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Freud Discovers America

ISSUE:  Winter 1970


A factory-like late Victorian granite and brick structure known as Jonas Clark Hall dominates the old central campus of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Right outside the main office of the psychology department on the third floor of that building is a bronze statue of Sigmund Freud, dedicated by his daughter Anna a dozen years ago. The inscription under it reads “Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939. Donated by the American Psychoanalytic Association in memory of Freud’s lectures in 1909 at Clark University introducing psychoanalysis in the United States, September 21, 1957.” Historians in the tradition of Herodotus might take this inscription with a grain of salt but also use it as a starting-point for critical questioning. The first question such an historian might well ask is why should Freud come to America in the first place? And, of all the possible places to come in America, why should he have lectured at Clark, an institution of which few at the present day outside the learned professions or its own region have ever heard?

In 1889 Clark University had opened its doors as a school of advanced investigation and graduate instruction with a scientific and research-oriented faculty then second to none in America; it included the first American to win the Nobel Prize, A. A. Michelson, among others. Early financial problems, the meddling of the Founder, and internal dissension, however, led early in 1892 to a number of faculty resignations. Several of the original faculty, as well as some of the best of their new student Ph.D.’s, migrated westward to form the science faculty of the new University of Chicago, opened in the fall of 1892, also founded under the impetus of German scientific ideals and much better financed. As a creator of the money supply, Worcester’s retired millionaire merchant Jonas G. Clark was no match for Standard Oil’s multi-millionaire John D. Rockefeller.

The University was reorganized by President Hall around his remaining faculty, to whom were added other newly developed Clark Ph.D.’s, and the dominant thrust of the institution shifted somewhat from physical science to two disciplines relatively new to the American university, psychology and its related field pedagogy, or education. Although for a number of years funds for everything except the heavily endowed library remained limited, the new faculty, only a shade less able than the first, remained unbroken by resignation or death for nearly twenty years. Morale was high, the financial picture improved after 1900, able students were attracted from all over the United States, and in the first decade of this century the University made its name respected out of proportion to its size,particularly in genetic and experimental psychology and in child study.

President G. Stanley Hall’s powerful personality and varied interests and enthusiasms dominated the University at this time and indeed until his retirement at the age of seventy-­five, in 1920. Hall, who rejoiced in the title “the Darwin of the Mind,” had studied philosophy for three years in Germany, had taught at Antioch and Harvard, and had taken the Ph.D. in the philosophy department at Harvard in 1878, working in part under William James. Returning to Germany for another triennium, he studied physiology at Berlin and spent a year as the first American student in physiological psychology at Leipzig under the famed Wilhelm Wundt. In 1882 Hall moved to the new Johns Hopkins University, where he founded what he later claimed to be the first American experimental psychology laboratory and also the American Journal of Psychology. Among his graduate students at Hopkins were John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson, who minored in psychology but stuck to his proposed career in history and political science, with consequences which needed not be spelled out. Moving to the presidency of Clark in 1887, Hall established another well-equipped psychology laboratory there, founded the American Psychological Association, and launched a number of other professional journals, some of which are still being published.

Enough has been said to indicate the promotional nature of Hall’s commitments to psychology. He once described his life as “a series of fads or crazes,” a statement which his professional critics (and these were legion) would have underscored in spades. He is probably the only major figure in the early years of American psychology who has gone into nearly total eclipse, and in part his overdone enthusiasms were responsible. Hall was a publicist for research, a synthesizer and teacher of great stimulating power, but the more careful paths of disciplined scholarship tended to be left as a task for others.

