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George Boas papers

Identifier: MS-0010

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The collection spans the years from 1920 to 1980, and consists of articles, correspondence, notebooks, reprints, short stories, and speeches. Boas' papers are largely a conglomeration of his scholarly writing and lectures. Most of the items are Boas' drafts, publications, or research materials pertaining to the history of ideas, art criticism, humanities, and education. Boas penned a speech or written work, entitled, "Dewey and Modern American Literature", regarding philosopher John Dewey. He also has one piece of correspondence in the collection from Dewey, dated February 7, 1927. Of particular interest in his Johns Hopkins years are the items pertaining to Owen Lattimore, and the Lattimore Defense Fund which Boas headed from 1950 - 1971. Boas also presented a speech on Lattimore and Academic Freedom, dated 1953 - 1954. Other persons with whom Boas has a small amount of correspondence are Lucian Levy Bruhl, French philosopher and sociologist (1857-1939), written between 1926 and 1935 and the letters of art collector and critic Leo Stein who was brother to Gertrude Stein, written between 1925 and 1934. Boas' papers include almost nothing on his classes and student records. Personal items, besides his military papers, are also largely missing. The collection totals approximately 150 letters; approximately 500 articles, speeches, short stories, notebooks; and approximately 100 reprints.


  • Creation: 1920-1980


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

George Boas was born in Providence, Rhode Island on August 28, 1891. He graduated from Brown University in 1913 with both his B.A. and M.A. The following year he began studying at Harvard under Josiah Royce and received his second M.A. there in 1915. After a year at Columbia, he went to the University of California at Berkeley to begin working on his PhD in Philosophy. While earning his Doctorate, Boas worked as an Instructor in Forensics. However, both his schooling and teaching position were interrupted by his enlistment in the Army and combat service in France during World War I. After the war, Boas returned to Berkeley, where he received his PhD. In 1917. Four years later, Arthur O. Lovejoy, recognizing Boas' knowledge of Philosophy, brought him to the Johns Hopkins University as a Historian of Philosophy. Boas and Lovejoy worked closely together and made Johns Hopkins University a center for the study of the history of ideas.

During World War II, Boas took a leave of absence and served as Lieutenant Commander and later Commander in the Naval Reserve. After the German surrender he was stationed at General Eisenhower's Supreme Allied Headquarters, where he was ranking naval officer. He was subsequently transferred to Brussels at the request of the United States Ambassador. In Belgium he succeeded in tracing and identifying many major works of art which the Germans had confiscated. Boas then returned to his teaching position at Johns Hopkins.

In 1956 Boas retired from Johns Hopkins University but continued to be active as both a teacher and scholar. He was a Fellow at the Center for Humanities at Wesleyan University, and as a visitor held the Andrew W. Mellon Chair at the University of Pittsburgh. He was President of the American Society of Aesthetics as well as a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Academie Royale de Belgique. The American Philosophical Association awarded him their highest honor in 1957, the Carus Lecturer. He also received honorary degrees from the Johns Hopkins, University, Maryland Institute of Art, the University of New Mexico, Washington and Lee, and Washington College. He organized the first exhibition in Baltimore devoted entirely to modern art and in 1938 was one of a 3-man committee that ran the Baltimore Museum of Art in the absence of a director. Boas' learning was vast and his writing prolific. His primary fields of specialization were the history of philosophy, general intellectual history, aesthetics, and art criticism.

He married the sculptor Simone Brangier in 1921. They had two daughters. George Boas died on March 17, 1980.


11.84 Cubic Feet (27 letter size document boxes, 3 legal size document boxes, 1 flat box (11 x 9 x 3 inches))

Language of Materials



George Boas (1891 – 1980) was a Professor of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. The collection spans the years from 1920 to 1980, and consists of articles, correspondence, notebooks, reprints, short stories, and speeches.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was given to the University in May 1980 by Mrs. George Boas. Items removed from the Cage were added in 1994. Reprints, correspondence, speeches were added October 1995. The Accession Number is 91-92.12

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Kristen Romano in December 1999. Rachel Gattermeyer revised the biographical note and scope and content notes for series 5-Personal in this finding aid in August 2023 to bring them into compliance with Johns Hopkins guidelines for inclusive and conscientious description (2023). The previous version of the finding aid is available upon request.

George Boas papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA