The Peabody Museum was founded at a time of epistemological and political turmoil, seven years after the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and one year after the end of the Civil War. The chaotic decades following the war proved to be an era of unprecedented economic opportunity, but also a time of corruption, disillusionment, and oppression. In the world of instruction, museums held the promise of teaching not only scientific facts, but proper values as well; a museum of anthropology might serve a vital moral function in the emerging society. As Peabody director Frederic Putnam wrote in 1891: “Many an indifferent idler straggling into a well-arranged museum goes forth with new ideas and fresh interests” to enrich “an otherwise aimless and weary life.” In this lecture Curtis Hinsley will consider the hopes and intentions of the Peabody Museum in its early years.
Curtis Hinsley, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of History and Comparative Cultural Studies, Northern Arizona University
Related exhibition: All the World Is Here
Presented as part of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology's 150th anniversary. Recorded 10/6/16
[00:00:05.07] Welcome to everyone tonight on this great night. I'm really excited about this. It's really the kickoff to the keynote time and the keynote events surrounding our birthday. Because Saturday is our actual birthday. It is the day 150 years ago when the Peabody Museum was founded. So at high noon on that day, we're going to celebrate with cake and singing "Happy Birthday" and having a great old time.
[00:00:31.99] And I should note that we're celebrating our 150th anniversary for more than a year. Why not. Enjoy it. Stretch it out. So that we will be having a number of events throughout the year, public events with the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, who so ably helping us to have them. And so tonight and Saturday is just the start. We have a whole series of talks on race representation and museums as part of our observation of the 150th anniversary. And we'll be having an opening of our 150th anniversary exhibit on the fourth floor of the museum in April. So there are lots of things coming along down the pike, as we say.
[00:01:18.09] I look out and I see so many faces that are familiar that I don't think I need to spend much time noting that the Peabody Museum is not only Harvard's museum, it is also the world's museum. It is the oldest museum of anthropology and archeology in the United States. It's one of the oldest in the world, if not the oldest, arguably. And it has the second largest collection of anthropological materials after the Smithsonian. We like to say we have 6 million objects-- 1.2 million objects, if you count the beads, and 600,000 objects if you count the necklaces. So it depends how you want to do it.
[00:02:01.29] And it is in that spirit that we're particularly delighted tonight to welcome Curtis Kit M. Hinsley, who is the Regents Professor Emeritus of History and Comparative Cultural Studies at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He received his BA from Princeton University and his MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin Madison and has taught at the University of Delaware, Syracuse University, and Colgate University before going to Flagstaff. Notably, he was a visiting scholar at the Peabody Museum in 1979, '80 and in 1981, '82 and was a visiting professor here in the Department of Anthropology in the interim in 1981.
[00:02:52.08] And so I discovered that there-- I only got here in 1990-- sorry in 2005. So I'm a late comer. And I discovered-- I was delighted that many, many of our staff, especially our old-time staff, have worked with him and were so happy to know he was coming. It really boosted my spirits as well, not only because they respect him as a scholar, but also because they were warm about having him back again. And he is indeed one of the foremost and most prolific scholars of early anthropology in the United States. And particularly, by the way, of the role of the Peabody Museum. That's we're especially grateful and honored that he will speak to us tonight.
[00:03:37.38] In addition to numerous articles on the topic we're hearing tonight, he's also published eight books including 1986 from Site-- S-I-T-E-- to Sight-- S-I-G-H-T, Photography, Anthropology and the Power of Imagery, published by the Peabody Museum Press with Melissa Banta.
[00:03:58.74] He also is the author of a two-volume, 1996 and 2002, Frank Hamilton Cushing and the Hemingway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition, 1886 to 1889, University of Arizona Press, and the forthcoming John G Owens First Student of Anthropology at Harvard, Letters from Zuni, Hopi, and Kopan, 1890 and 1893. Also looking forward to being published in the Peabody Museum Press. So without any further ado, won't you please join me and welcome Curtis Hinsley Thank you.
[00:04:32.88] Thank you Jane and thank you Jeff. It's an honor to be here today to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first museum of anthropology in the United States. 37 years ago, the staff and faculty of the Peabody Museum welcomed me here for a sojourn of research into its institutional history.
[00:04:58.09] Many of those people who were so generous to me are no longer with the museum, indeed with us at all, such as Monni Adams, KC Chang, Bill Howells, Joan Mark, David Maybury-Lewis, Stanley Tambiah, Evon Vogt, and Gordon Willey. But without exception, they extended to me kindness, openness, and courtesy I have not forgotten.
[00:05:23.14] I remember with particular fondness many afternoons with Gordon Willey in his office, listening to his stories, both archaeological and non-archaeological, as the boxes of his lifetime's correspondence destined for the Harvard Archives gradually piled up behind us. Each time I left his office after our meetings, I turned back to see on the frosted glass of his office door the names of its previous occupants and was struck by the same question-- what does it take to sustain such an institution over generations of research, collecting, curating, displaying, and teaching?
[00:06:03.41] And I often thought then of some words written by Frederic Putnam more than a century ago. On the last day of 1893, as he prepared to return from his work at the Chicago World's Fair to resume his positions at the Peabody and at Harvard, Putnam took time to write a note to Edward E Ayer, a prominent Chicago businessman.
