Files containing Sturtevant's students' grades have been restricted, as have his students' and colleagues' grant and fellowships applications. Restricted files were separated and placed at the end of their respective series in boxes 87, 264, 322, 389-394, 435-436, 448, 468, and 483. For preservation reasons, his computer files are also restricted. Seminole sound recordings are restricted. Access to the William C. Sturtevant Papers requires an apointment.
William C. Sturtevant papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
The papers of William C. Sturtevant were processed with the assistance of a Wenner-Gren Foundation Historical Archives Program grant awarded to Dr. Ives Goddard. Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.
The papers of Aleš Hrdlička, curator in the Division of Physical Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, United States National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, offer considerable insight into the development of physical anthropology in the first half of this century. The papers include honors bestowed on Hrdlička, autobiographical notes, correspondence with many of the leading anthropologists of the day, anthropometric and osteometric measurements and observations (forming most of the collection), extensive photographs of Hrdlička's field work, manuscripts, research materials, and "My Journeys" (essentially a diary Hrdlička kept of his field work). In addition, there is material of a personal nature. The papers date from 1875 to 1966, but the bulk of the materials date from 1903 to 1943, the time of Hrdlička's career at the USNM.
Scope and Contents:
This collection is comprised of both professional and personal materials. The professional material includes honors bestowed on Hrdlička, autobiographical notes, correspondence with many of the leading anthropologists of the day, anthropometric and osteometric measurements and observations (forming most of the collection), extensive photographs of Hrdlička's field work, manuscripts, research materials, and "My Journeys" (essentially a diary Hrdlička kept of his field work). The personal material primarily consists of correspondence with his first wife (Marie Dieudonnée Strickler) and other family members, but there are also financial records. The papers date from 1875 to 1966, but the bulk of the materials date from 1903 to 1943, the time of Hrdlička's career at the United States National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Hrdlička investigated all major questions confronting physical anthropologists of his day (the fossil record of early humans, the arrival of humans in the Americas, human variation, evolution, and eugenics) and made valuable contributions in all these areas. Hrdlička's interests in the establishment of physical anthropology as a distinct and important field, the welfare of the Czech people, early hominids, and variation within the human species are all documented in the collection as are the services he performed for various United States government agencies. He pursued field studies in many different parts of the world, but there are relatively few field notes as such among his papers. There is instead the edited journal "My Journeys," photographs, and physical anthropological forms. There is also relatively little material on his administrative involvement in the USNM. There is no material from Hrdlička's time at the Pathological Institution of the New York State Hospitals; after he resigned, fire destroyed the anthropological records Hrdlička collected as a member of the staff. There are materials in the collection which contradict, or at least complicate, many long-held criticisms of Hrdlička, particularly claims that he was racist and opposed feminist ideas. The collection contains materials of interest to genetic research, including anthropometric measurements, hair clippings and fingerprints.
There are a few items in the collection which are dated earlier than the collection's date span. These are publication dates, and the folders containing the items have been dated accordingly, but they have not affected the dates of the series or collection. There are also a few items which are dated after Hrdlička's death. These dates reflect the fact that the collection was added to by the Department of Physical Anthropology after Hrdlička's death and have been taken into account when formulating dates for the series and collection.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or National Anthropological Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.
This collection is arranged in 37 series:
(1) Miscellaneous Personal Papers, 1875-1940
(2) Early Personal Correspondence, 1883-1919
(3) Correspondence, 1885-1953
(4) News Clippings and Printed Matter, 1893-1953
(5) Financial Papers, 1910-1943
(6) Journeys to the Southwestern United States and Mexican Indians, 1898-1919
(7) Journeys to the Dakota, Chippewa, Kickapoo, and Shawnee, 1916-1917
(11) Journey to Egypt, Europe, and Russia, 1908-1909
(12) Journey to South America, 1910, 1910-1912
(13) Journey to the Far East, 1920, 1900-1930
(14) Journey to Australia, Java, India, South Africa, and Europe, 1924-1925
(15) Anthropometric Measurements of Indians Taken at the United States National Museum, 1904-1905, most undated
(16) Bone Studies, 1893-1929, most undated
(17) Old Americans, 1914-1930
(18) Children Who Run on All Fours, 1928-1936
(19) Early Man Studies, 1906-1930
(20) European Ethnic History, 1908-1938
(21) Miscellaneous Research Notes, 1887-1930
(22) Manuscripts of Writings, 1901-1944, most undated
(23) Writings by Other Authors, 1877-1942
(24) Anthropometry, undated
(25) "From My Journeys", 1898-1938
(26) -- American Journal of Physical Anthropology -- , 1918-1931
(27) American Association of Physical Anthropologists, 1924-1931
(28) International Congress of Americanists, 1900-1928
(29) Institute of Population, 1942
(30) Department of Anthropology, 1914-1943
(31) Lecture Notes, 1920-1932
(32) Maps and Charts, 1900-1932
(33) Miscellany, 1895-1954
(34) Index Cards, 1899-1948
(35) Bibliographic Index, undated
(36) Physical Anthropology Folios, undated
(37) Photographs, 1887-1944
Aleš Hrdlička was born in Bohemia in 1869 and came to America when he was thirteen. As a young man, he was trained in medicine at New York's Eclectic Medical College and the New York Homeopathic Medical College, receiving degrees from each. His first professional work was as a private practitioner, but he gave that up in 1894 when he joined the staff of the New York State Hospital for the Insane at Middletown. There, in addition to other duties, he began studies of the physical characteristics of inmates. This set in motion developments that would eventually lead him to become one of the world's most prominent anthropologists who has sometimes been referred to as "the founder of physical anthropology in America."
