While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


John Walton Caughey

BANCROFT, HUBERT HOWE (1832–1918). Hubert Howe Bancroft, historian, the son of Ashley and Lucy (Howe) Bancroft, was born at Granville, Ohio, on May 5, 1832. In 1852 he went to California, where in 1856 he opened a book and stationery shop in San Francisco. With publishing, subscription, and music departments added, the shop became the largest west of Chicago. In 1859 Bancroft began collecting Californiana. His interest soon spread to include all the Pacific states from Panama to Alaska and eastward through Texas. Eventually he amassed books, pamphlets, newspapers, and manuscripts to the amount of 60,000 volumes. After it was moved to the University of California in 1905, his library became the chief center of research in western history and, incidentally, the training ground for a number of specialists in Texas history.

Bancroft determined not only to collect historical materials on the West but to try to chronicle that history comprehensively. With hired assistants, who eventually numbered 600, he began to index his holdings, to take notes, and to write. Between 1874 and 1890 he published thirty-nine massive volumes detailing the history of the western half of the continent. Unfortunately, he published the set as his Works and did not precisely credit the writings of his assistants. These books, however, are said to be the greatest compendium of information on their vast subject and the best reference on many of its parts. Although the set is California-centered, the six volumes on Mexico are immediate background for Texas history, and the two on the north Mexican states and Texas were acclaimed by Eugene C. Barker in 1925 as "the most satisfactory comprehensive history of Texas available."

Selling his histories by subscription, Bancroft made them gross more than a million dollars. The Works were followed by eight volumes of subsidized biographies, The Chronicles of the Builders (1891), and by several volumes of essays. In his later years Bancroft was berated for his methods of collecting, publishing, and selling; but since his death on March 2, 1918, his repute has greatly improved because of the vast amount of research that has been dependent upon his Works. He was married to Emily Ketchum in 1859 and to Matilda B. Griffin in 1875.

John Walton Caughey, Hubert Howe Bancroft: Historian of the West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1946). Dictionary of American Biography. Who Was Who in America, Vol. 2. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, John Walton Caughey, "BANCROFT, HUBERT HOWE," accessed July 03, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fba53.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...