Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Bancroft Family Correspondence,
Date (inclusive): 1844-1882
1.00 linear feet
(4 archives box)
Abstract: Papers of the family of book dealer and historian Hubert Howe Bancroft (1832-1918). The collection consists of letters from
his first wife, Emily Ketchum, to her family, 1859-1869; and to her sister, Mrs. Coit, 1860-1869. It also includes the journal
of Bancroft's daughter, Kate, 1874, describing her travels to the California missions and her visit to the Vallejo family
in Sonoma in 1874, and correspondence and documents relating to the Civil War activities of General Henry Clay Pleasants and
Lt. Charles Israel Pleasants.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0039
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Bancroft Family Correspondence, MSS 0039. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Hubert Howe Bancroft (1832-1918) was a Pacific Coast historian, book dealer, bibliophile, and entrepreneur. Having no formal
schooling, Bancroft educated himself through travel and reading. A native of Granville, Ohio, he began his career as a bookstore
clerk in Buffalo, New York. He came to California in 1852, and in 1856 he opened a successful bookstore in San Francisco
with his brother Albert. By 1870 Bancroft had purchased a five-story building and had enlarged his business to include the
selling of sheet music, pianos, and organs. His business also included facilities for printing, engraving, lithography, and
bookbinding. At one time Bancroft's business was the largest and foremost bookselling concern west of Chicago.
The entire fifth floor of Bancroft's San Francisco store was occupied by his library, which eventually contained over 60,000
works pertaining to Pacific Coast History. Drawing on these and other resources, Bancroft set out to write a comprehensive
history of the Western United States. To assist him with this task he hired researchers and writers, some of whom authored
works that appeared under Bancroft's name. When completed, Bancroft's 39-volume history became a standard reference source,
and included Native Races of the Pacific States (5 volumes, 1874-1876), and History of the Pacific States of North America
(21 volumes, 1882-1890). In 1905 the University of California acquired the author's vast library, which became the nucleus
of the present-day Bancroft Library.
Bancroft married Emily Ketchum of Buffalo, New York, in 1859, and the couple had one daughter, Kate, born in 1860. Emily
died in 1869, and Bancroft married Matilda Coley Griffing in 1876. This second marriage produced four children: Paul, Griffing,
Howe, and Lucy. Hubert Howe Bancroft died in 1918 in Walnut Creek, California, two days after being struck by a street car.
Bancroft's great-granddaughter, Ruth Lineaweaver Swisher, a descendant of Bancroft's daughter Kate, deposited the Bancroft
Family Correspondence at the UCSD Library in 1970.
Scope and Content of Collection
Accession Processed in 1988
The Bancroft Family Correspondence is arranged in three series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) KATE BANCROFT'S JOURNAL, and 3) PLEASANTS
The CORRESPONDENCE consists of bound volumes of letters. The first group contains letters from the first wife of Hubert Howe
Bancroft, Emily, to her family. The first volume of letters date from 1844-1868, the period prior to and after Mrs. Bancroft's
marriage. Topics covered in the letters include Emily's schooling at Miss Porter's in Farmington, Connecticut, and Emily's
married life in California. Included is a sample of Mrs. Bancroft's calling cards and sketches of floor-plans of her various
The second volume contains letters from Emily Bancroft to her family, 1859-1869. Topics include daily events in family members'
lives in Buffalo, the beginnings of the Civil War, and religious beliefs. Most letters reflect the extremely close relationship
between Emily and her family. The letters in this volume are not in chronological order.
The third volume of letters are from Emily Bancroft to her sister, Mrs. Kate Coit, and date from 1860-1869. The letters detail
Emily's life in California, her travels, and her illnesses. Included are such topics as home management, child-rearing, and
Emily's love of singing lessons. Letters from 1866 to 1868 describe Emily's travels in Europe with her husband. In the last
letters before her death, in December 1869, Mrs. Bancroft discusses her illness and her expectation of having a child in February
of 1870. The letters in this volume were not bound in chronological order.
Another group of letters were written by Emily's daughter, Kate, to Kate's father, Hubert Howe Bancroft. These letters are
bound into one volume and date from 1873 to 1882. An occasional letter to "Mama," Kate's stepmother (Mrs. Matilda Griffing
Bancroft) can also be found in this volume. One undated letter addressed to "My Dear Darling Angel" may not have been intended
for Kate's father or mother.
In the early letters, Kate describes her activities and schooling in San Francisco (1873), but the bulk of her letters were
written during her two-year stay in Europe, 1880-1882. During this European tour Kate studied German, French, and voice.
Her letters, which are most expressive, reveal Kate as an insecure young woman with little self-esteem, who worshipped her
father and desperately sought his approval. Her letters also describe how her family (which included her aunt Liss and uncle
Albert Bancroft, with whom she travelled much of the time) spied on and gossiped about her. Kate also discusses her tremendous
desire to become a professional singer and reveals her budding romance. Included in this volume is a program from the Roman
Carnival, ca. 1882.
KATE BANCROFT'S JOURNAL is a bound volume divided into two parts. In the first part, Kate describes, often humorously, her
travels through the line of missions in Southern California. On this trip, made in 1874, Kate accompanied her father, who
collected historical data. In the journal Kate gives excellent descriptions of the mission towns, including San Diego,
Los Angeles, and San Gabriel, and provides visual sketches of all the missions she visited. In the second part of her journal
Kate details her trip to Sonoma and highlights her visit to the Vallejo family. Overall, Kate Bancroft's journal is an important
source for the history of California.
The PLEASANTS FAMILY MATERIALS contain photocopies and original documents relating to the Civil War activities of General
Henry Pleasants and Lt. Charles Israel Pleasants. Among the materials are Israel's request for leave, his commission, a prescription
for medication, and a letter to his "uncle" advising of Israel's death at the Battle of the Wilderness. Also included is
a newspaper obituary for General Henry Pleasants.
The relationship between the Pleasants family and the Bancroft family is unclear.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Bancroft family -- Correspondence
Bancroft family -- Archives
Pleasant family -- Archives
Bancroft, Emily Ketchum -- Archives
Bancroft, Kate -- Archives
Pleasants, Henry, 1833-1880
Missions -- California
California -- Description and travel
San Francisco (Calif.) -- Description and travel
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
Diaries -- 19th Century.
Letters -- 19th century.
Bancroft, Hubert Howe, 1832-1918, -- correspondent
Bancroft, Kate, -- correspondent
Bancroft, Emily Ketchum, -- correspondent
Bancroft, Matilda Griffing, -- correspondent
Pleasants, Charles Israel, -- correspondent
Bancroft, Emily Ketchum
Pleasants, Charles Israel
Swisher, Ruth Lineaweaver, -- associated name