In 1896, in preparation for a research appointment with the Department of Anthropology in the Pathological Institute of the New York State Hospitals, Hrdlička went to Paris and studied with Leon Manouvrier. After his return to America, he worked for a short period with the Pathological Institute and came into contact with G.S. Huntington of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. Hrdlička arranged and studied Huntington's large collection of skeletal material, thus gaining knowledge of a well-documented collection representing largely normal persons of European ancestry. He came to the attention of Frederic Ward Putnam, of the American Museum of Natural History, who arranged for his first anthropological field studies.
It was thus that Hrdlička became a member of the Hyde Expeditions to the American Southwest and northern Mexico. In 1898, he traveled to Mexico with Carl Lumholtz to study the Tarahumaras, Huichols, and neighboring tribes. In subsequent years, he returned to Mexico and the Southwest alone and studied physical characteristics and medical conditions of several American Indian tribes. With this experience and examinations of the Trenton and Lansing skeletal material for Putnam, Hrdlička came fully into the world of anthropology. In 1903, he was appointed head of the newly formed Division of Physical Anthropology in the United States National Museum.
While in his position at the Smithsonian, Hrdlička returned to the Southwest for studies of Pima and Apache children in 1905 and, in the following year, traveled to Florida to examine allegedly ancient remains of man. In 1908, he worked among a number of Indian tribes, including the Menominee, Oglala Dakota, Quinailt, Hupa, and Mohave, in a study of tuberculosis among them. In 1909, he traveled to Egypt with an expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in order to study living Egyptians and to examine remains of Egypt's past population. The following year took him to Argentina, Peru, and Mexico. In the first of these, he again examined allegedly ancient remains of man. In Peru, he made a large collection of skeletal material near Trujillo, at Pachamac, and in the Chicama Valley.
From 1912-1914, Hrdlicka undertook a physical anthropological exhibit for the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and, for this, traveled to eastern Siberia, Mongolia, Peru, and Florida. He also examined fossil remains of man in Europe and directed field work of other anthropologists in South and East Africa, St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, the Philippines, eastern Siberia, and the Ukraine. In 1915, for the Department of Justice, he assessed the racial makeup of Chippewas on the Leech Lake and White Earth reservations in Minnesota and also studied Dakota Indians. In 1917, his field work was directed toward white American families with longtime residence in the United States. In 1918, he carried out a survey of ancient sites in eastern Florida for the Bureau of American Ethnology. In 1920, he traveled to Hawaii, Japan, Korea, and Manchuria in connection with an appointment to lecture at the Peking Union Medical College. As director of the American School for Prehistoric Studies in France, he again studied fossil remains of man in Europe in 1922 and 1923. In 1925, he carried out work in India, Ceylon, Java, Australia, South Africa, and Europe. In 1927, he was again in Europe to deliver the Huxley Memorial Lecture before the Royal Anthropological Society in Great Britain. Between 1929 and 1938, he traveled frequently to Alaska to carry on an anthropological survey. In 1939, he traveled to Russia and Siberia.
