Daniel Joseph Boorstin was born in Atlanta, Georgia on October 1st, 1914. His family relocated to Tulsa, OK when he was just two years old. He graduated in 1930 at age fifteen from Tulsa Central High School, first in his class. Next he attended Harvard University, majoring in English history and literature and graduated summa cum laude in 1934. After studying law at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, he attended Yale Law School and received his J.S.D. in 1940. Shortly afterwards he published his first book (1941), The Mysterious Science of Law and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1942.
In October 1944 he was appointed to a newly created interdisciplinary social science program at the University of Chicago and continued to work for the university for 25 years. After completing his tenure at Chicago, he was appointed the director of the National Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History) at the Smithsonian Institution. After seven years with the Smithsonian, he became the Librarian of Congress from 1975 – 1987 despite opposition that cited his disagreement with Affirmative Action and his lack of professional librarian credentials. He remained Librarian Emeritus from 1987 until his death in 2004.
His works largely championed American idealism, accredited to his experiences during World War II. One of his best known works is The Americans, a title published in three parts from 1958 – 1973. It explains the civic (but not cultural) homogeneity of Americans throughout all of American history. The Democratic Experience, the third in the trilogy, earned Boorstin a Pulitzer Prize for History in 1974. Hidden History (1987) is a collection of Boorstin’s essays which illustrates his expansive and unique understanding of American history.
• Bancroft Prize, Columbia University: The Americans: The Colonial Experience, 1959
• Friends of American Literature Prize: The Americans: The Colonial Experience, 1959
• Francis Parkman Medal, Society of American Historians: The Americans: The National Experience, 1966
• Patron Saints Award, Society of Midland Authors: The Americans: The National Experience, 1966
• Dexter Prize, Society for the History of Technology: The Americans: The Democratic Experience, 1974
• Pulitzer Prize for History: The Americans: The Democratic Experience, 1974
• Watson-Davis Prize of the History of Science Society: The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself, 1986
Raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Mysterious Science of the Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941.
The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson. New York City: Holt, 1948, with new preface, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
The Americans. New York City: Random House. Volume 1: The Colonial Experience, 1958. Volume 2: The National Experience, 1965. Volume 3: The Democratic Experience, 1973.
America and the Image of Europe: Reflections on American Thought. Cleveland: World, 1960.
The Image: What Happened to the American Dream. New York City: Atheneum , 1962. Paperback edition published as The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. New York City: Harper, 1964.
(With wife, Ruth Frankel Boorstin)
Landmark History of the American People (juvenile). New York City: Random House. Volume 1: From Plymouth to Appomattox, 1968.
Volume 2: From Appomattox to the Moon, 1970, revised as boxed set, 1987.
Democracy and Its Discontents: Reflections on Everyday America. New York City: Random House, 1974.
Portraits from the Americans: The Democratic Experience. New York City: Random House, 1975.
The Republic of Technology: Reflections on Our Future Community. New York City: Harper, 1978.
(With R. F. Boorstin and Brooks Mather Kelley)
A History of the United States (eleventh-grade textbook). Ginn, 1981. Published as A History of the United States since 1861. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986.
The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself. Random House, 1983.
(with editor) Hidden History: Exploring Our Secret Past. New York City: Harper, 1987.
Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected. New York City: Random House, 1994.
Daniel J. Boorstin Reader. New York City: Modern Library. 1995.
The Republic of Letters: Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin on Books, Reading, and Libraries, 1975-1987. Edited by John Y. Cole. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1989.
(Author of introduction) The United States Capitol. Photographs by Fred J. Maroon. Text by Suzy Maroon. New York City: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1993. The Creators. New York City: Random House, 1992.
The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World. New York City: Random House, 1998.
"The Elusiveness of Mr. Justice Holmes." New England Quarterly 14 (September 1941): 478-487.
"A Dialogue of Two Histories." Commentary 8 (October 1949): 311-315.
"Our Unspoken National Faith: Why Americans Need No Ideology." Commentary 15 (April 1953): 327-337.
"Facade of Our Founding Financiers." Saturday Review of Literature 42 (21 November 1955): 42-43.
"New View of American Reform." Commentary 21 (April 1956): 396-398.
"The Puritan Tradition: Community Above Ideology." Commentary 26 (October 1958): 288-299.
"Eggheads Are Their Own Worst Enemies." New York Times Magazine 26 (April 1959): 5.
"We, the People, in Quest of Ourselves." New York Times Magazine 26 (April 1959): 30, 32, 34.
"Welcome to the Consumption Community." Fortune 76 (1 September 1967): 118-120, 131-138.
"The New Barbarians." Esquire 70 (October 1968): 159-162, 260-262.
"The Spirit of '70." Newsweek (4 July 1970): 27-29.
"Gresham's Law: Knowledge or Information." The American Bookman (22 February 1982): 1379-1384.
ESSAYS and PAMPHLETS
The Genius of American Politics (lectures). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953.
The Decline of Radicalism: Reflections of America Today (essays). New York City: Random House, 1969.
The Sociology of the Absurd: or, The Application of Professor X (satiric essay), New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1970.
The Exploring Spirit: America and the World, Then and Now (Reith lectures). New York City: Random House, 1976. Published as The Exploring Spirit: America and the World Experience. London: BBC Publications, 1976.
The Fertile Verge: Creativity in the United States (pamphlet). Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1980.
Books in Our Future: A Report from the Librarian of Congress to the Congress (pamphlet). Washington, DC : Library of Congress, 1984.
(Essayist) Library: The Drama Within. Photographs by Diane Asseo Griliches. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996
"[The amateur status is valuable because it enables] not just openness, but more freedom. Professional training is training in the ways and the ruts. If you've not been trained in the ruts, you don't have to be very smart to stay out of them. Instead you simply pursue your interest in what you think is important. You're not worried at the discontinuities that you find, and you also never see any trivia, because you haven't been trained to think that only certain kinds of things are important. It seems to me that the great historians have been amateurs in the sense that they did it for the love of it and not as a profession. That would include not only Herodotus and Thucycides but also Gibbon . . . and the great American historians: Francis Parkman, William Prescott, Henry Adams. It's unfortunate that the word amateur has taken on a secondary meaning connected with the rise of professions. An amateur really is a lover. And I think the best reason to write is because you love what you're doing; you can't help it. That's why I consider writing my vocation, whatever my other occupations have been."
Sources: Contemporary Authors Online. Thomson Gale, 2007.
Sources: Contemporary Authors Online. Thomson Gale, 2007. "Daniel J. Boorstin." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 17: Twentieth-Century American Historians. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Clyde N. Wilson. University of South Carolina. Gale Research, 1983: 79-85.