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John Spencer Bassett Papers, 1867 - 1928 (Bulk: 1895 - 1990)
4 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Collection number: 42

Abstract:
Professor of History. Contains professional papers, correspondence, news clippings and photographs belonging to John Spencer Bassett.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The records are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note
John Spencer Bassett, Professor of History [Smith College Press Board, 1928]


John Spencer Bassett, Professor of History [Smith College Press Board, 1928]

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 exmplar 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.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

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.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The records are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

John Spencer Bassett, Box #, Smith College Archives

History of the Collection

The John Spencer Bassett Papers, 1867 - 1928 were created by John Bassett and donated to the College Archives.

Processing Information

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


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: specialcollections@smith.edu
URL: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections
Language
English
Language
English
Contents List
Series I: General



Professor of History, Smith College
1908 - 1990

Box 1: folder 1
correspondence
1912 - 1926

Box 1: folder 2
obituaries
1928 - 1978

Box 1: folder 3
correspondence
1911 - 1918

Box 1: folder 4
photographs
1906 - 1928

Box 1: folder 5
publications
1895 - 1925

Box 1: folder 6
Series II: Trinity College Controversy
1903


correspondence
1897 - 1903

Box 2: folder 1
correspondence (November, 1903)
1903

Box 2: folder 2
correspondence (December, 1903 - February, 1904)
1903 - 1904

Box 2: folder 3
correspondence, news clippings
1903

Box 2: folder 4
Series III: Family Life



correspondence
1911

Box 3: folder 1
correspondence
1912

Box 3: folder 2
correspondence
1913

Box 3: folder 3
correspondence, misc.
1913

Box 3: folder 4
photographs 1911-1913
1911-1913

Box 3: folder 5
correspondence, 1914
1914

Box 3: folder 6
correspondence, 1915
1915

Box 3: folder 7
correspondence, 1915
1915

Box 3: folder 8
correspondence, 1916
1916

Box 3: folder 9
correspondence, 1916
1916

Box 3: folder 10
Series IV: Professional Life



correspondence, 1913
1913

Box 4: folder 1
correspondence, 1914
1914

Box 4: folder 2
correspondence, 1915
1915

Box 4: folder 3
correspondence, 1916
1916

Box 4: folder 4
The Historians, 1607-1783 (unpublished)
1911

Box 4: folder 5
The Historians, 1783-1850 (unpublished)
1911

Box 4: folder 6

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • American Historical Association
  • Bassett, Jessie Lewellin
  • Bassett, John Spencer, -- 1867-1928
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963
  • Editors
  • Educational change--Southern states
  • League of Nations
  • Scholarly publishing
  • Smith College--Faculty
  • South Atlantic quarterly
  • Trinity College (Durham, N.C.)--Faculty
  • United States--Politics and government--1865-1933

Genre terms
  • correspondence
  • lecture notes
  • manuscripts for publication
  • photographs


APPENDIX: Subject Index

This guide to topics within this collection was prepared by Madison White, Class of 2016.

SubjectLocation
Admissionsbox 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 4
American Antiquarian Societybox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
box 3, folder 1
American Historical Associationbox 2, folder 2
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 8
box 4, folder 1
box 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 4
Columbia University Summer Schoolbox 1, folder 2
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
Criticsbox 2, folder 1
box 2, folder 2
box 2, folder 3
box 3, folder 6
box 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 4
Civil War Celebrationsbox 4, folder 3
Concerts, Theatre, Operabox 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 8
box 4, folder 8
box 4, folder 4
Current Events Clubbox 3, folder 1
Departmental Appointmentsbox 1, folder 2
box 3, folder 1
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 4
Fashionbox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
Financesbox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 3
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 3
box 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 4
Harvard Universitybox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 4
Lecturesbox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
box 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 4
Margaret Byrdbox 3, folder 6
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 3
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
box 3, folder 1
"The Mirror"box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 3
Philip's Academy, Andover, MAbox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
box 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
President Burtonbox 3, folder 6
box 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 4
President Seelyebox 3, folder 6
Publicationsbox 2, folder 1
box 2, folder 2
box 2, folder 3
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
box 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 4
Richard's Artbox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 3
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
Robert Frostbox 4, folder 8
Smith College Coursesbox 1, folder 2
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
box 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 4
Smith College Studies in Historybox 4, folder 4
Social Eventsbox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
box 3, folder 6
Sports and Athleticsbox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
box 3, folder 6
box 3, folder 1
Travelbox 1, folder 2
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 3
box 3, folder 6
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
box 3, folder 1
box 4, folder 4
Trinity Collegebox 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 1
box 4, folder 3
box 4, folder 4
Trinity College Controversybox 2, folder 1
box 2, folder 2
box 2, folder 3
box 2, folder 4
W.E.B. Du Boisbox 2, folder1
Woodstock, NYbox 4, folder 8
box 3, folder 6
box 4, folder 3

Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
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