Bancroft was determined to share his collected works with the public; with the assistanceof hired writers, he published nearly forty volumes in the 1880s and sold them bysubscription. This venture, too, was successful, though Bancroft’s critics complained thathis pieces on famous men were self-serving fluff pieces written by the subjectsthemselves. Bancroft’s application of an entrepreneurial mind to collecting andinterpreting historical artifacts was a pioneer effort of what we now call public history.
While Bancroft concentrated his efforts in the American West, Lyman Draper wasengaged in a public service effort in the Midwest. He was instrumental in establishing astate charter for the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1854. Draper had minimal statesupport, but by his 1887 retirement, Draper had built the Wisconsin society into anational model for historical organizations with “110,000 volumes, a magnificentcollection of manuscripts and newspapers, a museum, and portrait gallery,” according toLarry Gara.
Bancroft and Draper, like others who were soon to follow, worked ouside theacademy, and by the 1880s extensive changes were occurring throughout the field. TheAHA was organized in 1884, and chartered by an act of Congress in 1889. The foundingof the organization coincided with some American universities, such as Johns Hopkins,offering for the first time doctoral degrees in history. Higher education shifted its coremodel and began to implement the German seminar structure in graduate classes. Socialsciences promoted the idea that research should be based on empirical evidence followingthe scientific method and should use interdisciplinary studies as tools in research
John Walton Caughey, “Hubert Howe Bancroft: Historian of Western America,”
American Historical Review
50 (1945), 461-470.
Larry Gara, “Lyman Copeland Draper,” in Keepers of the Past (Chapel Hill, NC:University of North Carolina Press, 1965), 40.