 as telecommunications advisor to Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. Pratt was vice president of the American Cable and Radio Corporation from 1953-1958.

Pratt joined the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE), became an IRE Director in 1935, served as president of the IRE in 1938, and was its secretary from 1943-1965. He was awarded the IRE Medal of Honor in 1944 "in recognition of his engineering contributions to the development of radio, of his work in the extension of communication facilities to distant lands, and of his constructive leadership in Institute affairs," and the Founder's Award in 1960. The IEEE Haraden Pratt Award was established in 1971 in his honor. His papers are archived at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Hearst papyrus

The Hearst Papyrus, also called the Hearst Medical Papyrus, is one of the medical papyri of ancient Egypt. It was named after Phoebe Hearst. The papyrus contains 18 pages of medical prescriptions written in hieratic Egyptian writing, concentrating on treatments for problems dealing with the urinary system, blood, hair, and bites. It is dated to the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. It is considered an important manuscript, but some doubts persist about its authenticity.

Herbert Eugene Bolton

Herbert Eugene Bolton (July 20, 1870 – January 30, 1953) was an American historian who pioneered the study of the Spanish-American borderlands and was a prominent authority on Spanish American history. He originated what became known as the Bolton Theory of the history of the Americas which holds that it is impossible to study the history of the United States in isolation from the histories of other American nations, and wrote or co-authored 94 works. A student of Frederick Jackson Turner, Bolton disagreed with his mentor's Frontier theory and argued that the history of the Americas is best understood by taking a holistic view and trying to understand the ways in which the different colonial and precolonial contexts have interacted to produce the modern United States. The height of his career was spent at the University of California, Berkeley where he served as chair of the history department for 22 years and is widely credited with making the renowned Bancroft Library the preeminent research center it is today.

James D. Hart

James David Hart, (April 18, 1911 – 23 July 1990) was an American literary scholar and professor at University of California, Berkeley for fifty-four years. He is most notable for writing The Oxford Companion to American Literature and A Companion to California.

Margaret Wood Bancroft

Margaret R. Wood Bancroft (July 10, 1893, Glasgow, Kentucky - August 30, 1986, San Diego, California), was an American naturalist and explorer of Baja California.

Oakland Army Base

The Oakland Army Base, also known as the Oakland Army Terminal, is a decommissioned United States Army base in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. The base was located on the Oakland waterfront just south of the eastern entrance to the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.Construction of the base commenced in 1941, as an expansion of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation based at Fort Mason on the San Francisco waterfront. Initially named the Oakland Sub-Port of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, the base was renamed the Oakland Army Base in 1944. The installation moved in excess of 8.5 million tons of cargo during World War II, and 7.2 million tons of cargo passed through the terminal during the Korean War.In 1946, the Oakland Army Base expanded to incorporate the administrative and cantonment area of the Port formerly known as Camp John T. Knight in honor of World War I Brigadier General John Thornton Knight.In 1955 the San Francisco Port of Embarkation became the U.S. Army Transportation Terminal Command Pacific, and the Oakland Army Base became the Oakland Army Terminal. In 1964 the headquarters of the command moved from Fort Mason to the Oakland Army Terminal, and in 1966 the terminal was renamed back to the Oakland Army Base. During the Vietnam War, Oakland Army Base served as a major transit station for U.S. soldiers en route to and returning from all deployment locations in East Asia—such as Vietnam and Korea. The base decommissioned on September 30, 1999.In 2007, the Regional Oral History Office of The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with the City of Oakland and the Port of Oakland, commenced a comprehensive oral history project documenting the history of the Base from when it was commissioned in 1941 to when it was closed in 1999, and thereafter.

Regional Oral History Office

The Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) is part of The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. The office was founded in 1954. ROHO conducts, analyzes, teaches about, and preserves oral history interviews on a wide range of topics related to the history of California and the United States. ROHO staff also conduct research on a wide range of historical topics, utilizing oral history as a central primary source to their scholarship.

ROHO's original name was the Regional Cultural History Office. It was the second oral history office founded in the country, following only Columbia University. The first interview conducted at the office, before it was officially recognized as a unit on campus, was with Alice B. Toklas, the long-time partner of Gertrude Stein.

