Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Deegan, Mary Jo. 1979. “Sociology at Nebraska: 1884-1929,” together with “A History of Sociology at the University of Nebraska,” by J.O. Hertzler, edited by Mary Jo Deegan. Journal of the History of Sociology 1 (Spring): 40-62.


At the turn of the century the University of Nebraska was one of the four leading centers of sociology in the United States. Despite this auspicious start, Nebraska has remained relatively obscure in the accounts of the history of Sociology. This is partially a result of its size: until 1959 the faculty consisted of only five members and was oriented to a small but quality graduate program. The document which follows is an original manuscript recording the early history of the department. It was written by Joyce O. Hertzler in the Winter of 1929. This rough draft, now yellowing and crumbling with age, has previously been unavailable to scholars. Minutely detailing the development of the department through its faculty and coursework, it contains many little-known facts about the careers of the men and women who worked at Nebraska. For example, E.A. Ross, an early leader in sociology, and often associated with the establishment of the University of Wisconsin's department of sociology, served at Nebraska from 1900 until 1906. This tenure is not even mentioned in Hertzler's memorial article for Ross, published by the American Sociological Review in October, 1951. Perhaps this was due to Hertzler's sensitivity regarding Ross' forced exit from Leland and Stanford because of political activities (see. p.45 in the manuscript). Joyce Hertzler had a distinguished career including ten books, 38 articles and 59 book reviews. He served as President of the Midwest Sociological Society and as Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthroplogy at the University of Nebraska from 1928 to 1950. He continued as an active professional for many years after his retirement in 1961 and published the Sociology of Language in 1965. In a memorial service for Professor Hertzler on October 3, 1975, Professor Alan Bates said: "For decades Joyce Hertzler both defined this department's emphasis on creative scholarship and gave substance to the definition in his own scholarly work." No one, then, was in a better position to be familiar with the early years of the department and to research its development in a scholarly manner. The following document is a shortened and edited version of the original; I believe it was intended as a rough draft since there are several changes in grammar and style. Redundant adjectives and phrases are the cause of most deletions. Most of Hertzler's style is retained in order to allow the manuscript to convey information about the department's development as well as Hertzler's interpretation of that process. If any scholars would like a copy of the entire manuscript it is available upon request.