AHA President, 1940


Huntington Library

From the American Historical Review 51:2 (January 1946)

Max Farrand (March 29, 1869–June 17, 1945) president of the American Historical Association in 1940 and former director of research at the Huntington Library, died at his home in Bar Harbor, Maine, on June 17, 1945. Born March 29, 1869, in Newark, New Jersey, Farrand was one of a distinguished family of educators. His father, Samuel A. Farrand was for many years the headmaster of Newark Academy, a post to which the eldest brother, Wilson Farrand, succeeded. Another brother, Livingston Farrand, was president of Cornell University. From Princeton University, Max Farrand received his bachelor’s degree in 1892, the degree of master of arts in 1893, and that of doctor of philosophy in history in 1896. In addition to graduate study at Pr1nceton, he spent several periods in seminars at Heidelberg and Leipzig.

Beginning his professional career as a teacher and a scholar with an instructorship at Wesleyan University in 1896, he proceeded rapidly to a professorship there. In 1901, he became professor and head of the history department at Stanford University, where he remained until 1908. During this period he spent one year on leave as visiting professor at Cornell. From 1908 to 1925 he was professor at Yale. During busy years as a teacher whose students remember him as an inspiring lecturer and counsellor, he established his reputation as a scholar with the preparation of a definitive edition of the Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, published in three volumes in 1911. A supplementary volume appeared in 1937. Although Farrand wrote many able articles and several books on American history, none surpassed in importance the Records of the Federal Convention, a monument of painstaking and meticulous scholarship which also demonstrates imaginative research. This work will remain a model of editorial practice. Its publication is a landmark in constitutional history, for the editor succeeded in recreating an accurate day-by-day account of the evolution of the Federal Constitution—something which scholars had previously lacked.

In 1919, while still a member of the Yale faculty, he became general director of the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation in which he played an important role until his resignation in 1927. During that time he developed a profound interest in furthering Anglo-American relations through the appointment of British scholars to educational posts which would bring them to this country. In the establishment of the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery as a research foundation and a living institution devoted to the active advancement of learning, Farrand had an important part. By a deed of trust dated August 30, 1919, Henry Edwards Huntington set up this institution under the guidance of five trustees; two of these trustees, Dr. George Ellery Hale, then director of Mt. Wilson Observatory, and Dr. Robert A. Millikan, chairman of the executive council of the California Institute of Technology, consulted with Farrand during a visit to California in January, 1926. Later in the same year, Farrand returned for further discussions with the trustees and the founder about the potentialities of the library. At that time, according to a memorandum which he has left, he outlined to Huntington a program of research which would enable the library “to be the influential institution that he dreamed of its being—not a mere museum or mausoleum, but an active force,” and Huntington agreed upon an endowment sufficient for such a program. In 1927 Farrand was invited to become director of research—a title that was significant because both trustees and founder had agreed that the institution’s emphasis should be placed upon research.

During his directorship, from 1927 until his retirement on June 30, 1941, Farrand devoted his energy and talents to giving the Huntington Library international significance as a research foundation. He was instrumental in gathering a permanent research staff of scholars devoted to the study of various aspects of English and American civilization. Many visiting scholars were brought to the library, and provisions were made for the annual appointment of a group of research fellows. Meanwhile Farrand lent his support to the continued development of the library’s historical material; within a decade, a collector’s library was transformed into a research institution with the reference works and bibliographical apparatus required by scholars. During the early years of the library’s development, before ill-health and the multiplication of responsibilities interfered, Farrand maintained an active interest in the work of his younger colleagues and was a source of help and inspiration. Constantly he insisted upon the highest standards of quality in the Huntington Library’s publications. He chose for himself the preparation of a definitive text of Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography based on Franklin’s holograph copy in the Huntington Library. The standard of editorial perfection which he set himself explains in part why the task was incomplete at his death. His associates at the Huntington Library plan to finish the text. Always interested in fine printing, he made a remarkable collection of the publications of the Merrymount Press and bequeathed it to the Huntington Library. As scholar and administrator, Farrand achieved distinction. He will be long remembered for his Records of the Federal Convention and the establishment of policies at the Huntington Library which gave that institution in a short span of years a significant place in higher learning.



The records of the Federal convention of 1787, ed. by Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911; Reprint, 4 vols. Rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966.

A journey to Ohio in 1810: as recorded in the journal of Margaret Van Horn Dwight, edited, with an introduction, by Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1912; Reprint with introduction to the Bison Book edition by Jay Gitlin. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

The framing of the Constitution of the United States, by Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University press, 1913; Reprint, Buffalo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein, 2000.

The development of the United States from colonies to a world power, by Max Farrand. Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1918.

The fathers of the Constitution; a chronicle of the establishment of the Union, by Max Farrand. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1921; Reprint, Buffalo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein, 2000.

Frederick Jackson Turner: a memoir, by Max Farrand. Boston: s.n., 1935.

The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; a restoration of a “fair copy” by Max Farrand. Pub. in coöperation with the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1949.

The legislation of Congress for the government of the organized territories of the United States, 1789-1895, by Max Farrand. Buffalo, N.Y.: Hein, 2000.