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Guide to the New-York Historical Society Publication Editorial Records
1939-2000, 2009
 NYHS-RG 17

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on June 06, 2018 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical/Historical Note

From its earliest years, the New-York Historical Society was actively engaged in publishing materials ranging from pamphlets of individual addresses on historical topics to collections of edited historical documents to monographic studies. In his 1954 history of N-YHS, R.W.G. Vail counted about 600 such publications and provided an overview of them. Among the several publishing initiatives was the New-York Historical Society Quarterly Bulletin. Begun in 1917, the  Bulletin published feature articles, notes on N-YHS’s activities, transcripts of historical documents in the collection, and other matter. Yet despite the extensive range of publishing activities, until the mid-twentieth century there was no staff dedicated to editorial activities. Until 1938, the Librarian and Assistant Librarian performed editorial tasks along with their other responsibilities.

This began to change in 1938 with the designation of Assistant Librarian Dorothy C. Barck as Editor and Head of Research. Still, though, Barck worked within N-YHS’s library and held responsibilities well beyond editing the institution’s publications; indeed, she was named Librarian in 1942. But N-YHS’s drive in the late 1930s and early 1940s to expand its programs and professional operations led in 1943 to the hiring of Charles E. Baker as N-YHS’s first full-time editor and the establishment of an Editorial Department reporting to the Director. Baker remained Editor until 1963.

There were at least two notable accomplishments during Baker’s tenure that are well-represented in this record group’s documents: the expansion and increased scholarly content of the Quarterly Bulletin (called the  Quarterly from 1946) and the production of George C. Groce and David H. Wallace’s  Dictionary of Artists in America (DAA). The  DAA was an initiative begun in the early 1940s to expand on art historian George Groce’s 1940 survey of early American artists. Groce, living in Washington, DC, worked with Baker on the  DAA for well over a decade before it was published in 1957. Along the way, N-YHS hired David H. Wallace as an assistant editor in 1952, with principal responsibility for seeing the  DAA to a conclusion. Wallace completed the task just before leaving N-YHS in 1956, earning co-authorship credit with Groce for the achievement.

During his twenty years as Editor at N-YHS, Baker oversaw the production of several books in addition to the DAA and worked with many authors, including William Sawitzky and his wife Susan Clay Sawitzky, Rita Gottesman, Theodore Bolton, Paul H. Downing, Lawrence H. Leder, and others. After Baker's departure from N-YHS, the editorship was filled by a series of short-term appointments, including by Ann E. Cooper and Jane (Mrs. Wendell) Garrett, until 1967 when Kathleen A. Luhrs became Editor, a position she held until 1976. The mid-1960s were another important period for the  Quarterly as a redesign of the journal by Klaus Gemming was well-received.

Elaine Andrews took over as Editor in 1977, but she was the last to hold that position at N-YHS. Financial difficulties resulted in the decision to no longer publish the Quarterly after its first number of 1980 and the Editorial Department was disbanded. Through the end of the twentieth century, N-YHS still continued to produce publications, but no longer on a regular basis with a full-time dedicated staff. An important example of these later publications, represented in this record group, are the four volumes published from 1988-1991 of papers based on conferences held at N-YHS from 1983 to 1988. The six conferences were organized for N-YHS by William Pencak, a professor of history at Pennsylvania State University. Organized around particular themes, the conference titles were: New Approaches to the History of Colonial and Revolutionary New York (1983); New York and the Rise of American Capitalism (1984); Law in America (1985); Immigration to New York (1986); New York in the Age of the Constitution (1987); and Labor in New York (1988). Although the original intent was to publish all or most of the papers presented at the conferences, financial constraints resulted in only the first four conferences appearing in print. Pencak co-edited the volumes with the logistical arrangements handled by Marilyn McShane, a freelancer hired in November 1987 by N-YHS to guide the delayed volumes to completion.