Back to The Lodge
Back to Checked Back Into Camp
Herb Pickett writing -- The First Tent at Hyde Bay Camp - 1927 - Left to right: Don Tag, Lawry Pickett, Herb ("Sonny") Pickett, Page Smith. This was the tent bought by Herbert and Emily Pickett for their honeymoon trip to Pigeon Lake, Ontario, Canada.
Herb Pickett writing -- Tent One - 1928 - Seated - Don Tag, Fordy King, and Jack Taliaferro; Standing - Page Smith, Councilor George Poore, and Herb ("Sunny") Pickett
Page Smith September 6, 1917- August 28, 1995
(Charles) Page Smith - he dropped the first of his given names in the 1950's - was born on
6, 1917, in Baltimore, Maryland. After the Gilman School he
went to Dartmouth College. An indifferent student, in conventional
academic terms, he would have left college without his B.A. degree
except for the intervention of members of the faculty who arranged that
he be granted one. However, intellectually and
in terms of his ideals
and his vision of the world, his Dartmouth years were profoundly
important; for it was there, and then, in the creative ferment of New
Deal liberalism, and with a European war looming in the background,
that he encountered the first of the tutelary figures who presided over
his career. Eugene Rosenstock-Huessey, an emigre German historian and
philosopher whose books and person aroused in Page Smith's imagination
the sense of history as spiritual journey and moral drama.
Page Smith Etching of Page's Hand with Egg
William James was another. One consequence of his influence Camp
William James, an offshoot of the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps,
expressed Page Smith's passion for uniting thought and action in
collaborative ways. More generally he absorbed Jamesian values and
attitudes - respect for human individuality, service to society,
disdain for the merely respectable, abiding sympathy for the eccentric.
This blended with a predisposition toward a Calvinist view of human
nature, a combination often puzzling to his contemporaries and
collaborators. But contrarieties and contradictions, the mysteries of
human conduct, did not disturb him, and he responded feelingly to words
of Walt Whitman's which conveyed this unfathomable complexity.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well, I contradict myself.
I contain certain multitudes.
World War II was a tremendous influence. Drafted into the army, he
served as a company commander with the 10th Mountain Division in Italy,
and was wounded in action. The war revealed to him, as it did to other
thoughtful members of his generation, that Enlightenment and liberal
ideas about human nature and progress, long dominant in American
culture, need to be reconsidered. This he did at Harvard University
entering graduate school as an English major but switching to history.
His mentor was Samuel Eliot Morison, whose fluency as a writer on
American subjects converted him to the study of the American 17th and
18th centuries, and whose mastery of narrative history exemplified what
he wished to do as a writer. As well, at Harvard, he absorbed Perry
Miller's reconsideration of American Puritanism which, in turn owed
much to the thought of Reinhold Niebuhr.
Photo Jim Hair
Page Smith joined the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles in
1953. He quickly established himself as a compelling lecturer and as a
powerful presence, attracting students with the vividness of his
teaching and opening the Smith home (he had married Eloise Pickard, a
North Carolinian artist, in 1942) to undergraduate and graduate
students. In these years he came into his own as biographer: James
Wilson (1956), a study of that (then) neglected Federalist; John Adams
(1962) a massive, two-volume, Bancroft Award-winning work; and The
Historian and History (1964), among the most personal of his books,
iconoclastic in its skepticism about conventional notions of
In 1963 he moved to Santa Cruz, California, to the new campus of the
University of California where he became the founding Provost of Cowell
College, the first of the colleges around which the university was
organized, colleges where teaching would be emphasized and the
impersonality of the large university minimized. The innovations at
Santa Cruz were modest enough, but hotly opposed by many. Page Smith
led the reformers with eloquence and courage and endeared himself to
another generation of students; in many ways he found the
counterculture atmosphere of the 1960s congenial. But the power of
established ways often frustrated him and the inescapable pressure for
specialization and departmental allegiance undercut the colleges, and
in 1973 he resigned from the university.
Books, essays, lectures, and newspaper columns flowed from the self
described "fastest typewriter in the West" in the two decades that
followed. And there were incessant community engagements, the Socratic
"penny university" open to all with weekly meetings to discuss issues
of the day; the philanthropic William James Association which
sponsored, under the inspiration of Eloise Smith, a prison arts
project. Page Smith's books, wide-ranging, provocative, readable, found
the literate general audience at which they were aimed. Among them: The
Chicken Book (1975); the Constitution, A Documentary and Narrative
History (1978); an aptly titled collection of essays, Dissenting
Opinions (1984); a spirited return to the attack on academic folly,
Killing the Spirit (1990). Twenty-two volumes in all, including two
which appeared at the time of his death, in Santa Cruz, of leukemia, on
August 28, 1995.
