Herbert Eugene Bolton

Herbert Eugene Bolton

Wilton, Monroe County, Wisconsin, USA
Death 30 Jan 1953 (aged 82)
Berkeley, Alameda County, California, USA
Burial El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California, USA
Plot Urn Garden Row 16 Space 83A
Memorial ID 27973671 · View Source
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Author, Historian. He received notoriety as an American author, specializing in textbooks on American History pertaining to the Western states as related to Mexico. As a scholar, he was one who first stress the importance of a hemispheric rather than national concept of Americas; meaning, a scholar can not isolate the history of the United States from the rest of the Americas. To historians, this was known as “Bolton's Theory.” Born on a Wisconsin farm, h e attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1895. After teaching for a short time in 1900 at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Bolton Hall on the campus was later named in honor of him. S tarting in 1897, he was a Harrison Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in American history. In 1899, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania with the dissertation, “The Free Negro in the South Before the Civil War.” He taught at Milwaukee State Normal School until 1900 before beginning to teach European medieval history in 1901 at the University of Texas, where he gained an interest in Mexican archives. Traveling to Mexico City in 1902, he began research in the archives there. In 1904, he co-authored with Eugene C. Barker a textbook for high school students, “With the Makers of Texas: A Source Reader in Texas History.” Returning to Mexico for fifteen months during 1907 through 1908, he found thousands of documents invaluable to American history. In 1913 at the Carnegie Institute's request, he published an aide for researchers, the “Guide to Material for History of the United States in the Principal Archives of Mexico.” Being used a hundred years after publication, the “Guide” was his first major publication. In 1914, Bolton published “Athanase de Mézières and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1768 to 1780,” and in 1915 published “Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century: Studies in Spanish Colonial History and Administration.” In 1920 he co-authored a text with T.M. Marshall, “ The Colonization of North America, 1492 to 1783 ,” which looked at other North American colonies outside of the 13 original colonies of the United States. He was offered the position of Presidency of University of Texas but declined as he enjoyed teaching American History, supervising more than 300 master's theses and 104 doctoral dissertations. By 1909 he held a position at Stanford University in California, by 1911 transferring to the University of California at Berkeley, and remaining there until mandatory retirement at the age of 70. From 1916 until 1940 he was the founding director of the Bancroft Library on the Berkeley campus, which became under his guidance, became the principle center of research in Western and Latin-American history and retaining this title until the 1960s. For Yale University Press's fifty-volume series “Chronicles of America,” he authored “The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicles of Old Florida and the Southwest” in 1921, which was heavily edited by Constance Lindsay Skinner. Other books were “Outpost of Empire “ in 1931, which was about the founding of San Francisco and received the Gold Medal of the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in 1931; “Rim of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino ” in 1936, which received the Literature Medal Jury of the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco as the best book by a Californian in 1936; and “Coronado” in 1949, which received for documenting American History, the 1949 Whittlesey House Southwestern Fellowship Award and the 1950 Bancroft Prize from Columbia University in New York City. Besides textbooks, he wrote over 100 articles for the “Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico” and was an associate editor with publications in the “Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association.” He received notoriety for his involvement with the hoax of “Drake's Plate of Brass.” “The “Drake's Plate of Brass” was thought to be a great historical find of the actual brass plaque brought to North American by Sir Francis Drake on his arrival in 1579. In February of 1937 George Ezra Dane, a lawyer and charter member in the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, along with other members in cahoots with him, initiate d the hoax as a joke being played on Bolton. The plaque was brought to Bolton as a historical find, and respecting the members of ECV, a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West, he believed their tale. On April 6, 1937 at the California Historical Society meeting, Bolton said, “One of the world's long-lost historical treasures apparently has been found...The authenticity of the tablet seems to me beyond all reasonable doubt.” To insure the Bancroft Library housed this historical find, thousand of dollars were spent, and this plaque is still there in the 21st century along with Bolton's portrait. At one point, this information was published as the truth in American History textbooks and other publications world-wide. Even with questionable problems with the wording and composition of the material making the plaque, Bolton stood his ground that it was authentic and not a forgery. Not wanting any embarrassment, no one came forward admitting that this was a joke gone wrong until May of 1954, when the last living member of the hoax came forward signing an affidavit. The SCV issued a statement that the organization did not sanction this hoax and those involved acted on their own. It was not until 1977 when tests done by laboratories at Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oxford University in England that the hoax was fully resolved. The brass used to make the plaque contain zinc and copper, which was not available as a mixture in the 16th century for Drake's use. In 1989 a Walt Disney's Donald Duck cartoon adapted the “Drake's Plate of Brass” story involving Donald's Uncle Scrooge McDuck, who was fooled after accidentally finding a forged historical plaque. Could jealousy of a successful man be the reason the hoax was done in the first place? Beside receiving knighthood from the King of Spain in 1925, honorary degrees from several universities, and being elected in 1932 the President of the American Historical Association, Bolton married, had seven children, and died from complications of a 1952 stroke without knowing he was the subject of a hoax gone wrong. Established in 1956, the Herbert Eugene Bolton Memorial is awarded annually to a book written in English on the history of Latin-America. John Frances Brannon, who wrote his 1939 doctoral dissertation under Bolton's supervision, authored in 1978 the biography “Herbert Eugene Bolton: The Historian and the Man 1870 to 1953.”

Bio by: Linda Davis

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally 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 Find A Grave .