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At a Glance
This collection is arranged in seven series: Series I: Administrative Records, 1939-1975; Series II: Correspondence, 1939-1975; Series III: Magazine Project, 1941-1959; Series IV: History Agency, 1952-1953; Series V: Awards and Special Occasions, 1944-1976; Series VI: Financial Records, 1941-1974; Series VI: Allen Nevins--Personal Research Files, 1879-1886, Undated.
The Society of American Historians Records include material from the first four decades of the SAH. Available in this collection are administrative records such as minutes and membership lists, financial records, correspondence, printed materials, and photographs. The bulk of the collection concerns the founding of the magazine American Heritage in 1954. Included are minutes, correspondence, fundraising letters, and promotional materials. Aside from the letters among SAH members that discuss the scope of the magazine, fundraising letters comprise the bulk of the correspondence. Material related to the annual Francis Parkman and the Allan Nevins Prizes also comprises a large part of the collection. Correspondence with history departments regarding submissions for the awards, and with publishers makes up the bulk of the prize material, but guest lists, photos and documents relating to the annual awards dinner are also present. The collection includes a small amount of Allan Nevins' research material. The research notes and documents concern Nevins' books about the John D. Rockefeller and the Rockefeller family.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two 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); Society of American Historians records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
No additional material is expected
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed Yuki Oda (GSAS 2013) 2010.
Finding Aid written Yuki Oda (GSAS 2013) 08/--/2010.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
The Society of American Historians (SAH) was founded in 1939 by Allan Nevins (1890-1971) and several other historians for the purpose of promoting literary distinction in the writing of history and biography.
Until the mid-1950s, the principal aim of the SAH was in launching a history magazine that could appeal to a wide audience beyond the academic community. Nevins, a history professor at Columbia University and a two-time Pulitzer winner, initially proposed the idea of publishing a popular magazine of history to the American Historial Association (AHA). The AHA declined this proposal, however, which induced Nevins to establish the SAH in 1939 to undertake the publishing project. It took the SAH fifteen years to realize the idea, and over the years tentative titles for the publication included History, Horizons, Living History, and Milestones. In 1954, in cooperation with the American Association for State and Local History, the magazine finally came into being as the American Heritage.
For a brief period from 1952 to 1953, the SAH also ran the History Agency, an organization with the goal of providing the media with the services of professional historians. Although the History Agency was short-lived, one of its products was a collection of scripts for the 1953 radio series Omnibus, which was aired by the National Broadcasting Company.
Since the mid-1950s, the SAH's main focus has been in awarding prizes to promote historical writing with an American theme. In 1957, in order to stimulate the writing of history as literature, the SAH established the annual Francis Parkman Prize to honor the best nonfiction book of the year. The first Parkman Prize was awarded to George F. Kennan, Russia Leaves the War (Princeton University Press). Since 1960, the SAH has also awarded the Allan Nevins Prize, annually, for the best-written doctoral dissertation in history. Most of the winning dissertations have subsequently been published.
Presidents of the SAH have included Douglas Southall Freeman (1939-1944), James P. Baxter III (1944-1946), Allan Nevins (1946-1961), Eric F. Goldman (1961-1969), John A. Garraty (1969-1971) and Barbara Tuchman (1971-1975). After several revisions to its policy, the SAH limited its membership, in the the late 1960s, to invitation only.