Beginning with much of the skeletal collection of the Army Medical Museum, which had been transferred to the Smithsonian in 1898 before he was appointed there, Hrdlička amassed a bone collection that included, among many other specimens, the Huntington collection, casts of fossil remains of man, and a large and diverse North American collection. He also gathered a large collection of human brains. Over three hundred publications resulted from his study of this material, his field work, and his study of specimens in other museums. In addition, he was involved in many other activities. For United States government agencies, he provided services ranging from examinations of human remains for law enforcement officials to providing information and opinions concerning national origins and traits that were needed to interpret laws and form foreign policy. During World War II, he also advised government officials on policies to be pursued with certain national groups following the war.
In 1918, Hrdlička founded the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and remained its editor until 1942. In 1928, he was the major force behind the organization of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and served as its president from 1928 to 1932. He was also president of the Anthropological Society of Washington in 1907, the American Anthroplogical Association from 1925 to 1927, and the Washington Academy of Sciences from 1928 to 1929. He was chairman of Section H of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1918 and secretary of the Committee on Anthropology of the National Research Council in 1917. From the 1920s to the 1940s Hrdlicka was a member of the American Eugenics Society and prepared exhibits for various eugenics congresses. In addition, Hrdlička was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Sciences. He represented the Smithsonian at several international gatherings of scholars, including meetings of the International Congress of Americanists.
1869 March 29 -- Alois Ferdinand Hrdlička (Aleš Hrdlička) born in Humpolec, Bohemia
1882 September -- Emigrated to New York City
1888 -- While stricken with typhoid, met M. Rosenbleuth, a physician who arranged for Hrdlička to enroll at the Eclectic Medical College of New York City
1892 -- Enrolled in the New York Homeopathic Medical College and Hospital Published first article, "Scheme of Examination (Medical)," Publications of the Eclectic Medical College Graduated first in his class from the Eclectic Medical College
1894 -- Graduated first from his class from the Homeopathic Medical College Became research intern at the State Homeopathic Hospital for the Insane in Middletown, New York, where he began his studies in physical anthropology Passed state board examination (allopathic)
1895 -- Joined staff of the Pathological Institute of the New York State Hospitals as associate in anthropology
1896 -- Studied anthropology under Leon Manouvrier in Paris
1896 August 6 -- Married Marie Stickler (Dieudonnée)
1898 March-July(?) -- Accompanied Carl Lumholtz on his expedition to northern Mexico, sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), and visited the Tarahumara, Huichol, and Tepecan Indians
1899 Spring -- Resigned from the Pathological Institute to take charge of physical and medical anthropological research on the Hyde Expeditions of the AMNH to the southwestern United States
1899 August -- Hyde expedition for the AMNH to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, to excavate the site of Pueblo Bonito and to conduct somatological surveys among the Indians; visited Grand Gulch caves in southern Utah; included visits to the Navahos and southern Utes
1900 -- Hyde expedition for the AMNH to New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Colorado to conduct somatological surveys among the Indians; included visits to the Apaches, Yumas, and Pueblo Indians
1902 January-September -- Hyde expeditions for AMNH to southwestern Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico to conduct somatological surveys; included visits to the Tepecanos, Papagos, Opatas, Pimas, Yaquis, Mayos, Huichols, Otomis, Tepehuanes, Maricopas, Yumas, Yavapais, Paiutes, Walapais, and Havasupais
1902 October-December -- Hyde expedition for the AMNH to Mexico for Hrdlička to complete his somatological investigations; included visits to the Tepehuanes, Coras, Huichols, "Nahuas," "Aztecs," and Tarascans
1903 May 1 -- Became assistant curator in charge of the new Division of Physical Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, at the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution
1905 -- Expedition under the auspices of the Bureau of American Ethnology to Arizona and New Mexico to complete the observations on the tribes of this region; Hrdlička especially studied Apache and Pima Indian children
1906 February -- Expedition to western Florida to investigate remains of alleged ancient man
1907 -- President of the Anthropological Society of Washington
1908 -- Expedition to Indian schools and reservations in Wisconsin, Washington, California, Arizona, and South Dakota to study tuberculosis for a report to the International Congress of Tuberculosis
