Clio’s Fancy

The first issue of the History of Anthropology Newsletter in 1973 included “CLIO’S FANCY: DOCUMENTS TO PIQUE THE HISTORICAL IMAGINATION.” It was a recurring department in the newsletter for the next thirty years. We revive it here, and invite your submissions of archival oddities to

Toward an Anthropology of Automation: Leroi-Gourhan and the “Elementary Forms of Action on Matter” at the Musée de l’Homme

In the archives of the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, I found an advertisement torn from a magazine in the late 1950s or early 1960s promoting a new electric slide projector. “Open your eyes wide,” it says, and “don’t make a single move. It’s ENTIRELY AUTOMATIC.” A well-coiffed, contented, schematically drawn face hovers over a pair of hands, their fingers snugly entwined. The thumbs twiddle idly; they have nothing to do.

From Collection “Salle des Arts et Techniques,” folder “Corps Humain.” Archives of the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
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The One-Two Punch

One hundred and nine years ago, The New York Times ran a full-page overview of Franz Boas’s recently published book, The Mind of Primitive Man. [1] The headline read: “DOES THE WHITE RACE GIVE THE HIGHEST HUMAN TYPE?: As a Result of Recent Researches Prof. Boas Questions Current Beliefs in Racial Supremacy, Makes a Plea for the Negro and Tells Strange Facts in European Immigration.”[2] Above the handsome sketch of Boas were exaggerated profile portraits of “the Characteristic Round Jewish Head,” and “Characteristic Long Sicilian Head.” Coming on the heels of the media storm generated by Changes in Bodily Form of Descendants of Immigrants (1911),[3] this article provided added grist for the so-called Americanization movement whose sole purpose (at least that I can discern) was the consolidation of whiteness by assimilating the not quite white. The Times highlighted Boas’s research on how immigrants quickly became an “American type,” and underscored his arguments that there are no pure or superior races, and all can participate as citizens. The paper also described vital forms of government, thrift, skill, and complex military organization in pre-colonial Africa. The Times quoted Boas explaining, “the traits of the American Negro are adequately explained on the basis of his history and social status. . . without falling back upon the theory of hereditary inferiority.”  Although pictures of “the Jewish” and “Sicilian” head are cringe-worthy today, many Americans would have found most of his findings against racial hierarchy not only repugnant, but profane.[4]

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Whom Freud Would Not Otherwise Reach: Ashley Montagu, Psychoanalysis, and U.S. Anthropology at Midcentury

Had Selected Writings by Sigmund Freud been published by the Pelican press in 1948, it is likely Ashley Montagu—the prolific British-American anthropologist, and the work’s main compiler—would today have been recognized as a noteworthy figure in Freud’s postwar US reception. Yet after several months reading Freud’s corpus, deciding which texts and passages to include, writing an introduction, and compiling a bibliography, Montagu was forced to shelve the project, thwarted by the Freud family’s famous reluctance to allow such maverick publications. His attempts, a decade later, to initiate a sibling study under a new title, Freud Re-Examined, comprised of reprints of scholarly essays mostly by contemporary psychologists, also went nowhere, frustrated by a publisher’s aversion to the genre. By the 1980s, if Montagu discussed these works at all, he presumed them “irretrievably lost.”

Yet several folios of materials were preserved, including those relating to the aborted 1940s anthology. Today all are gathered in box 65 of the Ashley Montagu Papers, held at the American Philosophical Society, in Philadelphia.[i]

Figure 1. Folder ‘A Critique of Freud’ [#3462], Box 65, Series III, Ashley Montagu Papers, MS Coll 109 American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA.

These documents enrich our understanding of Montagu beyond his recognized association with the UNESCO Statements on Race (1950/51), and his countless publications on gender, aggression, and human nature—all of which vaulted him, in the words of Henrika Kuklick, to a position “below Margaret Mead, but far above many others.”[ii] Surrounding correspondence with co-editors, publishers, and Freud’s sons, Oliver and Ernst, also help to define American anthropology’s midcentury relationship with psychoanalysis. In relief, they offer us a sturdy platform from which to consider the terms by which we standardly discuss this period, and subject, in the history of the field.

