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Kansas Historical Quarterly - Frank Heywood Hodder, 1860-1935

by James C. Malin

May, 1936 (vol. 5, no. 2, pages 115 to 121
Transcribed by lhn; additional HTML by Susan Stafford
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.

THE death of the president of the Kansas Historical Society, Prof. Frank Heywood Hodder, on December 27, 1935, brought to a close the career of one who has meant more to the cause of history in Kansas than any other man. Born at Aurora, Ill., November 6, 1860, his early life was identified with that town. He was graduated from the University of Michigan in 1883; spent part of the next two years at Washington in civil service; served as instructor in history and economics at Cornell University, 1885-1889, under his former teacher, Charles Kendall Adams, who had moved from Michigan; became assistant professor of economics, 1889-1890; studied in Germany at the universities of Goettingen and Freiburg, 1890-1891; came to the University of Kansas as associate professor of American history, 1891. After two years he was promoted to the position of professor of American history and political science and became head of the department of history in 1908.

At the time when Hodder was beginning his historical studies several of the great teachers were urging young students to begin with the investigation of the history and development of local institutions in their own communities. Hodder's first recorded research work was of this type, "The City Government of Chicago," which was scheduled to be published in the Johns Hopkins University Studies in History and Political Science [1] but for some reason not now determinable was not included in the volume of that series devoted to municipal government. This monograph was the first evidence of his interest in the historical development of Chicago, and for that reason is of importance, because that city was to be the focus of the studies in which he made his greatest contribution to historical knowledge during his later career.

On locating in Kansas he undertook the study of the history and government of his adopted state, and in 1895 published his Government of the People of Kansas .2 This little book combined Kansas history, as a background and introduction, with the study of state government. It illustrated his unusual ability to digest the conflicting materials of this most controversial of states and to present the

(115)

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results with simplicity and balanced perspective. In spite of the careful work that went into the book it did not please certain factions then prominent in Kansas political life. An attack of intense bitterness was made upon the book and its author, led by John Speer. The formal statement of the charges is to be found in the presidential address delivered by Speer at the annual meeting of the Kansas Historical Society January 18, 1898, entitled "Accuracy in History."3 There is no point to discussing here the merits of the historical question in controversy. The matter that was at stake for a young professor of history was his position in the university. Some friends advised him to fight it out with Speer, while others pointed to the extremes of the controversies in which Speer and his contemporaries had so often engaged, the power which Speer and his friends wielded in political circles and among newspaper men, and warned Hodder that it would be better to drop the subject. After full consideration he decided on the latter course, abandoning Kansas history as a major field of historical work for himself and his students-and thereby the state of Kansas has been the loser .4 Hodder had intended to review the whole question in his presidential address in October, 1936. The present reference to the subject is in no sense intended as a substitute, neither is it intended to revive the old controversy in any form, but is introduced only because it became a turning point in Hodder's career and in justice to him and to the history of research in and the writing of Kansas history it is necessary to give this much of explanation in order to complete the record.

For many years the only instructor in American history at the University of Kansas, Hodder devoted his energies to the development of courses which covered the whole subject, rather than to concentration on a single phase or period as was possible in the history departments of some of the larger and wealthier institutions. The guides to these courses were published in two small volumes, and as he was constantly engaged in original investigation, they

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were frequently revised. [5] His interest was primarily in the analysis of special problems-historical criticism-rather than factual narrative or philosophical synthesis. Although he labeled his courses as primarily political, they were not narrowly so. He was opposed to the separation of history into compartments, political, diplomatic, economic, social and cultural; all phases should be studied together as they were lived-as a whole. If he had any prejudices which anyone might point to as coloring his presentation of history, it was an abiding abomination of those inseparable twins-war and intolerance.

He added to his courses, or changed them in many details, each year, and for some periods more than others. There was scarcely a topic to which he did not. contribute something from his own investigation. He did not rush into print with every new thing, but he taught these new things to a long succession of students. He was reluctant to publish, even when to others it seemed that the problem had been completed, and much or most of his work was never printed. On some problems where he did not publish, his mastery of the subject is attested beyond question by brilliant book reviews.