Since its founding in 1954, ROHO has conducted thousands of interviews in a wide variety of subject areas ranging from law and jurisprudence to food and wine. ROHO features especially strong collections on the development of the arts and letters, science and technology, and labor, social, political, and community history in California. ROHO has also conducted numerous interviews on the history of the University of California. ROHO's interviews with scientists include Nobel Prize winners such as Arthur Kornberg, Paul Berg, Donald A. Glaser, and Charles Townes. Other notable interviews with scientists include Herbert Boyer and Stanley N. Cohen. ROHO has also conducted significant oral histories with well-known artists and authors, such as Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Carl Rakosi.

ROHO houses collections of oral histories related to women's suffrage and the home front during World War II.

The interviews conducted by ROHO are deposited in over 700 manuscript libraries worldwide. Many of the interviews are accessible online. The Bancroft Library also houses the original tapes for all of the interviews conducted by ROHO. Once completed, the oral histories are referenced by both scholars and students around the world.

ROHO's first director was Corinne Gilb, who led the program from 1954 to 1958. Between 1958 and 2000, Willa Baum directed ROHO. Under her tenure, ROHO amassed over 1,600 oral histories on a wide variety of subjects. Richard Cándida Smith, who is also a professor in the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley, directed the office until spring of 2012. During Cándida Smith's tenure, the number of oral history transcripts made available online expanded dramatically. Neil Henry, formerly Dean of the Department of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, is the current director, serving a two-year appointment that commenced in September 2012.

San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall is the seat of government for the City and County of San Francisco, California. Re-opened in 1915 in its open space area in the city's Civic Center, it is a Beaux-Arts monument to the City Beautiful movement that epitomized the high-minded American Renaissance of the 1880s to 1917. The structure's dome is taller than that of the United States Capitol by 42 feet. The present building replaced an earlier City Hall that was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake, which was two blocks from the present one. It was bounded by Larkin Street, McAllister Street, and City Hall Avenue (a street, now built over, which ran from the corner of Grove and Larkin to the corner of McAllister and Leavenworth), largely where the current public library and U.N. Plaza stand today.

The principal architect was Arthur Brown, Jr., of Bakewell & Brown, whose attention to the finishing details extended to the doorknobs and the typeface to be used in signage. Brown's blueprints of the building are preserved at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Brown also designed the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, Veterans Building, Temple Emanuel, Coit Tower and the Federal office building at 50 United Nations Plaza.

Sara Diamond

Sara Rose Diamond (b. Nov. 28, 1958) is an American sociologist and attorney, and the author of four books that "study and expose the agenda and tactics of the American political right wing."

South Hall (UC Berkeley)

South Hall is the oldest building on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, and the only remaining building of the original campus. South Hall was originally the counterpart of North Hall, which no longer exists, but was located where the Bancroft Library currently stands.

The first physics laboratory in the United States was hosted in South Hall in 1879. It also has been home to the College of Agriculture, a business school, and a temporary museum for the state geological survey. The University Herbarium was housed in South Hall from 1890 till 1897. It currently houses the UC Berkeley School of Information. When Wheeler Hall was planned, the entrance of South Hall was removed from the west side and added on the east side entrance. The original wooden porch was replaced in 1997 with glass fiber reinforced concrete.

According to legend, the rooftop scene of Mary Poppins was filmed at South Hall, although this has been shown to be false.Campus tour guides often point out a small stone bear, sculpted by Michael H. Casey, in the architecture of South Hall, on the balcony railing above the entrance, in the third circle from the left, claiming it is the smallest bear statue on campus.

The four-story building is located southwest of Sather Tower.


USCO was an American media art collective in the 1960s, founded by Gerd Stern, Michael Callahan, and Steve Durkee in New York. USCO, an acronym for Us Company or the Company of Us, was most active during the years 1964–66. USCO exhibited in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and is considered a key link in the development of expanded cinema, visual music, installation art, and the Internet. In addition, USCO's strobe environments heralded new media art. In the late 1960s Durkee co-founded the Lama Foundation, while Stern and Callahan co-founded Intermedia Systems Corporation.

University of California, Berkeley Libraries

The University of California, Berkeley's 32 constituent and affiliated libraries together make it the fourth largest university library by number of volumes in the United States, surpassed only by the libraries of Harvard, Yale, and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. As of 2006, Berkeley's library system contains over 10 million volumes and maintains over 70,000 serial titles.

The libraries together cover over 12 acres (49,000 m2) of land and compose one of the largest library complexes in the world. In 2003, the Association of Research Libraries ranked it as the top public and third overall university library in North America based on various statistical measures of quality.

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