His “child study craze,” as he called it, was begun at Hopkins but was accelerated at Clark, and for several years questionnaires emanated from Worcester like snowflakes. He moved from the psychology of childhood and youth into adolescent psychology, a period marked by a two-volume work, 1887pages in length. Adolescence (the title of his book) was, as a recent British scholar has said, “a concept whose modern meaning he virtually invented, with frightful results”; yet Hall deserves credit for first seeing the social significance of that stressful and stormy period whose stürm und drang he so romantically exaggerated. He had a long-time interest in psychiatry, and invited the celebrated psychiatrist Adolf Meyer to teach a course at Clark while Meyer was associated with Worcester State Hospital. Public school reform, that perennial craze, was another of Hall’s interests, as was the psychology of religion, the latter evidenced by his controversial book “Jesus the Christ in the Light of Psychology.” During World War I he produced a volume on the psychology of war, and near the end of his life, in addition to his somewhat unreliable “Autobiography,” one on the psychology of senescence. But the greatest of his crazes was psychoanalysis and that, in brief, is why Freud came to America and to Clark University.

Sigmund Freud had taken an M.D. at Vienna in 1881, but moved first into physiology, then brain anatomy, and eventually into the study of nervous diseases. While on a traveling fellowship in Paris, he had become interested in investigations of hysteria. By the mid-1880’s, however, his developing theories of the sexual origins of hysteria had made him unacceptable to Viennese academics and learned societies, and he withdrew into the practice of private therapy and his own research in nervous disorders. Papers developed out of his investigations of the sexual lives of his neurasthenic and neurotic patients, and read before medical societies, met with great skepticism and outright hostility; for about ten years he had no followers, and little notice was taken of his “Interpretation of Dreams,” published in 1900.

After the turn of the century, however, he began to gather around him in Vienna a group of young doctors interested in psychoanalysis, forming in 1902 what became the Vienna Psycho-Analytic Society. About 1906 he heard that some Swiss psychiatrists including Carl Jung were interested in psychoanalysis, and personal ties were developed with this group and with a few other individuals. An informal congress on psychoanalysis met at Salzburg in 1908 and soon afterwards a journal edited by Jung was begun under Freud’s sponsorship. Freud at this period was over fifty, beginning to see disciples, hungering for some kind of international recognition, yet in danger of turning bitter under the barrage of hostile criticism greeting his efforts. Rejected in Vienna and in most of continental Europe, he was yet unaware of the tentative gestures toward receptivity of his ideas which were beginning to be made in English-speaking countries.

Hall had been interested in Freud’s work for some time and was for a fairly long period about the only American academic psychologist to see its significance. Freud had published his first book, on aphasia, in 1891 in an edition of 850 copies, of which only 257 were sold and the rest pulped after nine years. Freud’s disciple and biographer Ernest Jones asserted in 1953 that no British library has a copy, though the British Museum catalogue lists one. The Library of Congress printed catalogue does not indicate a copy there. The Clark library has two copies, one unaccessioned and in Hall’s private collection; the other, once in the open stacks, circulated freely until five or six years ago when the Librarian decided it belonged in the vault.

Hall’s “Adolescence,” published in 1907, contains five references to Freud’s work, mostly to his early studies of hysteria. But Hall also applauds Freud’s recognition of what Hall called “the wide psychic and also somatic resonance” of the sexual function, and suggested prophetically that Freud’s themes were destined to be of fundamental importance to the psychology of art and of religion. In 1904 Hall had given at Clark a series of weekly lectures on sex, from which women were excluded. He had given such lectures up, however, because “too many outsiders got in and even listened surreptitiously at the door,” and also because two or three of the legitimate students developed what Hall considered a “morbid” interest in the subject. In 1908, nevertheless, he began giving regular graduate courses in various aspects of Freudian psychology.

In the summer of 1899 Clark University had marked the tenth anniversary of its opening by arranging a week-long conference to which professors of science and graduate students had been invited. An unusual way of celebrating a school’s anniversary at that time, it was a successful innovation. Five scientifically prominent lecturers were brought from Europe, a ceremony was held conferring honorary degrees on these distinguished foreign savants, and the whole was commemorated in a 564-page published book reporting on the University’s history and research contributions. When Hall began planning for the twentieth anniversary it was natural for him to turn to the 1899 model, and, with more funds available, he planned a total of three weeks of conferences and lectures. As it eventually worked out, in July a one-week national conference of child welfare organizations was held. Two weeks in September were de­ voted to lectures and meetings in subjects represented in the University. Given the high fever stage of Hall’s pre­occupation with psychoanalysis, he sought first to attract Freud and his disciples to the conferences on psychology and pedagogy.

