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Edward Chace Tolman, Archives

 of the History of American Psychology,

University of Akron, Bierce Library

            A white rat scurrying through a multiple-choice maze is featured on the unusual, but singularly appropriate, bookplate of the distinguished theoretician and "rat psychologist," Edward Chace Tolman (1886-1959). He went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an undergraduate and took a degree in electrochemistry, and then in 1915 earned a Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard with a dissertation on human memory. Tolman began using rats in 1919 at the University of California at Berkeley to study animal learning, specifically, the inheritance of maze-learning ability (N. K. Innis, "Tolman and Tryon," American Psychologist 47 [1992]: 190-197).  Based upon his animal learning experiments, Tolman developed an influential cognitive theory of learning that was the antithesis of the then-dominant school of Behaviorism.

            Tolman's professional and scholarly career were well established within a decade, and in 1932 his seminal book Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men (New York: Century) was published. He dedicated it to "M.N.A."; in his preface, he reveals that M.N.A. is Mus norvegicus albinus, the white rats that were so important to his research. In 1937 he served as president of the American Psychological Association and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences. The white rat and maze from Tolman's bookplate appear again on the title page of Collected Papers in Psychology (Berkeley: the University of California Press, 1958), a volume of Tolman's articles compiled by his students and published in his honor, the rat stars again on the half title of the book's second printing with the new title Behavior and Psychological Man (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1958).

            The original block for Tolman's seven-by-eleven-centimeter bookplate is in the collection of his papers held by the Archives of the History of American Psychology located in the University of Akron's Bierce Library. The finding aid for the Tolman papers lists ten unpublished notebooks from the period of 1912 to 1918, course syllabi, reading lists, lecture notes from 1919, handwritten and typed outlines and drafts of manuscripts, and correspondence to and from Tolman, particularly in the 1950s.

            Tolman's papers are but one portion of the Archives, which was founded in 1965 by John A. Popplestone, Ph.D. and Marion White McPherson, Ph.D. That important year for the history of psychology also saw the formation of the Division of the History of Psychology by the American Psychological Association and the establishment of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Popplestone and McPherson have described, in a series of reports in the psychological, library, and archival literature, the various stages of development of the Archives of the History of American Psychology as they occurred (i.e., American Archivist 34 [1971]: 13-19). The founding of the Archives was blessed with a university administration that was not only agreeable, but enthusiastic and encouraging. No other special-area collection for the history of psychology existed and when polled, historians of psychology were supportive of the formation of one, as was the profession in general when the call for contributions of professional papers went out. A board of psychologists, which grew to include historians and archivists, was established and provided advice and help in soliciting archival materials. Researchers began to use the historical materials almost immediately, and the Archives have been a major resource to scholars such as A. Amsel and M. E. Rashotte (Mechanisms of Adaptive Behavior: Clark L. Hull's Theoretical Papers, with Commentary [New York: Columbia University Press, 1984]) trying to recapture the critical first century of psychology.

            Although the Archives of the History of American Psychology was designed as an historical research collection, one of the underlying reasons for its inception was Popplestone's frustrating search for primary sources to use in teaching his course in the history of psychology. Ludy T. Benjamin, Ph.D., whose trips to the Archives for historical research also led to its use for teaching and historical exhibits, documents the continued use of the Archives for educational as well as research purposes in his chapter in Historiography of Modern Psychology (Toronto: C.J. Hogrefe, 1980).

            The Archives holds more than twelve hundred linear feet of open personal papers and documents of psychologists plus eight hundred linear feet of materials temporarily restricted or in processing. It holds the archival papers of numerous psychological associations and institutions, such as the Psychonomic Society, Vineland Research Laboratory, and the International Council of Psychologists. One of the most important historical research holdings is the editorial papers of more than forty psychology journals. In 1967-1968 Animal Behavior, Psychological Reports, and Perceptual and Motor Skills were the first psychology journals to contribute their editorial files. Now there are approximately two thousand feet of papers containing the correspondence of editors, consultants, and contributors for journals such as Journal of Experimental Psychology, Journal of Biological Psychology, Learning and Motivation, and Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.

            The Archives also holds photos, films, intelligence and aptitude tests, and historical laboratory apparatus from the nineteenth century to date; it collects and creates oral history tapes. The Archives' research resources include twenty-five thousand books, a collection that had its foundation in the books of the noted historian of psychology Josef Brozek, and, of course, the bookplates of other psychologists as well as Edward Chace Tolman's. The Archives of the History of American Psychology, celebrating its thirtieth anniversary in 1995, has grown phenomenally in three decades to become the largest discipline-based archival collection in the history of psychology in the world. 

Judith A. Overmier

University of Oklahoma

and

J. Bruce Overmier

University of Minnesota

Bookplate courtesy of Archives of the History of American Psychology, The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio.

[Originally published in Libraries & Culture, vol. 30, no. 3 (Summer 1995): 309-311.]