[00:06:26.80] He wrote to the lumber millionaire as follows-- "we are living in an age of great accomplishments, and the tendency is to grow too fast and not always with certainty to ultimate results. A scientific and educational institution must have a healthy steady growth. And everything connected with it should be prospective. It must also always keep on growing, for the moment it stops, it dies. Therefore far-reaching plans should be made that the next generation will honor their predecessors."
[00:07:00.76] I've always been struck by Putnam's language and particularly the word prospective, which my dictionaries tell me means likely to happen, likely to be successful. And today I would like to do two things-- I would like to examine into just what Putnam might have meant by these words of advice and reflection more than a century ago and by doing so to honor the predecessors who built and sustained the Peabody Museum in its first struggling 50 years.
[00:07:31.24] The talk falls into four parts, starting with Jeffries Wyman, the first curator, and then talking about Frederic Putnam for a time and then moving to a major change around 1890, and finally some summary comments.
[00:07:46.33] So let's start with the year of the founding-- 1866. 1866 was a miserable year in the United States. With a recently assassinated president, his successor threatened with impeachment by Congress, the southern half of the nation in utter ruin, families and communities from Boston to Atlanta ripped to shreds, and a million men dead or maimed. And if the immediate aftermath of civil war was despair, worse was soon to come. Military occupation in the south for a decade, followed by a suspect and disputed presidential election-- we know about those-- blatant corruption in Washington, and a sense of loss and disorientation that would take a generation to dissipate. And for some, it would never dissipate.
[00:08:40.96] It is this pervasive sense of loss and disillusionment which I will return to and explore in a few moments. The sense of values in need of recommitment and reconstruction under profoundly discouraging cultural and political conditions that makes George Peabody's gift in October of that year all the more remarkable. How can we account for it?
[00:09:06.24] George Peabody's life reads somewhat like a Horatio Alger novel. Born in 1799 and raised in Danvers, now renamed Peabody, in Essex County, George Peabody grew up in this leather tanning town in poverty with six siblings and minimal schooling. He moved to Baltimore where he made his career in transatlantic dry goods, trading, and eventually banking.
[00:09:31.97] In 1837, he moved to London where he remained for the rest of his life. Here, his highly profitable bank became the key institution for purchasing the bonds issued by American states-- very few banks would take those bonds-- for building roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. His junior banking partner in England, whom he hired, was Junius Spencer Morgan, the father of JP Morgan, thus making the Peabody Bank in England the ancestor of both Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase today.
[00:10:07.18] He retired in 1863 with a net worth of about $16 million-- probably $250 million today-- most of which he eventually gave away for educational purposes both in the North and in the reconstructing South. The list of his benefactions is long, very long, including the future Peabody Museum in Salem, the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale, and $150,000 for this museum-- probably about $3 million or more today.
[00:10:41.74] He never married, and he died in London at age 74 in 1869. But he is buried back here in the States in Salem. He has been considered by many scholars the father of modern philanthropy, the model for Carnegie, Rockefeller, and others.
[00:11:00.70] Peabody divided his endowment for the Peabody Museum into three funds-- $45,000 for collections, $45,000 for a Professorship, and $60,000 for a building fund. The building fund was to remain uninvested until it reached $100,000, at which point he instructed quote, "it may be employed in the erection of a suitable fireproof museum building-- oops, too far, there it is --museum building, upon land to be given for that purpose free of cost or rental by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. The museum building would then become the property of Harvard Corporation."
[00:11:45.91] This began the relationship of the museum to the university. As long as the Professorship remained vacant, he said, the proceeds of that fund could be used to buy collections. And as it turned out, nearly a decade passed before building construction began. And since the Peabody Professorship remained vacant until 1887, the annual interest from the Professor Fund supported collections for two decades.
[00:12:12.78] Peabody's initial Board of Trustees included his close Boston friend, Robert C Winthrop who, together with natural scientist Jeffries Wyman, and Wyman's closest friend, Harvard botanist Asa Gray, formed the Executive Committee of the new institution. Wyman also became the first curator of Mr. Peabody's new museum, and here is our first key to these events.
[00:12:41.35] Historian of Science, Toby Appel, has written that at the first meeting in June of 1866 to discuss the proposed gift, former Harvard President James Walker stated bluntly to Mr. Peabody that while Harvard had more important immediate needs than a museum of archeology and ethnology-- again, some things never change-- if Mr. Peabody would quote "endow it handsomely and if we can get a safe, sound accomplished person like Jeffries Wyman to take charge of it, there can be no doubt of its ultimate success."
[00:13:16.07] Well, what did Walker mean by a safe, sound, accomplished person? And why did Jeffries Wyman seem to fit the bill? The answer lies partly with the individual who was excluded from the Peabody founding, Louis Agassiz. The exclusion was less a personal matter than an issue of scientific and cultural styles, which we can now see were embodied in Agassiz and Wyman.
[00:13:45.40] From the time of his arrival in the United States in 1846 from Switzerland for his first American tour of natural history lectures, the brilliant and compelling Agassiz had taken Boston, Cambridge, and Harvard by storm. Within a year, he had found funding for Harvard's Lawrence Scientific School and had been appointed Professor of Zoology and Geology at a high salary.
[00:14:10.39] Three years later, after the death of his wife in Switzerland, Agassiz secured his entree to Boston society by marrying Elizabeth Cabot Kerry, a teacher who later herself became the first President of Radcliffe College. Over the next decade, as his reputation for scientific genius grew, Agassiz laid the foundations for his own Museum Of Comparative Zoology, which opened in 1859.