At this point in the narrative occurs one of those lucky discoveries historians dream about but seldom experience. Clark was founded over eighty years ago, but installed its fourth president, Dr. Frederick H.Jackson, only in the fall of 1967. About the time of the new president’s inauguration the president emeritus, Dr. Howard B. Jefferson, was cleaning out the presidential files and getting things in order for his successor. In the process he discovered a folder apparently transmitted to him unexamined in 1946 by the second president, the once-famed geographer Wallace W. Atwood, and to Atwood in 1920 on the retirement of G. Stanley Hall.

This folder contained manuscripts relating to the 1909 celebration of the twentieth anniversary. A miscellaneous assortment of materials revealed itself—letters of invitation, of inquiry about the conference, copies of Hall’s speeches, programs, and material relating to the conferring of honorary degrees. There were copies of letters to or original letters from President William Howard Taft, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Wundt, Wilhelm. Stern, Leo Burgerstein, William James, Franz Boas, Ernest Jones, and A. A. Brill, among others, though inexplicably nothing from or to Carl Jung. And there were ten letters, two postal cards and a calling card in Freud’s handwriting, most of these in German (with typed translations fortunately provided). There were also typed copies of thirteen letters from Hall to Freud. These letters, unknown and out of circulation for nearly sixty years, provided detail on Freud’s American journey hitherto unknown to scholars.

Hall wrote Freud on December 15, 1908, (the same day he invited Wundt, without success), asking him to come to Clark the first week in July to give four to six lectures in German or English explaining his views, for an honorarium of $400, or 1600 marks. “Although I have not the honor of your personal acquaintance,” wrote Hall, “I have for many years been profoundly interested in your work, which I have studied with diligence, and also in that of your followers.” Pointing to the nature of the meetings, Hall expressed his belief that the time was ripe for a statement by Freud himself of his own results and viewpoints; such a statement would “perhaps in some sense mark an epoch in the history of these studies in this country,” a perceptive enough observation.

Freud wrote back on December 29, saying that he was much honored, but declined the invitation since his psychiatric work continued through to the fifteenth of July and he needed to rest from then until September. According to Ernest Jones, though he declined with reluctance, Freud felt he could not afford to lose the income from the three weeks of professional practice he would miss. On February 16, 1909, however, Hall wrote again, telling Freud that the celebration had been shifted to September and extending him a second invitation, along with an increased honorarium ($750 or 3000 marks) and the promise of an honorary degree. Freud accepted the invitation, the increase, and the honor in a letter dated February 28, promising Hall a copy of the newly published second edition of his book on neuroses.

Freud initially tried to get steamer accommodations out of Trieste, then an Austrian seaport, and wrote on April 4 that this might make him a day or two late for the conference. Hall wrote on April 13 telling Freud that news of his coming had already leaked out among interested people in this country and some of these were already writing Hall in anticipation; a letter from Ernest Jones, for example, saying that Freud had told him of these lectures and expressing a desire to attend, was also found in the folder. Hall received Freud’s April 4th letter on the 15th and immediately wrote telling Freud not to worry about steamship delays. Freud replied to both of Hall’s letters on May 2, saying, “I am very glad that my lectures in Worcester have attracted so much attention, but I have some misgivings as to whether I can answer the expectations.” A May 25th postcard from Freud merely acknowledges receiving a copy of the 1899 Clark Decennial volume from Hall, and says he looks forward to his visit here. There is nothing further until August 9, when Hall wrote inviting Freud to be his house guest, asked him for his lecture titles, and told him “there is a wide and deep interest in your coming to this country and you will have the very best experts within a wide radius.” Freud did not receive this letter in Vienna, however; it arrived there after he left and was forwarded to New York.