The idea of compiling a short selection (200 pages) of Freud’s works aimed at a general readership, particularly “the college audience,” reflected the growing US interest in psychoanalysis. With few rival editions, the collection would have preceded by several years the burst of biographies and official translations that began to appear in the 1950s. It would certainly have expanded access to Freud’s corpus beyond the six texts that the psychoanalyst A. A. Brill republished in 1938, and, costing just 25¢, would have been a fifth of its price. It would almost certainly have returned respectable sales, as its publisher, Pelican, new to the US market, hoped.[iii]

Working with a co-editor, his friend from the New School, the psychoanalyst Eric Fromm, Montagu spent several months choosing twenty-two of Freud’s essays, books, and cases to republish, and identifying illustrative passages from each. While much would have been sampled, Freud’s Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex (1905) would not have been one of them, probably because Montagu remembered Bronisław Malinowski’s bracing handling of the text in the 1920s, and because he thought it was not the most ‘fruitful’ for future anthropological work.

Figure 2. Draft ‘Introduction’, c.Oct. 1947, Folder ‘A Critique of Freud’ [#3457], Box 65, Montagu Papers, American Philosophical Society.

The four pages Montagu typed for the intended work’s introduction, in October 1947, made clear his compilation’s aim to “orient the reader in relation to Freud” through his “most representative writings.” “Psychoanalysis is largely the creation of one man, Sigmund Freud,” the draft introduction begins, before it moves to provide “a post-Freudian historical conspectus of the development of psychoanalysis,” placing “Freud’s enormous contribution in perspective.” While he ran into forbidding headwinds around copyright in November, Montagu continued to revise his manuscript, hoping to add “a good word” for Otto Rank and Alfred Adler, heretics to most strict Freudians, to the final copy. In such modest ways, the document implies the wider appeal that neo-Freudians held for those anthropologists who engaged psychoanalysis in these years.[iv]

Montagu seems to have been drawn to the project, beyond commercial reward, out of a belief he was providing “a public service”, widening the audience to those “whom Freud would not otherwise reach,” and regarding it as a tool of social policy, “increas[ing] mutual understanding and sympathy.” These were lofty claims though they chimed with his wartime enthusiasm for scientific humanism, and, crucially, his sense that anthropology was improved as it conversed with other fields. The book’s blurb would have described Montagu not as an anthropologist, though he was trained in that field, but as one with expertise in the “borderland in which the social and biological sciences meet.”

Although neither of Montagu’s books about Freud made it into print, they nevertheless influenced the direction and character of his later work. References to Freud abound in several of the books he wrote in the 1950s, and they drove his interest in alternative branches of psychoanalysis: to object relations theory; to Adler, who buttressed his views on the importance of social interaction in shaping personality; and to the Glaswegian analyst Ian Suttie (whose The Origins of Love and Hate Montagu presciently introduced for a US audience, in 1952, twenty years before US psychoanalysis discovered the work) who colored his comparative studies of love and cooperation in societies.[v] When in the late 1960s and 1970s Montagu debated Robert Ardrey and Konrad Lorenz about the nature of human aggression, he characterized them, not unreasonably, as putting “new garb” around what Freud had written on the topic; his 1976 monograph The Nature of Human Aggression opens with an epigraph from Civilization and Its Discontents (1930). That Montagu, in 1947 and again in 1959, expressed interest in publishing works on Freud and psychoanalysis, also testified to the fact these subjects remained “important undercurrents” for anthropology, even as some took aim at “culture and personality,” presuming the tributary was running dry.[vi]

We should not try to wrench Montagu’s commitment to these projects, which admittedly sprang from several sources, into the “culture and personality movement,” which was only one phase in a dense process of interaction between psychoanalysis and anthropology around midcentury. What, I think, the materials in box 65 instead suggest is our need to resuscitate the distinction that Montagu’s friend, the Duke University anthropologist Weston La Barre, drew between “the culture-and-personality movement in general,” and psychoanalysis’s “larger and more diffuse influence upon American anthropology as a whole.”[vii] It is within this latter category that Montagu’s work best fits, offering a strand of inquiry that has been absent from histories of American anthropology. Such diverting projects certainly burnished Montagu’s reputation as one of America’s “most versatile anthropologists”; at least that’s what Clifford Geertz wrote in 1961.[viii] Had he known of them, Geertz would likely have understood Montagu’s midcentury engagements with Freud as characteristic of an earlier group of scholars who, he said in 1991, came “in from an angle” to anthropology, bringing “influences from outside” that enriched the discipline. Such traits had been eroded, Geertz regretted, by the insular character the discipline developed in the twenty years after the 1950s.[ix]

