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James Callow was born in June 1928. He received his Bachelor of Social Science in History and English from John Carroll University in 1950. He received his Masters degree in English at the University of Toledo in 1952. His doctorate was awarded in American Culture in 1964 from Western Reserve University. His dissertation was entitled, “Kinickerbocker Writers Among the Visual Arts.”
James Callow joined the University of Detroit as an English instructor in 1954. In 1960 he was promoted to assistant professor, in 1966 to associate professor, and in 1969 to full professor.
Dr. Callow’s primary areas of instruction were English composition, English and American literature, children’s literature, folklore, and folklore archiving.
In addition to his teaching, research, and writing efforts, Dr. Callow headed up library acquisitions for the department of English and was a founding member of the Long-Range Library Planning Committee.
A few years after receiving his doctorate, Dr. Callow used his dissertation as the basis for publishing an expanded volume entitled, Kindred Spirits: Knickerbocker Writers and American Artists, 1807-1855. It is considered one of the premier works concerning the history and relationship of American writers and artists in the first half of the nineteenth century.
In 1964, Dr. Callow and Frank Paulsen founded the Detroit Folklore Archive at the University of Detroit. For the next thirty years Dr. Callow worked to make this one of the finest collections of its type in the country. Dr. Callow was instrumental in the computerization of the entire collections in 1972 using a punch card system. In 2010, Dr. Callow turned ownership of the collection over to the University Library which, through the assistance of a Detroit Area Library Network (DALNET) grant, will digitize the collection and made it accessible via the Internet.
One of Dr. Callow’s primary areas of research during his career was the history of the New York Sketch Club. Dr. Callow received a number of grants to aid him in the research and collection of the Sketch Club minutes, including a grant from the American Philosophical Society in 1972; a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1973; and yet another NEH grant in 1978. By 1994, Dr. Callow had completed three volumes of the Minutes of the Old New York Sketch Club, 1829-1869.
In 1976, James Callow and Robert James Reilly joined together as co-authors of Barnes and Noble’s Guide to American Literature from Beginnings Through Walt Whitman. A second volume followed the next year, American Literature from Emily Dickinson to Present.
In 1978, Fr. Malcolm Carron, S.J., president of the University of Detroit, honored Dr. Callow by presenting him the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research. Dr. Callow’s efforts as an educator, folklore expert, developer of the computerized folklore archives, head of English library acquisitions, author, and recipient of multiple foundation and government grants in the humanities were all cited by Fr. Carron as factors in the award.
On January 1, 1995, after forty years with the University of Detroit and the University of Detroit Mercy, Dr. Callow retired from full-time teaching so that he could devote more time to finishing his years of work on the Minutes of the Old New York Sketch Club.
Dr. Callow was a member of the American Studies Association, the New York Folklore Society, the Modern Language Association, the Archives of American Art, the Society of Architectural Historians, the Societe Internationale d’Ethnologies et de Folklore, and the American Folklore Society.
Dr. Callow was awarded Professor Emeritus status in 1995.