Hubert Howe Bancroft was born on 5 May 1832 in Granville, Ohio. Having no formal education, he was self taught, primarily through reading and travelling. It is therefore all the more amazing that he became such an eminent historian, bibliophile and entrepreneur.
He began his career as a clerk working in a book store in Buffalo, New York. Some years later, in 1852 he moved to California where, in 1856, he and his brother Albert opened a successful book store in San Francisco. By 1870 Bancroft had purchased a five-story building and his business included facilities for printing, engraving, lithography and bookbinding. At one point in time Bancroft’s business was the largest bookselling concern west of Chicago.
In 1859 Bancroft married Emily Ketchum of Buffalo, New York. The couple had one daughter, Kate, who was born in 1860. After Emily died in 1869, Bancroft later married Matilda Coley Griffing in 1876. This second marriage produced four children: Paul, Griffing, Howe and Lucy.
Hubert Bancroft died on 2 March 1918 in Walnut Creek, California, California, just two days after being hit by a street car.