These materials, like many discussed in the History of Anthropology Review, testify to the value and excitement of archival work as discovery. Had Montagu published either of these books, a younger generation, including students of anthropology, would have read Freud’s work firsthand, and plausibly found fresh ways of reckoning with it, nurturing an alternative orientation better able to endure the decimation of ‘culture and personality’. In the absence of such publications, later historical treatments of American anthropology condensed, and dismissed, the influence psychoanalysis had on the field to this “fashionable slogan,” in ways that might soon no longer hold up.[x]

[i] Folios: A Critique of Freud, Box 65, Ashley Montagu Papers, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA.

[ii] Henrika Kuklick quoted in Anthony Ramirez, “Ashley Montagu, 94, Anthropologist and Popular Author,” New York Times (Nov. 29, 1999). Montagu was a prodigious writer and commentator, addressing both scholarly and popular audiences on many subjects between the 1940s and 1980s. Among his best-known works are: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race (1942); On Being Human (1951); The Natural Superiority of Women (1952); The Nature of Human Aggression (1976).

[iii] On Pelican’s origins and market see Peter Mandler, “Good Reading for the Million: The ‘Paperback Revolution’ and the Co-Production of Academic Knowledge in Mid Twentieth-Century Britain and America,” Past and Present 244 (Aug. 2019): 235-69.

[iv] Robert A. LeVine, “Culture and Personality Studies, 1918-60: Myth and History,” Journal of Personality 69 (Dec. 2001): 803-18.

[v] Suttie’s reception among American psychoanalysts is described in Elizabeth Lunbeck, The Americanization of Narcissism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

[vi] George Stocking, “Anthropology and the Science of the Irrational,” in Malinowski, Rivers, Benedict and Others: Essays on Culture and Personality, ed. George W. Stocking, Jr, vol. 4: History of Anthropology (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986), 13-49, at 43.

[vii] Weston La Barre, “The Influence of Freud on Anthropology,” American Imago 15 (Fall, 1958), 275-328, at 286.

[viii] Clifford Geertz, “Aspects of Mankind Examined Provocatively,” Chicago Daily Tribune (June 18, 1961), D4.

[ix] Richard Handler, “An Interview with Clifford Geertz,” Current Anthropology 32 (Dec. 1991), 603-13.

[x]  Clyde Kluckhohn and O. H. Mowrer, “‘Culture and Personality’: A Conceptual Scheme,” American Anthropologist 46 1 (1944): 1-29, at 1.

“A Little Out of Temper”: When Lewis Henry Morgan Met Abraham Lincoln

2018 marked the bicentennial of the birth of Lewis Henry Morgan (d. 1881), a Rochester, New York attorney and founding figure in American anthropology and archeology. Morgan established his reputation with League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois (Morgan 1851), a comprehensive study of sociopolitical organization and material culture that grew out of his youthful fascination with Native American traditions. The book was made possible by the assistance of Ely S. Parker (Hasanoanda), who authored some sections, and his sister Caroline G. Parker (Gahano), members of a prominent Tonawanda Seneca family who facilitated Morgan’s fieldwork. Although manifestly ethnocentric, League of the Iroquois is one of the earliest recognizably anthropological accounts of culture as a distinctive and coherent system of thought and action. Morgan’s dedication of the book to Ely Parker acknowledges the fundamental if uneasy collaboration between anthropologists and their interlocutors that underlies all ethnographic research.[1]

Morgan’s next two books featured other innovations. The American Beaver and His Works (1868) was based on unprecedented field observations of the behavior of these animals in their engineered environments. In Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family (1871), Morgan analyzed a vast amount of data acquired through a questionnaire he designed to elicit the divergent logics of kinship terminologies used by speakers of many different languages worldwide.   

In Morgan’s best-known work, Ancient Society, Or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery, through Barbarism to Civilization (1877), he laid out a materialist scheme of universal history. The book was taken up by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and turned into a staple of socialist reading groups, despite Morgan’s firm belief in the benefits of individual property and free markets. Today, critics remember Ancient Society for its association with social evolutionism and Victorian ideas of racial hierarchy and white supremacy (for example, Gates Jr. 2019:68; see also Baker 1998: 43ff, and Harris 1968: 137ff).

