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Native American Collections at The Bancroft Library: Hubert Howe Bancroft

Highlights of the various Native American materials held at The Bancroft Library

Hubert Howe Bancroft

The core of The Bancroft Library's holdings is the original research collection assembled by its founder, Hubert Howe Bancroft. After emigrating from Ohio to California in 1852, Bancroft soon became enamored with the history of his new home and began collecting everything he could on the topic. His focus eventually encompassed not only California but an overwhelming region spreading west of the Rockies, up north to Alaska, and down south to the Isthmus of Panama.

In 1905, the University of California purchased Bancroft's research collection, then numbering more than 60,000 items, for $250,000.

Portrait of Hubert Howe Bancroft

Portrait of Hubert Howe Bancroft
Image citation: Hubert Howe Bancroft, Portrait Collection, BANC PIC Bancroft, Hubert Howe--POR:15 c.2, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

The Research Collection: Transcribed Material

In the instances where Bancroft could not outright buy material, such as government and mission archives, he employed a team of copyists to transcribe the relevant content. Many records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths of Native Americans were preserved via this method.

List of Indian names from Mission Santa Cruz

List of Indian names from Mission Santa Cruz
Image citation: Lists of Indian names and rancherias transcribed, with additional notes, from birth, death and marriage records of eleven California missions, BANC MSS C-C 66, Folder 2, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Translated prayers from Mission San Jose

Translated prayers from Mission San Jose
Image citation: Lists of Indian names and rancherias transcribed, with additional notes, from birth, death and marriage records of eleven California missions, BANC MSS C-C 66, Folder 11, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

The Research Collection: Purchased Material

Extensive purchases from booksellers and auctions helped Bancroft's research collection grow exponentially, covering all matter of formats — published works, manuscripts, maps, ephemera, and periodicals. By the 1870s, his collection numbered roughly 16,000 volumes, tracing the West's history from Indigenous cultures to the then present day.

Receipt for Bancroft's book purchases

Bancroft's receipt for book purchases, including an entry for Kip Army Life
Image citation: Receipt, Hubert Howe Bancroft: records of the library and publishing companies, BANC MSS B-C 7, Carton 24, Folder 41, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Title page of Army Life on the Pacific

Title page of Army Life on the Pacific, the book referenced in the above receipt.
Image citation: Army life on the Pacific, E83.84 .K57 1859, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

The Research Collection: Dictations

Of particular interest to Bancroft were the personal narratives of the region’s current residents, ranging from pioneers to Californios, from all walks of life. These recollections were captured by Bancroft and his staff in hundreds of oral histories, termed dictations, some just half a page in length and others spanning multiple volumes. While a good number of these documents capture interactions (often hostile) with the native communities of the area, at least three of the dictations are from Indigenous people themselves - Julio César, Amy Prowers, and Isidora Filomena Solano.

Oliver Wozencraft Dictation

Oliver Wozencraft Dictation with a brief statement from another Indian agent, Redick McKee, stating that much of the information needs verification
Image citation: Indian Affairs, BANC MSS C-D 204, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Isidora Filomena Solano Dictation

Isidora Filomena Solano Dictation
Image citation: Isidora Filomena Solano narración, BANC MSS C-E 65, Box 1, Folder 12, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft

From this expansive research collection emerged the 39-volume series, The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, chronicling the history of the Pacific coast of North America from Alaska to Central America. The first five of these volumes, dedicated to Native Races, are titled Wild Tribes, Civilized Nations, Myths & Languages, Antiquities, and Primitive History.

In addition to multiple copies of the first edition and subsequent printings, The Bancroft Library also has the original reference notes and drafts compiled by Bancroft in the evolution of his magnum opus.

Bancroft's reference notes on Indian affairs

H. H. Bancroft's reference notes, mainly transcriptions of newspaper articles regarding Native American affairs
Image citation: Bancroft reference notes for California, BANC MSS B-C 12, Carton 2, Folder 6, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Various drafts of Native Races

Various drafts of Native Races, with annotations by H. H. Bancroft
Image citation: Drafts of Native Races, Hubert Howe Bancroft : records of the library and publishing companies, BANC MSS B-C 7, Carton 2, Folder 58, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

The five volumes of Native Races in original sheepskin binding

The first five volumes, bound in original sheepskin binding
Image citation: The works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, E13 .B2 1883e v.1-5, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley