George Bancroft

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George Bancroft : biography

October 3, 1800 – January 17, 1891

Early life and education

His family had been in Massachusetts Bay since 1632, and his father, Aaron Bancroft, was distinguished as a revolutionary soldier, a leading Unitarian clergymanHe served as president of the American Unitarian Association from 1825 to 1836. and author of a popular life of George Washington. Bancroft was born in Worcester, and began his education at Phillips Exeter Academy and entered Harvard College at thirteen years of age. At age 17, he graduated from Harvard and went to study in Germany. Abroad, he studied at Heidelberg, Göttingen and Berlin. At Göttingen he studied Plato with Arnold Heeren; history with Heeren and Gottlieb Jakob Planck; Arabic, Hebrew, New Testament Greek and scripture interpretation with Albert Eichhorn; natural science with Johann Friedrich Blumenbach; German literature with Georg Friedrich Benecke; French and Italian literature with Artaud and Bunsen; and classics with Georg Ludolf Dissen. In 1820, he received his doctorate from the University of Göttingen.

Bancroft capped off his education with a European tour, in the course of which he sought out almost every distinguished man in the world of letters, science and art, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lord Byron, Barthold Georg Niebuhr, Christian Charles Josias Bunsen, Friedrich Karl von Savigny, Varnhagen von Ense, Victor Cousin, Benjamin Constant and Alessandro Manzoni.

Namesakes and Monuments

The United States Navy has named several ships USS Bancroft, as well as the fleet ballistic missile submarine USS George Bancroft (SBN-643), after Bancroft, and the mid-19th century United States Coast Survey schooner USCS Bancroft also was named for him. The dormitory at the United States Naval Academy, Bancroft Hall, is named after him as well. Bancroft is one of 23 famous names on the $1 Educational currency note of 1896.

The name of Bancroft is found atop one of several marble pillars in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the United States Library of Congress in Washington, DC. It is believed this is attributed to George Bancroft.

In and around Worcester, Massachusetts, Bancroft’s birthplace, many streets, businesses and monuments bear his name:

  • Bancroft School, Worcester MA.
  • Bancroft Hall at Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH.
  • Bancroft Tower, which was erected in honor of him on Bancroft Tower Road Worcester, MA.
  • Bancroft Commons, an apartment building in downtown Worcester, MA.
  • Bancroft Motors, now owned by HARR Motor Company.
  • Bancroft Street, Gardner, MA.
  • Bancroft Street, Worcester, MA.
  • Bancroft Elementary School, (in the Bancroft neighborhood within the Powderhorn community of the City of) Minneapolis, MN.
  • Bancroft Elementary School, (in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of) Washington, D.C.