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date: 19 November 2019

Commager, Henry Steelelocked

(25 October 1902–02 March 1998)
  • Robert L. Gale


Commager, Henry Steele (25 October 1902–02 March 1998), historian, educator and editor, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of James Williams Commager and Anna Elizabeth Dan Commager. Orphaned as a child, Commager was raised by his maternal grandfather, of Danish origin, in Toledo, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from high school in Chicago, he attended the University of Chicago. He received a Ph.B. in 1923, an M.A. in 1924, and in 1928 a Ph.D. in history, his dissertation, unpublished, being “[Johann Friedrich von] Struensee and the Reform Movement in Denmark.” Later Commager studied at the University of Copenhagen, Cambridge University, and Oxford University. He taught American history at New York University, as instructor (1926–1929), assistant professor (1929–1930), associate professor (1930–1931), and professor (1931–1938). He then established long careers as professor at Columbia University (1939–1956) and Amherst College (1956–1972). Between 1941 and 1975 Commager, who enjoyed traveling and associating with American and foreign students, was guest professor at twenty or more universities in the United States and in Chile, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Trinidad. During World War II, he served in the War Department's Office of War Information (England, 1943; France and Belgium, 1945). In 1928 Commager married Evan Carroll, with whom he had three children; she died in 1968. Eleven years later, Commager married Mary E. Powlesland....

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