[00:14:38.80] At the same time, though, Agassiz began to demonstrate an arrogance toward his students and a determined hostility toward Darwin's conception of evolution, leading in 1863 to the rebellion of virtually all his promising students, many of whom followed their fellow student, Frederic Putnam, to Salem. He had recruited Putnam when Putnam was 16.
[00:15:04.23] In the same year, Agassiz's resistance to President Charles W Eliot's attempts to reform the Harvard curriculum and the Lawrence Scientific School curriculum forced President Eliot temporarily from Harvard to the new school in Cambridge, MIT. By 1866 then, Agassiz had many enemies, but he still stood as a model of male energy and science, a forceful and unquestionably successful entrepreneur for New England science and culture.
[00:15:37.96] In many senses, Agassiz was everything that Wyman was not and vice versa. If Agassiz landed as a forceful outsider in Boston, Wyman was a quiet and reticent local boy, the namesake of a beloved Boston physician, New England born, Unitarian, Harvard graduate, the ultimate insider. In contrast to the magnificent material presence of Agassiz, Wyman appeared almost ethereal. If Agassiz was robust, Wyman was ill and faded. As he migrated southward each winter, there was no assurance that this fragile tubercular man would return for another spring.
[00:16:18.47] Agassiz possessed a massive ego. Wyman seemed to have been born without one. Agassiz fought fiercely for scientific status and priority, while Wyman gave away ideas and discoveries for others to use. Agassiz was panoramic in the sweep of his generalizations in natural history, while Wyman lovingly investigated the minute, the exceptional, and the individual in nature.
[00:16:41.83] By his death in 1873, Agassiz had built a major institution. Just a few months before Wyman's death the following year, 1874, Wyman could still be found quietly dusting and ordering his private anatomical collections, which filled a single room in Boylston Hall Wyman was unusually allergic to self-promotion and, in a sense, he could afford to be, preferring to let others push him forward. And he was equally cautious in his science.
[00:17:13.21] While Mr Peabody had instructed that his new museum should address, and I quote, "the great questions as to the order of development of the animal kingdom and of the human race, which have lately been so much discussed, that is to say, the problem of evolution." In fact, Wyman never took a clear public position on Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection.
[00:17:33.77] And while he must have found the scientific challenge engaging on aesthetic grounds-- on aesthetic grounds-- he spoke for a generation's despair. Quote, "this struggle for existence everywhere is an awful spectacle," he cried. "Not one perfect form on Earth. Every individual from crystal up to man imperfect, warped, stunted in the fight." Darwin, he said, had raised questions that quote, "we had been brought up to consider out of the reach of discussion." Thus, while quietly siding-- quietly siding-- with his friend Asa Gray and with Darwin, Wyman maintained cordial relations with Agassiz and served as a trustee, in fact, of Agassiz's museum as well.
[00:18:22.86] Wyman was constantly called upon to preside as President for more than a decade over the difficult egos in the prestigious Boston Society of Natural History. The words by which those men described him at his memorial meeting tell us a great deal about Wyman's position and reputation. Words like nobleness of nature, purity and simplicity, exalted character, truthful and conscientious to the very core with innate modesty and refined taste.
[00:18:56.59] James Russell Lowell, member of the Saturday Club, key poet, of course, of mid 19th century Boston, summarized what we might call Wyman's moral physiognomy. In the first lines of his sonnet tribute to Wyman, he wrote "the wisest man could ask no more of fate than to be simple, modest, manly, true, safe from the many, honored by the few. Nothing to count in world or church or state but inwardly in secret to be great."
[00:19:30.16] And Lowell closed by expressing his amazement in a final couplet as he said that such a man could spring from our decays. Lowell's phrases, notably his reference to our decays, help us understand the appeal and the meaning of Wyman and perhaps one puzzle of the early Peabody Museum as well.
[00:19:52.79] The prospect of moral and social decline, what historian Perry Miller some years ago called declension, is an old New England theme, the oldest really, because it's the dark side of the city on the hill. At heart, it was the fear of breaking faith, of losing moral compass, personally or collectively and thereby falling from God's favor.
[00:20:17.15] It haunted early New England, and it returned in a more secular form two centuries later in the immediate post-civil war years when, amidst a hangover of militarism and death, threats to rectitude and even simple honesty seemed constant and ubiquitous.
[00:20:35.09] The chaotic decade that was ushered in by the end of the Civil War and the utter defeat of the South proved to be for some a time of unprecedented economic opportunity, a wild scramble for land, resources, and special privileges, especially in the exposed and vulnerable former Confederacy and in the inviting trans-Mississippi West. But for others, what came to be known and Mark Twain's sardonic phrase as the Gilded Age, amounted to a national nightmare of vulgarity and disillusionment.
[00:21:08.42] Viewed from the Washington vortex of this new world of scandal, the country appeared to the Massachusetts brothers Henry and Brooks Adams to be, as they said, quote "dragged on by an attractive power in advance which even the leaders obeyed without understanding it." For such men, the post-war American cultural landscape seemed dingy and barren and yet suffused also with new and unpredictable industrial productive energies and populated by men of undeniable ambition and force.
[00:21:40.07] To borrow historian Howard Mumford Jones's well-worn but still apt phrase, it did seem a new American age of energy. But could men of energy and particularly men in pursuit of knowledge also be men of honesty and character under modern circumstances immune to the temptations of public acclaim or financial desire? What would happen to the quiet persistence of the life of science? Would a social and political environment that seemed to celebrate force and ambition undermine character and humility and corrupt the search for truth? And what might this mean for Harvard and its training of young men?