Morgan bequeathed his field journals, scholarly papers, and library, along with a substantial sum of money, to the University of Rochester. These materials offer only limited insights into Morgan’s personal affairs, thus presenting a challenge to his biographers.[2] I therefore was intrigued to discover among the published correspondence of Abraham Lincoln a brief reference to a hitherto unreported meeting between the president and Morgan.  According to Lincoln, the encounter ended unhappily. What was this meeting about, and why might Morgan have gone away, in Lincoln’s words, “a little out of temper”?

On June 2, 1864, Joseph Henry, Director of the Smithsonian Institution, wrote to Lincoln to introduce his “much esteemed friends” Morgan and Professor Eben Horsford of Cambridge, “who desire to place before you, a case of military discipline” (Basler 1953: 378).  Four days later, Morgan and Horsford visited Lincoln in Washington, D.C. and appealed to him for the pardon of Private James McCarthy of the 140th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, who faced the charge of desertion. McCarthy’s regiment was organized in Rochester, where Morgan resided, and its ten companies were recruited from the city and its surrounding Monroe County.  

Lincoln refused Morgan and Horsford’s request, and the two unsuccessful petitioners departed. Soon afterwards, however, Lincoln telegraphed Major General George G. Meade, head of the Army of the Potomac, proposing that if Private McCarthy’s “Colonel and you consent, I will send him to his regiment” (Basler 1953:378). Meade responded to Lincoln the next day, June 7th.  His telegram noted that “private James McCarthey of Co ‘K’ 140th” had been

apprehended by our Pickets attempting to pass our Lines towards the enemy when arrested. He attempted to bribe the Pickets to allow him to pass. I cannot recommend any mitigation of the sentence in his case (Basler 1953:385). 

The sentence in McCarthy’s case was confinement and hard labor at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas (Florida Keys), which in 1864 housed over 700 prisoners convicted by court-martial. A register of the 140th NY includes this listing for a James McCarty, quite possibly the man on whose behalf Morgan interceded:

Age, 21 years. Enlisted at Sherman [NY], to serve three years, and mustered in as private, Co. K, August 19, 1863; transferred to Co. K, Fifth Veteran Infantry, June 3, 1865, while absent in confinement (New York 1905:124).      

On June 10th, 1864 Lincoln forwarded Meade’s telegram to Joseph Henry with the following endorsement:

A few days ago a friend of yours called and urged me to pardon Private McCarthy, & upon my refusal, went away dissatisfied, and I thought a little out of temper. After he was gone, I telegraphed Gen. Meade that if he and McCarthy’s Colonel would consent, I would send him back to his Regiment; and the within is Gen. Meade’s answer (Basler 1953:385).  

Although Lincoln’s note to Henry does not specify the friend who went away dissatisfied, the following endorsement by Joseph Henry, dated August 16th, 1864, suggests that the friend in question was indeed Lewis Henry Morgan: “I send this paper to you as an evidence that Mr. Lincoln desired to do what is proper in the case you and Professor Horsford presented to him. It has lain in my portfolio for several weeks” (Basler 1953:385).

I have not found any reference to the meeting with Lincoln or to the situation of Private McCarthy in Morgan’s papers, neither in his correspondence with Joseph Henry, with whom Morgan was then collaborating on the research and publication of Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity, nor in his correspondence with Eben N. Horsford, a Harvard chemist who was a close friend of Morgan and his wife, Mary Elizabeth (Steele) Morgan. I suggest, nevertheless, that we can better appreciate Morgan’s dissatisfaction with Lincoln by considering Morgan’s previous failed attempts to obtain a federal post and to influence federal Indian policy.

In 1861, Morgan aspired to a federal appointment as Commissioner of Indian Affairs.  He served that year in the New York State Assembly in order to acquire relevant experience, swapping his appointment as chairman of the Committee on Claims for one as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs (Resek 1960:83). Morgan also hoped for the support of his fellow New Yorker and Union College alumnus William Henry Seward, who had lost the nomination to Abraham Lincoln at the Republican presidential convention.  After the November election, Morgan’s friends wrote testimonials to the president-elect in support of Morgan’s appointment as commissioner.  Lincoln, however, gave the job to William P. Dole, thereby redeeming the promise made in a deal that secured Indiana’s 26 votes at the Republican convention (Nichols 1978:5; Prucha 1984:463).

