7.72 Linear feet (20 document boxes and 1 restricted box)
Guilá Naquitz Cave (Mexico)
Oaxaca (Mexico : State)
C. Earle Smith Jr. (1922-1987) was one of the founders of the modern field of paleobotany. This collection documents his research and professional activities through correspondence, research notes, data, manuscripts, publications, and photographs. Represented in the collection is his fieldwork in Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Costa Rica.
Scope and Contents:
This collection documents the research and professional activities of C. Earle Smith Jr. through correspondence, research notes, data, manuscripts, publications, and photographs. Represented in the collection is his fieldwork in Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. The only materials pertaining to his early work in Bat Cave are a few pages of notes and articles about his discovery of early corn remains. Most of the collection dates from the 1960s up to his death in 1987. There is, however, some correspondence dated after his death regarding the return of specimens that he had been analyzing for others. The collection also contains his files as a professor at the University of Alabama; papers he presented; talks that he gave; and photographs of plant remains. His correspondence makes up the bulk of collection and can be found throughout the series. He corresponded with eminent figures in the fields of anthropology and botany, including Kent V. Flannery, Richard MacNeish, Paul Mangelsdorf, and other colleagues.
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 As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today.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 8 series: (1) Correspondence, 1962-1998; (2) Research, 1942-1991; (3) Writings, 1956-1987; (4) Professional Activities, 1971-1987; (5) University of Alabama, 1964-1987; (6) Writings by Others, 1960-1984; (7) Personal Files, 1950-1953, 1964-1987; (8) Photographs, circa 1960s-1982
Claude Earle Smith Jr. was one of the founders of the modern field of archaeobotany. Known as "Smitty" to his friends, he was born on March 8, 1922, in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised in Orlando, Florida. He was trained as an economic botanist at Harvard University, where he earned his bachelor's (1949), master's (1951), and doctorate (1953) in botany.
As an undergraduate student at Harvard in 1941, Smith assisted Richard Evans Schultes in collecting plants in the Colombian Amazon. While in the field, news reached Smith of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and he decided to return home to enlist in the Navy. After the war, he continued his studies at Harvard and, in 1948, he was sent by Paul C. Manglesdorf to excavate Bat Cave, New Mexico, where he and Herbert Dick, another Harvard student, discovered the earliest remains of corn. Smith coauthored with Mangelsdorf "A Discovery of Remains of Prehistoric Maize in New Mexico" (1949). Throughout his career, Smith continued to study the early domestication and distribution of corn and other plants including cotton, avocado, and beans.
With his research focused on archaeologically-recovered plant remains and their usage by humans, Smith served as botanist at various archaeological sites in Latin America, working with Richard MacNeish in Tehuacán Valley; Kent Flannery in Oaxaca Valley; Paul Tolstoy in the Basin of Mexico; Ronald Spores in Nochixtlan; Terence Grieder in La Galgada, Peru; Thomas Lynch in Callejón de Huaylas, Peru; Joyce Marcus in Cañeta Valley, Peru; Anna Roosevelt in the Middle Orinoco area of Venezuela; and Michael J. Snarkis in Costa Rica. He also conducted ethnobotanical fieldwork in the Yucatán, Panama, the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and Australia.
From 1953 to 1958, Smith served as assistant curator of botany at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and as acting director of the Taylor Memorial Arboretum. He was also a curator of botany at the Field Museum of Natural History (1959-1961) and Senior Research Botanist for the Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1962-1969). In 1970, Smith took a faculty position in the anthropology and biology departments at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa and was acting chair of the anthropology department between 1981 and 1986. He served as president of the Society for Economic Botany in 1979.
At the age of 65, Smith was killed in an automobile accident on October 19, 1987.
Lentz, David L. "C. Earle Smith, Jr. 1922-1987." Economic Botany 42, no. 2 (1988): 284-285.
Schultes, Richard Evans. "How I Met C. Earle Smith." Journal of Ethnobiology 10, no. 2 (1990): 119-121.
1922 -- Born on March 8 in Boston, Massachusetts
1940-1941 -- Studies at Harvard University
1941 -- Assists Richard Evans Schultes in ethnobotanical collection in Colombian Amazons
1942-1946 -- Serves in Navy
1946 -- Returns to Harvard to continue his studies
1948 -- Excavates Bat Cave in New Mexico and discovers earliest remains of corn
1949 -- Earns A.B. cum laude at Harvard
1951 -- Earns A.M. at Harvard
1953 -- Earns Ph.D. at Harvard University
1953-1958 -- Consultant for Smith, Kline and French Acting Director at Taylor Memorial Arboretum Assistant Curator in the Department of Botany at Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia
1959-1961 -- Associate Curator in Department of Botany at Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
1962-1969 -- Senior Research Botanist at Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
1970-1987 -- Professor of Anthropology and Botany, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
1979-1980 -- President of Society for Economic Botany
1987 -- Killed in automobile accident on October 19
Photographs from C. Earle Smith Jr.'s excavation of Bat Cave can be found in Photo Lot R86-67 Copies of Herbert W. Dick photographs of excavations at Bat Cave, 1948-1950, https://sova.si.edu/record/NAA.PhotoLot.R86-67.
At his death, C. Earle Smith Jr.'s papers were left with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alabama. They were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Smith's widow, Roberta Smith Largin.
Grant proposal reviews in Series 4: Professional Activities and materials with student grades in Series 5: University of Alabama have been restricted.
Access to the C. Earle Smith Jr. papers requires an appointment.