Worthington C. Ford
Worthington Chauncey Ford (February 15, 1868 – 1941) was an American historian and editor of a number of collections of documents from early American history. He served in a variety of government positions: first, as the chief of the Bureau of Statistics for the U.S. Department of State, from 1885–1889, then at the Department of Treasury, 1893–1898, then as chief of the manuscripts division at the Library of Congress from 1902-1908. He also served as Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University from 1917-1922.
Ford was the youngest member of a distinguished and notorious family. He was the great-grandson (through his mother) of Noah Webster. His two older brothers were Paul Leicester Ford, an eminent biographer and novelist, and Malcolm Webster Ford, a distinguished amateur athlete, both of whom died May 8, 1902 in a murder-suicide perpetrated by the latter.
Historian, President of AHA
Worthington Ford was best known for his edited collections of a number of Founding Fathers documents, including “The writings of George Washington (14 Volumes)”, “Alexander Hamilton's notes in the Federal convention of 1787”, and “Writings of John Quincy Adams”. He also edited collections of the correspondence of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and other figures in early American history.
Ford’s historical work was also notable for his tenure as chief of the newly established Manuscripts Division at the Library of Congress. During his time in charge, from 1902-1908, he organized a significant effort to photograph and copy manuscripts pertaining to early American history which resided in foreign archives (especially France, Britain, and Spain). In this way, copies of many documents which had been missing since 1812 or earlier were recovered.. In addition, he edited and published the complete Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789.
Ford was active in the American Historical Association and was elected President in 1917. Ford’s presidential address, The Editorial Function in United States History, is notable for its careful exposure of the deliberate omissions made by early editors of the Founding Fathers papers, including faked memoirs, papers edited to hide controversies important at the time, and other “crimes and errors” common in the editing and publishing of historical documents of the time.
Ford also edited collections of works of other American figures, including Letters of Henry Adams (1892-1918), and a collection of Aaron Burr's letters.
- AHA Information: Worthington Ford's Bibliography at www.historians.org Partial Bibliography on Ford at AHA website.
- Worthington C. Ford, et al. ed. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789. (34 vol., 1904–1937) online edition