Herman Vandenburg Ames
|Born||August 7, 1865|
|Died||February 7, 1935 (aged 69)|
|Board member of||Order of the Founders and Patriots of America (Governor-General)|
Public Archives Commission of the American Historical Association (President)
Jane Angeline Ames (née Vandenburg)
|Awards||Justin Winsor Prize (1897)|
Litt.D. (hon), Pennsylvania (1925)
LL.D. (hon), La Salle (1927)
|Education||A.B., Amherst (1888)|
A.M., Harvard University (1890)
|Thesis||The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States (1891)|
|Doctoral advisor||Albert Bushnell Hart|
|Institutions||University of Michigan, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin–Madison, University of Pennsylvania|
|Notable students||Ezra Pound, Herbert Eugene Bolton, John Musser|
|Main interests||History of the U.S. Constitution|
|Notable works||The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States During the First Century of Its History (1896)|
Herman Vandenburg Ames (August 7, 1865 – February 7, 1935) was an American legal historian, educator, and archivist long associated with the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a professor of United States constitutional history and, from 1907 to 1928, dean of its graduate school. His 1897 monograph, The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States During the First Century of Its History, was a landmark work in American constitutional history. Other works by Ames included John C. Calhoun and the Secession Movement of 1850, Slavery and the Union 1845–1861, and The X.Y.Z. Letters, the latter of which he authored with John Bach McMaster. Among his notable students were Ezra Pound, John Musser, and Herbert Eugene Bolton.
A member of the Ames family, Herman Ames was born in Massachusetts and educated at Amherst College. He received his doctorate from Harvard University, where he was the Ozias Goodwin Memorial Fellow in Constitutional and International Law, and studied under Albert Bushnell Hart. Like Hart, Ames spent time in Europe learning German historical methodology and was influenced in his own research by its approach. He was a driving force behind the establishment of the Pennsylvania State Archives and helped guide the widespread establishment of government archives throughout the United States. His papers are housed at the University of Pennsylvania's University Archives.
Ames' father, Marcus, was educated at Philips Andover Academy, where he graduated as valedictorian before studying medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was ordained in 1854, becoming in the words of David Ford a "brilliant, fervent, and impressive" Congregational preacher who ministered throughout Massachusetts, later serving as superintendent of the Lancaster Industrial School for Girls and chaplain of Rhode Island's asylum, prison, workhouse, and almshouse. Marcus Ames' parents—Herman Ames' paternal grandparents—were Azel Ames and Mercy Ames (née Hatch). Herman Ames' great grandfather, Job Ames, served in the Massachusetts Militia during the American Revolution. The Ames family descended from William Ames, who immigrated to the Province of Massachusetts Bay from the town of Bruton, England, in 1641.
Ames was educated at the Mowry and Goff School in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduating, he enrolled at Brown University before transferring to Amherst College, where he was initiated into the Delta Upsilon fraternity and later became the chapter president. During the Delta Upsilon convention of 1887, Ames played a central role in resolving an intra-fraternity dispute concerning the authority by which the Executive Council of Delta Upsilon had admitted the DePauw University chapter some months earlier. As a student at Amherst, he was particularly influenced by Anson D. Morse, whom he credited with cultivating in him "a judicial attitude in the study of history", years later recalling that he had "never come in contact with a teacher who was so judicially minded".
Ames graduated from Amherst with an A.B. degree in 1888, and thereafter entered Harvard University. At Harvard he received an A.M. in 1890 and a Ph.D. the following year for his dissertation The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which was done under the supervision of Albert Bushnell Hart. During his time at Harvard, he was the Ozias Goodwin Memorial Fellow in Constitutional and International Law.
Between 1891 and 1894, Ames lectured in history at the University of Michigan under an appointment as acting assistant professor to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of J.H.T. McPherson. Though his interest was in U.S. history, at Michigan Ames was charged with teaching courses covering a variety of periods of world history, an assignment to which he would admit he was "not particularly prepared", but he resigned himself to the idea that "one must make a beginning somewhere, and this was the opening offered". He later recalled this first teaching experience "was a valuable one to me, far more so, I fear, than to the students taught. I was afforded the opportunity to become acquainted with the life and work of the leading state university of the time".
The year following his return from Germany, Ames was hired as an assistant professor in the history department at Ohio State University. In 1897, he moved to the University of Pennsylvania to continue teaching history, and by 1908 had become a full professor. From 1907 to 1928, he served as dean of Pennsylvania's graduate school. As dean, Ames made his office in room 105 of College Hall, a room which he shared with the rest of the graduate school staff.[a] Under his administration, the number of graduate students at Pennsylvania increased five-fold and, in 1923, he consulted with U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes on implementing a scholarship to fund the study of diplomacy at Pennsylvania using an $80,000 endowment from the late Frederic Courtland Penfield, which was among the largest university scholarship funds in existence at that time.