In December 1862, Lewis Henry Morgan wrote to Abraham Lincoln regarding “the present system of Indian management.”  He bluntly informed the president that the system “is a total failure, a failure so complete as to be disgraceful to the government” (Kosok 1951:36). Morgan drew upon personal observations made during four consecutive summer trips starting in 1859 to Kansas, Nebraska and far up the Missouri River into Dakota (Morgan 1959).  He offered several recommendations for reforming the corruption of Indian agencies and reorganizing the payment of annuities.  Morgan also recommended that “territory sufficient to form two Indian states should be set aside by Congress,” thus forming a “permanent society, in two nations, under government protection and encouragement” (Kosok 1951:36, 37).

Morgan subsequently aired many of the same ideas on Indian policy that he had expressed to Lincoln in two letters published in The Nation in 1876 following Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn.  (The first of these letters is notable for Morgan’s defense of the Sioux and his refusal to call Custer’s defeat a “massacre.”)  In August 1877, Morgan wrote directly to Rutherford B. Hayes, reiterating his main ideas.  (Upon Hayes’s inauguration in March, Morgan had begun again to solicit testimonials from friends in support of a presidential appointment as ambassador to Italy. He did not receive this or any other appointment.)[3] The following year, The Nation published a revised and slightly longer version of the letter sent to President Hayes.

While Morgan’s letter to Hayes was acknowledged by the president’s secretary of the interior, Carl Schurz, it is uncertain whether Morgan’s 1862 letter was ever read or even received by President Lincoln.  Paul Kosok (1951:35) reports finding it with an appended official note that implies Morgan’s recommendations were “just filed away among the records of the Secretary of the Interior—and forgotten.”  I have found no reply from Lincoln or his staff to Morgan’s letter in the correspondence included among his papers at the University of Rochester.

Lewis Henry Morgan was disappointed at losing the position of Commissioner of Indian Affairs because of Lincoln’s political patronage of a less qualified candidate.  He might also have been annoyed by the lack of a response to the policy recommendations he sent to Lincoln.  Given these circumstances, Lincoln’s remark that his refusal to pardon Private McCarthy left his visitor “a little out of temper” becomes perhaps more understandable. Morgan was simply responding to the latest discourtesy shown him by the president.

[1] Ely S. Parker went on to become a Tonawanda Seneca sachem chief and acquired the name Donehogawa. He served as a Union Army General and military secretary to Ulysses S. Grant. Grant appointed Parker in 1869 as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the first Native person to serve in this role.

[2] See Carl Resek, Lewis Henry Morgan: American Scholar (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960); Daniel Noah Moses, The Promise of Progress: The Life and Work of Lewis Henry Morgan (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2009).

[3] August 6, 1877 Letter from Lewis Henry Morgan to President Rutherford B. Hayes; Box 8, Folder 15, Lewis Henry Morgan papers, A.M85, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester.

Works Cited.

Basler, Roy P., ed. 1953. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 7. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Baker, Lee D. 1998. From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896 – 1954. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. 2019. Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow. New York: Penguin.

Harris, Marvin. 1968. The Rise of Anthropological Theory: A History of Theories of Culture. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.

Kosok, Paul. 1951. An Unknown Letter from Lewis H. Morgan to Abraham Lincoln. University of Rochester Library Bulletin 6(2):35 – 40.

Morgan, Lewis H. 1851. League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois. New York: Sage and Brother Publishers.

Morgan, Lewis H. 1876. The Hue-and-Cry Against the Indians. The Nation (Number 577), 20 July, pp. 40-41.

Morgan, Lewis H. 1876. Factory System for Indian Reservations. The Nation (Number 578), 27 July, pp. 58-59.

Morgan, Lewis H. 1868. The American Beaver and His Works. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott.

Morgan, Lewis H. 1871. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. 

Morgan, Lewis H. 1877. Ancient Society, or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery, through Barbarism, to Civilization. London: Macmillan. 

Morgan, Lewis H. 1878. The Indian Question. The Nation (Number 700), 28 November, pp. 332-333.

Morgan, Lewis H. 1959. The Indian Journals, 1859 – 62. Leslie A. White, ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Moses, Daniel N. 2009. The Promise of Progress: The Life and Work of Lewis Henry Morgan. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

New York (State). 1905. Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York for the Year 1904. Albany: Brandow Printing Company, State Legislative Printers.

