Harrison Mosher Hayford was born November 1, 1916 in Belfast, Maine, the son of Ralph Hayford and Marjorie Chase Hayford. A scholar of American literature, Hayford held academic positions at a smattering of universities before joining the faculty of Northwestern University in 1942, where he remained until his retirement in 1986. Hayward's research focused on Herman Melville, as well as his contemporaries (Hawthorne, Emerson and Poe).
Hayford's father was a dairy farmer and his mother a school teacher. Hayford grew up on the family farm and attended a one-room school where his mother taught for many years. After graduating from Crosby High School in Belfast in 1934, Hayford enrolled at Tufts College (today Tufts University) in Medford, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in 1938 and an M.A. in American Literature in 1940. He received his Ph.D. in American Literature from Yale University in 1945; his dissertation, a biographical and critical study of the personal and working relationship between Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, set the course for a lifetime of work on Melville.
Hayford was a teaching fellow at Tufts College from 1938 until 1940, then taught at Yale University from 1941-1942. He came to Northwestern University as an instructor in the Department of English in 1942. He was appointed Assistant Professor in 1947 and Associate Professor in 1953. He became a Professor in 1963 and professor emeritus in 1986 after 44 years at Northwestern University. Hayford held various visiting professorships, including Harvard University in 1962, University of Florence, 1956-1957, and University of Paris, Sorbonne, 1977-1978. He received a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1951, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1962 and a Fulbright Lectureship in 1977.
Hayford's research interests throughout his career focused on the work of Herman Melville and Melville's contemporaries, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Edgar Allen Poe. As the world's leading expert on Herman Melville, Hayford was very involved in the Melville Society (founded 1947), and served as its president in 1955. In addition to his interest in Melville, Hayford also studied American humor and folklore, teaching courses, collecting examples and corresponding with various colleagues, especially Walter B. Scott, regarding the subject.
The most significant aspect of Hayford's scholarly career involved his role as General Editor of the Northwestern/Newberry Library edition of The Writings of Herman Melville. The “Melville Editing Project,” as it came to be known, produced what are considered to be the standard texts of most of the works of Herman Melville. This project was undertaken under the auspices of the Modern Language Association's Center for Editions of American Authors (CEAA) whose principle purpose was to publish definitive critical editions of the complete works of major American authors. The volumes published under Hayford's editorship included Omoo (1968), Typee (1968), The Writings (1968), Redburn (1969), Mardi and A Voyage Thither (1970), White Jacket (1970), Pierre (1971), Israel Potter (1982), The Confidence Man (1984), The Piazza Tales (1987), Moby Dick (1988), Journals (1989), and Clarel (1991). Hayford, who served on the executive council of the CEAA for several years, also produced the CEAA edition of the journals and notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Aside from the Melville Project, Hayford edited several scholarly editions of books by Herman Melville, including Billy Budd (University of Chicago Press, 1962), a Norton Critical Edition of Moby Dick (1967), and Omoo (Hendricks House, 1969). Hayford's other important books included Reader and Writer (1954), The Somers Mutiny Affair (1959) and Moby Dick as Doubloon (1970). Hayford published numerous articles and book reviews, chiefly on American literature, and also was involved as a scholarly consultant on several film projects, including a PBS documentary on the life of Herman Melville.
In addition to his academic career, Hayford was a book collector and bookseller. His Evanston home housed his collection of thousands of books, primarily in American literature. Throughout his life he made important sales and contributions of books to various individuals and universities in the U.S. and Japan, helping them establish or expand their collections in American literature.
Hayford married Josephine Wishart on May 28, 1940. They had four children, Charles, Ralph, Alison and Deborah. Josephine Hayford was a professor at Kendall College in Evanston for many years. She died April 24, 1996. The Hayfords were part of a vibrant circle of academic colleagues and their spouses from various Northwestern departments, including Walter B. Scott (Speech), Richard Ellmann (English) and George Cohen (Art). Their friendships were marked by extensive and lively correspondence and the production of many parodies, cartoons and spoofs.
Harrison M. Hayford died in Evanston on December 10, 2001.
Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:
Harrison M. Hayford (1916-2001) Papers
The Harrison Hayford papers fill seventy-two boxes, spanning the years 1916 to 2002. The bulk of the papers consist of correspondence files, Northwestern University teaching files, Northwestern University student files and, most significantly, the Herman Melville Editing Project files.
Walter Bernard Scott (1906-1980) Papers
Teacher, critic, and parodist Walter B. Scott taught Dramatic Literature in Northwestern's School of Speech (now the School of Communication) from 1939-1976. His Papers document his life, teaching career, and writings. A highlight of the collection is Scott's engagement with a vibrant group of colleagues.