Frank Spencer was a historian of biological anthropology who began his career as a medical laboratory technician. His papers include correspondence, manuscripts, notes, research files, teaching materials, photographs, and audiotapes. Spencer's research on the Piltdown hoax as well as the Piltdown research of Ian Langham, whose work Spencer continued after his death in 1984, and Spencer's research on the life and career of Aleš Hrdlička for his dissertation are both represented in the collection.
Scope and Contents:
This collection documents the research and professional activities of anthropologist Frank Spencer through his correspondence, manuscripts, notes, research files, teaching materials, photographs, and audiotapes. As a historian of physical anthropology, Spencer did a great deal of archival research. Well-represented in the collection is Spencer's research on the Piltdown hoax as well as the Piltdown research of Ian Langham, whose work Spencer continued after Langham's death in 1984. Among the materials collected are negatives of Piltdown-related papers and negatives of Sir Arthur Keith's papers held at the Royal College of Surgeons. Spencer, who theorized that Keith was behind the Piltdown hoax, had organized his papers with a grant from Wenner-Gren. Also represented in the collection is Spencer's research on the life and career of Aleš Hrdlička for his dissertation. Although most of Hrdlička's papers and photos that Spencer collected are copies of materials held at the National Anthropological Archives (NAA), the collection does contain original correspondence between Hrdlička and his first wife, Marie Strickler; his childhood report card from 1869; and copies of family photos obtained from Lucy Miller, Hrdlička's niece. The collection also contains an audio recording of Hrdlička speaking at Wistar Institute. Spencer's 1975 taped interviews with Henry Collins, Harry Shapiro, Ashley Montagu, and Lucille St. Hoyme can also be found in the collection. Other projects represented in the collection include A History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia, The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence, and Fallen Idols, Spencer's unpublished book on the history of scientific attitudes towards human origins. In addition, the collection contains copies of Physical Anthropology News, which Spencer co-founded and edited. Photos in the collection include images of Frank Spencer as well as of the 1981 and 1988 annual meetings of the Association of American Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) and the 1980 symposium Spencer and Noel T. Boaz organized on the history of American physical anthropology.
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.
Frank Spencer was born in Chatham, England, on May 1, 1941. Best known as a historian of biological anthropology and for his book Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery (1990), Spencer began his career as a medical laboratory technician, publishing two books on medical laboratory procedures in 1970 and 1972. He immigrated to Canada, where he earned his BA in anthropology at the University of Windsor in Ontario in 1973. The following year, he enrolled at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with C. Loring Brace as his advisor. Spencer wrote his dissertation on the life and career of Aleš Hrdlička and was awarded his PhD in biological anthropology in 1979. That same year he joined the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Queens College as an assistant professor and was soon promoted to department chair in 1984. Over the course of his career, he wrote and edited several books on the history of physical anthropology including A History of Physical Anthropology, 1930-1980 (1992), The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence (1984), Ecce Homo: An Annotated Bibliographic History of Physical Anthropology (1986), and History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia (1997). Spencer was also a co-founder and editor of the Physical Anthropology News bulletins. It was his book Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery, however, that garnered him the most attention. In this book, he theorized that the well-respected Sir Arthur Keith master-minded the Piltdown hoax. On May 30, 1999 Frank Spencer died of cancer at the age of 58.
1941 -- Born on May 1 in Chatham, Kent, England
1964 -- Obtained Associate diploma in Clinical Microbiology, [Britain], Institute of Medical Laboratory Sciences
1966 -- Fellowship diploma in Clinical Parasitology
1971 -- Advanced diploma in Clinical Biochemistry & Microbiology, Canadian Society of Medical Laboratory Technology
1973 -- BA (Anthropology) University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada
1974 -- MA (Biological Anthropology) University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
1976-1977 -- Adjunct Lecturer, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Windsor
1979 -- PhD, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, "Biological Anthropology, Aleš Hrdlička, MD (1869-1943): A Chronicle of the Life and Work of an American Physical Anthropologist"
1979-1982 -- Hired as Assistant Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Queens College
1982 -- Published A History of American Physical Anthropology, 1930-1980
1983 -- Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Queens College
1984 -- Published The Origins of Modern Humans: A World Survey of the Fossil Evidence
1986 -- Full professor, Dept. of Anthropology, Queens College Published Ecce Homo: An Annotated Bibliographic History of Physical Anthropology
1990 -- Published Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery Published The Piltdown Papers 1908-1955: The Correspondence and Other Documents Relating to the Forgery
1997 -- Published The History of Physical Anthropology: An Encyclopedia
1999 -- Passed away on May 30 of cancer
Aleš Hrdlička papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Donated in 2002 by Elena Peters-Spencer, wife of Frank Spencer.
To protect the privacy of individuals, some materials have been separated and access to them has been restricted.
Access to the Frank Spencer papers requires and appointment.
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: email@example.com).
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish or broadcast materials from the collection must be requested from the National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation Records, Box and Folder Number; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.
Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation Search this
16 Photographic prints
Channel Islands (Calif.)
Photographs by Arthur R. Sanger from excavations on the Channel Islands, California, around 1926.
Scope and Contents:
The collection contains 16 photographic prints shot by Arthur R. Sanger on the San Nicholas, San Miguel, and Santa Rosa Islands in Southern California. The majority of these photographs contain images of human remains and are therefore restricted due to cultural sensitivity. The photographs are undated, but likely accompanied Sanger's first collection sold to the Museum of the American Indian in 1926, so were likely shot sometime before that date. In addition to photographs of the excavation of burials, there are a handful of landscape shots of the islands themselves.
P07766 - P07781.
Arranged by catalog number.
Biographical / Historical:
Arthur Randall Sanger (1880-1971) was born in Palmer, Massachusetts, but later moved to California where he spent the rest of his life. Sanger was a founder of the Catalina Island Yacht Club and owner of the yacht Dreamer which he used to access the California Channel Islands where he excavated an untold number of Native burials. He also claimed to have excavated stone pipes and effigies from various island sites. Sanger maintained a long term relationship with George Gustav Heye and the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation selling multiple collections of these excavated California materials to the Museum between the years of 1926 and 1951. It was later discovered that Sanger, along with Orville T. Littleton, knowingly sold many fraudulent materials to the museum, as well as to other institutions and private collectors. It is believed by several scholars that Sanger made many of the effigies himself. For more information about the controversy see;
Lee, Georgia. Fake Effigies from the Southern California Coast? Robert Heizer and the Effigy Controversy in Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 15(2): 195-215, 1993
Koerper, Henry C. and and Paul G. Chace. Heizer, Strandt, and the Effigy Controversy in Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 17(2):280-284, 1995
Koerper, Henry C., and Sherri Gust. Additional Revelations Concerning Arthur Sanger and Archaeological Fakery in Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly
Koerper, Henry C. More on Arthur Sanger's Skullduggeries in Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly. Volume 52, Number 2. 2016
Sold to the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation by Arthur R. Sanger along with field collections in 1926.
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Thursday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: email@example.com). Photographs with burials, human remains or any other cultural sensitivity are restricted.
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to firstname.lastname@example.org. For personal or classroom use, users are invited users to download, print, photocopy, and distribute the images that are available online without prior written permission, provided that the files are not changed, the Smithsonian Institution copyright notice (where applicable) is included, and the source of the image is identified as the National Museum of the American Indian.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Arthur R. Sanger photographs from the California Channel Islands, Item Number; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.