[00:22:23.48] Theodore Lyman IV, son of a former Mayor of Boston, Civil War veteran, graduate and overseer of Harvard, and cousin of President Eliot, expressed precisely these concerns to his brother-in-law, Alexander Agassiz, the son, in 1873 with these observations-- just now, 1873, he wrote "there is a tidal wave of commercial life which sweeps into itself all the energy and talent of the United States. Only here and there is it resisted by men of peculiar temperament or genius. The state of mind thus induced is so incompatible with that of scientific thought that when men by a success or through exhaustion leave commercial enterprise, they are incapable even of conceiving what science is and mistake it, when they try to understand it, for something that will lead to preserved beef or patent washing fluids. What we must keep trying to do is to make Harvard College larger and as many sided as possible, that is, to present learning in as many forms as possible."
[00:23:33.92] The year after Lyman confided these thoughts to the younger Agassiz, Jeffries Wyman died. And a year later, in 1875, Frederic Putnam returned from Salem to succeed him and to take charge of what was then the 8,000 piece Peabody Museum collection in Boylston Hall. Putnam would stay for 40 years, and here I move to the second part.
[00:24:00.50] But Putnam came with some disadvantages in 1875. Like Wyman, he had limited experience in archaeology and none in ethnology. Additionally, he was, like Peabody, a North Coast native, not a Bostonian. And furthermore, while he had studied under Agassiz, Gray, and Wyman in the Lawrence Scientific School, he had left at age 24 without any degree. In fact, when he died in 1915, he still had no academic degrees from any university. But in his own mind, the transition from fishes, which is where he started, to humans was natural.
[00:24:40.34] In 1880, five years into his curatorship here, he told Lewis Henry Morgan, the most esteemed anthropologist in America, now, if I am no longer a zoologist, I claim that my zoological studies and methods I obtained during the eight years I was a pupil, both in human and general anatomy, have prepared me for my archaeological and ethnological research and therefore, while I am no longer a student in zoology, I am one in anthropology. And he underlined the last three words.
[00:25:09.72] The new curator focused his attentions on North American archaeology, especially New Jersey, the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys, and the New England coast. For 15 years, Putnam oversaw a program of mostly long-distance teaching, what I call his correspondence school of field workers, while enjoying a small circle of assistants in the museum, most of them unpaid. Again, some things don't change.
[00:25:38.83] Also it is important to note that beginning at this point, Putnam accepted and encouraged women in various roles and relationships with the museum from Cordelia Studley, who was the first person to study physical anthropology at the Peabody Museum but who died quite young, to Alice Fletcher, student of the Plains Indians, specifically the Omaha, for whom Margaret Copley Thaw created the Thaw Fellowship in 1891 which was, I believe, the first fellowship ever held by a woman at Harvard. While these and other women could not matriculate at Harvard, Putnam was very proud of their work, as you see in this quotation from 1893, noting that women were among his most successful proteges.
[00:26:29.05] In this pre-department period, Putnam's field workers ranged from Nicaragua to the Channel Islands off the California coast, from Maine to Tennessee and Florida. But he focused on Ohio and New Jersey, and the research program centered on the question of paleolithic man in North America, also called the Ancient Man Controversy or the Antiquity Issue.
[00:26:54.08] Putnam's own field experience occurred in the summers of the early 1880s in southern Ohio, specifically at Madisonville Cemetery, Fort Ancient, and the Turner site and the Serpent Mound, which he purchased with funds raised by Boston women and later turned over to the State of Ohio for preservation, one of the first sites in North America to be so preserved.
[00:27:17.95] Each relationship with collaborators was unique, depending on personalities and ambitions, but the important thing to note is that Putnam's overall pattern can best be described as highly cautious. Repeatedly, one is struck in reading the correspondence of this time with his emphasis on the importance of rock-solid empirical observations as the essential route to acceptance as a legitimate participant and with his determination to protect the reputation of his institution, his science, and himself by withholding generalizations until field evidence became overwhelming.
[00:28:00.55] For some of his collaborators, such as Charles C Abbott, here hanging on a fence in Trenton, New Jersey, who was convinced that he had discovered proof of paleolithic man in the Trenton Gravels, and here he is in the Trenton Gravels, Putnam's reticence could be infuriating. And over more than 30 years, during which he sent tons of specimens displayed in the Abbott Room-- what came to be known as the Abbott Room upstairs in the museum-- Abbott became outright abusive to the man he considered the gatekeeper to his recognition.
[00:28:36.37] Of many outraged and frankly outrageous paragraphs that Abbott wrote to Putnam over the decades, I have time for only one today from 1900, after Abbott had sold some land for a trolley and was feeling financially liberated. This is what he wrote-- "poor Abbott is fat, vigorous, full of work, and very happy and nonetheless so because a cleek, of whom you are afraid, wagged their heads solemnly when Trenton archaeology is broached. Really, I think the tables are turned. It's not poor Abbott but poor Putnam now and damned poor at that. The anti-antiquityites have been keeping you shaking in your shoes all these years, and your boots are still shaking. Ta ta." It's a great letter. There are many more like it.
