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The Antiquities Act: Harvard Connections
David L. Browman, Washington University
Stephen Williams, Peabody Museum, Harvard University
Session: "Examining the Historical Context for the Antiquities Act (1879-1906)", Society for American Archaeology Annual Conference, April 2, 2005

  1. First: The story of Wills deHass at the AAAS, and his work with the St. Louis Mounds.

    Wills DeHass (1817-1910) was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania and received his M.D. from Washington County's Jefferson College. He lived a good part of his life in Moundsville, West Virginia, not far from Grave Creek Mound. His early interests were in colonial history, but during the research for his 1851 volume on the history of western Virginia, he became interested in the Grave Creek mounds, as well as the mound-builder question in general.

    At the 1858 AAAS meeting in Baltimore (one year after Putnam joined), DeHass was selected to be a member of the committee set up to "study ancient monuments and their distribution". Despite the apparent support from the AAAS to begin with, this committee seems to have done little for nearly a decade after its formation. Ten years later, in March of 1868, DeHass finally followed up on the charge from the AAAS a decade earlier. DeHass traveled to St. Louis, where he met with members of St. Louis Academy of Science, and visited the mounds in the city of St. Louis and at Cahokia. His announced purpose for this trip was that he was initiating a general survey of ancient mound builders in the west, mapping and measuring them, collecting vestiges of art, and excavating many of the smaller mounds for a planned superbly illustrated volume. DeHass followed this notice up with a short addendum, saying his first report was too cursory, and that in his initial work he had found a rich mound assemblage in Illinois, where he had already collected information on more than 200 mounds. He went on to assert that his "explorations are the most important and extensive yet made in the West" and the artifacts he had recovered "prove that the original occupants of the fine alluvial opposite St. Louis were agricultural as well as hunters and fishermen" (DeHass 1868).

    DeHass also reported on this trip to St. Louis in his 1869 official report of the work of the AAAS Committee on Mound Survey. Here DeHass acknowledged that the charge to conduct a survey had been made at the Baltimore meeting a decade before, but made the excuse that the Civil War had intervened, and as a result only the chairman, DeHass, did any work, mainly along the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys, especially at Cahokia, which he was reporting at these (1869) meetings. These brief commentaries of 1868 and 1869 seem to be the sum total of the work done by that AAAS committee.

    In the spring of 1877, DeHass gave a series of archaeological lectures at Syracuse University, one of the earliest recorded set of university classes dedicated solely to American archaeology. Otis Mason (1877:626) gave it a rave review:

    Prof. Wills de Hass has issued a Syllabus of a course of Lectures on American Prehistoric Archaeology before the College of Fine Arts, Syracuse University. This being the first attempt to popularize in this manner the whole subject of prehistoric archaeology in our country, we would congratulate his hearers if the richness of the lectures bear any comparison with the luscious bill of fare.

    This was a one time event—DeHass did not give any subsequent lectures at Syracuse or any other university on archaeology. A copy of his class syllabus is available in the archives at Syracuse, and does in fact show a credible outline of coverage of North American archaeology of the period.

    The years 1879 to 1881 seems to be the brightest period of DeHass's archaeological career. In February of 1879, DeHass, Otis T. Mason, Dr. J. M. Toner, and Col. Garrick Mallery drafted a constitution for the newly proposed Archaeological and Ethnological Society of Washington. At the subsequent founding meeting, when it became renamed the Anthropological Society of Washington, Powell was elected president, and DeHass, Mallery and Toner were elected vice presidents.

    Powell and DeHass were at the Battle of Shiloh together, both as Union officers, on April 6-7, 1862, where Powell was wounded. Hence DeHass and Powell knew each other from the Civil War, as well as from their AAAS and ASW connections. According to Jeter (1990:19), Powell also suggested that DeHass was in part responsible for the interest in Congress in mound origins and the mandate given to Powell at this time. Thus soon after the founding of the Bureau of Ethnology in 1879, DeHass became one of Powell's first employees, heading up the Division of Mound Exploration in 1881-1882. He carried out investigations in West Virginia and adjacent portion of eastern Ohio during this period. Powell terminated DeHass at the end of his first year in charge of the Division of Mound Exploration, and replaced him with Cyrus Thomas. "What is in the published record is that DeHass got very little done. He certainly was not a good field person."

    DeHass did leave a legacy or archaeological research behind. In Thomas’s landmark volume on mounds, Thomas ultimately included a good deal of the material from a 256-page manuscript that DeHass had been compiling and left at the BAE—The Mound Builders, Their Monumental and Art Remains. After being let go by Powell, DeHass mainly dropped from sight in archaeology, although he still maintained his interest in mounds and American archaeology, giving a few reports in the Anthropology section of the AAAS, and exploring a few ruins when he was named U.S. Consul in Yucatan.