Every student who worked with Hodder remembers problems, such as those dealing with Columbus, Cabot, the cause of the American Revolution, the Missouri compromises, the Oregon question, the compromise of 1850, Douglas, the Pacific railroad and the Kansas-Nebraska act, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown, and the Grant-Johnson controversy. His success in dealing with these problems of historical criticism was derived from certain special talents of the man-his faculty for analysis, by which he was able to fix upon the crucial point at issue; his unusual power of discrimination in dealing with masses of conflicting materials; and a mastery of the bibliography of his subject. These are essentials of every good historian, but he possessed them more fully than most men. When he had arrived at his conclusions, they were stated briefly. What many historians would require a book to present, he would condense into a magazine article. For these same reasons he was without a superior in the historical profession as a book reviewer.6 His talents included also a rare ability to interpret maps, portraits and cartoons far historical purposes.

Among his earliest works was the Outline Historical Atlas of the

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United States, illustrating territorial growth and organization.? This was revised and perfected from time to time, going through five editions. As a recognized authority on the subject he reviewed several publications of similar nature for The American Historical Review. [8] He contributed also to two sections of the monumental Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States published jointly in 1932 by the Carnegie Institution at Washington and the American Geographical Society of New York.

In the utilization of portraiture as a source material for history Hodder published little, [9] but he acquired an extensive knowledge of portraits, especially those of Lincoln. He prepared lantern slides of the most significant Lincoln material for presentation in illustrated lectures. [10] Similar series of lantern slides and lectures were prepared to illustrate the development of the use of cartoons for political purposes. A short sketch of this subject was published," but the book he had in preparation was not completed.

Among his published articles, one that aroused as much comment as any was the paper entitled "Propaganda as a Source of American History." [12] Starting with the Columbian tradition, he indicated how it was established by propaganda, and except in a limited number of works, is perpetuated in the standard histories of today. Other episodes were selected in successive periods down to and including Woodrow Wilson, to illustrate how similar influences determined in one way or another many of the established versions of history.

The Columbus problem attracted Hodder's attention early in his career, and he was still working on it at the time of his death. The only publications which indicate the extent of his mastery of that complicated question are book reviews of 1904. [13] The Cabot problem is not so complicated, but is one of unusual interest to the student of exploration, cartography and commerce. In a review of Beazley's John and Sebastian Cabot, he pointed out that Sebastian Cabot's Muscovy company voyage of 1553 was the first application of the trading corporation to the purposes of discovery. [14]

On the period of the American Revolution there are four book

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reviews of his, two of which are of particular importance, the reviews of the books of Van Tyne and McIlwain. [15] These are most excellent examples of his best work, as well as outstanding illustrations of what a book review ought to be. The review of the Van Tyne book, for example, traced the history of how the history of the American Revolution had been written, the multiplication of monographic studies, the place of the book as a new synthesis, and, lastly, the criticism of the work in detail.

There is a considerable list of book reviews and there are a few articles on expansion and foreign policy. Particularly, however, he was interested in the internal development of western territory. He was primarily a historian of the Trans-Mississippi West. As an editor of original narratives he prepared the introduction and notes for an edition of Pittman's The Present State of the European Settlements on the Mississippi (ca. 1763-1770), and of Audubon's Western Journal, 1849-1850, both published in 1906. He reviewed in detail Chittenden's The American Fur Trade (1902) and Nevin's Fremont, the World's Greatest Adventurer (1928). [16] Incidentally the Fremont review must be ranked along with the Van Tyne and McIlwain reviews. The Oregon question was another which engaged his interest over a long period, although he did not publish his results, except as they came out in connection with book reviews. [17]

For the middle period of the nineteenth century the westward movement in its relations to railroads and slavery was the theme of Hodder's most important work. His earliest article on the antislavery movement was "Some Early Anti-Slavery Publications" in which he traced chronologically the publications of antislavery books prior to the book of Lydia Childs in 1833. [18] This kind of a bibliographical discussion is familiar to all students who heard his lectures: It was one of the distinctive features of his teaching.

