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Paul Lemen Cooper papers

Cooper, Paul L. (Paul Lemen), 1909-1961  Search this
River Basin Surveys  Search this
Cranbrook Institute of Science  Search this
University of Chicago -- archeological expeditions  Search this
3 Linear feet (5 boxes)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
South Dakota -- Fort Randall Reservoir -- archeology
Illinois -- Fulton County -- archeology
Illinois -- Massac County -- Kinkaid Site -- archeology
Colorado -- Lawry Ruin -- archeology
North Dakota -- Heart Butte Reservoir -- archeology
Scope and Contents:
This collection is comprised of the professional papers of archaeologist Paul Lemen Cooper, who conducted extensive field work in Nebraska, the Dakotas, and the Missouri River Basin. Included are correspondence, field notes, survey forms, published writings, photographs, maps, research materials, and clippings from periodicals, as well as various personal documents. Though the collection spans Cooper's entire life, the majority of the papers focus on his work as archaeologist and field director of the Missouri Basin Project (a division of the River Basin Survey).

A significant portion of the correspondence and River Basin Survey files are duplicates created through reflex copying, a process that creates a negative copy. These materials are consequently difficult to read.

Please note that the collection contains images of human remains.

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 As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today.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.
Collection is arranged into the following series: 1. Correspondence, 1933-1960 (bulk 1950-1953); 2. Research, 1946-1954; 3. Writings, 1950-1958; 4. Personal, 1909-1962 (bulk 1938-1954); 5.Photographs, circa 1950s.
Biographical Note:
Paul Lemen Cooper was born February 11, 1909 in Cuba City, Wisconsin. Shortly after receiving his B. A. in sociology and anthropology from the University of Wisconsin in 1931, Cooper traveled to the Southwest as part of an archaeological expedition from the Field Museum of Natural History. This experience piqued his interest in archaeology, and for the next two decades he would spend at least a portion of each year conducting field work.

During the 1930s Cooper's field research was largely conducted in Illinois, the Tennessee Valley, and Nebraska. He specifically worked as an archaeologist with the Nebraska State Historical Society under the direction of A. T. Hill, with whom he collaborated on several publications. It was also at this time that Cooper developed the site numbering system still used in archaeology today. In addition, Cooper also worked for a time as a graduate assistant in the Anthropology Department at the University of Nebraska.

In 1938, Cooper was designated the Supervisor and State Director of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Archaeological, Paleontological and Museum Project. It was here that he gained the necessary skills to create an adequate laboratory and administration with a limited budget, skills that would become necessary in later field research. After three years with the WPA, Cooper returned to school. He worked as an assistant at Columbia University, while completing coursework towards a Ph.D. At the same time, Cooper also acted as editorial assistant for the Society for American Archaeology.

From 1946 to 1954 Cooper devoted the majority of his time to the Missouri Basin Project of the River Basin Survey (RBS) in Lincoln, Nebraska. A large portion of his research and publications reflect his work in this particular area. From 1950 to 1952, Cooper was the Field Director of the Missouri Basin Project under the Director of the RBS, Frank H. H. Roberts, Jr. Despite some minor problems Cooper faced with personnel, he was able to appraise entire sites on the basis of a limited collection, as well as work proficiently on a small budget.

Cooper spent the last few years of his life in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, working with the firm of Robert G. Cooper and Associates. He passed away on April 14, 1961, at the age of 52.

Sources Consulted: Kivett, Marvin, F. 1962. Paul Lemen Cooper 1909-1961. American Antiquity 27(4): 571-572.

Selected Bibliography

1936 -- Archaeology of Certain Sites in Cedar County, Nebraska. Chapters in Nebraska Archaeology 1(1): 5-145.

1937 -- with A. T. Hill. The Schrader, Champe, and Fremont I Sites. Nebraska History Magazine 17(4): 221-292.

1938 -- with A. T. Hill. The Archaeological Campaign of 1937. Nebraska History Magazine 18(4): 237-359.

1940 -- Report of Explorations. Nebraska History Magazine 20(2): 94-151.

1946 -- The Institute Explores the Norton Site. Cranbrook Institute of Science News Letter 15(6):71-73.

1949 -- Recent Investigations in Fort Randall and Oahe Reservoirs, South Dakota. American Antiquity 14(4): 300-310 An Archaeological Survey of the Fort Randall Reservoir, South Dakota. Proceedings of the Fifth Plains Conference for Archaeology, University of Nebraska Laboratory of Anthropology, Note Book 1.

1955 -- The Archaeological and Paleontological Salvage Program in the Missouri Basin, 1950-1951. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 126(2).

1958 -- Archaeological Investigations in the Heart Butte Reservoir area, North Dakota. River Basin Surveys Papers No. 9, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 169: 1-40.


1909 -- Born February 11 in Cuba City, Wisconsin

1931 -- Works in the Southwest as a member of the archaeological expedition from the Field Museum of Natural History Receives B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in Sociology and Anthropology

1933-1935 -- Conducts field research in Illinois

1934 -- Graduate assistant in Anthropology at the University of Nebraska

1936-1938 -- Serves as archaeologist for the Nebraska State Historical Society, where he originates the site numbering system

1938-1941 -- Supervisor and State Director of the WPA Archaeological, Paleontological and Museum Project

1941-1944 -- Acts as an assistant in Anthropology at Columbia University while completing his Ph.D.

1943-1946 -- Editorial Assistant for the Society of American Archaeology

1946-1955 -- Archaeologist with the Missouri Basin Project of the River Basin Survey in Lincoln, Nebraska

1950-1952 -- Acts as Field Director to the Missouri Basin Project

1955-1961 -- Associated with the firm of Robert G. Cooper Associates of Rice Lake, Wisconsin

1961 -- Dies on April 14 at the age of 52
Related Collections:
Other materials relating to Paul Lemen Cooper at the National Anthropological Archives can be found in the William Duncan Strong papers, the Frederick Johnson papers, Manuscript 4846, the Records of the Bureau of American Ethnology, and the River Basin Surveys Records.
The Paul Lemen Coopers papers are open for research.

Access to the Paul Lemen Cooper papers requires an appointment.
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Paul Lemen Cooper papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
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