[00:29:29.26] The historical landscape of archaeology and anthropology generally is littered with traces of individuals who failed in their bids to become recognized. Abbott was atypical only-- atypical-- only in the intensity of his reactions to the inherent problems of working for an institution which at the time could provide opportunity to contribute but could offer little hope for advancement or position. But the more important issue lying within this and similar stories of the time is a problem that was particularly common to the field sciences. How do you vouch with certainty for field observations in the absence of formal training and vetting of individual's honesty and character? It was not an idle question.
[00:30:19.77] Findings could be and were faked. Individuals could be and were easily disqualified through dismissal of their motives or character or even their personal styles. Again, it was a question of motivation and honesty. And Putnam's answer was a decade-long campaign to establish, demonstrate, and publicize a set of methods in archaeology that he claimed finally comprised a scientific approach and thereby presumably minimized the problem of personal intentions and character.
[00:30:57.93] Ohio became the model for his method, and Putnam demonstrated in the museum, in publications, and at international affairs such as Seville in 1892 and Chicago in 1893. Put briefly, the Putnam method involved careful digging and trenching, photographing and noting relative positions of artifacts or bones, never dividing a site collection, careful supervision of the work crew, thorough writing up of field notes as soon as possible, and avoiding journalists at all costs.
[00:31:34.32] Photography was critical, as was the retention of all artifacts as a single collection. As he admonished his chief Ohio collaborator, Charles Metz, in 1882, quote, "don't take any partnership in the work. You know that I have always said that the contents of a mound must be kept as one lot. There are no such things as duplicates. Take away one bead, even from a bushel, and you have destroyed the fact or rather the evidence to pass down for all time that a bushel of beads was found. The dividing of the contents of a mound between two parties is like dividing a volume of Shakespeare." Wonderful comparison. "Each would have some of his plays but would not know about the others. As long as you stick to me, stick close and tight, and it will be better for science and for your credit as an archaeologist and for this museum."
[00:32:28.83] By 1885, Putnam was announcing publicly that through his training and sponsorship of field exploration and collecting, the popular image of American archaeology as a playground for men of rashness and haste in judgment-- his words-- was being replaced by a model of caution and moderation. And that system seemed to be a stimulus to activity. 10 years later, anthropologist Daniel Brinton of Philadelphia was marveling that quote, "there are now in Ohio 310 persons interested in archaeology. Can any other state equal this record?"
[00:33:07.02] But even with these exertions and initial supports, challenges of a different kind confronted the museum. In 1879, Charles Eliot Norton, here seen as a confident young man in the center of this 1853 image, Scholar of Dante Professor of Art and Classics at Harvard, and the man whom many contemporaries considered the most cultivated man in the United States, founded the Archaeological Institute of America in Boston, the AIA. Norton's intentions and inclinations were clear enough. He wished to promote classical, largely Mediterranean, archaeology and art for their own sake and for the sake of the enlightenment of future generations of educated men like himself.
[00:33:55.11] As we see in this engraving from the Illustrated London News of 1850 of Austen Henry Layard's Eagle Winged Bull From Nimrod, relocated to the British Museum at that time for Victorian viewing, or Cleopatra's Needle, as imagined on the banks of the Thames River, in 1877, these were the kinds of monumental prizes that Norton's circle most coveted. And the archaeologist as discoverer-- this is Jacques de Morgan in Egypt in 1896-- or as intellectual titan, and here we have Heinrich Schliemann presenting his findings-- some of his findings to the Society of Antiquaries in London in 1887. And note the intensity of the all-male audience.
[00:34:47.31] This kind of vision of the archaeologist as explorer and as intellectual matched the worthiness of the prizes in the vision of the world that Norton had. But it is best to hear directly Norton's argument as he made it to his cousin, President Eliot, in 1874. There he is. "Deprived as we are," Norton wrote, "of the high and constant source of cultivation found in the presence of the great works of past ages, there is the greater need that we should use every means in our power to make up for the loss of this influence upon our youth and give to them, so far as possible, some knowledge of the place these works hold in history and of the principles of life and character which they illustrate. We need to quicken the sense of connection between the present generation and the past, to develop the conviction that culture is but the name for that inheritance, material and moral, that we have received from our predecessors and which we are to transmit with such additions as we can make to it to our successors."
[00:35:55.95] Now it's immediately obvious that Norton's definition of culture is not that of anthropology but rather that of John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle, two of his closest friends in England, what one historian some years ago called the Great Tradition. To Norton and his circle, the heart of education lay in the teacher as a model and subject matter as inspiration. Together, model and inspiration would elevate the student morally, inculcating a sense of religious awe, of aesthetic appreciation, and manly and occasionally womanly responsibility.
[00:36:38.16] In this vision of education, only the finest perfect products of human genius had a place. Why, after all, expose young people to the everyday, the mundane, the imperfect. Theodore Lyman, as usual, said it most colorfully. "A young and learned man who yet has no belief that one thing is really better than another is one of the most dismal spectacles conceivable. A generation of such men, he said, would drift the country devil-ward.
[00:37:14.05] Now, the anthropology of North America had no place in such a vision. Putnam knew it, and he felt it acutely, writing to Louis Henry Morgan in 1880 that Norton, with such influence in Cambridge, had never visited the Peabody Museum and quote "has not the slightest idea of what I have done or am trying to do there." In truth, the aesthetic discrepancy between Old and New World discoveries had been apparent since the founding and since Wyman's diggings in his shell heaps.