Freud was evidently quite excited by the invitation and admitted to his disciple Sandor Ferenczi, whom he had asked to accompany him, that he felt “worked-up at the prospect,” though a little later he said somewhat diffidently that all he really wanted to do in America was see Niagara Falls and enjoy Ferenczi’s company on the trip. In mid-June, learning that Jung had also been invited to lecture at Clark, Freud commented “that magnifies the importance of the whole affair.” Freud invited Jung to travel with them, and the three left Bremen on August 21, 1909, on the German steamship George Washington—the same ship which later carried Woodrow Wilson to the Versailles peace conference. To pass the time on the way over, the three friends analyzed one another’s dreams, in sessions called by Ernest Jones “the first example of group analysis.” Freud was given an additional lift when he discovered that his cabin steward was reading his book, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.” 

The steamer arrived in NewYork on August 27 and the three were interviewed by reporters, the next morning’s paper telling of the arrival of “Professor Freund [sic] of Vienna.” On the 28th another disciple, A. A. Brill, then practicing psychoanalysis in New York, took them through Central Park, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and Coney Island; the next morning they visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Freud was especially interested in the Greek sculpture, and Columbia University, as tourists only. On Wednesday, August 30, Ernest Jones joined them and Freud saw his first motion picture; after several more days of sightseeing and visiting the group left by overnight boat on September 4, connecting with trains to Boston and to Worcester.

As we turn again to the documents, two notes in English written by Freud on the stationery of the Hotel Manhattan in New York appear. On the 30th Freud wrote, “I have the honor to give you notice of my arrival in this town….” and asked when he should arrive in Worcester. On September 1, having just received Hall’s letter of August 9, Freud accepted Hall’s invitation to stay with him and hoped he “will not prove a troublesome guest.” He gave Hall his lecture topic, and explained that since his English was poor he would be “obliged to transfer the difficulty to the side of the hearers and talk in my native tongue.” He also noted that he was traveling with “my friend Dr. Jung of Zurich and two followers more (Dr. Ferenczy—Budapest and Dr. Brill—New York).” Two notes from Hall giving Freud directions about coming to Worcester complete this phase of the correspondence.

The psychoanalytic group arrived in Worcester at the beginning of the two-week long second session of the twentieth-anniversary celebration. Scholars from all over the country and abroad were gathering for the lectures and conferences in seven fields of learning to be offered that week or the next. Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology scheduled from seven to twenty-four lectures each; History was preparing to outdo the scientists with a forty-five lecture international relations conference, in a field also pioneered at Clark, on China and the Far East. Education sponsored six lectures and Psychology fourteen, including the five by Freud, since called “Five Lectures upon Psychoanalysis,” and Jung’s three lectures on the association method and the psychology of childhood.

Jung had suggested that Freud lecture on the interpretation of dreams, but Freud later accepted Ernest Jones’ advice to choose a broader subject. The five lectures, all in German, were devoted to an account of the development of Freud’s own work and to an exploration of such concepts as free association, dream interpretation, repression, hysteria, infantile sexuality, and neurosis. He began the series with the somewhat diffident if obvious remark that “it is a new and somewhat embarrassing experience for me to appear as lecturer before students of’ the New World,” expressed his satisfaction that the majority of his hearers were not medical men, referred politely to a study done in 1902 at Clark which had anticipated one of his own themes, and closed the series with a defense of psychoanalysis against the charge that its therapeutic method became socially dangerous by calling repressed material into the realm of conscious­ ness. Each lecture was composed at the conference, during half-hour walks with Ferenczi; they were delivered without any notes and, according to contemporary accounts, in a modest, convincing, and conversational manner.

