By vocation, Robert King Harris was a locomotive engineer who worked for the Texas Pacific Railroad Company. By avocation, he was an archeologist, an amateur, in the finest sense of the word, with a long-time scientific interest in the work. Harris first developed an interest in archeology as a young boy scout in his native Dallas, Texas. During the 1930s, he became a member of the Texas Archaeological and Paleontological Society and also began to meet informally with other amateur archeologists in Dallas. In 1940, he was one of the founders of the Dallas Archaeological Society and served that organization for many years as the editor of its publication The Record. In 1939-1941, he was a curator at the Hall of State Museum of the Dallas Historical Society; and in 1966, after his retirement, he assumed duties as the curator of collections of the Department of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University. For many years, he was also an active participant with the series of Caddoan Conferences. In these activities and his archeological work, Harris worked closely with his wife, Inus Marie Harris.
As an archeologist, Harris carried out many archeological surveys in Texas and nearby Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. In 1941, under the sponsorship of the Dallas Archaeological Society, he was field foreman of an excavation of burial sites below White Rock Spillway in Dallas County and an excavation of another burial site at the Ragland site on the East Fork of the Trinity River. Again, in 1946, he was field foreman for the excavation of a house site at Bulter Hole site in Collin County, Texas. In 1948-1949, he assisted with the Smithsonian Institution River Basin Survey's work in Whitney, Lavon, and Garza-Little Elm reservoirs. In 1954, he joined Wilson W. Crook in test excavations at the Louis Obschner site near Seagoville and, in 1956, at the well-known Lewisville site in Denton County. He also participated in 1959 in excavations at the Branch site in Lavon Reservoir and, in 1960, directed excavations of a shelter at the Kyle site and the Pearson site in the Iron Bridge Reservoir. In 1962, he worked at the Gilbert site in Rains County, and in 1963, led a survey of Forney Reservoir. In 1965, he was involved in excavations at Glenn Hill site in the same reservoir. In the 1960s and 1970s, Harris also carried out studies of artifacts relating to French trade with Caddoan Indians. Harris was also interested in the travels of early explorers in northeastern Texas including Francisco de Soto and Benard de la Harpe.
Draft container list
(1) Biographical material, papers about the Harris collection, and personal material; (2) correspondence, ca. 1964 1979; (3) alphabetical subject file; (4) manuscripts (by Harris and other authors); (5) Texas archeological survey sheets in notebooks; (6) loose survey sheets; (7) miscellaneous notes; (8) sound recordings; (9) printed and processed material; (10) Clem family papers (concerning its early days in Texas); (11) railroad material; (12) cartographic material (archeological, historical, modern maps of Texas, maps of Texas counties (many annotated to show archeological sites), Texas geological maps, miscellaneous maps outside Texas, United States Geological Survey maps, United States Geological Survey and United States Army Corps of Engineer maps annotated to show archeological sites, maps of dams and reservoirs, aerial photographs of a section of Red River; (13) photographs and illustrations Collection
The material of the collection relates to a large collection of archeological specimens which Harris began in 1924 and developed into a 100,000-piece amassment. The collection, ranging in time from the paleo-American to the historic, in part represents Harris's own field work but also incorporates material of other workers. It includes material from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, and Montana. It also includes pieces from Bolivia, Central America, Mexico, and Korea. The material is now among the holdings of the Department of Anthropology of Natural History and is managed by the department's processing lab.
Correspondents include Robert Eugene Bell, Jay C. Blaine, Katy Caver, Claire C. Davison, Robert O. Fay, Dan L. Flores, Jon L. Gibson, Vance Haynes, Lawrence H. Head, Robert Fleming Heizer, Thomas R. Hester, Marsha F. Jackson, Jerome Jacobson, Dan Jank, William K. Jones, Morton B. King, Alex Dony Krieger, Truett Latimer, Robert K. Liu, John Ludwickson, William S. Marmaduke, Roger McVay, K. R. Morgan, Dan F. Morse, Hermes Nye, Dorris L. Olds, Gregory Perino, Stephen Schmidt, Dan Scurlock, S. Alan Skinner, Len Slesick, Robert Lloyd Stephenson, Byron Sudbury, Helen Hornbeck Tanner, Lonn W. Taylor, Ted Thygesen, Marvin E. Tong, Jr., Clarence H. Webb, Mildred Mott Wedel, Frank A. Weir, Fred Wendorf, James H. Word, and Don G. Wyckoff. The collection includes some material about the family of Inus Marie Harris and their early days in Texas.
Robert King Harris Papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, Maryland