Showing posts with label anthropology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anthropology. Show all posts

Friday, May 6, 2011

Letter of the Day: May 6 (2 of 2)

Leipzig, May 6, 1885


Dear Sir [John Shaw Billings],


I am much obliged to you for the sending of the photographics (sic) of crania. The methods of photographing several heads upon the same plate with scale of measure added appears indeed to be of great interest. I have shown these plates to Dr. Emile Schmidt (formerly in Essen), whose collection, embracing 1300 nos. is to be placed in our institution.


I have myself, I am sorry to say, little time for craniological studies, as all my free time is devoted to embryology, but whenever I can help to promote craniology, I do so with pleasure. With regard to the specimens Prof. Braun (spelling?) has already written to you, I presume, that he had made for you a series of sections, ready to be forwarded, simply waiting for your directions. The sudden death of our dear president Panum has undoubtedly grieved you. He was in the position which he filled with so much conscientiousness, as if made for it and would have assisted you in the organization of the Congress in 1887, with his advice.


Very respectfully

W. His


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Letter of the Day: May 5

Smithsonian Institution,

Washington, D.C., May 5, 1880.


Dear Doctor Otis,


Charles Ruby, Private Co. D, 4th Infantry, Fort Laramie, says that while out between Hat Creek + Red Cloud Agency he passed the spot where the Cheyenne Indians two years ago made their last stand + nearly all were killed. He remarks that their skulls + bones lie scattered in all directions + will soon be lost. The thought occurred to him whether it would not be of interest to have some of these skulls collected.


Having called your attention to this subject, I remain,


Sincerely yours,

SF Baird


Dr Geo. A. Otis

Army Medical Museum.



Memorandum (written on reverse)


See letter of Dr. Carlos Carvallo, U.S.A., dated May 14, 1880, who states that as soon as possible he will go with a  small detail in search of the skulls etc., alluded to within.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Letter of the Day: March 15

Fort Wingate N.M.

March 15th 1870


Surgeon General U.S.A.




I have the honor to enclose for Army Medical Museum Ten Photographs of Navajo Indians and one reduced copy of a sketch of one of the Mogin villages.


They are all very poorly taken and printed, but the best that can be got here, and may be of some interest as illustrating the Navajo dress, features +c.


On Feb. 11th I forwarded a small collection of crania and weapons to the Museum and sent Catalogues with Receipt of A.A.Q.M. for packages by mail on same date.


Very respectfully

Your Obedient Servant

R.S. Vickery

Asst. Surg. U.S.A.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New book on craniology collectors is out

The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America's Unburied Dead
By Ann Fabian
University Of Chicago Press (October 15, 2010)

Judging from Amazon's Look-Inside feature,while the Army Medical Museum is discussed regularly, the author did not actually use the Museum's archives, instead working from the Surgeon General's Office records in the National Archives, and correspondence transferred to the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives.

Available in the Museum's archives are Curatorial Records which cover the subject especially

OHA 13

* Curatorial Records: Incoming Correspondence (Loose), 1862-1894
* 2.5 cubic feet, 5 boxes.
* Finding aid, arranged, inactive, unrestricted.
* Correspondence, arranged alphabetically, from the first two decades of the Museum's existence. The series ends when the Museum began a correspondence numbering system (see Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence). Includes letters sent to curators John Brinton, George A. Otis, D.L. Huntington, John S. Billings, and Walter Reed. Most of the incoming correspondence from this period is currently missing.

OHA 15

* Curatorial Records: Letterbooks of the Curators, 1863-1910
* 8 cubic feet, 17 boxes.
* Finding aid, arranged, inactive, unrestricted.
* Bound volumes of outgoing correspondence by curators John Brinton, George A. Otis, D.L. Huntington, John S. Billings, Walter Reed, James Carroll, and F.F. Russell. See Curatorial Records: Outgoing Correspondence (Loose) for other outgoing correspondence that was not recorded in these books.

OHA 25

* Curatorial Records: Smithsonian Correspondence, 1867-1887
* .5 cubic foot, 1 box.
* Finding aid available, arranged, inactive, unrestricted.
* Incoming correspondence, mostly from Smithsonian Secretaries Joseph Henry and Spencer Baird, relating primarily to the exchange of specimens between the Museum and the Smithsonian. George A. Otis, D.L. Huntington, and John S. Billings were curators of the Museum during this time. See Museum Records: Accession Records and Curatorial Records: Letterbooks of the Curators for related correspondence.