Nichols, David A. 1978. Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

Prucha, Paul F. 1984. The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Resek, Carl. 1960. Lewis Henry Morgan: American Scholar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lightswitch and Crankshaft: Poetical Linguistics and Linguistical Poetics

Editors’ Notes: In our latest addition to Clio’s Fancy, Charles Greifenstein touches on the relationship between poetry and anthropology through the letters between the poet Gary Snyder and the sociolinguist Dell Hymes.

In these folders, one finds the most intriguing things. Drawings labelled “Chart of World Symbols”; a letter in crayon; gossip about teachers and girlfriends; what the author is reading, and what he thinks of it; what the author is thinking when he is not reading; what the author is writing (other than letters); how the author and correspondent will survive in the academic world. The author sometimes signs his letters “Aleksandr Leitswics” (“light switch?”). And there is poetry:

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Amelia Louise Susman Schultz, Sam Blowsnake, and the Ho-Chunk Syllabary

The History of Anthropology Newsletter is partnering with the American Philosophical Society’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) to publish here here for the first time a 1940 syllabary for the Ho-Chunk language—a transcription of sound combinations and words for writing the Ho-Chunk language[1] This valuable document, held in manuscript at the APS, was created through the collaboration of Sam Blowsnake and linguistic anthropologist Amelia Susman. Blowsnake wrote the story of his life using this syllabary for his autobiography, Crashing Thunder, published in 1920 with the assistance of Winnebago anthropologist and dissenting Boasian Paul Radin.[2]

The life and works of Amelia Susman, Franz Boas’s last Ph.D. student— currently 103 years old— will be less familiar to most. Continue reading

Visual Kinship

Even if we don’t see them very often in ethnographies these days, the charts connecting up circles and triangles into lines of descent and affiliation remain iconic artifacts of anthropological knowledge. They are also compelling visual representations in their own right. As part of a larger project on how sex or gender has been codified into visual symbols — such as  ♀ and ♂ — I have been looking at the history of anthropological kinship diagrams.

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“The Relation of Darwin to Anthropology”: A Previously Unpublished Lecture by Franz Boas (1909)

In 1909 Columbia University celebrated both the fifty-year anniversary of The Origin of Species and the centenary of the birth of its author with a series of lectures titled “Charles Darwin and His Influence on Science.” The first talk in the series, “Darwin’s Life and Work,” was delivered by Henry Fairfield Osborn on February 12, one hundred years to the day after Darwin’s birth.  Another lecturer was John Dewey, whose talk, “Darwinism and Modern Philosophy,” became the title piece in his well-known volume The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other Essays in Contemporary Thought.[i] Despite the publication and wide circulation of these other lectures in the series, the one given by Franz Boas, “The Relation of Darwin to Anthropology,” was never published. Strangely, it was also never archived with his other unpublished lectures in the American Philosophical Society (APS), nor, apparently, was it ever noted anywhere except in the announcement of the lecture series in Science.[ii]

In late June 1996, while waiting for delivery of files from the Boas archive at the APS, I passed the time flipping through the library card catalogue under “Boas, Franz” and came across a plain, typed card, with the words: “Boas, Franz– The Relation of Darwin to Anthropology.” Surprised and intrigued, I asked librarian Roy Goodman if he could locate it.  He returned a few minutes later with a 33-page typed manuscript, with Boas’s additions and corrections in pen. It had been hiding– not quite in plain sight– for many years.

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Beyond Silverbacks: A Lost History of the Gorilla Wars

The history of anthropology was once a genealogy of silverbacks: Elsie Clews Parsons, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead excepted, a genealogy of venerated men who contributed something perceived definitional to the field, worth rearticulating in the present. The histories of those who died early or outside of institutions, who had written or done something that no longer squared with anthropology’s rapidly swinging moral arc (such as practicing as an ethnologist), or who had the misfortune of being born female, non-white, or outside of Europe and the United States, were often left forgotten, and their recovery more recently has changed the field and its historical accounting. Continue reading

Shining a Light on Archaeological Data Processing: The Termatrex Machine

Archivist Alex Pezzati of the Penn Museum was on the verge of discarding a “curious collection” in the fall of 2016, when I invited him to present at a workshop I was then co-organizing with other members of the Penn Humanities Forum. “Translation beyond the Human” was our chosen theme, and I was hoping he could divert us with anecdotes about the history of early computing in anthropology. Continue reading