[00:37:45.54] Brinton of Philadelphia had written to Wyman in 1868, quote, "the art relics which I found in Florida and those which you describe disappoint me in character. The oldest account seemed to describe tribes of a much higher grade of culture than existing monuments suggest. The subject, however, is far from being exhausted, and different results may yet be obtained." And he predicted-- Brinton, 1868-- that American archaeology will, in time, rank equal with that of Egypt and the Orient.
[00:38:18.63] Oliver Wendell Holmes, who accompanied Wyman on some of his diggings, put it somewhat differently. He said, "they delight me, these chiffonier (rag picker) expeditions among the shell heaps, almost as much as it would to dredge the Tiber River." Read that sentence twice. Turning to French, comparing it to the Tiber River, that's Oliver Wendell Holmes.
[00:38:45.72] But if Holmes typically made light of the gap, a decade later the issue came home quite bluntly at the second annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute in May 1880. The evening's guest was John Wesley Powell of the new Bureau of Ethnology in Washington, who presented his plans for presuming anthropology across the country.
[00:39:04.20] When he was finished, Charles C Perkins, a wealthy art and music critic and trustee of the Fine Arts Museum, suggested that American materials would, after all, be available for some time while there was currently a run on classical objects and sites. So it was important to focus overseas.
[00:39:23.37] Besides, added Francis Edward Parker, if knowledge was the purpose of the AIA, then the knowledge should be useful, not simply curious. Even if we possessed he said, all the pottery ware, kitchen utensils, and tomahawks the Indians had ever made, he lectured Powell and Putnam, it would be no better for us. Only classical collections would quote, "improve the people and repay expenditure." Norton added, likewise, that quote, "what we might obtain from the Old World is what will tend to increase the standard of our civilization and our culture. Putnam and Powell protested, but it was no use.
[00:40:05.57] Powell left Boston disgusted, employing a metaphor from his Midwestern boyhood. He wrote, "our archaeological institutes, our universities, and our scholars are threshing again the straw of the Orient for the stray grains that may be beaten out while the sheaves of anthropology are stacked all over this continent. And they have no care for the grain which wastes while they journey across the seas.
[00:40:32.84] Two months later, Norton summarized his opinions, privately to Thomas Carlyle, "I don't care much for American archaeology, though as President of the Institute, I must say this under my breath."
[00:40:47.34] Across this great divide, as it's been called, between classicists and americanists, there was though one significant point and very important point of agreement-- all parties shared an object-centered epistemology. That is to say, they believed that objects, whether it was Greek sculpture and monuments or Peruvian mummies or even the potteries and tomahawks of the North American indigenes, contained meanings that could be communicated through careful study and didactic display.
[00:41:19.47] Artifactual knowledge was of value. If Norton's circle was more concerned with our Harvard students, Putnam's vision extended to the man in the street, the growing urban populations of the less privileged, workers, and immigrants. He spoke to the point many times in his long career but perhaps most fully in 1891 when he addressed a commercial club of Chicago.
[00:41:45.65] On that occasion Putnam laid out his arguments for what would become the Field Museum. And he articulated an explicitly educational and reformist vision. He said, "it is beyond question that a love of nature is inherent in mankind and is shown alike by the savage, the child, the cultured man and woman. Through this natural tendency, properly fostered and directed, a people may be led to feel an intelligent interest.
[00:42:18.20] Many an indifferent straggler, idler, straggling into a well-arranged museum, goes forth with new ideas and fresh interests. When this intelligent interest is once aroused, it incites inquiry and research and often brings energy and brightness into an otherwise aimless and weary life. By a series of object lessons, often taken unknowingly at first, the person becomes a student to a greater or lesser extent, and the process of a refining culture is begun, which cannot fail to result in benefit to the community."
[00:42:56.63] By the mid '80s then, Putnam had grown the Peabody Collections through encouragement of his field workers and his small staff and through constant exhortations to local individuals and groups for small contributions of $50 or $100. It was a constant struggle, and Putnam's correspondence of this period leaves one with a sense of occasional desperation.
[00:43:18.48] An 1889 art critic, Sylvester Koehler, who was the first Curator of Prints at the Museum of Fine Arts and an expert on engraving, described visiting the Peabody Museum. He said its growth has been marvelous despite the fact that it has had to quote "eke out its income from an insufficient endowment by small gifts from wealthy patrons by incessant appeals."
[00:43:45.13] And here are some of the lovely engravings that were in Koehler's article. Moundbuilder pottery from Arkansas and Florida, Moundbuilder pottery from Missouri and Arkansas. This is 1889. It's a wonderful article, by the way. Potteries from Mexico and terra cotta heads from Mexico. I think there are eight or nine engravings in that single article.
[00:44:17.90] But lovely as they are, the pictures suggested the problem. The potteries and ceramics from Arkansas, Florida, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, and Peru were hardly the monumental creations of the classical world. While Koehler did claim to see, and I quote, "a certain grace and simplicity of line and decoration in some pieces"-- his most common adjectives, when you read the article-- "are rude and grotesque."
[00:44:47.71] But at this juncture-- this is part three-- at this juncture in 1889, the circumstances of both the museum and Putnam were, in fact, changing rapidly. In 1884, Robert Winthrop felt that the time had come to fill the Peabody Professorship. The result was a three-year campaign that ended with Putnam's appointment finally in 1887. With the exception of Brinton, he was the first Professor of Anthropology in the United States.
