Thomas Dale Stewart was a physical and forensic anthropologist and worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History from 1931 until his death in 1997. He worked under Ales Hrdlicka until 1943, became the head curator in 1960, director of the museum in 1962, and retired in 1971. Stewart's research interests included physical and forensic anthropology and archaeology, mostly in North and South America. He also worked with the F.B.I. frequently to aid in homicide investigations, and worked extensively with the U.S. Army to identify skeletal remains from the Korean War in Operation Glory. The Thomas Dale Stewart Papers primarily deal with his life and career at the Smithsonian, particularly his research projects and publications between 1931 and 1991. Materials consist mainly of correspondence, photographic material, dossiers based on writings and research projects, and administrative files.
Scope and Contents:
The Thomas Dale Stewart Papers document his research and professional activities from 1931 to 1991 and primarily deal with his anthropological and archaeological research in North and South America. There is also significant material related to ancient human skeletal remains found in Egypt and the Middle East, Stewart's work identifying skeletal remains for the U.S. Army (Operation Glory), and the history of physical and forensic anthropology. Material documenting Stewart's work with Ales Hrdlicka and other colleagues are also represented in this collection. The collection consists of correspondence, writings and research files, project data, skeletal data punch cards, photographic and illustration materials, and administrative and financial papers.
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 As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today.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 9 series: Series 1. Biographical and Background, 1937-1983; Series 2. Correspondence, 1931-1990; Series 3. Writings and Research, 1875, 1902-1990; Series 4. Operation Glory, 1954-1957; Series 5. Professional Organizations, 1930-1990; Series 6. Trip Files, 1945-1985; Series 7. Teaching and Lectures, 1950-1970; Series 8. Exhibit Material, 1961-1969; Series 9. Photographs, 1928-1979.
Thomas Dale Stewart was a curator of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian specializing in anthropometry, early man, and forensic anthropology. He worked in the Department of Anthropology for over seventy years. Born in Delta, Pennsylvania in 1901, Stewart moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a degree at George Washington University. While attending school, he also began working at the Smithsonian in 1924 as a temporary substitute for John Baer, a family friend from Delta. After Baer died during conducting research in Panama, Stewart was invited to stay on as assistant to Ales Hrdlicka, curator of physical anthropology. Hrdlicka was impressed by Stewart's abilities and quickly took him on as a student. Promised that he would succeed Hrdlicka one day if he obtained an M.D., Stewart enrolled at The Johns Hopkins University and graduated in 1931. After graduating, Stewart was rehired by the Smithsonian as an assistant curator.
Stewart rose through the ranks of the Department of Anthropology quickly, being promoted to associate curator in 1939 and curator in 1943 after the death of his mentor Hrdlicka. Stewart was appointed head curator of the department in 1960 and director of the Natural History Museum in 1962. He continued to work at the Smithsonian well after he retired in 1971, conducting research and producing a stream of publications well into his 90s. He died in 1997 at the age of 96.
Many of Stewart's early research interests matched those of his mentor: a focus on dental caries, separate neural arch and spondylolisthesis, ossuary excavation, cranial deformations, and other examinations of archaeological remains throughout North America. While Hrdlicka was alive, Stewart provided support for many of his research projects and publications. After Hrdlicka died, Stewart expanded his interests to include forensic topics and analysis of other archaeological remains.
Anthropometry was prominent in a great deal of his work. He was the first to describe Tepexpan Man from Mexico and Midland Man from Texas. He also studied the remains of Neanderthal specimens that Ralph S. Solecki, of the Bureau of American Ethnology, had uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq. In forensic work, as Hrdlicka's heir, Stewart assumed work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement officials. Moreover, Stewart devised new methods and published books and articles concerning forensic analysis, including his Essentials of Forensic Anthropology. In closely related work during 1954-1955, the United States Army engaged Stewart to go to Japan to examine skeletal remains repatriated after the Korean War in a project called "Operation Glory."
In terms of his areal specialization, Stewart was essentially an Americanist. In North America, he worked in Alaska with Henry B. Collins in 1927, and in subsequent years he excavated several ossuaries and other sites in the Washington, D.C., vicinity. These included a site on Potomac Creek in Virginia, Piscataway sites in Maryland, and the Townsend site in Delaware. He also carried out laboratory studies and prepared reports on skeletal remains uncovered by Smithsonian colleagues. In the 1940s and 1950s, Stewart conducted field work at archaeological sites in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru.