OHA 26

* Curatorial Records: Special Correspondence, 1862-1887
* .75 cubic foot, 2 boxes.
* No finding aid, arranged, inactive, unrestricted.
* Box 1: Correspondence relating to photography and photographic services at the Museum between 1862 and 1885. Includes correspondence of curators George A. Otis, D.L. Huntington, and John S. Billings and Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes. Box 2: Correspondence relating to the craniology collection and craniometric/anthropometric measurement at the Museum between 1862 and 1887, mostly sent to curators Otis and Billings.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 17

Fort Shaw, M.T.

February 17th 1868.




I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication dated M.D.A. Dep’t of Dakota January 22d, 1868 stating it is the wish of the Surgeon General to secure for preservation in the army medical museum specimens of Indian Crania and Indian weapons and utensils as far as they can be procured of the different Indian Tribes; and giving directions ho these specimens are to be collected and forwarded +c.


In reference to which I would respectfully state that I shall willing lend my aid as far as possible in collecting specimens from the different Indian Tribes in this Territory.


There are no Indians residing within a radius of forty or fifty miles of this Post, the Sun River country being looked upon as neutral ground. Occasional parties of Bloods, Piegans, Pend D’Oreilles, Black Feet and other Tribes on hunting or horse stealing expeditions transverse this section of country but make no delay en route and seldom visit this Post. Nevertheless I shall not fail to avail myself of any means of communication with these Tribes with a view to secure specimens.


Actg. Asst. Surgeon Hitz has been furnished with an official copy of your communication and expresses his willingness to cooperate in securing these specimens.


Very Respectfully

Your ob’t. Servant


F.L. Town

Bre’t Lieut. Col. + Surgeon, U.S.A.


Surgeon Jno. E. Summers U.S.A.

Medical Director, Dept. of Dakota

St. Paul, Minn.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Letter of the Day: February 5

Cox Le
Army Agents Chary xLondon

The Curator
Dear Sir

I desire to apply to you as I am engaged on a N. Zd [New Zealand] book for any printed information or plates regarding 2 dried N.Z Heads I learn you have.

My informant by a curator of a museum out there.

This information I seek [?] is noted as
Int Bureau Ethnology No 4. 1886 Smithsonian Lw.

Should I apply there

Besides New Zealand war[es?] I have had S. African[.] I would like to know if I gave a good exchange in Zulus Lc Y J might offer for 2nd N. Z of yours.

I must ask you to excuse me if I trouble you[?] I shd [should] be pleased with any notice of this

I am
Yrs Respectfully

H.G. Robley

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Letter of the Day: January 12

United States National Museum
Under direction of
The Smithsonian Institution
Jan. 12. 1884

My dear Dr. Shufeldt:

Prof Mason is anxious to have for his lecture this afternoon “four exaggerated specimens of head deformation” Chinook + crania, etc. We have none in this museum. There is not time left to make formal application. If you could let them come informally by bearer Prof Mason and the lecture committee will be greatly obliged. If you can’t, please don’t hesitate to say so.

Yours very truly,
G. Brown Goode

Dr. Billings sent over the specimens.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Letter of the Day: January 1

Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology,
Harvard University

F.W. Putnam,
Curator of Museum
Lucien Carr,
Assistant Curator

Cambridge, Mass., Jan 1 1886

Dr. Billings

Dear Sir

I have the material for five hundred skull stands abd partly made up shall I finish them up and send them to you

Truly yours
Edw. E. Chick

PS I'm in no hurry about the miny [money] if you have not got the appropriation yet

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Letter of the Day: December 4

United States Engineer Office,
Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian,
Washington, D.C., Dec. 4th, 1874

Dr Geo. Otis U.S.A.

Dear Sir

May I trespass on your kindness + ask you to have prepared for me as soon as possible a list of the Crania + skeletons collected by this expedition [ie Wheeler’s] + forwarded to the “Museum.” I would like also the diameters of the Crania + mention of any anatomical peculiarities +c. If I remember aright there was one skeleton which showed evidence of Pott’s disease. I am about preparing a Catalogue of our Crania + require the desired information for this purpose.