The Missouri compromises were the subject of three research papers [19] and two book reviews. The first published record of

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Hodder's interest in Stephen A. Douglas is found in a book review of W. G. Brown, Stephen Arnold Douglas (1903). [20] About this time he planned a biography of Douglas. For various reasons the book was not written, but two phases of his research on the problem have been published. A part of his work on the compromise of 1850 was condensed into an article read at the Lincoln, Neb., meeting of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association in 1932, but was not published until after his death." In this he pointed out conclusively, what he had taught for so many years, that the two points contributed by Henry Clay to the compromise were both rejected, that Clay was absent. when the principal decisions were reached, and that Douglas was the chief author of the measures passed and the determining influence in securing the acceptance of the compromise.

The first published clue to Holder's interest in the Kansas-Nebraska act is found in his review of Mrs. Archibald Dixon's book, The True History of the Missouri Compromise and Its Repeal (1899). [22] An appreciation of the ramifications of this problem and Hodder's approach may be made more complete by reference to preliminary influences. His interest in exploration, the contributions of exploration to geographical knowledge, the incorporation of such information into maps, all tended to focus on the importance to history of natural highways and of the instruments of transportation. His appreciation of the work of Hulbert on historic highways of America is evident. in his review article on the work of that author. [23] Holder's own interest in highways was focused on railways and a railway interpretation of American history, especially as associated with the Kansas- Nebraska problem and the Pacific railroad project. The key to the situation was Douglas' interest in the Pacific railroad, of which Chicago was to be the beneficiary. The South wanted such a railroad also, and as a result of the Mexican War and the Gadsden Purchase appeared to be about to realize its objective. After ten years of advocacy Douglas secured the enactment of his bill to organize the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and to open them to settlement preparatory to the final contest for the authorization of the building of his Pacific railroad, as he hoped, pp. 151-161; the same also in The Missouri Historical Review, v. 111, pp. 138-149; "DoughFaces; the Occasion Upon Which John Randolph Coined the Phrase and a Discussion of Its Source and Meaning," Nation, v. C, p. 245; review of F. C. Shoemaker, Missouri's Struggle for Statehood, American Historical Review, v. XXII, p. 404; review of . S. Brown, The Missouri Compromise, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, v. XIII, pp. 284-286.

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by the northern or the central route connecting with Chicago, rather than by the southern route. [24]

Nowhere is Holder's scholarship more brilliantly expressed than in his study of the Dred Scott case. For many years constitutional law was one of his major courses as a teacher, and he possessed a type of mind admirably suited to interpretation of the law. Most students of constitutional law know little history, and most historians know little law. Holder knew both. He demonstrated beyond question that. practically every point in the traditional antislavery accounts of the case was wrong; the motives for originating the case, its course through the courts, the responsibility for the political character of the. opinions, the charges of delay in the decision, and the soundness of the legal argument in the opinions of the judges. From the standpoint of legal analysis, precision of statement and literary form it exhibits a standard of quality which is rarely equaled.

In spite of the regular burden of teaching and administrative duties, with a limited time for research and writing, Holder participated in most of the activities of a historical character in the state. Especially he attended regularly and participated in the meetings of teachers of history in the public school system.

On account of the limited facilities of the University of Kansas, most of his graduate students were urged to go to Eastern universities. For this reason many history students who completed their work in the East and are credited to such institutions, received their major training in Kansas. In his profession he was never a member of a clique or faction; his interest was primarily in scholarly work. Especially he was interested in the work of the younger men, whether or not they were his own students. He gave unselfishly to them of his time, energy and knowledge. Much of the time he had on hand one or more historical manuscripts submitted to him from all parts of the country for his friendly and constructive criticism. It is not in one activity alone or in one locality that his influence has been felt; his was a well-rounded career in which substantial and permanent contributions were made which place him in the rank of the nation's foremost scholars and teachers.

JAMES C. MALIN.

