Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/191

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173
Historical Societies

chapter. For example, the New York society, in the richest city in the Union, kept up a battle for existence for forty years and was saved from bankruptcy only by aid from the State treasury. In sixty-four years it published eight small volumes of Collections, besides a number of "discourses" in pamphlet form. In the late forties it took on new life, obtained money for a building of its own, and in 1857 began to raise the publication fund which resulted in a series of annual Collections from 1868 to the present.

It is difficult to determine the origin of this renewed activity which appeared in other societies than the New York Historical Society. It was largely affected by Sparks's, Bancroft's, and Force's activities in the fourth decade of the century,[1] efforts so widely discussed that they must have stimulated new efforts everywhere. The return of John Romeyn Brodhead from Europe in 1844 with his excellent collection of transcripts on New York history and their publication by the State were an other strong impulse to progress, and others can probably be discovered in the general development of the intellectual conditions of the day. It is clear that with the end of the Civil War the historical societies of the Atlantic States had passed out of their dubious phase of existence and had begun to exercise the important influence they have lately had in support of history.

Beyond the Alleghanies we find trace of the same awakening. State historical societies were established in Ohio in 1831, in Wisconsin and Minnesota in 1849, in Iowa in 1857, in Kansas in 1875, in Nebraska in 1878, and in Illinois and Missouri in 1899. Besides these state societies were several important privately projected societies: as the Chicago Historical Society, founded in 1855, and the Missouri Historical Society established in 1886. Within the latter part of the period under discussion the creation of societies has proceeded rapidly throughout the country.

Among the men who made this growth possible no one stands higher than Lyman Copeland Draper (1815-91), whose persistent efforts made the Wisconsin society pre-eminent among State historical societies. Fired by the example of Force and Sparks in Revolutionary history, he made his field

  1. See Book II, Chap. XVII.