Newspaper accounts of the 1909 celebration made relatively little of Freud’s lectures, all of which were open to the public. They devoted most of their space to the many other speakers, for the most part referring rather proforma to the fact that Freud was a distinguished scientist, and had worked with sexuality, and that these were his first talks in America. The Worcester Telegram reported on September 8 that his first lecture was “greeted with much applause,” but regretted on the 11th that “the lectures were not given in the English language so that they could be taken in by more people.” The best coverage devoted to Freud in the Telegram’s columns was given to a relatively minor point, the question of race suicide raised in his final lecture. The Boston Transcript, conservative house organ of Boston’s “best families,” gave Freud’s visit excellent coverage and even sent out a reporter to interview him at Dr. Hall’s home; the result was a sympathetic explanation of Freud’s ideas for the educated Boston public. None of the clippings from Worcester, Boston, New York, or other papers now preserved in two big scrapbooks in the Clark Archives contains a word of criticism or opposition to Freud’s ideas or his presence at Clark; several contain praise of both.

Freud’s audience was an attentive and well-selected one. In addition to Hall and members of the Clark faculty, they included the corporal’s guard of Freud’s former students, a number of prominent American psychologists, sociologists, and psychiatrists, and Franz Boas the anthropologist (formerly on the Clark faculty and under whom Clark had granted the first American Ph.D. in anthropology in 1892). An unexpected and somewhat embarrassing guest, the anarchist Emma Goldman, who had heard Freud lecture in Vienna in 1895 when she was studying nursing, showed up quite uninvited to hear him again in Worcester, where she had once run an ice-cream parlor with two other anarchists. 

More importantly, two well-known Harvard professors were present. One was the elderly Brahmin neuroanatomist and Harvard Medical School professor James Jackson Putnam, who had written the first English-language account of psychoanalysis, a hostile one, in 1906. Putnam had subsequently come around to Freud’s views and published two articles immediately after the Clark conference, praising the “intellectual sumptuousness” of the anniversary celebration and giving a lengthy explanation of his impressions of Freud and his work. “I cannot pretend to have verified as yet all the many inferences and conclusions of Freud and his companions,” wrote Putnam. “But I have learned to believe fully in the theory and in the value of their methods of analysis and of treatment, and I am the more ready to accept their views for having made the personal acquaintance of the three men… [Freud, Jung, and Ferenczi] and for having found them so kindly, unassuming, tolerant, earnest, and sincere.”

The other distinguished Harvard listener was William James, who came out to Worcester to hear Freud even though already suffering severely from the angina pectoris which killed him the following year. James followed the lectures intently and was quite cordial in talking with the psychoanalysts, telling Ernest Jones that “the future of psychology belongs to your work.” On the other hand, in private letters James appears to have been somewhat less enthusiastic, expressing hope that Freud and his pupils would push their ideas further but also saying that Freud had impressed him as “a man obsessed with fixed ideas.” A. A. Brill, for whom Freud could do no wrong, later dismissed James’ reaction by saying “William James was impressed, but he was too old and weak to take any attitude about these new doctrines.” It might be suggested, however, that James’ well-known affinity for a pluralistic universe was offended by Freud’s seeming explanation of human behavior by one cause alone.

Freud himself was fully cognizant of the significance of the visit, both then and later. The name of Clark University may be found on the first page of Freud’s autobiography, and that was no Freudian slip either. The invitation which Hall extended to him and to Jung was, a recent Dutch writer has observed, “the first serious academic recognition psychoanalysis had received.” On September 10 an academic convocation was held in the Clark gymnasium at which honorary degrees were bestowed upon twenty-one of the more distinguished visitors. Freud and Jung were both recipients of degrees. Freud’s citation read “Sigmund Freud of the University of Vienna, founder of a school of pedagogy [sic] already rich in new methods and achievements, leader today among students of the psychology of sex, and of psycho­ therapy and analysis, doctor of laws.”

The Clark LLD was the only such academic honor Freud ever obtained, and in his brief response to the presentation, visibly moved, he exclaimed “This is the first official recognition of our endeavors.” Later he was to write in his “Autobiography,” “In Europe I felt as though I were despised, but in America I found myself received by the foremost men as an equal. As I stepped on to the platform at Worcester to deliver my Five Lectures Upon Psycho-Analysis it seemed like the recognition of some incredible daydream; psychoanalysis was no longer a product of delusion; it had become a valuable part of reality.” And Jung told Hall and others several times during the week at Clark that the invitation, the degree, and the sympathetic attitude of his listeners came at the right moment for Freud’s own psychological sense of well-being.