Very Truly yours

H.C. Yarrow

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Letter of the Day: November 9 (1 of 2)

Fort Wadsworth D.T.
Nov. 9th, 1868

Surgeon General U.S.A.
Washington, D.C.

I have since my communication of the 5th uls. explored two Tumuli and obtained a few bones, very incomplete parts of a number of skeletons seventeen tibiae, twenty one femura etc, etc, but no crania. From one I obtained about a peck of decayed wood, which had been used in interring the bones. I propose to disinter the remains of a hostile Indian (Dakota) who died of syphilis while a prisoner during the “Outbrake” [sic]. I would respectfully inquire if you desire the specimens for the museum?

I have a “Medicine Bag,” (parflesh bag) the skin of an otter, which I purpose to contribute. I have been preparing a map, or rather designating the location of the tumula on the map of the reservation, which with a description of the location, from and structure of the mounds I shall forward hereafter.

May I inquire if the implements we shipped on the 5th ult. have reached you.

Very Respectfully
Your Obed’t Servt
A. J. Comfort

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Letter of the Day: November 7

Ft. Concho, Texas
Nov. 7. 76.

My dear Sir-

I deferred replying to yr. last kind letter until some explorations, which I have undertaken, were concluded. I had discovered a number of ancient Indian graves 30 miles from Concho. I regret to say they proved to be too ancient. The remains having mostly crumbled away. After several days hard + dangerous work, I was only rewarded with a few fragmentary specimens which I will forward on a future occasion.

However, this is only one point. I have ascertained numerous localities, at no great distances, where I have little doubt of being more amply repaid for my exertions. It necessarily occupies time, having to leave the post for a day or two, which is not always feasible. Before Spring I trust you will concede I have done well. I know of several murderer’s and outlaws’ graves + propose sending some of their calvaria.

I wd [would] not have thus forwarded the Apache skeleton, but that it was so perfect. I dreaded an accident. Moreover any other method in Texas is slow and not remarkably safe.

More anon from,
Yrs. ever most truly,
J.H.T. King.

Surg. Geo. A. Otis. U.S.A.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Letter of the Day: November 6

Washington, Nov. 6, 1875.

Dear Doctor

I spoke to you some time ago about making a selection of at least a single series of skulls, to represent the various tribes of aborigines of North America, for exhibition at the Centennial, either by the Army Medical Museum or by the National Museum.

I would like to hear from you to know whether you will make this display; as I consider it extremely important that the very large ethnological collection to be exhibited on that occasion, should be supplemented by the series in question.

We will gladly receive the specimens here, + be responsible for their safe return, + arrange to exhibit them under suitable circumstances, of course as the property of the Army Medical Museum.

Any other method will suit us equally well, only we hope the exhibition will be made. We are now unpacking a collection of about 300 crania from the vicinity of Santa Barbara + the adjacent islands – a most magnificent series of specimens, + we would be glad to have you come over + look at them + see whether you wish them turned over to the Army Medical Museum, + whether you have space for their accommodation. Many more are yet due.

Yours truly,
Spencer F Baird

Dr. Otis,
Army Medical Museum,
Washington, D.C.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Letter of the Day: October 24

Lima Peru Oct 24th 1888

Dr. J.S. Billings
Washington D.C.

Dear Sir-

Confirming my letter to you of the 10th inst. I am since in receipt of your communication, dated Sept 11th ult. I think you will find in my * last shipment what you desire. I took the precaution to carefully wrap up two skulls with the Hyoid bone adhering; also a skull cut in two with one joint of the hyoid bone still in its place. I would not have recognised (sic) the bone by the drawing you sent me as they do not occur in that shape with the Peruvians but as a general thing they are shorter than the specimens I have sent you. I have always taken an interest when examining skulls and digging up mummies to look for this bone but it is surprising how often they fail to exist. It seems that in some cadavers they must have decayed in the first process of decomposition. I shall however give myself more pains in any future expeditions to look more carefull (sic) into the matter and gather the different sizes of both you and old to make a proper comparison.

Truly Yours

Geo Kiefer

*Received Nov. 10, 1888.
A.M.M. Nos. 2977-2995 Anat. Sect.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Letter of the Day: October 7

Fort Brady, Mich.

Oct. 7th 1875.


