Frederic Ward Putnam papers
- 1807-1971, bulk 1855-1935
- Dixon, Roland Burrage, 1875-1934 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Extent4 linear feet
Putnam was born April 16, 1839 in Salem, Massachusetts to Mr. and Mrs. Ebenezer Putnam III. In 1864, Putnam married Adelaide Martha Edmands; they had three children: Eben Putnam, Alice Edmands Putnam, and Ethel Appleton Fiske Lewis. On March 10, 1879, Mrs. Adelaide Putnam passed away; in 1882, Putnam remarried Esther Orne Clark. Putnam's early education consisted of home and private schooling, and it was at this time that he expressed an interest in studying nature. Putnam, along with his father, cultivated plants and later began observing the birds in the area. Later, he trained under Henry Wheatland as an intern at the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts. In 1856, at the age of sixteen, he successfully published List of the Birds of Essex County. In that same year, he entered Harvard College where he studied under the tutelage of Professor Louis Agassiz at the Lawrence Scientific School, serving as his assistant from 1857-1864.
From 1859 to 1878, Putnam worked for several museums as a zoologist, including the Boston Society of Natural History, Museum of the East Indian Marine Society, Essex Institute and the Museum of Comparative Zoology of Harvard University. From 1869 to 1872 he was the Superintendent of the Museum of the Peabody Academy of Sciences. During this time, Putnam became interested in archaeology, and he published a paper on “An Indian Grave and its Contents, on Winter Island, Salem, Massachusetts” in 1865.
In 1875, Putnam was appointed Curator of Harvard's Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. With Putnam at the helm, the focus of the Peabody Museum shifted from archaeology to physical anthropology and ethnology. He was responsible for a variety of museum functions which included not only administrative duties but field collecting, curation of collections, fund raising, and teaching in the Harvard College Department of Anthropology. In 1876, Putnam directed the first major construction of the Peabody Museum building that currently sits on Divinity Avenue in Cambridge. Putnam was appointed professor of anthropology in 1885 (the position was authorized in 1887). He retained that post until 1909 and was then Professor Emeritus and Honorary Director.
He also co-founded the anthropology programs at the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, and the University of California, Berkeley. At the age of sixty-four, he became the University of California's first Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Anthropological Museum. In 1909, Putnam retired from the University of California and was later appointed Professor Emeritus there. In 1894 he began devoting half his time to the curatorship in anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, and was influential in dispatching the productive Jesup North Pacific Expedition to northeastern Asia and northwestern North America.
Putnam was active in professional associations. In 1873, Putnam was elected to the post of permanent secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a position he held until 1898, at which time he was bestowed with the presidency of the Association. He helped establish the journals American Naturalist, Science, American Anthropologist, and founded organizations, such as Anthropology of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the American Anthropological Association.
Putnam was appointed the lead curator and head of the anthropology department in 1891 for the World's Columbian Exposition, to be held in Chicago in 1893. Putnam's publications number more than 400, and cover the subjects of natural history, archaeology, anthropology, and scientific administration.
- Browman, David L. "The Peabody Museum, Frederic W. Putnam, and the Rise of U.S. Anthropology, 1866-1903." AmericanAnthropologist vol. 104, no. 2 (June 2002): 508-19.
- Kroeber, A.L."Frederic Ward Putnam." New Series, American Anthropologist vol. 17, no. 4(October-December 1915): 712-18.
- Ninth Annual Report of the Trustees of the Peabodoy Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology 1876, President and Fellows of Harvard College, 1876: 6.
- Series I: Family Papers, 1807-1949
- ___1. Incoming Correspondence,1857-1906, undated
- ___2. Outgoing, F.W. Putnam, 1858-1903, undated
- ___3. Reciprocal, 1890-1910, undated
- ___4. General Correspondence, Writings & Notes,1824-1949
- ___5. Ephemera, 1860
- Series II:Professional Papers, 1857-1971
- ___1. Biographical Materials, 1861-1917
- ___2. Institutional Correspondence and Clippings, 1857-1971
- ___3. Subject Files, 1857-1935
- ___4. World Columbian Exposition Records, 1891-1913
- Series III: Oversize, 1886
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers were transferred to the Peabody Museum Archives by the Kent State University Archives in 1999. At Kent State, the papers were part of the Ralph Dexter Papers. They were probably loaned from Harvard to Ralph Dexter for his research for a biography of Putnam.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- American Museum of Natural History
- Ancestral Pueblo culture -- Dwellings
- Animal remains (Archaeology)
- Anthropology -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
- Archaeology -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Financial records
- Harvard University--Faculty
- Harvard University. Department of Anthropology
- Harvard University. Museum of Comparative Zoology
- Indigenous peoples -- Material culture
- Manuscripts for publication.
- Mounds -- Ohio
- Mounds -- Virginia
- Natural history
- Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc
- Peabody Academy of Science
- Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology
- Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
- Pueblos -- Southwestern States
- Research Notes
- Ute (culture or style)
- Zoology -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge
- Putnam, Frederic Ward (1839-1915), Papers, bulk 1855-1935 : A Finding Aid
- Peabody Museum Archives
- EAD ID
Part of the Peabody Museum Archives Repository
The Peabody Museum Archives contains primary source materials that reflect the Museum’s archaeological and ethnographic research and fieldwork since its founding in 1866. Archival collections contain photographs, documents, papers, and records of enduring value that were created or collected by the Museum, its individual affiliates, or other related entities. The collections also document the history or provenience, as well as the creation of many of the Museum’s artifact collections. To learn more about research visits at the Peabody Museum, please see https://www.peabody.harvard.edu/research-visits.
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