Wilbur, George B. (1887-1976)

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WILBUR, GEORGE B. (1887-1976)

George B. Wilbur was the second editor of American Imago, following the death of its founder Hanns Sachs, and Wilbur maintained that editorial position from 1947 until 1963. Wilbur was born in Larned, Kansas, on December 22, 1887, and died on Cape Cod in Hyannis, Massachusetts, on April 4, 1976.

Wilbur had first gone as an analytic patient to Otto Rank in New York City in the fall of 1926, at a time when Rank was over on one of his early trips to the United States. At the time there was little publicity about Rank's problems with Freud; Rank's The Trauma of Birth (1923) was originally dedicated to Freud, and analytic pupils abroad then thought the book had Freud's blessings. Wilbur also went to Paris in the spring of 1927 to conclude the analysis with Rank; Wilbur's wife Joy also went to Rank then for treatment. The Wilburs had put a mortgage on their house to finance the trip to Paris, which cost three or four thousand dollars, with one thousand going to Rank.

When Sachs died early in 1947, he had become a respected Boston analyst who also taught at Harvard Medical School, and Wilbur at that time went through all Sachs's papers. By then Wilbur was an established early member of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society, although he practiced on Cape Cod. Sachs and Rank had been the original Viennese co-founders of Imago in 1912, but their intimate friendship did not survive the problems that arose between Freud and Rank. Wilbur insisted that there were no bitter feelings between Sachs and Rank, but that all the bitterness was in Jones's biographical works.

Wilbur himself stayed in close contact with both Sachs and Rank; for a time, when the American Psychoanalytic Association (APA) was first considering making the Boston Psychoanalytic Society a branch affiliate, Wilbur's association with Rank meant that he had to resign temporarily in the early 1930s from his membership in the Boston group, on the understanding that he would be reinstated after the APA's acceptance of the Boston group had been secured. By 1936 Wilbur was once again a Boston analyst in good standing, although still living in South Dennis. Wilbur became a great expert on the details connected with the intellectual differences between Freud and Rank. Although Wilbur had been stigmatized within psychoanalysis for going to Rank in a year of the worst "vintage," Wilbur maintained that he had never heard anything at all in his own analysis with Rank about the concept of the birth trauma.

Wilbur remained modest and unassuming, although he had graduated from Harvard College (1912) as well as Harvard Medical School (1916) before practicing as a psychiatrist. Wilbur was originally from Kansas, and heard about Freud first from his teacher, the psychologist E. B. Holt, at Harvard. Holt, like his own mentor William James, had been part of the Boston School of psychotherapy that preceded the coming of the Freudians. For a time Wilbur had practiced analysis in Iowa, until he first moved to South Dennis on Cape Cod in 1923. He preferred seeing patients a couple of times a week, and therefore felt himself more a Rankian than a Freudian, in that he became more interested in therapeutic improvements than in strict analysis. Wilbur, known among his friends as "Jake," appears in the American poet Conrad Aiken's Ushant as "Jacob."

Paul Roazen

See also: Rank (Rosenfeld), Otto.


Lieberman, E. James. (1979). The Rank-Wilbur correspondence. Journal of the Otto Rank Association, 14 (1), 7-24.

Roazen, Paul. (2003). Interview on Freud and Jung with Henry A. Murray in 1965. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 48, 1-27.

Slochower, Harry, and Schupper, Fabian X. (1967). George Wilbur at 80. American Imago, 24(4), 287-289.

Wilbur, George B. (1943) Isador H. Coriat: Obituary. Psychoanalytic Review, 30, 479-83.

Wilbur, George (Ed.). (1951). Psychoanalysis and culture. New York: International Universities Press.