Dear Doctor,


I enclose a letter from Dr. Mallack in the Hudson Bay Co.s’ service, + now stationed at Moose Factory, 600 miles north of this place. Through the kindness of my friend Capt. Wilson, who resides in Canada opposite Brady, the skull referred to arrived here safely – it is the crania of a full-blooded Cree Indian + in excellent condition. It is to be regretted that Dr. Mallack cd. [could] not send more. I hope yet to obtain some Esquimaux bones. Capt. Wilson who has just returned from those polar regimes, informed me that the Esqimaux in that country are in a most degraded state – incest being quite common, some even marrying their own mothers, or rather having their mothers “in loco conjugis”. The weather has been very stormy during the past month or I shd. [should] have accomplished much more. I lost nine Indian crania three weeks ago by the upsetting of a boat in a squall - + the man I had employed to secure them for me, only escaped drowning by a miracle. This was a great loss, + disheartened me for a while. However, I have many places yet to explore, + trust that I may be more successful. Never having rec’d [received] any letter from you, I fear my specimens have not that value, in yr. estimation, which I attach to them.


Yrs. very sincerely,

J.H.T. King


Surge G. A. Otis, U.S.A.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Letter of the Day: September 15

Medical Purveyor’s Office, Military Division of the Pacific,

San Francisco, Cal., Sept 15, 1869




I have the honor to state that I have shipped for steamer via Isthmus 6 Cases off specimens for the Army Med’l Museum care of Genl. R.S. Satterlee Chief Med. Purveyor new York, mkd 2 to 6, Five (5) cases from Bvt. Col. J. T. Ghiselin U.S.A. Portland Oregon, + Case No. 1, a box of skulls of the aborigines of the Island of Hawaii obtained for me by Dr. Hutchinson Minister of the Interior for the Hawaiian Govt. I enclose herewith his letter relating to these specimens of skulls.


Very respy

Your Obt Servt

R. Murray

Med Purveyor


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Letter of the Day: September 7

Indianapolis General,

Sep. 7th 1868.

Brvt Maj Genl. J.K. Barnes, U.S.A.

Surgeon General.




I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a  circular, headed, “Memorandum for the information of Medical Officers.”


I have in my possession the skull of a New Mexico Indian, which I know nothing of the history of, except that it was brought direct from there by Mr James B. Dunlap – deceased - + given to me.


The skull is at your service. Please inform me how I shall send it, if you wish to have it in your collectin.


Your Obt Servt,

F.S. Newcomer,

A.A. Surg, U.S.A.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Letter of the Day: September 4

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 906

Sept. 4, 1895.

Mr. Nathan Joseph,
641 Clay Street,
San Francisco, Cal.

Dear Sir:-

Your letter of August 28th, addressed to Dr. J.S. Billings is received.

In reply I would say that the offer therein contained is respectfully declined, as the Army Medical Museum contains a certain number of the skulls described by you,-- sufficient for its purposes, and is not now in a position to enlarge in this line.

Very respectfully,

D. L. Huntington
Depty. Surg. Genl., U.S. Army,
In Charge of Museum and Library.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Letter of the Day: August 29

N.D.C. Hodges, Publisher,
47 Lafayette Place.
New York, August 29th 1888.

Dr. John S. Billings.
Washington D.C.

Dear Sir,

A short time ago I returned from my trip to British Columbia. I have collected a considerable number of crania and skeletons – 86 of the former and 14 of the latter, but some parts of that province are not well represented in my collections. I should like to study the material contained in other collections, in order to ascertain the best results. Can you, please, inform me, whether and how much material there is in the Army Medical Museum from Southern Alaska (Tlinkit [sic Tlingit]), Queen Charlotte Islands and the coast of British Columbia, from Puget Sound and the Salish (Flathead) of the interior. I hope to have a chance to visit Washington this winter and trust, you will kindly permit me to examine the material in your possession. I should like to know, how much there is, in order to know, how long it would take, to go over it.

Yours very respectfully,
Dr. Franz Boas

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Letter of the Day: August 28

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 906

641 Clay St. San Francisco California
Aug 28/95

Dr. Billings U.S.A.

D Sir

I have been collecting skulls for some years and have always found ready sale for them in almost any quantity to Proff Franz Boaz Clarks University Worcester Mass but unfortunately he has left and for the present is in Berlin. I have now on hand several very fine Flat Heads from Indians of this Coast and as they are not obtainable at any price except when rare chances appear of collecting them I am able to offer something rare to you and at a reasonable price which is $7.50 each. In case you would like to see one or two and are willing to pay freight both ways in case they do not suite I shall be happy to ship what I have to you on approval. I am the largest collector of Indian relics in America and your name was given to me by Dr. H.C. Yarrow.

