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Series I: Correspondence, circa 1884-1946, undated
Series III: Publications, 1890-1968, undated
At a Glance
This collection in arranged in four series and several subseries. Selected materials cataloged; remainder arranged.
Scope and Contents
Personal and professional correspondence, publications, poetry manuscripts and diaries, and scrapbooks belonging to Prudential Insurance Company statistician, cancer researcher, and eugenicist Frederick Ludwig Hoffman (1865-1946). These items document Hoffman's career, family life, and his extensive travels. The collection also contains a small amount of material belonging to Hoffman's family members, as well as genealogical materials on the Hoffman, Hay, and Rigney families.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
Boxes 2-38 of this collection are located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Frederick L. Hoffman papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Frederick L. Hoffman Papers: A small group of Hoffman's personal papers, at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Medical and statistical data on American Indians: A collection of data collected by Hoffman in 1920. At the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland.
Gift of Francis J. Rigney, 1983, 1995, 2000.
Gift of Ella Hoffman Rigney, 1984-1986.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Processed ELJ 05/15/1972.
1916 talks by FLH, etc Processed HR 07/08/2000.
The collection's creator was a prominent advocate of scientific racism and eugenics, and that was not mentioned in the original description. During remediation in June 2020, the front matter was revised significantly to provide a fuller account of his belief and activities. In addition, "Negro" was replaced with with "African American" everywhere except in titles, and subject headings added for eugenics, racism in the social sciences, and racism in medicine. Note that despite the absence of slurs, the finding aid includes original titles that reflect Hoffman's racist and eugenicist beliefs.
Materials were intellectually arranged into series at the same time the finding aid was converted to EAD. Related materials notes were also added. The box numbering scheme was revised to incorporate a previously un-numbered box at the beginning of the collection. Nothing in the collection was physically rearranged.
Box 31 is missing.
2020-06-12 PDF finding aid converted to EAD by CLB.
History / Biographical Note
Frederick L. Hoffman (1865-1946) was a statistician and third vice president of the Prudential Insurance Company, and an early investigator into the prevalence and causes of cancer. He was the first researcher to identify the relationships between diet, tobacco usage, and cancer. Hoffman's interest in mining and industrial safety also helped to improve working conditions in a variety of industries. However, the accuracy and value of his work were diminished by his staunch belief in scientific racism and eugenics.
Frederick Ludwig Hoffmann was born on May 2, 1865 in Varel, Germany. He emigrated to the United States in 1884, living first in Cleveland, Ohio, before moving to New Orleans, Louisiana, and then to Boston, Massachusetts, and Norfolk, Virginia. He changed the spelling of his last name, dropping the second N, in approximately 1890. He married Ella Hay, whom he had met in New Orleans, in 1891. They had seven children.
Hoffman's work was informed by and further promoted the ideologies of scientific racism and eugenics. He was hired by Prudential after publishing an article titled "Vital Statistics of the Negro" in the Boston magazine The Arena in April 1892. Hoffman expanded this piece into a book-length work called Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro, which was published by MacMillan in 1896. The book's claims--among which were that African Americans were especially susceptible to disease--were debunked the next year by W. E. B. DuBois and Kelly Miller, a mathematician and sociologist at Howard University. However, Prudential continued to use Hoffman's work to justify its practice of charging Black customers higher premiums. Hoffman likewise continued to publish and lecture on racist and eugenicist topics throughout his life.
Hoffman traveled extensively, collecting statistical data on health and safety-related issues, in addition to more unusual items. After he shipped 2000 pounds of the Rock of Gibraltar back to the United States in 1901, Prudential Insurance adopted the rock as its logo. Hoffman officially retired from Prudential in 1922, though he worked with the company as a consultant until 1935. He lectured at Yale University in 1916 and at the Babson Institute (now Babson College) in the 1920s. He was also a founding board member of the American Tuberculosis Association and a trustee of the American Cancer Society. Tulane University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1911, and the American Cancer Society awarded him its Clement Cleveland medal in 1943.
Hoffman died in San Diego, California on February 23, 1946.