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Chapter 3
Growth of Interest in American Indian Antiquities, 1889-1906
Ronald F. Lee

Public and scholarly interest in American Indian antiquities grew rapidly after 1889, in spite of a lull during the depression years of 1893-97. As early as 1885, Charles Eliot Norton and his associates in the Archaeological Institute of America saw the need for affiliated groups in cities other than Boston. In that year they admitted chapters from Baltimore and New York. By 1898 there were affiliated groups in Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Madison, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Washington, DC. During the next few years nine more chapters were added, among them societies in Colorado, Utah, and Washington and two in California.35 Members of these flourishing groups came from influential circles, in widely distributed Congressional districts, and their articulate support impressed Congressional committees when legislation to protect antiquities came before Congress.36

The possibility of a national organization of anthropologists was broached within "Section H" of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as early as 1896. In that year, Franz Boas, often called the founder of modern anthropology, organized the Anthropological Club in New York. In 1899 it was amalgamated with the virtually dormant American Ethnological Society and infused with new vitality. About the same time the Anthropological Society of Washington, originally formed in 1879 and sponsor of The American Anthropologist, further strengthened itself by inducting the 49 members of the Women's Anthropological Society of America, which had been parallel group for a number of years. Although leaders in the American Association for the Advancement of Science tended to resist formation of separate national bodies for each discipline, the Geological Society of America, the American Chemical Society, and the American Society of Naturalists had nevertheless been successfully launched before 1900. After some initial differences between W. J. McGee and Franz Boas, the anthropologists of Washington and New York agreed on the form of a national organization, and the American Anthropological Association was founded on June 30, 1902.37 A committee of the new Association was to play a key role in formulating antiquities legislation in 1905-06.38

Public interest in American archaeology was further aroused by three widely admired exhibitions. In 1892 the Columbian Historical Exposition was held at Madrid, Spain, to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. The exposition, according to Dr. Walter Hough of the National Museum, exhibited "the greatest collection of Americana ever under one roof" up to that time. The United States section occupied six rooms, embracing a long list of exhibitors, including the National Museum and the Bureau of Ethnology. One large hall was devoted to collections brought from the American Southwest by Dr. Jesse W. Fewkes, who was associated with Frank Cushing in the work of the Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition. Sand pictures and altars were exhibited for the first time with other objects, both ancient and contemporary, from the Hopi tribe representing the sedentary Indians of the Southwestern United States. The exhibit won high praise, and a catalogue was published by the U.S. Government as part of its official report.39

A much larger public exhibition of American Indian antiquities was featured the next year, 1893, at the World's Columbia Exposition in Chicago. The planning and execution of this exhibition had fortunately been placed in charge of Frederic W. Putnam. As early as 1891, the work of gathering material was begun, and eventually as many as one hundred persons were employed in making collections, which came from Greenland and Labrador; from Alaska and Canada; from nearly all the Indian tribes of the United States; and from the West Indies, Yucatan and other part of Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and even Patagonia. Younger anthropologists later to become well known joined the undertaking, including Franz Boas, chief assistant to Putnam, and W. H. Holmes, who succeeded John Wesley Powell as Chief of the re-named Bureau of American Ethnology in 1902. Such an exhibit of the ethnology and antiquities of the New World had never been seen before and excited wide interest. The major portion of the collections remained in Chicago after the exposition closed and formed the foundation of the Field Columbian Museum, a direct outgrowth of the World's Fair.40 The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, held in St. Louis in 1904, provided another highly impressive display of Indian antiquities and whetted public interest still more.

During this period the National Museum substantially enlarged its collection, and public museums of archaeology and ethnology were founded in several other major cities, several in affiliation with universities. In 1889 a Museum of American Archaeology was established in Philadelphia by the University of Pennsylvania. In 1894 the anthropology program of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City was much strengthened when Frederic W. Putnam accepted charge of it, in addition to his duties at Cambridge, and brought in Franz Boas to work with him. By 1906 anthropological collections that included American Indian Antiquities were also on display, among other places, at the Yale University Museum in New Haven, the Brooklyn Institute Museum, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, the Delaware County Institute of Science, the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society in Columbus, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Milwaukee Public Museum, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Bishop Museum in Hawaii. These and other evidences of burgeoning national interest in anthropology were fully described in a comprehensive presentation to the Congress of Americanists held in Quebec in 1906. Entitled "Recent Progress in American Anthropology: A Review of the Activities of Institutions and Individuals from 1902 to 1906," it was subsequently published in The American Anthropologist, where it occupied more than one hundred pages.41

Published reports of new archeological discoveries further aroused public interest. Some were popular accounts, such as The Land of the Cliff Dweller, by F. H. Chapin, and Some Strange Corners of Our Country by Charles F. Lummis, both appearing in 1892 and Bandelier's fictionalized story, The Delight Makers; published in 1890. Equally important were the scholarly publications issued each year by the Bureau of Ethnology (renamed the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1895), the National Museum, and the Peabody Museum, and the professional journals and papers sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America and the Anthropological Society of Washington and its successors. Through these channels, for example, Victor Mindeleff published his account of "Pueblo Architecture," in 1886, and Cosmos Mindeleff his descriptions of the "Aboriginal Remains in the Verde Valley" in 1891 and "The Cliff Ruins of Canyon de Chelly" in 1894. Among many other professional writings, Dr. J. W. Fewkes described his "Archeological Expedition to Arizona in 1895" and his exploration in "Pueblo Ruins near Flagstaff, Arizona" in 1900 and 1904. Dr. Walter Hough described the work of the Museum-Gates Expedition in "Archeological Field Work in Northeastern Arizona" in 1900 and 1904. Dr. Walter Hough described the work of the Museum-Gates Expedition in "Archaeological Field Work in Northeastern Arizona" in the report of the National Museum for 1901. The next year he followed it with a popular account in Harper's Magazine entitled "Ancient Peoples of the Petrified Forest of Arizona." These and accounts of other antiquities by such investigators as Cushing, Frederick W. Hodge, and Edgar L. Hewett were eagerly read by a growing constituency of anthropologists, curators, and educated laymen.

Meanwhile, the discipline of anthropology was establishing itself in colleges and universities. In 1899, George Grant MacCurdy, instructor in prehistoric anthropology at Yale University, reported to "Section H" of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on the "Extent of Instruction in Anthropology in Europe and the United States." He found that in Europe 37 institutions were offered instruction in anthropology with a teaching force of 58, while in the United States 11 institutions offered instruction with a teaching force of 17. In this comparison the United States did not fare badly.42 Frederic W. Putnam played an important role in this movement, training future anthropologists at Harvard and the Peabody Museum, and helping organize new departments in other universities. Thus in 1901 Putnam participated in organizing a Department of Anthropology under A. L. Kroeber at the University of California in Berkeley.43 Putnam's committee in this enterprise included Benjamin I. Wheeler, president of the University, with whom Newton B. Drury, a future director of the National Park Service, was later closely associated, and John C. Merriam, then a young assistant professor, later to serve as the influential chairman of the committee whose work between 1928 and 1935 laid a broad foundation for the interpretive program of the National Park Service. Nearly all these people went formally on record with Congressional committees in support of the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Contents | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4

 

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