Notes

1. H. B. Adams, The Study of History in American Colleges, p. 111. United States Bureau of Education Circulars of Infarmation, 1887, number 2.
2. Frank Heywood Hodder, The Government of the People of Kansas (Philadelphia, Eldredge & Brother, 1895).
3. Collections of the Kansas Historical Society, v. VI, pp. 60-69.
4. The few Kansas items he published include "Some Aspects of the English Bill," in the Report of the American Historical Association, 1906 pp. 201-210, and reprinted in the Collections of the Kansas Historical Society, v. X pp. 224-232; "Kansas 1910-1920," in the supplement to The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1922 ; "The John Brown Pikes," in The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. Il, pp. 386-390, and a review of W. E. Connelley's History of Kansas, State and People in The American Historical Review, v. XXXIV, pp, 663-664.
The publication of theses on Kansas and related subjects written by students under his supervision include: Rosa M. Perdue "The Sources of the Constitution of Kansas" in the Collections of the Kansas Historical Society, v. VII, pp. 130-151 ; Anna H. Abel, "Indian Reservations in Kansas and the Extinguishment of Their Title," ibid., v. VIII, pp. 72-109; Helen G. Gill, "The Establishment of Counties in Kansas," ibid., v. III, pp. 449-472; James C. Malin , "Indian Policy and Westward Expansion," University of Kansas Humanistic Studies, v. II, pp. 261-358.
5. F. H. Hodder, Outlines of American Colonial History (c. 1910, 1914, 1917). Seven printings. Outlines of American Political History (c. 1911, 1915). Five printings.
6. Beginning in 1898, he wrote book reviews for The Dial (Chicago) until 1904 his first review article being "An American Chancellor of Law," a review of William Kent, Memoirs and Letters of James Kent, LL. D., Dial, v. XXIV, pp. 376-377.
7. Boston, Ginn and Company, 1899, 1901, 1913, 1921, 1929.
8. American Historical Review, v. VII, pp. 569-572 ; v. VIII, pp. 561-562 ; v. X, pp. 215-216.
9. F. H. Hodder, "Lincoln Portraits," New York Times, February 26, 1922 ; "Healey's Portrait of Lincoln, ibid., March 13, 1927.
10. Mrs. Hodder presented this Lincoln material to the Kansas Historical Society.
11. F. H. Hodder, "Some Early Political Cartoons," The Historical Outlook, v. XIX, pp. 261-264.
12. Mississippi Valley Historical Review, v. IX, pp. 3-18.
13. Dial, v. XXXVII, pp. 12-13, 85-87, 363-366.
14. Ibid., v. XXV, pp. 342-343.
15. Review of Claude H. Van Tyne, The Causes of the War of Independence, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, v. X, pp. 472-475 ; review of Charles H. McIlwain, The American Revolution, ibid., v. XI, pp. 271-274; review of S. E. Morrison, Documents Relative to the American Revolution, ibid., v. XI, pp. 441-442; review of Paul C. Phillips, The West in the Diplomacy of the American Revolution, ibid., v. I, pp. 302-304.
16. Dial, v. XXXII, pp. 412-414, and Mississippi Valley Historical Review, v. XV, pp. 266-269.
17. Review of E. G. Bourne, Essays in Historical Criticism, Dial, v. XXXII, pp. 4043 ; review of W. I. Marshall, History vs. The Whitman Saved Oregon Story, American Historical Review, v. X, pp. 41-452; Joseph Schafer, A History of the Pacific Northwest, ibid., v. XI, pp. 949-950; J. C. Bell, The Opening of the Highway to the Pacific, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, v. IX, pp. 243-244.
18. Dial, v. XXXI, pp. 310-311.
19. F. H. Hodder, "An Omitted Chapter in the History of the Second Missouri Compromise," abstract published in The American Historical Review, v. VI, p. 421; "Side-Lights on the Second Missouri Compromise," Report of the American Historical Association, 1909.
20. Review in American Historical Review, v. VIII, p. 390.
21. F. H. Hodder, "The Authorship of the Compromise of 1850," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, v. XII, pp. 525-536.
22. Dial, v. XXVII, pp. 124-126.
23. Ibid., v. XXXV, pp. 214-215.
24. Two other historians, W. E. Dodd and Allen Johnson, about the same time, recognized the relation of Douglas to railroads but Holder was the first to work out the problem in detail. His published articles are: "The Genesis of the Kansas-Nebraska Act," Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for 1912, pp. 69-86; "When the Railroads Came to Chicago," abstract in the Report of the American Historical Review, v. XX, p. 517; "The Railroad Background of the Kansas-Nebraska Act," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, v. XII, pp. 3-22. Review of Allen Johnson, Stephen A. Douglas. American Historical Review, v. XIV, p. 369.