Nebraska Authors

Hartley Burr Alexander

Born 1873-04-09 Lincoln, NE (USA)

Died 1939-07-27
Claremont, CA (USA)

Claremont, CA (USA)
Oak Park Cemetery

Alexander was born in Lincoln and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1897. After study elsewhere, Alexander would serve as dean and professor of philosophy at the University from 1908 to 1928. He taught philosophy at a time when that subject was conceived much more broadly than it is now. His interests encompassed philosophy, anthropology, art and art history, and religion. He had a special interest in the culture of Native Americans. His students included Helen Blish, who introduced Amos Bad Heart Bull's ledger drawings to scholars.

When the second state capitol building began to decay, Alexander persuaded the citizens of Nebraska of their need for a new capitol building and worked with the architect, Bertram Goodhue, who eventually gave Alexander the task of designing the program of symbolism in artwork and the inscriptions on the building, including "The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen."

He designed the symbolism and inscriptions on the University of Nebraska Football Stadium (famously, "Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; in the deed the glory."), the Rockefeller Center in New York City, the Department of Justice Edifice in Washington D.C., the Oregon State Capitol, and the Los Angeles Public Library. The Syracuse Foundation purchased and renovated the former home of Alexander for both a repository of Alexander's works and artifacts as well as the Nebraska Writers Hall of Fame (1988).

A bust of Hartley Burr Alexander in the Nebraska State Capitol was created by bronze sculptor Tom Palmerton of Brownville.


Places Lived

Lincoln, NE
Monticello, IL
Syracuse, NE
Philadelphia, PA
New York City, NY
Springfield, MA
Claremont, CA

Author Of

  • Nonfiction
  • Poetry


Philosophy; Poetry; Mythology; Native Americans; Nebraska; Metaphysics


Bachelor of Arts Degree, 1897, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, 1898-1900, Philadelphia, PA
Fellow at Columbia University, 1900-1901, New York, NY
Ph.D., 1901, Columbia University, New York, NY


Editor and Contributor
Professor of Philosophy
Chairman of the University of Nebraska Philosophy Department
Architectural Consultant

Places Worked

Merriam Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, Springfield, MA
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
Scripps College, Claremont, CA
Lecturer at Sorbonne, Paris
Consultant on many architectural projects including the Nebraska State Capitol, Memorial Stadium and others


“150 Notable Nebraskans”, Number 30 on the Journal Star Sesquicentennial List of Significant Nebraskans
Considered an authority on American Indian lore
Butler Medal, Columbia University, 1917
Honorary membership in the American Institute of Architects, 1927
Hartley Burr Alexander Professorship in the Humanities named after him, Scripps College
Elected to Nebraska Hall of Fame Dec. 1988, inducted in Aug. 1990
Building renamed Hartley Burr Alexander Building in his honor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1994
Nebraska 150 Books honor for The Mystery of Life, 2017


School of American Research, Board of Directors and Member
Western Philosophical Association, President, 1917
American Philosophical Association, President, 1919
Southwest Archaeological Federation, President, 1928-29
American Association of University Professors
Societe des Americanistes de Paris
Archaeological Institute of the School of American Research
Writer's Guild, President, 1925-26
Philosophical Association, Pacific Division
Helen Blish
Wilbur Gaffney
John Rice


The Problems of Metaphysics and the Meaning of Metaphysical Explorations. 1902.
Pilgrim Alden. 1904.
Poetry and the Individual. 1906.
Mid-Earth Life. 1907.
Odes on the Generations of Man. 1910.
The Religious Spirit of the American Indian. 1910.
The Mystery of Life. 1913.
Founding of Lincoln. 1915.
The Gate City. 1916.
North American Mythology of All Races. 1916 and 1920.
Pageant of Lincoln. 1917.
1917: A Patriotic Masque. 1918.
Liberty and Democracy. 1918.
Priscilla. 1918. (Musical written with Henry Purmort Eames)
Letters to Teachers. 1919.
Latin American Mythology of All Races. 1920.
Pageant Nebraska. 1921.
Odes and Lyrics. 1922.
Nature and Human Nature. 1923.
Manito Masks. 1925.
L'art Et La Philosophie Des Indiens De L'Amerique Du Nord. 1925.
Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue--Architect . 1925 (Charles Harris Whitaker ed. Alexander was one of six contributors to the text.)
The Architectural Sculpture of the State Capitol at Lincoln, Nebraska. 1926. (with Charles Harris Whitaker)
Cooke-Daniels Lectures. 1927.
God's Drum. 1928.
Truth and Faith. 1929.
Treis Indianikoi Mythoi. 1930.
Pueblo Indian Painting. 1932.
Taiwa. 1933.
God and Man's Destiny. 1936.
World's Rim: Great Mysteries of the North American Indians. 1953.
Contemporary American Philosophers. 1930. ( V.1, Contributor)
Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology, 1867-2017. 2017. (Contributor.)

Numerous articles published in scholarly journals and magazines; see file for complete lists
Numerous inscriptions created for public buildings throughout the United States; see file for lists

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Hartley Burr Alexander

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)