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Albert Bushnell Hart


Centurion, 1900–1943

Born 1 July 1854 in Clarksvillle, Pennsylvania

Died 16 July 1943 in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Proposed by Theodore Roosevelt and John Codman Ropes

Elected 5 May 1900 at age forty-five

Century Memorial

When a genial Centurion wishes to address a fellow member whose name and profession are unknown to him, an almost invariably satisfactory gambit is said to be, “Good afternoon, Doctor, how is the book coming along?” This would have served well in the case of the historian, Albert Bushnell Hart, during his forty-three years’ membership, for he was entitled to sport half a dozen different doctor’s hoods (the first of which was earned at Freiburg), and was the author, co-author, or editor of more than 100 books.

He taught history and, later, government at Harvard from 1883 until 1926, when he retired to a private study in Widener Library and continued to work actively almost to the end. Collaborating with the late Edward Channing, he promoted graduate and, to some extent, undergraduate studies in history and government through the use of original sources. “The compilation of such sources,” a colleague writes, “and training young men to use them, was work to which he gave himself with great ardor. A generation of American historical scholars—many of whom have passed from the scene of active labor—have recalled with gratitude and affection the help he gave them in their youth and the kindness and personal interest with which he followed their careers.”

Because of his flowing white beard and hair, he was affectionately known at Harvard as “Bushy.” A photograph of an encounter at the Century between him and that other hirsute notable, beloved of generations of Columbia men, Dean VanAmringe, would have been cherished as a bit of original source material.

“Anything like a cleavage between town and gown was abhorrent to him,” says a Centurion; “and there was no such cleavage in his personal contacts.” He was active in the Bull Moose campaign of 1912 and led, with boyish enthusiasm, the demonstration in favor of his classmate, Theodore Roosevelt, at the Republican Convention, where no one shouted louder or oftener than Hart the slogan, “We-want-Teddy!” As an active member of the Loyal Order of Moose (founded 1889), he took a keen interest in the order’s educational campaign. He was an enthusiastic attendant at the weekly luncheons of the Rotary Club of Boston.

Professor Hart’s presence in New York could be readily deduced by Centurions who knew his habits if they chanced to go into the library after he had been there. Art books were scattered on all the tables, each book containing a number of slips of paper marking the pictures upon which he had dwelt. On one visit he found that some of his favorite books, with or without illustrations, were not in their familiar places (there had been a rearrangement of the library), and he made one of the most violent protests ever received by the long-suffering Committee on Literature.

Geoffrey Parsons
1943 Century Memorials