At Pennsylvania, Ames established a reputation for "tact, firmness and high ideals of scholarship". John Musser, one of his former students and graduate assistants, recalled that Ames' relationship with his students was accessible, courteous, and helpful and that he was known for welcoming students to his home and keeping notes on their careers after they had graduated. University provost Josiah Penniman would echo Musser's assessment, stating that he knew "of no dean who was more deeply interested in the graduate students of the University, not only those who were studying American History, but all who were studying in any courses".
During the 1901–02 academic year, Ames was one of Ezra Pound's instructors at Pennsylvania; Pound scholar David Ten Eyck credits him with stimulating the poet's interest in American history. Pound would later recall that Ames' "courses had a vitality outlasting the mere time of his lectures" and would humorously note that Ames was "undisturbed and undistracted" by students playing ping pong outside his office.[c] According to Ten Eyck, studies of Pound's notes from Ames' courses indicate his "deep interest in the subject that must have provided a foundation for [Pound's] later reflections on American history". After Ames' death, Pound would note that—though they had no more contact than "perhaps two or three letters" in the ensuing decades—he continued to harbor a "strong, personal affection" towards Ames, citing this as proof of "humanity overcoming all systems of invented partition". Another notable student of Ames included Herbert Eugene Bolton.[d]
As a scholar of legal history, his view of the United States Constitution was at once both liberal in its outlook while also guarded at attempts to meddle with its basic framework. When the eighteenth amendment, introducing prohibition of alcohol, was enacted he immediately and correctly predicted its eventual repeal.
In his view on history, Ames was both presentist and relativist; during a public lecture given at Muhlenberg College in 1909 he characterized the daily customs and behavior of early American settlers as "barbarous" compared to contemporary standards, and credited the growth of democracy with the development of more liberal social norms. At the same time, however, he cautioned about passing moral judgments on leaders of the past based on modern expectations. As an instructor of history, Ames was described by contemporary historian Wayne Journell as "unabashedly" supportive of its use to invigorate support for the government's policies during World War I, quoting him that "it is the duty of the teacher of history and civics to seize the wonderful opportunity afforded by the war to aid in promoting an intelligent and patriotic public opinion in support of the government in these critical times". Musser offered contradictory recollections of Ames' academic approach, describing him as having a completely objective and impartial view towards both history and current affairs and viewing with skepticism the idea that concerns such as politics or national interest should influence his teaching or research.
In the summer of 1908, Ames was a visiting lecturer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he taught the course "Political and Constitutional History of the United States, 1786–1837". He also held visiting lectureships at Columbia University and the University of California at Berkeley. Active in scholarly exchanges, Ames served on the Administrative Board of the Institute of International Education, led the Council of National Defense Philadelphia host committee during the 1920 visit of a British educational mission to the city, and represented the University of Pennsylvania to the 1909 convention of the American Association of Universities. He was the commencement speaker during the 1923 graduation exercises at New Brunswick High School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, delivering an address titled "Preparing for Citizenship". During the 1925 University of Pennsylvania commencement exercises, Ames and John Carew Rolfe both received honorary Doctor of Letters degrees.
Ames' administrative and teaching duties were an ongoing encumbrance on his research activity, limiting him to a small, albeit influential, body of work.
Ames' 1897 monograph The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States During the First Century of Its History, which indexed 1,736 amendments proposed to the United States Constitution, was an expansion of his doctoral dissertation. According to Ames, he had returned from his travels in Europe too late in the year to find a teaching assignment and decided to spend the ensuing months writing and researching instead.
Ames' 400-page opus marked the first exhaustive catalog of proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution ever compiled. Ames personally visited a large number of state and federal offices to record the details of the thousands of amending resolutions that had been proposed during the preceding hundred years. In discussing his research, Ames concluded that many of the amendments had failed as they were "cures for temporary evils ... were trivial or impracticable ... [or] found a place in that unwritten constitution that has grown up side by side with the written document". He also opined that the majorities required for ratification of amendments were so large as to create "insurmountable constitutional obstacles" to amendment, a frequent criticism leveled during the Progressive Era.
A review of the volume in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science concluded it was "a laborious and painstaking piece of work". The Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States During the First Century of Its History earned Ames the American Historical Association's Justin Winsor Prize. It was reprinted in 1970.
