Biography of Hubert How Bancroft

Hubert Howe Bancroft was born on May 5, 1832 in Granville, Ohio.   His parents Ashley Bancroft and Lucy Howe Bancroft were staunch abolitionists.  He later became a famous American historian an ethnologist who wrote, published and collected works pertaining to the western United States.

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The family home was a station on the Underground Railroad.  He became a clerk in his brother-in-law’s book store in Buffalo, New York after the one year attendance in the Doane Academy in Granville.  In March 1852, he initiated and managed a regional office of the business when he was sent to San Francisco, California where he began his own publishing house.  After resigning from his business and giving off it, he devoted himself entirely to writing and publishing history.


He collected books, maps, printed and manuscript of documents including a large number of narratives dictated to Bancroft or his assistants y pioneers sellers and statesmen, in his library.  By over 16 years, he made about 45,000 volumes of indexed collection by employing 6 persons for six years.

Bancroft planned to publish the history of entire Pacific coast region of North America, from Central America to Alaska, in 39 volumes. There was a major setback in his effort in 1886.  When he employed collaborators for the preliminary work, and revised it all and wrote the most important chapters himself, his publishing establishment burned and the sheets of seven volumes of the history he had written were destroyed.

Bancroft first married to Emily Ketchum in 1859 in which he had one daughter, Kate.  After the death of his first sweet heart in 1869, he remarried in 1879 to Matilda Coley Griffing.  They had four children, Paul, Griffing, Philip and Lucy.  Bancroft died in 1918 in Walnut Creek, California, two days after being struck by a street car. He is interred in the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.



Critique of Bancroft’s production methods


Bancroft published a renowned set of local histories.  Pertaining to the history of the Pacific Cost, he formed a huge compilation of materials.  After that, in order to organize and produce statement of facts for large section of proposed general history, he employed research and writing assistants.   In the beginning he gives the impression to have planned to use these statements of facts as the basis of a sequence of events which himself would write.  But as the work developed, he came to use the statements as they were with only minor changes.

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His argument was that his assistants were proficient investigators, and there is proof that some of them ought to have his confidence.  He failed to acknowledge each contribution made doubt about the authenticity of the work.  The critics say Bancroft is eligible to have the designation of an editor or compiler than an author as he considered himself.

The contributors of the book did not overcome the instinct to state their personal opinion and enthusiasm.  Still their works were generally well accepted in their time.


In 1905, the University of California purchased Bancroft’s book collection and The Bancroft’s Library at UC Berkeley was founded and named in his honor.  The Ruth Bancroft Garden is the part of a property Bancroft bought in Contra Costa County, California.  His daughter collected the family correspondence and is held in Mandeville Special Collections Library in the Fiesel Library at University of California, San Diego.


A National Historic Landmark, The Hubert H. Bancroft Ranch House is the ranch with an adobe located in Spring Valley, in San Diego County purchased by Bancroft in 1885 as his retirement home.

Several schools are named for Bancroft, including Bancroft Middle School (Long Beach, California), Bancroft Middle School (Los Angeles, California) and Hubert H. Bancroft Elementary School in Sacramento.

The Book of Wealth – History


The first volume of The Book Of Wealth by Hubert How Bancroft was published in 1896 which is a much singled out book in coming century.  It took about six years to complete by the author.  This book narrates the wealth of historic figures and dynasties dating from ancient times up to that time.  The book contains no ancient secrets or advanced wisdom and will not guide you into riches. It is simply a history book and nothing more. Bancroft was a historian: he wrote history.

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Out of the 400 copies of total printed, 150 copies were printed in the first edition.  It was called “Cygne Noir”, or “Black Swan”. These first edition copies were signed by Mr. Bancroft and were sold for $,2,500 at that time.Some others argue that the second edition called “Fin de Siècle” or End of the Century were total 250 copies or 950 copies and sold for $1,000 at that time.

The total number of pages of the book was 1000 which divided into 10 volumes of 17″ x 22″ size bound in heavy golden silk, lined with white decorative fabric and contain about 3,000 original watercolor and engraved images in twenty chapters.  The famous artists who made paintings for the book were Thomas Moran, G. H. McCord, W. Granville Smith, C. Y. Turner, C. A. Vanderhoff, E. Benvenuto and so on.  The book starts by detailing the nations of antiquity, starting with the oldest, and then moving to the next, and the next, until it finishes with the United States.