1908 December - 1909 May -- Traveled to Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, Bohemia, Russia, Poland, and Germany to examine human skeletal remains from an excavation in Egypt by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to study peoples of the Near East
1910 March 28 -- Promoted to curator in the Division of Physical Anthropology
1910 April-September -- Attended the 17th International Congress of Americanists in Buenos Aires and Mexico City Traveled to Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and Panama
1912 -- Planned and directed seven expeditions for the physical anthropology exhibit at the Panama-California Exposition held at San Diego in 1915; expeditions included Hrdlička to Siberia and Mongolia and later to Peru; Riley D. Moore to St. Lawrence Island, Alaska; Philip Newton to the Philippine Islands; Vojtech Suk to Africa; Stanislaw Poniatowski to eastern Siberia; Kazimir Stolyhwo to the Birusa caves in Siberia and to the Ukraine; and Jindřich Matiegka to Bohemia
1912 May-Summer -- Traveled to London to attend 18th International Congress of Americanists Traveled to Siberia and Mongolia for the Panama-California Exposition
1912 September -- Traveled to Geneva for the 14th International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology and Archaeology
1913 January-April -- Expedition to Peru as part the effort for the Panama-California Exposition
1914 November 18 - 1915 January 18 -- Attended Panama-California Exposition
1915 May -- Research for the Department of Justice at the White Earth and Leech Lake reservations in Minnesota to determine non-Indian mixture among Chippewas
1915 December -- Served as General Secretary for the 19th International Congress of Americanists held in Washington
1916 Fall -- Traveled to Florida to examine remains of supposed ancient man
1917 March-July -- Served as Secretary on the Committee on Anthropology of the National Research Council
1917 Summer -- "Old American" research at Yale University, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia and in Tennessee
1917 August -- Sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, traveled to Oklahoma to visit the Shawnee Agency in eastern Oklahoma and the Kickapoo Indians in McCloud to search for adequate samples of pure blood Indians
1918 -- Elected to the American Philosophical Society Served as Chairman of Section H of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Founded the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and became its long-time editor Surveyed prehistoric sites on the southwest coast of Florida
1918 October 8 -- Death of his wife Marie
1920 -- Anthropometry published by the Wistar Institute Elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain
1920 Summer -- Married Mina (Vilemina) Mansfield
1920 January-May -- Visited Japan, Korea, Manchuria, northern China, Mongolia, and Hawaii Lectured at Peking Union Medical College in China
1920 Fall -- Visited Minnesota Chippewa (at the White Earth Reservation?) to help the Department of Justice setter the question of mixed and pure bloods among the Chippewa
1921 -- Elected to the National Academy of Sciences
1922 -- Visited Spain, France, Germany, Moravia, and England Awarded honorary Sc.D. degree from the University of Prague Chairman of the American delegation to the 20th International Congress of Americanists in Rio de Janiero
1923 -- Served three and one-half months as Director of the American School in France for Prehistoric Studies Visited England, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Croatia, and Italy
1925 -- The Old Americans published by Williams and Wilkins Co.
1925 March-October -- Traveled to Australia, Java, India, South Africa, and Europe on a trip sponsored by the Buffalo [New York] Society of Natural Science to obtain cranial measurements of Australian aborigines and Tasmanians, to investigate the Rhodesian Man site in South Africa, to survey the field of early man, and to collect data to support his hypothesis about the peopling of the Earth
1925-1926 -- President of the American Anthropological Association
1926 -- Awarded honorary Sc.D. degree from University of Brno and D.Nat.Sc. degree from Brunn University
1926 May-September -- First fieldwork in Alaska: reconnaissance down the Yukon River to its mouth, around the Bering Sea and through the Bering Strait along the Alaskan coast to Point Barrow
1927 -- Received Huxley Memorial Medal and gave Huxley Lecture on "the Neanderthal Phase of Man" before the Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain
1928 -- Helped found the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA)
1928-1929 -- President of the Washington Academy of Sciences
1928-1932 -- Served as first president of the AAPA
1929 -- Fieldwork in Alaska: surveyed the Yukon River from Tanana to its mouth, to St. Lawrence and the Diomede Islands, to Cape Prince of Wales, up to Point Barrow and back to Unalaska Awarded honorary Sc.D. degree from Charles University, Prague
1930 -- Published The Skeletal Remains of Early Man, Vol. 83 Smithsonian Miscellaneous collections Published "Anthropological Survey in Alaska," Forty-sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, pp. 21-374
1930 Summer -- Fieldwork in Alaska: surveyed the Kuskokwim River from Bethel down river to Apogak and up river to Stony River
1931 -- Children Who Run on All Fours published by McGraw-Hill Book Co.