[00:45:12.76] Two years later, the overseers named the museum's first visiting committee, chaired by Dr. Francis Weld, and including investment banker Charles Pickering Bowditch. Weld and Bowditch established the museum's first fellowship, only one that which-- I'm sorry, first fellowship, a three-year $1,500 commitment. More importantly, Bowditch, who visited Honduras on an investment expedition in 1889, and here he is-- this is wonderful-- this is straight out of Steve Williams' book on the history of anthropology at Harvard.
[00:45:46.88] But there is Bowditch in Boston, and there he is in his dirty jungle whites in Honduras. His diary from that trip is absolutely hilarious to read, as he complained about broken shoestrings and wet clothes and stuff that wouldn't dry, so forth. Anyway, Bowditch had become, partly through this trip, very interested in Mayan history, in calendrical puzzles and hieroglyphics. And he soon funded the museum's first archaeological expedition to Copan, while Mary Hemenway established an important fellowship in 1891 that initially supported graduate student John Owens, first in the American Southwest and then as first director of the Expedition.
[00:46:44.08] In the fall of 1890, Owens and George Dorsey formally applied to the Harvard Graduate Program to study with the new Professor Putnam toward a PhD. And a few months later, there was no department. A few months later, Harvard established the department in response-- the Department of Archaeology and Ethnology which now, of course, is Anthropology-- to make that possible.
[00:47:07.93] In 1892, Daniel Brinton, always watching everything happening from Philadelphia, wrote that, quote, "the rightful claims of anthropology will be recognized only when it is organized as a department by itself with a competent core of professors and curators with well-appointed laboratories and museums and with fellowships for deserving students. A great prediction.
[00:47:30.48] Brinton's prescription would not be filled, however, in Philadelphia for several decades more. But in only four years, from 1887 to 1891 at Harvard, the Peabody Professorship was filled, the department was launched, the first fellowships were established, and the first students were enrolled.
[00:47:52.30] Sadly, Owens died in his second season at Copan. He would have been the first PhD, one of a series of losses of young people that Putnam suffered in his career. There he is a month before he died of yellow fever. And the [INAUDIBLE] the young men who were carrying-- those are the molds being carried back for shipment to the Peabody to make casts of the kinds of things you see today on the third floor, I think it is-- up on the third floor. That's how it starts. Those are the paper molds that become the casts that show up ultimately in the museum. So Owens didn't receive the PhD but Dorsey did and moved on to Chicago afterwards.
[00:48:43.84] But the turn to Mayan archaeology in 1890, largely determined by Bowditch and Putnam, effectively moved the museum, in the public eye at least aesthetically, from the mundane to the monumental, from the clay pipes of Mississippi Moundbuilders to the mysteries of hieroglyphic stele, ancient cities, and complex societies.
[00:49:09.43] The hieroglyphic stairway seen here in the very early stages of excavation-- there's one picture of it as it was originally found and cleared. There is another of it, what it originally looked like. It was one of those remarkable findings that contributed to this change in aesthetic appreciation.
[00:49:32.14] George Byron Gordon, who succeeded Owens at and is not generally known for his romantic sentiments, wrote in 1894 of Copan's hieroglyphic stairway. There he is on it. It has a curious attraction somehow. I have got so that I am not content unless I am there. My ambition now is to get a mold of every piece in it before leaving it again.
[00:49:57.04] It seemed that finally the ambitious daydreams of John Lloyd Stephens, who had first brought Mesoamerican prehistory to American consciousness in the 1840s would finally be realized. Stephens had rhapsodized, writing in 1840, if it stood at this day on its grand artificial terrace in Hyde Park or the Garden of the Tuileries, it would form a new order, this archaeology, a new order not unworthy to stand side by side with the remains of Egyptian and Grecian and Roman art.
[00:50:27.97] Due in part to Bowditch's status in Boston and his wealth surely but also to the nature of the archaeological prizes at stake now in Central America, the museum finally, after 1890, began to receive significant contributions. Collections were no longer only the pickings of shell heaps or the Trenton gravels that were up in the Mound Room or the Abbott Room, but the stele and stepped pyramids of Copan, [INAUDIBLE] later the Golden Copal incense of Chichen Itza.
[00:51:02.47] These may not have been in the direct lineage of high culture a la Charles Norton, but they were nonetheless clearly products of the high cultures of the New World with a history steeped in romance. At last, it seemed, the Peabody had found cultural artifacts worthy of a museum, worthy of investment, worthy of study and display.
[00:51:25.06] In 1896, George Dorsey reported that quote, "one large hall in the Peabody Museum is now filled with casts of huge sculptured stone monuments and strange hieroglyphs." In every important respect, the Department of Anthropology at Harvard grew out of the Peabody Museum, and it emerged in the two decades after 1890. Uniquely, the original department offered only graduate courses open to undergraduates only by instructor permission.
[00:52:05.53] The first undergraduate courses appeared in 1897, the same year that Harvard took over the Peabody Trust, thereby creating what Dorsey called a more intimate relationship between-- you have to smile at some of these things-- between museum and university. Initially too, all the teaching took place in the museum, primarily on the fifth floor.
[00:52:28.48] This created enormous pressure on space. In Dorsey's words of 1896-- I mean, they were teaching people in the hallways. They cleared out some of the office space and had artifacts in the hallways and students running everywhere. The first decade was chaotic. This created enormous pressure on space. In Dorsey's words of 1896, like any other Harvard institution, the museum presents those twin conditions of increase and prosperity, that is, it is crowded and it needs money.