Sketches from the 89th Wenner–Gren International Symposium

On the morning of November 23rd, 1981, Rosamond (Roz) Spicer joined her fellow participants for the third day of the 89th Wenner–Gren Foundation International Symposium. As the morning discussion took shape, Roz, a noted Native Americanist anthropologist, drifted from her note-taking as she started to sketch the people around her (see figures 1–5).[i] Etched with light pencil, these elegant and unassuming illustrations capture a transitional moment in the larger history of the Foundation. Continue reading

The Death of an Indian Leader and His Afterlife in U.S. Imagery and Rhetoric

Hollow Horn Bear (1851-1913), a Brulé Lakota warrior and leader, was the first American Indian man whose portrait appeared on a U.S. postage stamp. Continue reading

Methodological Dissension on Sol Tax’s Training Expedition to Chiapas

Sol Tax is well known for developing the concept of “action anthropology,” which takes the goals and problems of research subjects as its point of departure ahead of the researcher’s desire for knowledge. However, he began his career with a much more conventional philosophy of science, and during the 1940s vigorously defended “basic” research against calls for anthropology to emphasize its political relevance.[1] Continue reading

George Stocking’s Stockings: Needlepoint to Pique the Historical Imagination

Many HAN readers will be familiar with George Stocking’s work on the history of anthropology; not all will know that he was also an artist. Until his last year of high school, while living in Manhattan, he thought of himself as bound for a career as a painter (Stocking 2010:25-26). After college, he worked in a meat packing factory, seeking to organize a union; he grew disillusioned with the Communist Party and entered graduate school in 1956, “to understand why American culture was so resistant to radical change” (69). That set him on the path of a scholar and teacher.

Yet in the 1970s, when George was settled on the faculty at the University of Chicago, he returned to his artistic pursuits. Not in painting, however—but in needlepoint. At first, he purchased kits for a footstool and pillows. After the birth of a grandchild, he needlepointed a Christmas stocking, using a standard design. In 1980, he dispensed with the kit and designed his own Christmas stocking, creating an original pattern with biographical details tailored to the recipient: his seven-year-old grandson, Jesse, who was much taken with The Incredible Hulk. The stocking portrayed Santa as a muscular, green-skinned superhero who seems to have arrived on a garbage truck, punching through a brick wall, to the amazement of a Krazy-Kat like Mickey Mouse. Continue reading

Kuklick on the Tarmac

One summer afternoon in 1958, two young girls stood on the hot tarmac at Idlewild  (later JFK) airport, awaiting the arrival of the famous German choreographer Albrecht Knust. Knust was in America to promote Labanotation, a technique for capturing dance on paper developed in the 1920s by his mentor, Rudolf Laban. In Knust’s honor, the girls had emblazoned the edges of their wide, white skirts with Labanotation’s characteristic symbols, and as he disembarked, they eagerly extended their arms to display their creations. Continue reading

A Left-Handed Wedding Announcement

The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research has been a hub for information about the comings and goings of anthropologists since its founding in 1941 as the Viking Fund. Its vast archives maintained in its current office on Park Avenue South in New York City contain countless treasures, including this wedding announcement:

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The first issue of the History of Anthropology Newsletter in 1973 included “CLIO’S FANCY: DOCUMENTS  TO  PIQUE THE HISTORICAL  IMAGINATION.” The entry, a pair of anecdotes suggesting that late in life, Louis Henry Morgan may have had second thoughts about his own theories, received the juicy title “DID THE ARCH-EVOLUTIONIST MAKE A DEATHBED RECANTATION?” The next issue’s contribution transcribed a 1904 letter from Franz Boas to Booker T. Washington, asking for frank advice about the eventual job prospects of J.E. Aggrey, an African-American student interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology, under the equally intriguing header: “THE TUSKEGEE NOD IN AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGY.”

The editor, George W. Stocking, Jr., closed with a deadpan plea: “We particularly  encourage readers to submit items for Clio’s Fancy. Both of these have so far come from the same source, who is by no means inexhaustible.”

Our first entry to the relaunched “Clio’s Fancy,” from Joanna Radin, adds to this tradition of archival oddities which raise the historical eyebrow; it speaks of kinship rituals, alternative histories, and ethnographies of the future. We hope you will enjoy it—and better yet, that you’ll submit gems you unearth in the archival mine.