1931 Summer -- Fieldwork in Alaska: excavated at Our (Jones) point site, trial excavations at Chief's Point and other sites, and a survey of Kodiak Island
1932 -- Kober Foundation lecturer of Georgetown University
1932 Summer -- Fieldwork in Alaska: excavated at Our (Jones) Point site, trial excavations at Chief's Point and other sites, and a survey of Kodiak Island
1934 Summer -- Fieldwork in Alaska: excavated at Our (Jones) Point site and surveyed Cooks Inlet sites and the mainland opposite the Our Point site
1935 Summer -- Fieldwork in Alaska: excavated at Our (Jones) Point site
1936 Summer -- Fieldwork in Alaska: excavated at Our (Jones) Point site and surveyed the Dutch Harbor caves, some of the Aleutian Islands, and the mummy cave on Kagamil Island
1937 Summer -- Fieldwork in Alaska: surveyed the Aleutian Islands and Commander Islands
1938 Summer -- Fieldwork in Alaska: surveyed the Aleutian Islands, Dutch Harbor caves, and Commander Islands
1939 April 4 -- Testimonial dinner given by the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in honor of his 70th birthday
1939 April-June -- Recuperated in London hospital after suffering a coronary occlusion
1942 March 31 -- Retired from curatorship at United States National Museum, becoming an associate in anthropology
1942 December -- Resigned as editor of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology
1943 -- Alaska Diary published by Cattell Press
1943 September 5 -- Died of heart attack
1944 -- Anthropology of Kodiak Island published by Wistar Institute
1945 -- The Aleutian and Commander Islands and Their Inhabitants published by Wistar Institute
1969 -- Tenth Anthropological Congress of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences dedicated to Hrdlička in the 100th anniversary year of his birth
1908 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. Physiological and Medical Observations Among the Indians of Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Bulletin 34, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1908.
1912 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. Early Man in South America. Bulletin 52, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1912.
1919 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. Physical Anthropology: Its Scope and Aims. Philadelphia: The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, 1919.
1920 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. Anthropometry. Philadelphia: The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, 1920.
1925 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. The Old Americans. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins Co., 1925.
1930 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. The Skeletal Remains of Early Man. Vol. 83, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. City of Washington: The Smithsonian Institution, 1930. Hrdlička, Aleš. Anthropological Survey in Alaska. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1930.
1931 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. Children Who Run on All Fours, and Other Animal-like Behaviors in the Human Child. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1931.
1943 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. Alaska Diary, 1926-1931. Lancaster, PA: The Jacques Cattell Press, 1943.
1944 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. Anthropology of Kodiak Island. Philadelphia: The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, 1944.
1945 -- Hrdlička, Aleš. The Aleutian and Commander Islands and Their Inhabitants. Philadelphia: The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, 1945.
Additional material in the National Anthropological Archives relating to Aleš Hrdlička can be found in the papers of William Louis Abbott, Henry Bascom Collins, Herbert William Krieger, and Frank Spencer; records of the American Anthropological Association, Bureau of American Ethnology, Department of Anthropology of the United States National Museum (National Museum of Natural History), Science Service, Anthropological Society of Washington, and the United States Army Medical Museum (anatomical section, records relating to specimens transferred to the Smithsonian Institution); and glass negatives of Indians collected by the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution illustrations.
Additional related photographs can be found in Photo Lot 8, Division of Physical Anthropology collection; Photo Lot 9, Photographs of Indians for the Panama-California Exposition, San Diego; Photo Lot 24, Bureau of American Ethnology, United States National Museum photographs of American Indians; Photo Lot 70, Department of Anthropology portrait file; Photo Lot 78, Miscellaneous negatives; Photo Lot 97, Division of Ethnology collection ("USNM" Collection); Photo Lot 73-26B, Aleš Hrdlička photographs relating to the Panama-California Exhibition; Photo Lot 73-26G, Miscellany; Photo Lot 77-48, Group portraits of International Congress; Photo Lot 79-38, Division of World Archeology collection; Photo Lot 83-41, Division of Physical Anthropology collection of photographs of human bones; and Photo Lot 92-46, Anthropology lantern slides.
Related films can be found in the Human Studies Film Archive under the accession numbers HSFA 1982.2.1, 1982.2.2, 1986.12.1, and 2015.13.1.
Hrdlička's extensive collection of reprints is maintained in the Division of Physical Anthropology.
Frank Spencer's doctoral dissertation "Aleš Hrdlička, M.D., 1869-1943: A Chronicle of the Life and Work of an American Physical Anthropologist" (1979) is the only book length biography of Hrdlička. The Frank Spencer papers, 1836-1999, are available at the NAA and contain original correspondence between Hrdlička and his first wife, Marie Strickler; his childhood report card from 1869; copies of family photos obtained from Lucy Miller, Hrdlička's niece; and an audio recording of Hrdlička speaking at Wistar Institute.
