Hubert Howe Bancroft (May 5, 1832 – March 2, 1918) was an American historian and ethnologist who wrote and published works on the western United States, Texas, Mexico, Central America, British Columbia and Alaska.
Bancroft was born in Granville, Ohio. He attended the Granville Academy until he was sixteen, and he then became a clerk in his brother-in-law's bookstore in Buffalo, New York. In March 1852, he was sent to San Francisco, California, where he founded and managed a branch of the business. He also began his own publishing house. In 1868, he resigned from his business in favor of his brother, A. L. Bancroft. He had accumulated a great library of historical material, and gave up business to devote himself entirely to writing and publishing history.
Bancroft's library consisted of books, maps, and printed and manuscript documents, including a large number of narratives dictated to Bancroft or his assistants by pioneers, settlers, and statesmen. The indexing of this vast collection employed six persons for ten years. The library was moved in 1881 to a fireproof building, and in 1900 numbered about 45,000 volumes.
He developed a plan to publish a history of 39 volumes embracing the history of the whole Pacific coast, from Central America to Alaska. He employed collaborators for the preliminary work, and then revised it all, and wrote the most important chapters himself. In 1886 the publishing establishment of A. L. Bancroft & Company was burned, and the sheets of seven volumes of the history he had written were destroyed.
Bancroft is interred in the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California. The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley is named in his honor, and was founded when Bancroft donated his book collection to the University of California in 1905. Part of a property Bancroft bought (c.1880) in Contra Costa County, California, is now the Ruth Bancroft Garden.
Critique of production methods
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