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John Spencer Bassett Papers

 Collection
Identifier: CA-MS-00380

Scope and Contents

The collection contains the professional and personal files of John Spencer Bassett. The collection contains his publications, of which the collection has twelve articles and four books, professional photographs, and a manuscript of an unpublished works called The Historians. Much of the collection is composed of correspondence with members of the academic community, with Smith College and with his family.

Subject Index

Admissions
box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 4
American Antiquarian Society
box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 2
American Historical Association
box 2, folder 2; box 3, folder 7; box 3, folder 8; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 4
Columbia University Summer School
box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 1
Critics
box 2, folder 1; box 2, folder 2; box 2, folder 3; box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 4
Civil War Celebrations
box 4, folder 3
Concerts, Theatre, Opera
box 3, folder 3; box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 8; box 4, folder 4
Current Events Club
box 3, folder 1
Departmental Appointments
box 1, folder 2; box 4, folder 2; box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 4
Fashion
box 3, folder 1; box 3, folder 3; box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 9
Finances
Box 3, folder 1; box 3, folder 3; box 3, folder 4; box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 9; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 4
Harvard University
box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 4
Lectures
box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 4
Margaret Byrd
box 3, folder 1; box 3, folder 2; box 3, folder 3; box 3, folder 9; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 2
"The Mirror"
box 3, folder 6; box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 9; box 4, folder 3
Philip's Academy, Andover, MA
box 3, folder 6; box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 10; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 3
President Burton
box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 4
President Seelye
box 3, folder 1
Publications
box 2, folder 1; box 2, folder 2; box 2, folder 3; box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 4
Richard's Art
box 3, folder 1; box 3, folder 3; box 3, folder 4; box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 9; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 3
Robert Frost
box 3, folder 8
Smith College Courses
box 1, folder 2; box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 4
Smith College Studies in History
box 4, folder 4
Social Events
box 3, folder 7; box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 9; box 3, folder 10
Sports and Athletics
box 3, folder 6; box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 9; box 3, folder 10; box 4, folder 2
Travel
box 1, folder 2; box 3, folder 1; box 3, folder 3; box 3, folder 4; box 3, folder 7; box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 10; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 2; box 4, folder 4
Trinity College
box 3, folder 1; box 4, folder 1; box 4, folder 3; box 4, folder 4
Trinity College Controversy
box 2, folder 1; box 2, folder 2; box 2, folder 3; box 2, folder 4
W.E.B. Du Bois
box 2, folder 1
Woodstock, NY
box 3, folder 8; box 3, folder 9; box 4, folder 3

Dates

  • 1867 - 1990
  • Majority of material found within 1895 - 1990

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Access

Until we move into New Neilson in early 2021, collections are stored in multiple locations and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Special Collections (specialcollections@smith.edu) at least a week in advance of any planned visits so that boxes may be retrieved for them in a timely manner.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

John Spencer Bassett was born in 1867 in Tarboro, NC, to Mary Jane Wilson and Richard Baxter Bassett, a builder and abolitionist. After graduating high school, pneumonia forced him to take a two year break before entering the Davis Military Academy in 1885. In 1888, Bassett graduated from Trinity College (now Duke University) and took a deanship there before leaving to become a history fellow at Johns Hopkins University. He received his PhD in American History at Johns Hopkins in 1894 after completing his dissertation titled The Constitutional Beginnings of North Carolina, 1663-1729. In 1892, Bassett married Jessie Lewellin, an elementary school principal. Together, they had four children, two who survived to adulthood: Richard Horace and Margaret Byrd.

Bassett returned to Trinity College for the next twelve years. Building upon the work of his predecessor, Bassett actively supported the Trinity College Historical Society for the study of southern history. Believing that everyone could collect, if not write, he worked towards acquiring a body of materials for historical research. Students, administrators, and alumni donated Confederate money, American Indian relics, travel souvenirs, and political memorabilia as well as volumes of books, pamphlets, religious and secular newspapers, maps, and manuscripts.

In 1902, Bassett founded and edited the South Atlantic Quarterly, a publication devoted to "the literary, historical, and social development of the South". In 1903, Bassett became the center of a controversy when he wrote "Stirring Up the Fires of Race Antipathy", an article in which he declared Booker T. Washington "to be the greatest man to be born in the South after Robert E. Lee". In response to a barrage of calls for his immediate dismissal, Bassett handed in his resignation from his professorship at Trinity. Surprisingly, the college refused to accept his resignation and the controversy became known as The Bassett Affair of 1903. It is regularly recounted as an exemplar of academic freedom. In 1906, Bassett left Trinity to begin teaching at Smith College as a Professor of American History. While he was teaching at Smith, Basset held several extracurricular positions in various organizations including: Old Letters Club, Library Fund, Smith College Studies in History and the Sydenham Parsons Foundation History Department.

Bassett became Secretary of the American Historical Association in 1919; he controversially supported the decision that school textbooks should be impartial and not emphasize the heroism of famous individuals. Bassett carried this idea into his own work as a writer and teacher, and he became known in the field for his objective approach to historical figures, his dedication to research and his emphasis on preserving primary documents. In 1920 he served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee advisory group, an event which led to the reelection of Woodrow Wilson. The committee focused most of its efforts on increasing public support for the League of Nations and Women's Suffrage. Bassett sought to influence public opinion by soliciting and publishing articles written by prominent individuals in support of these charges.

Even his death in 1928 was surrounded by controversy. After being hit and killed by a streetcar in Washington D.C., the police failed to contact his family until several days after the incident, prompting an inquiry in the Washington police department.

List of Publications

The Constitutional Beginnings of North Carolina, 1663-1729; The Regulators of North Carolina, 1765, 1771
1894
Suffrage in the State of North Carolina, 1776-1861
1895
Slavery and Servitude in the Colony of North Carolina
1896
Anti-Slavery Leaders of North Carolina
1898
Slavery in the State of North Carolina
1899
The Writings of Colonel William Byrd, of Westover, in Virginia, Esqr.
1901
"Stirring Up the Fires of Race Antipathy"
1903
The Federalist System, 1789-1801
1906
Life of Andrew Jackson
1911
A Short History of the United States
1913
The Plain Story of American History
1916
The Middle Group of American Historians, Correspondence of George Bancroft and Jared Sparks, 1823-1832
1917
The Lost Fruits of Waterloo
1918
Our War With Germany: A History
1919
Letters of Francis Parkman to Pierre Margry
1922
The Southern Plantation Overseer as Revealed in His Letters
1925
Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926
1926
Correspondence of Andrew Jackson
1926
Makers of A New Nation, The League of Nations: A Chapter in World Politics
1928

Extent

1.333 linear feet (4 containers)

Language of Materials

English

Overview

Professor of History. Collection contains professional papers, correspondence, news clippings and photographs belonging to John Spencer Bassett.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into four series:
  1. General (1908 - 1978)
  2. Trinity College Controversy (1897 - 1904)
  3. Family Life (1911 - 1916)
  4. Professional Life (1911 - 1916)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source unknown.

Processing Information

Madison White, Class of 2016; Elizabeth Carron, Archives Specialist

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.
Title
Finding aid to the John Spencer Bassett Papers
Status
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Author
Finding aid prepared by Madison White (Class of 2016) and Daniel Michelson.
Date
2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
  • 2018-10-31: Containers added and finding aid updated as part of College Archives survey

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Contact:
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton MA 01063