[00:53:02.23] It would take me far too long to tell the stories of the individuals who comprised Putnam's teaching staff in the first two decades. Suffice it to say that Putnam grew his department through ad hoc combinations of fellowship money, private subscriptions, and an arrangement whereby the museum received $27 for every student enrolled in a course which led, by the way, initially to large courses and easy courses.
[00:53:28.30] The squabbling, as Alfred Kidder, among others, said in his diary, the squabbling with Harvard Corporation over inadequate support was endless. In 1901, the museum visiting committee even noted to the overseers that through its basement boiler the Peabody Museum had been heating the Semitic Museum across the street from free.
[00:53:52.57] But I want finally to return to Charles Bowditch in Central America, for here there is a final-- but not final really-- old lesson. Through the '90s and into the new century, as Putnam gradually filled out his new department with regular classes and faculty and fellowships and students, Bowditch looked in vain for a student to take on his beloved Mayan studies. He even convinced the Archaeological Institute of America to offer a generous graduate scholarship if he could find a student.
[00:54:24.49] For a time, Putnam and Bowditch placed their hopes on a young man named Alfred Kroeber, but he decamped for the new department at Berkeley. Reluctantly, Bowditch concluded they would have to train up someone, an undergraduate whose name was Tozzer. To prepare for the fellowship, it is rather a long road to travel, he wrote glumly to Putnam, to be obliged to educate a man to take a scholarship, which we are anxious to fill, but I do not know any other way to accomplish the object.
[00:54:59.09] So after his Harvard college graduation at the turn of the century, Tozzer held the AIA Central American Fellowship, as it was called, for four years. He then joined Putnam's faculty in 1905, and he stayed until 1949. He was truly Putnam and Bowditch's creation, and his appointment-- Tozzer's appointment-- stabilized the teaching faculty. But there was something more important than this landmark. Bowditch considered and called Tozzer quote, "my scientific son." And their voluminous correspondence until Bowditch's death in 1921 is deeply moving and revealing.
[00:55:40.01] At one point in 1903, when Tozzer was anxious to come home from the field to finish his PhD-- this is Tozzer in 1909, 1910, a few years later-- but when Tozzer is anxious to come home from the field to finish his PhD, Bowditch wrote in the familiar language of moral obligation. Here's what he wrote-- "Dear Mr Tozzer, several working maxims have always been before me from my boyhood.
[00:56:09.86] Among these are what you do, do with all your might, and when you enter into an agreement, carry it out to the letter. Whatever success I have had in life has come to me from following these maxims as nearly as possible."
[00:56:26.54] And after explaining his expectations to Tozzer, he went on to say "the longer you delay your field work, the less chance there will be of obtaining the information that's needed. And in order to carry out the understanding which you assumed with the fellowship, I feel sure you ought not to leave your work this next year. The material which you have collected can wait. Your degree can wait. I write you as I should to my own son, and I hope you will believe me when I say that my advice is given as much for your own ultimate good as for that of the understanding which you have entered into." Tozzer stayed in the field.
[00:57:09.80] To summarize, one of the deepest fears in 19th century America was the apparent disappearance of true selflessness in the face of commercial self-interest and political or economic greed. Much of the civic activism in Boston and other urban areas of reform was, in effect, an attempt to reassert the spirit of selflessness and disinterested effort, which it was insisted must still be a primary human motivation.
[00:57:40.55] Selfishness and science was especially dangerous, because science promised such power to shape society. Now, because the selfishness could take so many forms, there was of course always financial self-interest. But there was also the appeal to popularity, which was suspect too as an ego-gratifying substitute for quiet competence of the Wyman variety.
[00:58:09.62] Self-indulgence in the form of imaginative with fanciful theorizing must be discerned and distinguished from legitimate hypothesis, though granted the line was sometimes hard to draw. But in the end-- and this is the important point-- it came down to self-discipline. The signs of discipline and selflessness were the same as they had always been. Self-restraint, self-respect, uprightness at home or in the field, even good taste, was a matter of selflessness, of removing the ego as much as possible from one's work.
[00:58:45.05] And so this is finally the fascinating double meaning of creating a discipline, and it reflected the concerns of George Peabody, Jeffries Wyman, Frederic Putnam, and their generations. Graduate training in anthropology was intended partly, perhaps primarily, as moral training, both sharpening the minds and purging the hearts of young men and women. The inspiring ideal behind modern professional science has been the picture of a community of inquiry extending generous and determined through space and time, working impersonally toward an ideal of ultimate truth.
[00:59:23.57] The generations that founded and guided the early Peabody Museum and, through it, anthropology at Harvard cherished this vision, for they had seen war, they had seen destruction, and they feared total capitulation of those ideals before the false gods of self-interest, popularity, or personal gain. But-- and this was also a major lesson of the Civil War-- the vision and the moral impulse, as they learned through abolitionism and other areas of life, the vision and the moral impulse required an institutional form, a mechanism to bring it to realization and to keep it alive. That institution would serve as well to improve the barren lives of the less fortunate through exposure to the material lessons in the halls of anthropology.
[01:00:15.80] The search for truth in the sciences of humanity, they were convinced, could not survive without firm institutional protection against the winds of American commerce and politics. And the museum, and from it the university department became-- to go back to Putnam's meaningful 19th century phrase-- their prospective strategy of building the future of anthropology and the nation. Thank you.