He was awarded the Viking Medal in Physical Anthropology in 1953, the Joseph Henry Medal of the Smithsonian Institution in 1967, and an award from the physical anthropology section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in 1981.
Ubelaker, Douglas H. "Thomas Dale Stewart, A Biographer Memoir," National Academy of Sciences, 2006.
Pace, Eric. "T. Dale Stewart Dies at 96; Anthropologist at Smithsonian," The New York Times, 1997.
1901 -- Born in Delta, Pennsylvania.
1922-1927 -- Moved to Washington, D.C. and attended George Washington University.
1924 -- Began working at the Smithsonian Institution.
1927 -- Sent by Ales Hrdlicka to Alaska to collect skeletal remains with Henry Collins.
1931 -- Graduated from The Johns Hopkins University with an M.D.
1931 -- Appointed assistant curator at the Smithsonian under Hrdlicka.
1939 -- Promoted to associate curator.
1939 -- Field work in Mexico.
1941 -- Field work in Peru.
1943 -- Taught at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
1943 -- Promoted to curator after Hrdlicka dies.
1943 -- Began working on forensic cases for the F.B.I.
1945 -- Field work in Mexico.
1949 -- Field work in Peru.
1947, 1949 -- Field work in Guatemala.
1954-1955 -- Traveled to Japan to assist in the identification of skeletal remains from the Korean War (Operation Glory).
1957-1967 -- Taught at the George Washington University School of Medicine.
1960-1962 -- Served as head curator of the Department of Anthropology.
1962-1965 -- Served as the director of the National Museum of Natural History.
1964 -- Assisted in the production of Smithsonian exhibits on physical anthropology.
1966 -- Retired from administrative duties and appointed senior scientist.
1971 -- Retired from the Smithsonian.
1997 -- Died in Bethesda, Maryland.
The following manuscripts related to Stewart and his work can be found at the NAA:
NAA MS 1615- Excavations in Mancos Canyon, Colorado September 1943.
NAA MS 4669- The Townsend Site Near Lewes, Delaware 1962 by Henri Omwake.
NAA MS 4843- Report by T. Dale Stewart on Human Skeletal Material Excavated by W.M. Walker at Cedar Grove Cave, Arkansas and Natchitoches, Louisiana.
NAA MS 7025- A Tentative Closing Report on the Willin Site, Eldorado, Maryland September 1, 1952.
NAA MS 7121- "Memories from Half a Century at the Smithsonian January 11, 1978" recording.
NAA MS 7223- The Townsend Site January 1950.
NAA MS 7264- Documents Concerning Preserved Paleolithic Human Remains Found in the Vicinity of Cueva, Spain 1969-1972.
NAA MS 7357- Material Relating to Dermatoglyphics of Mayan Groups ca. 1947-1949.
NAA MS 7358- Personal Identification in Mass Disasters December 9-11 1968.
NAA MS 7359- T. Dale Stewart on the Identification of Human Remains April 6, 1970.
NAA MS 7474- Sketches of Burials at Ossuary 2, Juhle Site ca. 1971-1972.
Additional material T. Dale Stewart created while assisting Ales Hrdlicka is located at the National Anthropological Archives, The Papers of Ales Hrdlicka, ca. 1887-1943.
Many objects and artifact materials collected by T. Dale Stewart throughout his career are also held by the Smithsonian Department of Anthropology. These include skeletal remains and other materials from the Shanidar Cave in Iraq, forensic anthropological material including bone casts from Operation Glory, archaelogical materials from excavations in Maryland and Virginia including the Nanjemoy and Potomac Creek sites, and skeletal remains and other related materials from Stewart's 1927 expedition to Alaska with Henry Collins. Contact Anthropological Collections for more information.
Materials were transferred from T. Dale Stewart to the National Anthropological Archives in multiple accretions between 1975 and 2000 under accessions 1981-52, 1981-59, 1986-04, 1988-15, 1988-33, 1995-04, 1998-61, and 2000-46.The bulk of materials in this collection were transferred to the NAA from the Department of Anthropology in 1994 (1995-04).
The Thomas Dale Stewart papers are open for research.