Page Smith had an uncanny knack for anticipating subjects that would
later gain popularity: for example his As A City Upon A Hill (1966), a
study of the small town in American history; and Daughters of the
Promised Land (1970) the role of women. The climax of his life's work,
his most ambitious and representative narrative was his eight volume
People's History of the United States (I976-1987), beginning with two
volumes on the Revolution and ending with the New Deal and World War
II, those defining events of his own life. Personal, impassioned,
discursive, he found his subject "endlessly fascinating and absorbing"
and wrote of it in a "perpetual state of wonder and awe," and this is
conveyed powerfully to the reader. "A book is a poor contrivance to
catch a life in," he had written in John Adams. How much less
satisfactory, then, is so reductive a form as an obituary? How to catch
the extraordinary presence of the man, who combined innate modesty with
effortless command, passionate truth-telling, however unpalatable, with
personal decorum, power with kindness, seriousness with amused joy? How
to convey the spirit of his idea of history, grounded in the past - but
speaking to the present affirming life?
University of California
Page Smith ,
from the OAH Newsletter (Organization of American Historians
Volume 23, Number 4 / November 1995
BIOGRAPHICAL DATA: PAGE SMITH
Wood Block Print
BORN: Baltimore Maryland, September 6, 1917
FAMILY: Married Eloise Pickard of Durham, North Carolina, July 11th 1942.
FOUR CHILDREN: Mrs. Ellen West Davidson; Carter Page; Mrs. Anne Byrd Easley; Eliot Marshall
EDUCATION: Dartmouth College, B. A., 1940
Harvard University, M. A., 1948
Harvard University, Ph. D., 1951 (Tutor, Winthrop House, 1949-1951)
Pomona College, Honorary Degree, 1976
MILITARY: Entered Army, spring, 1941
Platoon Sergeant, 20th Infantry Regiment
Officer Candidate School, No. 9, Fort Benning, GA
Commissioned 2nd Lt., April 1942
Mortar Instructor, Infantry School, Fort Benning, GA 1942-43
Company Commander, Co. "C", 10th Mountain Division 1943-45
Wounded, Italy, February, 1945
Discharged, July, 1946, Rank of Major
Colonel, California National Guard, 1976-81
POSITIONS: Camp Director, Camp William James, Experimental CCC Leadership Training camp, 1940-41
Taught, Gilman School, Baltimore, MD, 1945-46 (during Army sick leave)
Research Associate, Institute of Early American History and Culture,
Williamsburg, VA, 19??-??
Lecturer, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, 1951-52
Professor of Historical Studies, Los Angeles, CA, 1953-64
Provost of Cowell College, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, 1964-70
Left University of California 1973
Silver Medal of Commonwealth Club of California, 1956
John Adams ,
Bancroft prize for best book in American history
Kenneth Robert Memorial Award
Book of the Month Club selection
A New Age Now Begins (first two volumes, A People's History of the United States).
Acadamy-Institute Award in the Department of Literature of the American.
Acadamy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Gold Medal, Non-fiction,Commonwealth Club of California, 1977.
Book of the Month Club selection, 1976.
The Shaping of America , (3rd volume, A People's History of the United States)
Book of the Month Club selection 1980.
Page Smith, christened Charles Page Ward Smith, was born September 6, 1917 in
Baltimore MD, the
son of Ellen West Smith and William Ward Smith.
He attended Gilman School and received his BA in English Philosophy
from Dartmouth in 1940. After graduation he entered the civilian
conservation corps with a group of Dartmouth and Harvard friends with
the intention of making the CCC a permanent agency of the government
for conservation and reclamation.
Smith was drafted into the Army of the United States in the first draft
call. He served with the 29th infantry division, attended Infantry
Officers' School Number 10 at Fort Benning Georgia and after being
commissioned was an instructor at the Infantry School.
On July 11th, 1942 Smith married Eloise Pickard of Durham, North Carolina.
From Fort Benning Smith was assigned to the command of C Company, 10th Mountain Division
Wounded at Mount Belvedere in the last stages of the Italian Campaign,
Smith resumed his education doing graduate work at Harvard and
receiving his PhD in American History in 1951.
After a fellowship at the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Smith was appointed assistant professor at UCLA.
In 1964 Smith and his family came to Santa Cruz to help start the new
campus of the University of California. Smith saerved as Provost of the
first college, Cowell, from 1964 to 1969. After his resignation as
provost in 1969 Smith served as professor of Historical Studies until
his retirement in 1973.
Smith is the author of over twenty books, among them the award winning
biography of John Adams most recently Killing the Spirit: Higher
Education in America Democracy on Trial: The Evacuation and Relocation
of the Japanese Americans in World War II Old Age Is Another Country: A
He is survived by four children; Ellen Davidson, Anne Easley and Eliot
Smith of Santa Cruz and Carter Smith of Nahant Mass and seven
grandchildren and one great grandchild. Smith and his colleague, Paul
Lee founded the William James Association and the Citizens Committee
for the Homeless.
Back to Checked Back Into Camp
Back to The Lodge