Hoping to have the pleasure of a reply,
I am Resply
Nathan Joseph.

Washington D.C.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Letter of the Day: August 24

Fort Bridger, Utah

August 24th 1868.




In reply to your communication dated January 14th 1868, concerning specimens for the Army Medical Museum, I will state that opportunities of observing the results of “injuries + surgical diseases of the lower animals” at this post are very limited + nothing has come under my observation since the date of your letter that could be contributed to the section of the Museum illustrative of the subject.


Large wild game such as buffalo, elk, deer, antelope +c, are not found in this immediate vicinity + such is very seldom indeed brought to the post.


As a consequence of the scarcity of game no bands of Indians camp near hear except during a short time in the early summer when they collect to receive annuities, + are soon off for their fishing and hunting grounds again. I have not known of the death of an Indian in this locality since I have been stationed at the post – hence have had no opportunity of collecting crania.


During the present summer I have obtained specimens of bows + arrows from three tribes that have passed through the post – the Shoshone, Bannack + Ute – the weapons will be sent to the museum by Express + it will be observed that there is much similarity in those of the three tribes – all of them roving over the country in different direction within 200 miles of the post. The bows of all are usually made of the bow of oxyokes obtained along the several emigrant routes through the country. When first obtained they are soaked in hot water until they become pliable, + are bent into their present shape, reversing the curve as found. The component curve in the middle of the bow is thus easily obtained. The front or outer part of the bow is then curved with shreds of tendons obtained from along the spine of their game – either deer or buffalo. This is securely fastened on, as will be observed, by glue, which the Indian makes from the hoof or horn of the game. The elasticity of the bow is increased in this way.


The strings they make of tendons also.


The specimen of the Shoshone bow is one of the finest I have ever seen both as regards finish and springs. The remark about the similarity of the bows will apply also to the arrows. Those of the Utes are shorter than the arrows of either of the other tribes + the feathers extend along a greater proportionate length of the arrow. The grooves along the arrows are not made of a uniform curvature, but with these three tribes, they will be found much more tortuous than on the arrows of the Sioux, Cheyenne + Arapahoes, who roam on the Eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. The grooves in their arrows are nearly straight. The object of these grooves is to facilitate the escape of blood while the arrow remains in the body of the animal.


The feathers on the arrows in these specimens, it will be seen, are fastened only at the extremities. On the arrows of some tribes they are attached the entire length of the feathers by glue.


The base of the arrow heads of these tribes are never bearded, + in some instances, as in the forwarded specimens of the Ute arrow, the slope of the base is in the opposite way, as if to facilitate its removal from the body. The Sioux, I am informed make their arrow heads more or less bearded. The round pointed arrows are used in shooting small games such as rabbits, birds, prairie dogs +c


The tomahawk sent is a weapon not often carried by the tribe from which I obtained it + the buck who had it, displayed it from his quiver more as an ornament than otherwise. These instruments are made in the East and sold to the Indians by traders. The specimen I forwarded is made to be used as a pipe, but it is of doubtful utility in that respect + seems not to have been used as such by the owner.


I send also a specimen of a Navajo arrow said to have been poisoned. A dark substance may be observed adhering to the arrow just above the head.


This description of the articles sent may not be desired but as it may not be entirely devoid of interest to yourself or to others, I have thought it best to give it.


The articles I have forwarded were purchased of Indians for cash to the amount of twenty-seven dollars. This may be regarded as an unreasonable expenditure for things of so little intrinsic value, but in consequences of the liberal prices they always obtain for every thing they sell at this post, I was unable to get them at a lower rate.


In the same package I send the bones of a fractured elbow joint from the accidental discharge of a gun loaded with eleven buckshot, the muzzle being within a few inches of the part at the time of the discharge of the piece. If a report of the case is desired I will be very happy to furnish it.


Very Respectfully

Your Obt. Servant

W. E. Waters,

Asst. Surg. U.S. Army


Bvt. Lt. Col. Geo. A. Otis

Asst. Surg. U.S. Army

Surgeon General’s Office

Washington, D.C.