Further material may be found in the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
The University of Alaska Anchorage holds diaries relating to Hrdlička's Expeditions to Alaska in 1936, 1937, and 1938 in the Alan G. May papers. The finding aid for this collection is avialable online at https://archives.consortiumlibrary.org/collections/specialcollections/hmc-0690/ and a trascription of May's diaries from the expeditions is available online at https://scholarworks.alaska.edu/handle/11122/11850
Hrdlička bequeathed his papers to the Smithsonian Institution. The Division of Physical Anthropology maintained them until they were deposited in the National Anthropological Archives in the 1960s. Some papers have come into the collection since then, most recently in 2018. These new accretions came to the collection through Donald Ortner, David Hunt, T. Dale Stewart, the Department of Anthropology, and the University of Alaska.
The Aleš Hrdlička papers are currently restricted pending ethics review. Please contact the archive to discuss access or request an appointment.
The papers in the Abbott collection appear to have been brought together in the Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology in order to process ethnological specimens from Malaya and Indonesia and to prepare an exhibit and publications. Included are some of Abbott's original letters, notes, maps, and a considerable number of photographs. Most of these materials concern the Enggano, Jakun, and Dyak. Many other documents in the collection consist of copies of or extracts from Abbott's letters, the originals of which are now in the Smithsonian Institution Archives. There are also letters and other materials of Otis Tufton Mason and Walter Hough accumulated as they worked on the collection, many simple lists of accessions compiled in the Department of Anthropology, and a few manuscripts. In addition, there are printed materials that were apparently used by the department's staff for reference purposes. Some of the photographs made in Borneo in 1914 are by Henry Cushier Raven, a field assistant of Abbott and, later, a collector financed by Abbott.
Additional materials of Abbott and Raven are in the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and their material (often duplicate photographs) are included in several collections in the National Anthropological Archives.
Scope and Contents:
William Louis Abbott, although formally trained in medicine, chose instead to
devote his time and inherited wealth to worldwide exploration and the collection of
natural history specimens and ethnological artifacts. The Abbott papers in the National
Anthropological Archives reflect his collecting activities in the East Indies, and the work
on his collections from that region by United States National Museum personnel,
especially Otis Tufton Mason, curator of ethnology. The collection includes
correspondence, maps, illustrations of artifacts, manuscripts, lists of objects in the Abbott
collection in the Smithsonian Department of Anthropology, and photographic prints and
negatives. In addition, there is a subject file which contains information on a variety of
topics relating to Indonesia and Malaysia. The materials date from the 1890s to the early
decades of this century.
This archival collection forms a valuable complement to the collection of artifacts
housed in the National Museum of Natural History. (Abbott's collections from Indonesia
are described by Dr. Paul M. Taylor, curator of Asian ethnology, in the Museum
Anthropology Newsletter, April, 1985.) The subject file and lists of objects provide data
on certain specific artifacts and their uses and Abbott's correspondence contains his
observations of the daily life of the various peoples from whom the objects were
collected. These documents are supplemented by a generous photographic record and
sketch maps which outline the routes he followed. The papers focus on the Malay
Peninsula and Archipelago, the region closest to Abbott's heart and to which he dedicated
over a decade before eye disease forced him to leave the tropics.
In addition to Abbott's own materials, there are notes by museum staff, including
descriptions of artifacts, and manuscripts of articles mostly by Mason who was
particularly interested in basketry. The bulk of the correspondence is between Abbott,
Otis Mason, Walter Hough, and Cecil Boden Kloss who accompanied Abbott on several
expeditions. Other correspondents include Cyrus Adler, Jesse Walter Fewkes, William
H. Furness, Alfred Cort Haddon, Ales Hrdlicka, Mary Lois Kissell, Elmer D. Merrill,
William Palmer, Richard Rathbun, and Charles Clark Willoughby. Most of the letters are
brief and discuss proposed work on the Abbott collections, bibliographic sources, and
Additional material in the National Anthropological Archives relating to William
Louis Abbott is contained in the papers of Ales Hrdlička and of Herbert W. Krieger, the
Manuscript and Pamphlet File of the United States National Museum Department of
Anthropology, and the photographic collection of the United States National Museum
Division of Ethnology. Because Abbott donated material to a variety of departments in
the Smithsonian, his original written material is located in several other Smithsonian
departments as well. There are personal letters to his mother and sister as well as
Smithsonian personnel in the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Field notebooks
including detailed sketch maps of collecting stations are in the libraries of the
departments of Mammals and of Birds.
The spelling of place names used here are those of Abbott who frequently wrote
them as they sounded to him.
