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Centennial History of Arkansas

Dallas Tabor Herndon’s three-volume Centennial History of Arkansas (1922) was created in the early days of the Arkansas History Commission (AHC), now the Arkansas State Archives. Herndon, the AHC’s first director, wrote that “the state had no history that could be relied upon as authentic,” and he saw a need for a more “comprehensive state history” to aid him in his work with researchers at the AHC. Herndon believed that his history would be more reliable and accessible than any other before it, such as Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Fay Hempstead’s multi-volume Historical Review of Arkansas, published in 1911, when Herndon first began work at the AHC. Unlike Hempstead, Herndon was not from Arkansas, and thus he believed his Centennial History of Arkansas would be free of any bias and based on more “reliable sources of information.”

Herndon contacted the S. J. Clarke Publishing Company of Chicago, Illinois, to see if there was any interest in publishing such a book. Herndon and his team of writers and researchers began working on what became the Centennial History of Arkansas after a publishing deal was made with S. J. Clarke in 1920. Aided by Major Thomas J. Hudson of S. J. Clarke’s editorial department, the project took at least two years to complete; the entire three-volume set was published in 1922.

The narrative of volume one is divided into seven parts: Early History, Territorial Period, Political History, Industrial History, Educational History, Military History, and Local History. Each section is divided into smaller chapters, sixty altogether, and all entries include photographs. Volumes two and three contain biographical sketches and photographs of notable Arkansans.

Decades after the publication of the Centennial History of Arkansas, Herndon and a new team of researchers revised, expanded, and re-edited the material from the Centennial History to create the four-volume Annals of Arkansas (published in 1947), covering Arkansas history up to World War I.

The works of Dallas Tabor Herndon, such as the Centennial History of Arkansas and the Annals of Arkansas, help form the foundation of modern Arkansas studies. Most libraries and archives in the state have them, and—despite obvious bias and dated narrative style of the time—they are still used by researchers, preservationists, teachers, and students.

For additional information:
Herndon, Dallas Tabor. Centennial History of Arkansas. 3 vols. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1922.

Cody Lynn Berry
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Last Updated 12/2/2016

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