Other works by Ames included John C. Calhoun and the Secession Movement of 1850, Slavery and the Union 1845–1861, and The X.Y.Z. Letters, the latter of which he authored with John Bach McMaster. Ames also edited a volume of State Documents on Federal Relations, a multi-issue compendium of state legislative documents pertaining to the U.S. government.
At the turn of the 20th century, the American Historical Association (AHA) undertook a nationwide effort to examine repositories of manuscripts and archival documents, and make specific recommendations for their future preservation. The initiative was partly influenced by Ames' advocacy of German historical methodology, learned during his year in Europe, which placed special emphasis on primary documentary sources. At the behest of the AHA, Ames spent several weeks in Harrisburg, in 1899, examining Pennsylvania's state records, which were poorly organized and largely scattered across various state offices. He co-authored, with historian Lewis Slifer Shimmel, a report on their status and, in 1900, filed a separate report on the state of the Philadelphia municipal archives. Their report concluded that over the years Pennsylvania's public records had been partially plundered by government officials with some state documents known to be held by libraries in New York and Boston, and others probably once bearing the original signature of William Penn had since had their signature lines cut out, perhaps for souvenir keeping. Ames continued his attempts to inventory Pennsylvania public records in tandem with his teaching duties at the University of Pennsylvania, although his efforts were hampered by the tradition that all state government offices closed promptly at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
Ames and Shimmel ended their work with several recommendations. First, they advised that original manuscripts, where they could be found, be printed and bound to guarantee the preservation of their contents even if the original records became destroyed, lost, or stolen. Second, they called for storing documents in steel—rather than wooden—filing cabinets as a fireproofing measure. Finally, they called for the cataloging and centralization of important historical documents. In 1903, at the behest of Pennsylvania governor Samuel W. Pennypacker, himself a noted historian, Ames and Shimmel's recommendations were realized and the Pennsylvania State Archives formally established.
Ames continued his advocacy of archival preservation as a member of the AHA's Public Archives Commission, serving as its chair from 1903 to 1913, and continuing as a member for many years thereafter. By 1904, the commission had secured the services of historians in 32 states to study the status of public records and in 1907 Ames authored a detailed status report regarding archival preservation legislation throughout the United States, which would later be credited as the first report of its kind. Two years later, in 1909, Ames organized the first national conference of American government archivists.
With his well-established expertise on archival issues, J. Franklin Jameson called on Ames to give testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds as he lobbied for the creation of the National Archives of the United States. In February 1912, Jameson wrote Ames to ask him to "lay before the committee whatever there has been in the practice or experience of states that deserves attention by persons who are planning a national building". Ames' prior commitment to attend the quasquicentennial celebrations of the University of Pittsburgh ultimately prevented him from traveling to Washington for the hearing. Still, Jameson continued to correspond with Ames seeking advice relating to the politics and impediments he had experienced in advocating for the creation of state archives.
Ames served as corresponding secretary of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and was elected to the American Antiquarian Society. He also served as president of the History Teachers' Association of the Middle States and Maryland. In 1918 he was appointed—along with John Bach McMaster, Hampton Carson, William Cameron Sproul, and others—to the Pennsylvania War History Commission, which was formed to preserve records related to Pennsylvania's participation in World War I.
Ames had planned his retirement for 1936, and was intending to spend his final year at Pennsylvania laying the groundwork for two new research projects: a biography of Robert J. Walker, and a study of the presidential veto power.
Neither of Ames' two planned projects bore fruit; he died at his home at 203 St. Mark's Square in Philadelphia on February 7, 1935, from a cerebral hemorrhage following a stroke. Funeral services were held at the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, with Thomas Sovereign Gates, Roland Sletor Morris, Emory Richard Johnson, Conyers Read, Roy Franklin Nichols, Lewis M. Stevens, Julian P. Boyd, H. Lamar Crosby, and Edward Cheyney serving as honorary pallbearers.
On May 7, 1935, three months after his death, a memorial meeting was held at Houston Hall in which Ames was eulogized by his colleagues and former students. A record of these speeches, along with letters contributed by those who could not attend—including his doctoral supervisor Albert Bushnell Hart—was compiled and edited by Edward Cheyney and Roy Franklin Nichols. The compilation was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1936 as the 31-page Memorial: Herman Vandenburg Ames.
In his personal mannerisms, it was said that Ames had a keen sense of humor and a relaxed disposition.
Ames' personal interests included music and travel. He was a member of the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America, serving as the society's Governor-General from 1919 to 1921, and the Society of Mayflower Descendants. He served, for a time, as president of the Delta Upsilon Club of Philadelphia and as the international historian of Delta Upsilon. Ames was also a member of the Presbyterian polity.