Collection arranged into 9 series: (1) Correspondence, 1896-1919; (2) Subject file; (3) Register of accessions, 1890-1906; (4) Lists of objects by accession number and location; (5) Lists of objects by type or geographic location; (6) Drafts of unpublished articles with working materials; (7) Printed material; (8) Photographic prints; (9) Photographic negatives.
William L. Abbott studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and, after receiving an M.D., continued his training in London. Although a highly successful student, he seems never to have been fully committed to medicine. Instead, around 1880, using his own resources, he turned to a life of exploration and the study of natural history.
Abbott's early expeditions were in the United States, but, in time, he went abroad, at ever increasing distances, to the Greater Antilles, East Africa, Kashmir, and Turkestan. In 1896, he began work in Malaya and Indonesia that would largely occupy him until 1915. Using Singapore as a base, he sailed his ship, the Terrapin, to points on both coasts of the Malayan Peninsula, Trang in Thailand, the Anambas Islands, the Mergui Archipelago, the Nicobars and Andamans, both costs of Sumatra and the nearby islands (notably Nias, the Mentawai Islands, and Enggano), the Rhio Archipelago, and Borneo. On many of thes voyages, he collected both biologcial and ethnological specimens and photographs. At times, however, he was accompanied by an Englishman, Cecil Boden Kloss, who handled the ethnological work. Kloss retain his own notes and many of his photographs.
Abbott's later work, between 1916 and 1923, was carried out in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. After this, he retired to a farm on the Elk River in Maryland.
Abbott has been described as one of the great field naturalists of all time simply for the quantity of material he collected. Virtually the only body of work he left, in fact, is his large collection of specimens and notes, letters, and photographs that relate to them. Although he contributed to the collections of several museums, the chief benefactor of his work was the United States National Museum. Its staff and associated produced around forty publications based on his material. Abbott himself published very little.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE LIFE OF WILLIAM LOUIS ABBOTT
1860 February 23 -- Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1880 -- Collected birds in Iowa and North Dakota
1881 -- Bachelor of Arts, University of Pennsylvania
1883 -- Collected birds in Cuba and Santo Domingo
1884 -- Doctor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
1884-1886 -- Postgraduate work in England Licentiate of Royal College of Surgeons and Royal College of Physicians
1886 -- Received inheritance and discontinued formal practice of medicine
1887-1889 -- Exploration of Taveta region near Mt. Kilimanjaro with William Astor Chandler. Collection donated to United States NationalMuseum
1890 -- Exploration and collection in Zanzibar, Seychelles Islands, and Madagascar
1891 -- Ethnological collections in the U.S. National Museum from Kilima-Njaro, East Africa,Annual Report of the U.S. National Museum for 1891, pages 381-398Exploration and collection in India, including Baltistan, Karachi, Kashmir, and Srinagar
1892 -- Exploration and collection in Vale of Kashmir, Baltistan, Aden, Seychelles Islands, and Aldabra Island
1893 -- Exploration and collection in Seychelles Islands; India, including Kashmir and Srinagar; Leh Ladakh; Sinkiang, China; and Eastern Turkistan
1894 -- Continued exploration and collection in region of Eastern Turkistan, Pakistan, India, and Ceylon
1895 -- Exploration and collection in Madagascar and Kashmir
1896 -- Exploration and collection in Malay Peninsula, including:Jan-Feb – PerakFeb-Mar – CantonApr-Nov – Trang Province, Siam, including Pramon, Tyching, and Penang
1897 -- Exploration and collection:Jan -- TrangApr-May -- PenangMay-Dec -- India
1898 -- Volunteered in Spanish-American War with William A. Chambers as Irregular Horse in Florida, and served in CubaTravel in Singapore and China
1899 -- Construction of schooner TerrapinExploration and collection accompanied by Cecil Boden Kloss:Jan-Mar -- TrangMarch -- SingaporeMar-Apr -- JavaJul-Sept -- Lingga and Anamba islandsOct-Nov - Singapore, PenangDec - Junkseylon
1900 -- Exploration and collection accompanied by Kloss:Jan-Mar -- Burma, Mergui ArchipelagoJun-Aug -- Natuna ArchipelagoNov-Dec -- Penang, Burma, Mergui Archipelago
