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COLLECTION Identifier: 999-33-20/74049.1-.2; 2000.25.1-.2; 2001.8.1

Oliver Garrison Ricketson, Jr. papers and photographs


The Oliver Garrison Ricketson, Jr. Papers and Photographs comprise papers and photographs of Maya archaeology, particularly the site of Chichen Itza, in Yucatan; index of ruins in the Maya area; and information on expeditions based in Belize.


  • 1920-1946.

Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use



5 linear feet

The Ricketson Papers and Photographs, 1920-1946, document the professional work and personal life of Oliver G. Ricketson, Jr., focusing on his fieldwork in Central America. This collection contains manuscripts, publications, photographs, and field notebooks consisting of three record groups: 999-33-20/74049, 2000.25, and 2001.8.


Archaeologist Oliver Garrison Ricketson, Jr., 1894-1952 was a pioneer in the study of pre-classical Mayan culture. He was best known for his excavations of Mayan ruins at Uaxactun, Chichen Itza, and Baking Pot. He was also recognized for his long-term involvement with the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) programs in Central America.

Ricketson was born September 19, 1894 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Oliver Garrison and Margaret Carnegie Ricketson and spent his childhood on Cumberland Island in Georgia. From 1907 to 1912, he was a student at the Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts. In 1912, he entered Harvard College, earning his A.B. in 1916. At Harvard, he became interested in archaeology while taking E. A. Hooton's physical anthropology course.

In 1920, Ricketson traveled to Arizona and began working on his first expeditions. The following year, he traveled to Central America for the first time, accompanying Sylvanus G. Morley of the Carnegie Institution of Washington on an expedition across the Yucatan Peninsula. Throughout the 1920s, Ricketson spent each dry season in Central America, excavating at Tulum,Uaxactun, Baking Pot,Chichen Itza, and other sites. His final Central American expedition was a 1929 air-reconnaissance expedition over the Yucatan Peninsula with Charles A. Lindbergh. When not conducting fieldwork, Ricketson continued his education at Harvard, receiving an A.M. in 1924 and a Ph.D. in 1933.

Most of Ricketson's fieldwork was conducted through the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW); in 1926, he was appointed head of the Uaxactun program. Ricketson was the first Carnegie relative (his mother was a Carnegie) to work for a Carnegie foundation and later became one of the institution's longest-serving staff members. However, his affiliation with the CIW ended under difficult circumstances in 1941, when he resigned and vowed to retire from archaeology.

While working for the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Ricketson met Edith Hill Bayles, Morley's secretary during his 1925 excavations at Chichen Itza. They soon married in August 1925 and later had three children: Margaret, Mary, and Oliver. In 1941, the couple divorced, and Oliver Ricketson married Anne Riggs that same year.

After his retirement, Ricketson moved to Ricketson's Point in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. During 1949 and 1950, he went on his last expeditions, traveling with his wife by boat from New Bedford to Florida and back. In 1951, he conducted his final excavation, a restoration of the Russell Garrison for the Old Dartmouth Historical Society. The following year, on October 17, 1952, Ricketson died in Bar Harbor, Maine.


  1. Dr. Ricketson Dies; Archaeologist, 58. New York Times. October 19, 1952.
  2. Lothrop, S.K. Oliver Garrison Ricketson, Jr. 1894-1952. American Antiquity. 19.1 (July 1953): 69-72.


The first record group (999-33-20/74049) contains the bulk of the collection and is divided into four series:

  1. Series I Professional Papers and Travel Notes, 1920-1946 contains personal and professional correspondence, field notebooks, and reference materials Ricketson used in the field. This series includes correspondence concerning Ricketson's resignation from the CIW
  2. Series II Writings and Studies, 1925-1946 consists of offprints, drafts, unpublished papers, and manuscripts by others, including poems by Edith Bayles Ricketson. Among Ricketson's unpublished papers and reports are his report and notes on the 1929 Lindbergh flight. This series contains card files for an ethnographic dictionary, a gazetteer, and a geography that Ricketson never completed.
  3. Series III Personal and Family Papers, 1903-1951 documents Ricketson's family life, from childhood until shortly before his death in 1952. This includes diaries and letters from Ricketson's childhood and his undergraduate years at Harvard College; travel notebooks from New Bedford to Florida in 1949,1950 and correspondence about his CIW resignation.
  4. Series IV Photographs, 1920-1940 features scenes of life in Central America,Mexico, and the American Southwest; few images of artifacts and archaeological sites are included. The photographs are housed separately.

The second record group (2000.25) consists of two series:

  1. Series I (2000.25.1) contains a captioned photograph album, documenting Ricketson's travels in Mexico, Central America, and South America.
  2. Series II (2000.25.2) consists of miscellaneous papers regarding Ricketson's publications and research.

The third record group (2001.8) contains a field notebook and captioned photographs of Flores and El Cayo from a disbound scrapbook.

Physical Location

Peabody Museum Archives

Immediate Source of Acquisition

999-33-20/74049.1, 999-33-20/74049.2, 2000.25.1, 2000.25.2, 2001.8.1

These papers are a gift of Mary R. Bullard and Margaret Sprague.

1999, 2000, 2001

General note

Collections records may contain language, reflecting past collecting practices and methods of analysis, that is no longer acceptable. The Peabody Museum is committed to addressing the problem of offensive and discriminatory language present in its database. Our museum staff are continually updating these records, adding to and improving content. We welcome your feedback and any questions or concerns you may want to share.

Processed by:

Vernica Downey, Simmons College GSLIS intern; updated and edited by India Spartz, Senior Archivist, 2005.

Oliver Garrison Ricketson, Jr., Papers and Photographs: A Finding Aid
Peabody Museum Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Museum Archives Repository

Papers in the Peabody Museum Archives consist of primary source materials that document the Museum’s archaeological and ethnographic research and fieldwork since its founding in 1866. More than 2,800 feet of archival paper collections contain documents, papers, manuscripts, correspondence, data, field notes, maps, plans, and other historical records that represent diverse peoples from around the world, and which were created or collected by the Museum, its individual affiliates, or related entities. The collections also document the history or provenience, as well as the creation of, many of the Museum’s archaeological and ethnographic collections.

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