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Finding Aid to the August Vollmer Papers, [ca. 1918-1955]
BANC MSS C-B 403  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Biographical Sketch
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: August Vollmer Papers,
    Date (inclusive): [ca. 1918-1955]
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 403
    Creator: Vollmer, August, 1876-1955
    Extent: Number of containers: 46 boxes, 7 cartons, 3 volumes, and 2 oversize folders
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Letters written to him; copies of letters written by him; biographical sketches and personalia; bibliographies and bibliographic notes; financial records; MSS of his writings; copies of his articles and speeches, MSS and printed; copies of introductions, statements and book reviews written by him; lecture notes; subject files; clippings and photographs.

    Primarily re his career, after his retirement from the Berkeley Police Department, as professor of police administration at the University of California, Berkeley; as consultant; and as author.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], August Vollmer papers, BANC MSS C-B 403, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collection

    Title: Berkeley Police Department records, 1909-1932,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 72-227 c

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Photographs and snapshots - transferred to Picture Collection. (Many have been removed for separate cataloging.)
    • Original cartoon by Chamberlain [for L. A. newspaper?] - transferred to picture collection

    Biographical Sketch

    August Vollmer was born March 7, 1876 of German parents in New Orleans, and, when he was fifteen, the family moved to Berkeley, California. At the age of eighteen he opened a coal and feed store and was active in the formation of the Berkeley volunteer fire department. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, he enlisted as a private and saw service both in Cuba and in the Philippines. Returning to civilian life in Berkeley, he worked as a letter carrier and fireman. In 1905 he was elected town marshal and subsequently organized his town patrol into the Berkeley Police Department.
    In the years that followed he inaugurated a number of innovations that made his department the model of a scientific police force which attracted national and international recognition. He introduced a police training program, a radio communication system, a mobile patrol, a police records system, the use of the English modus operandi system, beat analysis, a scientific crime laboratory, development of the fingerprint system of identification, and use of the lie detector. He established police service on a career basis and introduced psychological and intelligence resting into the recruitment process. In 1919 he began actively recruiting students from the University of California, the so-called "college cops, " many of whom went on to positions of importance in police departments and penal institutions throughout the country.
    Vollmer himself taught police administration courses at the University of California summer sessions, and, taking leave of absence from the Berkeley Police Department 1929-1931, taught at the University of Chicago. After his retirement from the Berkeley force in 1931, he was appointed professor of police administration in the Political Science Department at the University of California, retiring in 1937.
    His national reputation was such that police departments and municipal officials often requested his services as a consultant, and throughout his career he conducted a number of surveys and helped reorganize police departments in some sixty American and foreign cities. A prolific contributor to scientific journals in the field of criminology and social science, he became the leading spokesman for the concept of a professional police force. His several books - The Criminal, Police and Modern Society, Crime and the State Police (written in collaboration with Alfred Parker) and Crime, Crooks and Cops (again with Parker as collaborator) became standard works in the field.
    Ill health plagued his later years, and Vollmer ended his life on November 4, 1955.

    Scope and Content

    The Vollmer Collection came to The Bancroft Library in 1956-57 as a gift of his estate. Professor V. A Leonard donated his correspondence with Vollmer in 1963, and during the course of the tape-recorded interviews conducted in 1971 as part of the August Vollmer History Project, several individuals (George Brereton, Thomas Hunter. Gene Woods and Willard Schmidt) contributed supplementary letters and photographs. Comprising 46 boxes and 7 cartons (plus 3 volumes and one folder of oversize material), the collection largely documents his career after his retirement from the Berkeley Police Department, as professor of police administration at the University of California; as consultant; as author; and as advisor and mentor to dozens of colleges and universities establishing police training programs, to the many young men, Berkeley Police Department "graduates" and "college cops" who succeeded to responsible positions in the field, and to the general public interested in criminology. The collection includes letters addressed to Vollmer; copies of letters written by him; biographical sketches and personalia; bibliographies and bibliographic notes; financial records and royalty statements; MSS of his writings; copies of his articles and speeches, MSS and printed; copies of introductions. statements and book reviews written by him; lecture notes; subject files; clippings; and photographs. Most of the photographs, however, have been removed to the portrait collection for separate cataloging. The papers as a whole are described in greater detail in the Key to Arrangement which follows.
    Material in the collection antedating 1931 consists primarily of personal letters, personalia, clippings, and material relating to his teaching position at the University of Chicago. Vollmer's career in the Berkeley Police Department is covered in a collection of records transferred to The Bancroft Library from the Department in 1972. (BANC MSS 72/227)
    Further documentation on Vollmer is available in August Vollmer: Pioneer in Police Professionalism, which consists of typed transcripts of a series of tape-recorded interviews conducted in 1971 with twelve colleagues and friends of Vollmer.