1902 -- Exploration and collection accompanied by Kloss:Jan-Feb -- Banjak Islands, Lasia, BabiFeb-Mar -- Western SumatraMar -- NiasApr-May -- Pahang, Malaya; Singapore and Straits IslandsAug-Sep -- Bintang, Rhio ArchipelagoOct-Nov -- SimalurNov-Jan 03 -- Pagi Islands
1903 -- Exploration and collection:Jan -- Western SumatraFeb -- Pulo TelloApr -- Penang, SingaporeMay-June -- Karimun IslandsJuly-Aug -- Rhio-Lingga ArchipelagoAug-Sep -- Eastern SumatraOct -- PenangNov-Mar 04 -- Burmese coast, including Victoria Point, Mergui Archipelago, and Tenasserim
1904 -- Exploration and collection:Apr -- Penang and Straits of MalaccaMay-Jun -- Banka IslandJul-Aug -- Billiton IslandAug-Sep -- Karimata IslandOct -- Benkulen, SumatraNov-Dec -- Engano
1905 -- Exploration and collection:Dec 04-Feb- Western SumatraFeb-Mar -- NiasJun-Sep -- Western Borneo, including Pontianak and Kapuas riversNov-Jan 06 -- Eastern Sumatra Designated Honorary Associate in Zoology by the U.S. National Museum
1906 -- Visited Hong Kong and Japan (April-May)Exploration and collection accompanied by Kloss:Oct-Feb 07 -- Easter Sumatra, including Bengkalis and Rupat islands and Siak River
1907 -- Exploration and collectionMar -- Rhio ArchipelagoMay -- Islands of South China Sea, including Direction Island, Datu, Temayer, Lamukutan, Panebangan, and PelapisMay-Sep -- Western Borneo, including Kapuas and Simpang riversNov-Dec -- Java Sea, including Bawean Island
1908 -- Exploration and collection:Dec 07-Mar- Southeastern Borneo, including Pulo Laut and Pulo SebukuJun -- Southwestern BorenoNov -- Java Sea
1909 -- Exploration and collection:Dec 08-Apr -- Pulo Laut and eastern Borneo, including Pasir RiverOnset of partial blindness caused by spirochetosis, and treatment in Aachen, Germany. Illness forced Abbott to suspend collecting activities in tropics.
1910-1915 -- Exploration and collection in Kashmir
1912-1915 -- Donated funds to United States National Museum for expedition to Borneo by Henry Cushier Raven
1914 -- Brief visit and collection in Molucca Islands and Celebes, accompanied by his sister
1915-1916 -- Donated funds for expedition by Raven to Dutch East Indies, especially Celebes
1916 -- Exploration and collection in Dominican Republic
1917-1918 -- Exploration and collection in Haiti
1918 -- Interruption of field work by Abbott because of servere illness (dysentary) and by Raven because of the war
1919-1923 -- Exploration and collection in Hispaniola
1920 -- Donated funds to United States National Museum for botanical collection in Haiti by Emery C. Leonard, aid in Division of Plants
1920-1922 -- Donated funds to United States National Museum for expedition to Australia by naturalist Charles M. Hoy
1923-1924 -- Donated funds to United States National Museum for expedition to China by Charles M. Hoy until Hoy's death in the field; workconcluded by Reverend David Crockett Graham
1925-1927 -- Donated funds to United States National Museum for expeditions to Hispaniola
1928 -- Donated funds to United States National Museum for expedition to China
1928 -- Donated funds to United States National Museum for expedition to Hispaniola by Arthur J. Poole, Division of Mammals
1928-1931 -- Donated funds to United States National Museum for archeological expedition to Hispaniola by Herbert William Krieger, curator, Division of Ethnology
1932 -- Donated funds to United States National Museum for archeological expedition to Cuba
1934 -- Purchase and donation of birds of the Himalayas for the United States National Museum
April 2, 1936 -- Death of William Louis Abbott at his farm near North East, Maryland of heart disease after a long illnessBequest to Smithsonian Institution any of books and papers desired (278 volumes accepted) and approximately $100,000 (1/5 of estate) to promote zoological researchers
William Louis Abbott was a self-trained and self-sustaining collector who
donated large numbers of ethnological artifacts, zoological specimens, and funds to the
United States National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution around the turn of the
twentieth century. The Abbott Papers in the National Anthropological Archives were
apparently compiled by the staff of the Department of Anthropology, especially Otis
Tufton Mason, curator of ethnology, in order to process incoming collections. The
correspondence and printed materials relate primarily to Abbott's collecting activities and
to Mason's research on Abbott's collections.
The William Louis Abbott collection is open for research. Access to the William Louis Abbott collection requires an appointment.
William Louis Abbott collection, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution