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 Herbert Eugene Bolton

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Herbert Eugene Bolton

  • Birth 20 Jul 1870 Wilton, Monroe County, Wisconsin, USA
  • Death 30 Jan 1953 Berkeley, Alameda County, California, USA
  • Burial El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California, USA
  • Plot Urn Garden Row 16 Space 83A
  • Memorial ID 27973671

Herbert E. Bolton was born in Wilton, Wisconsin in 1870 to Edwin Latham and Rosaline (Cady) Bolton. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was a brother of Theta Delta Chi, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1895. That same year he married Gertrude James, with whom he eventually had seven children.

Bolton studied under Frederick Jackson Turner from 1896 and 1897. Starting in 1897, Bolton was a Harrison Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and studied American history under John Bach McMaster. In 1899, received his Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania and then taught at Milwaukee State Normal School until 1900.

From 1901 to 1909, Bolton was a history professor at the University of Texas, where he taught medieval and European history. He became interested in the Spanish colonization of the Americas and in summer 1902 began traveling to Mexico in search of historical documents. The Carnegie Institution asked Bolton to write a report of information found about United States history in Mexican archives, and the report was published in 1913. Soon afterward, Bolton became an associate editor of the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association (now the Southwestern Historical Quarterly). In 1904, Bolton and Eugene C. Barker published With the Makers of Texas: A Source Reader in Texas History, a Texas history textbook. In 1906, Bolton began studying Native American history in Texas for the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology, writing more than 100 articles for the Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico.

In 1911, Bolton became a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. There he served as the chair of the history department for 22 years and became the first director of the renowned Bancroft Library. He taught the "History of the Americas" course, which attracted up to a thousand students a week.

At Berkeley he supervised more than 300 master's theses and 104 doctoral dissertations. In 1914, Bolton published Athanase de Mézières and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1768-1780. A year later, Bolton published Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century: Studies in Spanish Colonial History and Administration and declined the presidency of the University of Texas.

As director of The Bancroft Library from 1920-1940 and Sather Professor of American History, Bolton authenticated the "Drake Plate" a prank played by fellow historians that were members of E Clampus Vitus, known as Clampers. Bolton was also a member of the California Historical Society and the Clampers. Fascinated by stories about Drake posting a brass plate to mark his entry into California, Bolton was known for telling his students to be on the lookout for it when in Marin County. The plate's appearance fulfilled Bolton's dream, and he was thrilled to acquire it for The Bancroft.

Over the next 29 years, Bolton published many works, including Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century (1921), The Spanish Borderlands (1921), Outpost of Empire (1931), Rim of Christendom (1936) and Coronado (1949), for which he received a Bancroft Prize from Columbia University.

In 1932, Bolton served as president of the American Historical Association, and in 1944 retired as a professor. He taught briefly at San Francisco State College (now University) in retirement. He died of a stroke in Berkeley in 1953.

As a Clamper, Bolton had the title of Grand Royal Historian of the group's Yerba Buena chapter.

Herbert Eugene Bolton, R.G.H., Bancroft Library, U.C., Berkeley. Professor Bolton's research resulted in nearly 100 works, including approximately 24 books he either wrote or edited.


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  • Created by: Lester Letson
  • Added: 1 Jul 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 27973671
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Herbert Eugene Bolton (20 Jul 1870–30 Jan 1953), Find A Grave Memorial no. 27973671, citing Sunset View Cemetery, El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California, USA ; Maintained by Lester Letson (contributor 46627920) .