The Clark visit was an emotional high point, but Freud’s reaction to America in general was less enthusiastic. Brill and Jones went their separate ways at the end of the week, Freud accompanying Jones to the railroad station somewhat apprehensive that his disciple was slipping away from Freudian orthodoxy.

On September 13 Freud, Jung, and Ferenczi attained their other main goal in America, a visit to Niagara Falls, but Freud’s feelings were hurt when a guide in the Cave of the Winds referred to him as “the old fellow.” Later the three companions went off to Putnam’s camp in the Adirondacks a visit enlivened by the sight of a wild porcupine (another objective of the American trip) and by Jung’s singing German songs, but marred for Freud by a mild attack of appendicitis. Returning to New York on the 19th, they mailed a final postcard to Stanley Hall, signed by all three, and sailed on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse on September 21, arriving at Bremen on the 29th. Freud’s discovery of America was over.

On the whole, Freud did not like America. He complained after his return that American cooking had brought on a lasting intestinal complaint (not true; he had one before he came), that American men’s rooms were found only at the last moment after going down miles of corridors·, that American manners were too free and easy, and the like. As he told Ernest Jones later, “America is a mistake; a gigantic mistake, it is true, but none the less a mistake.” But memories of the friendly recognition at Clark remained with him, and in a letter written in 1913, preserved for years in the files of the psychology department and now among the other Hall material in the Clark Archives, Freud wrote that “the few years which have elapsed since my visit in your house and at your university have left the feeling of thankfulness for your invitation, a feeling which has risen to the highest degree.” 

After his return to Vienna, Freud, though somewhat reluctant to do so, wrote out his Worcester lectures for publication, and a number of the remaining letters in the folder refer to this and related matters. Hall, on the urging of Putnam, Meyer, and others, wrote Freud on October 7, requesting permission to translate and print them. Freud replied that he remembered promising while in Worcester that he would send the lectures to Hall for translation and publication, and expressed once again his gratitude for the visit to Clark. Under pressure from his German publisher Freud reluctantly started writing, having half a page done by the end of October and three pages by late November, but finishing them up in mid-December—all from his remarkable memory, of course. The last few Freud letters in the Clark folder are concerned with the transmission of Freud’s lectures to Worcester for translation and back to Freud for revision or correction, and with matters relating to the German edition, to the American printing of Freud’s and Jung’s lectures, and to plans for the special Freud number of Hall’s American Journal of Psychology. The first German edition (1500 copies) sold quite rapidly; eventually there were eight German editions and editions in ten foreign languages. In America the lectures were published in the American Journal of Psychology in 1910 and Clark published a small reprint edition the same year, a-few copies of which were bound handsomely for library and scholarly use.

A postcard in the Clark collection from Ernest Jones dated March 51910, told Hall, “Your help to the movement should bear fruit in a little time, I hope.” Yet within five years after Freud’s visit to Worcester his one-time champion, Stanley Hall, had run out his romance with orthodox psychoanalytic theory and gone over to the system of Freud’s rebellious ex-disciple, Alfred Adler, though Hall still felt Freud to be “the most original and creative mind in psychology of our generation.” In his own autobiography, although noting that “Hall was justly esteemed as a psychologist and educationalist,” Freud remarked somewhat harshly that “there was a touch of the ‘king-maker’ about him, a pleasure in setting up authorities and in then deposing them.”