Ames' portrait, by Alice L. Emmong, is cataloged in the United States National Portrait Collection. The Ella E. and Herman V. Ames Fund, established in 1951 through a bequest by Ames' sister, who left most of her estate to the University of Pennsylvania, supports the acquisition of materials in American History by the University of Pennsylvania library system. His papers are housed at the University of Pennsylvania's University Archives.
...under the leadership of our efficient President, Herman V. Ames, '88, have done some of the best campaign work that our chapter has ever seen.
Seventeen universities were represented at the tenth annual convention of the Association of American Universities, held at Cornell on Thursday and Friday of last week. Only one member of the association, Clark University, was not represented. The presidents of nine—Chicago, Cornell, Harvard, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin and Yale—were present, and the eight others were represented as follows: California, Professor George M. Stratton; Catholic University of America, the Rev. Edward Aloysius Pace and Professor George Melville Boiling; Columbia, Professors Munroe Smith and William Henry Carpenter; Johns Hopkins, Professor J. Mark Baldwin; Stanford, Professor Oliver Peebles Jenkins and Mr. George Edward Crothers Pennsylvania, Professor Herman V. Ames; Princeton, Professors Andrew F. West, Harry B. Fine and William F. Magie; Virginia, Professor James Morris Page.
Dr. H. Lamar Crosby was elected dean of the graduate school of the University of Pennsylvania at a meeting of the trustees today. He succeeds Dr. Herman V. Ames, who has resigned after serving for 21 years.(subscription required)
The first comprehensive list of proposed amendments was made possible in 1897 by the American Historical Association ... The list, with extensive discussion and detail classifying the many types of proposals, was prepared by Herman Vandenburg Ames. The preface to Proposed Amendments of the Constitution of the United States during the First Century of its History states he received the Justin Winsor prize of $100 for his efforts, awarded by a committee of the association ... Dr. Ames did future scholars an invaluable service by personally visiting offices and officials and meticulously recording details relevant on virtually every proposal.Unknown parameter
Established in 1903 as an administrative unit of the Pennsylvania State Library, the State Archives was combined with the Pennsylvania Historical Commission in 1945 to form the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).Unknown parameter
He asked Herman V. Ames, Chairman of the AHA's public Archives Commission, to attend 'and lay before the committee whatever there has been in the practice or experience of states that deserves attention by persons who are planning a national building.' Herman Ames was planning to attend the 125th anniversary of the University of Pittsburgh on February 28 and 29; to attend the hearing, he would have to go directly to Washington without returning home. Ames nevertheless was willing to inconvenience himself if Jameson thought that his presence could not be spared. Jameson told Ames that 'under the circumstances...it would be unreasonable to ask you to be here.'
Herman V. Ames, elected to this Society in 1909, professor of American constitutional history at the University of Pennsylvania and author on the institutional and political history of the colonial period, died February 7, 1935.
Funeral services for Dr. Herman V. Ames, former dean of the Graduate School of the University of Pennsylvania, will be conducted In the Second Presbyterian Church, 21st and Walnut sts at 5 o'clock this afternoon by Rev. Dr. Alexander MacColl, pastor of the church. The following will be honorary pallbearers: Thomas S. Gates, Josiah H. Pennlman, H. Lamar Crosby, Edward P. Cheyney, St. George L. Bloussat, Arthur C. Howland. Paul H. Minyior, Roland S. Morris, Frederick H. Safiora, Albert E. McKlnley, Emory R. Johnson, Conyers Read, William E. Lingelbach, Roy F. Nichols, Cheesman A. Herrick, Edward W. Mumford, Albert Hand, Lewis, M. Stevens, Walter I. Cooper, Walter B. Mclnnes and Julian Boyd.(subscription required)
A record of the addresses made at the memorial meeting, held at the University of Pennsylvania on May 7, 1935, together with letters and resolutions on the death of Dr. Herman Vandenburg Ames, late Professor of American Constitutional History at the university. The memorial closes with 'A Fragment of Autobiography Sent to an Amherst Reunion.'
In 1951 a bequest by Ella E. Ames established an endowed Library Fund in memory of her brother, Dr. Herman V. Ames, Professor of American Constitutional History. The fund supports the acquisition of materials in American History, or American and European History as desired by the Department of History. The Ames Fund is critical in making possible to Penn scholars new materials in this field.
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Clarence G. Child
| Dean of the University of Pennsylvania
Henry Lamar Crosby