In the intervening period there had been bitter breaks between Freud and three of his former students, Alfred Adler, Wilhelm Stekel, and finally Carl Jung; a 1928 exchange of letters between Freud and Hall discusses these breaks in terms of the revolt of sons against their fathers. By one of the ironies of history it appears to have been the American visit, by Jung’s own account, which set the seeds of disenchantment with Freud’s work. Jung’s recollection of his relations with Freud, (though somewhat suspect in that they were set down over fifty years after the event) , was that in one of those shipboard dream-interpretation sessions he had been shocked by Freud’s unwillingness to yield his personal authority in the face of what Jung considered the search for truth. Jung concluded that Freud himself, the master of psychoanalysis, could not deal with his own neurosis, and when that conclusion was reached, Freud had lost his authority over his disciple. Jones was shocked when Jung told him in Worcester about his scruples concerning discussion of “details of unsavoury topics” with his patients, but neither Jones nor Freud were then aware that Jung’s break with Freud had in a sense begun.

Much has been written of the impact of Freud’s ideas on American thought. Before 1909 Freud’s work had been treated in specialized journals and professional conferences to a very limited extent, but his ideas were not accepted and his work largely untranslated. Freud’s exposure to key members of the American academic community as well as Hall’s quick popularization of Freud’s ideas found him an important professional intellectual constituency. Within a year of the Clark conference the lectures were published. Brill began translating other Freud works into bad English, specialized societies devoted to Freudian analysis were formed, learned journals were opened up to articles and reviews by and about Freud and his followers, and explanatory articles began to appear in less specialized outlets. By 1915, when Good Housekeeping and other mass-circulation magazines began discussing Freud’s work, popularization was well on its way, and after 1920 the influence is plain for all to see.

But this article is concerned with the reception in America of Freud himself, not of Freudian ideas, and as such may be quickly brought to its conclusion. Freud would not have been well enough known to invite to America much before 1909, and if he had gotten sufficient recognition in other ways in Europe might never have come to America at all—certainly he never came again when he had become famous. Freud was intellectually and emotionally overprepared to respond to a gesture of recognition at this time for personal reasons unduplicable either earlier or later in time. Clark was certainly not unique in its circumstances as a center for advanced inquiry under conditions of freedom of subject, but of the dozen or more graduate centers which might have invited Freud, Clark was the one which did so.

Clark’s smallness, the peculiar circumstances of its growth and development, its willingness to try out new ideas, and the quite unpredictable but timely Freudian craze of its perceptive, king-making President were all distinctive factors bringing about this important event. It is safe to say that no other academic psychologist of the time but Hall would dare have followed the Freudian path and no other American university president would have risked the possible wrath of his trustees and constituency by bringing Freud to his campus for a series of public lectures. During his visit to America Freud received no invitations to such nearby centers of psychological investigation as Harvard or Yale, and he was taken by Brill to visit Columbia only as an ordinary sightseer.

There is a wise old saw to the effect that “there are no if’s in history.” Nevertheless, it is fair to conclude “If no Clark, then no Freud in America.” That is, without the special circumstances of Clark University at a given time, Freud would not have come to America at all, even to see Niagara Falls. And what if he had not come to America in 1909? To be sure, “ideas are light baggage,” and Freud’s ideas would have traveled to America eventually. But they would neither have come so early nor have been circulated so rapidly, and one suspects that the Freudian movement in this country would not have developed (for good or ill) for perhaps another decade, or in other words until after the First World War.

Episodes in the history of one institution are invariably somewhat local and somewhat antiquarian. But there are identifiable points in the history of a number of American colleges and universities where local and general history meet. The decade which culminated in the 1909 celebration saw the high-water mark of Clark’s influence in American higher education; the celebration itself was perhaps the yeastiest moment of its distinguished tradition. The intellectual prowess and direct teaching influence of Freud too were at the flood; he was ripe for the shock of recognition.

The intellectual community, if there be such, coheres in the processes of the diffusion of ideas and the interaction of men with institutions of learning. The examination of such encounters as Freud’s discovery of America must then take on that more nearly universal dimension which is the special promise of mature historical investigation. The newly discovered documents now safely housed in the Clark Archives shed further light on this paradigmatic encounter, which in its larger relationships served as an important catalyst forwarding what Henry May has called, in the title of his brilliant synthesis of the intellectual history of this period, The End of American Innocence.






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