  2. Second: Tilly Stevenson and Alice Fletcher, and the first antiquities protection bill.

    In 1885 and 1886, Frederic Putnam became very interested in the Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio, and very concerned about its impending destruction. Early in 1886, Putnam recruited Martin Brimmer, Francis Parkman, and Alice Fletcher to help him solicit funds from the Boston community for the preservation of the mound. Brimmer, Parkman and Fletcher were all members of the Harvard community in various positions, as well as important members of the local AIA chapter, in addition to serving in other preservation positions. Fletcher was particularly successful in raising funds from a number of wealthy Boston women interested in preservation, securing by that summer nearly $6,000 of the $8,738 ultimately used for the acquisition and stabilization of the Serpent Mound property the next year. Putnam purchased the property, embracing some 85 acres, and placed the title in the names of the trustees of the Peabody Museum. Among these trustees was Senator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts, also as we shall see involved in two other preservation attempts with Putnam. Putnam subsequently lobbied the state of Ohio, and got the land of the monument freed from taxation in 1888. After 14 years of ownership, Harvard transferred the ownership of Serpent Mound Park to the State Archaeological and Historical Society of Ohio on May 15, 1900, for "perpetual care…as a free public park forever."

    Alice Cunningham Fletcher (1838-1923) had begun her career studying and lecturing on the archaeological remains in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys in the 1870s. After she came to Putnam's attention, Fletcher was recruited to a position at the Peabody Museum. Under Putnam's aegis, Fletcher participated in the excavation of shell mounds in Maine, Massachusetts and Florida in 1878. At Putnam's urging, she became a member of the AAAS in 1879, and a Fellow in 1883. Although she was named "Assistant in Ethnology" in 1882 at the Peabody Museum, and thus often called the first Peabody Museum ethnologist, much of her funding in the 1880s came from the BAE, and she was much involved in the Washington scene, and as we have just seen, her original background was in archaeology.

    Fresh on the heels of his success with Serpent Mound in Ohio, Putnam decided to expand his preservation effort to other endangered sites. Learning from the still-born attempt by the Boston-based groups who had worked with Senator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts a few years earlier, in 1882, to try to preserve the Chaco Canyon area, Putnam decided to broaden the appeal by getting a national organization, the AAAS, behind this new effort. To that end he encouraged Alice Fletcher to write a position paper in her status as a researcher at the Peabody Museum, regarding the need for preserving endangered sites. She presented this policy agenda at the Section H meetings in 1888. As to be expected, this paper generated a good deal of discussion among the archaeologists and anthropologists at the meetings. It appears that Putnam employed his AAAS office to help steer the membership at the Section H meeting to appoint Alice Fletcher and Matilda Coxe Evans Stevenson (1850-1915) to serve as organizing representatives of newly established Committee on the Preservation of Archaeological Remains on the Public Lands. Stevenson as well had worked closely with Putnam on a number of archaeological issues, and was also considered on of his protégés. At the business session of the AAAS that year, Putnam, in his position of general secretary of the AAAS, successfully shepherded their appointment through as an approved standing committee of the entire AAAS, not just Section H.

    Fletcher and Stevenson both had excellent connections in Washington D.C., through their previous and on-going work with the Bureau of Ethnology and the Smithsonian Institution. Their committee put together a report and a suggested memorial for legislation for protection particularly of the pueblo ruins in and around Chaco, which they submitted to members of Congress the next year (Fletcher and Stephenson 1889). Their initial attempt died the same death as had the bill sponsored by Sen. George F. Hoar had back in 1882, when stimulated by Adolph Bandelier's reports to the AIA, Hoar had agreed to sponsor a memorandum asking for protection of pueblo ruins in the US Southwest on behalf of a group of Bostonian supporters. Hoar, as a member of the board of trustees of the Peabody Museum, and a member of the American Antiquarian Society, was the logical sponsor for Putnam and the preservationists in 1882 and again in 1888 and 1889. The Fletcher and Stevenson AAAS committee did not give up after their first set-back in 1888. The general assembly of the AAAS reappointed them annually, and they continued to give reports on their work to the general sessions of the next several AAAS meetings, apparently contacting members of Congress with the request for a preservation bill, but always with the same negative results.

    Congress and the states, it appeared, were willing to support preservation of individual sites, but leery of broader measures. Thus in 1889, stimulated by the interest of Mary Porter Tileston Hemenway (1820-1894) from her Southwestern Archaeological Expedition for the Peabody Museum (1886-1894), another group of Bostonians petitioned Congress once again through the good offices of Sen. George F. Hoar, for the protection of only the ruin of Casa Grande outside of Tucson. Mary Hemenway, perhaps better known for her other grants to Americanist archaeology and the Peabody Museum, was the principal lobbying and financial support for the bill in 1889 which resulted in the establishment of the Casa Grande National Monument. In their request to Congress, the petitioners noted that Mary Hemenway already had expended considerable of her own funds for the preservation of this ruin, and was funding investigations of the prehistoric peoples in that neighborhood through her Peabody Museum Southwestern Archaeological Expedition. Thus, they argued, a major part of any expenses had already been borne by Mary Hemenway.

    [The petition had some strong political and scholarly backing, being signed by Oliver Ames, governor of Massachusetts, William E. Barrett, speaker of the house of representatives, Mrs. Mary Hemenway, "who has been eminent as a benefactress to many institutions of education," William Claflin, Mary B. Claflin (parents of William H. Claflin, Jr., later very important in the 1920s and 1930s in Southwestern archaeology), Samuel Dalton, R. Charlotte Dana (the author), John Fiske (the American history author), Dr. Edward Everett Hale (the abolitionist and writer), William T. Harris, Oliver Wendell Holmes (the scientist, not the jurist), Anna Cabot Lodge (wife of Henry Cabot Lodge); Francis Parkman (the western historian), and John Greenleaf Whittier (the poet).]

    Congress accepted this petition and an appropriation act to fund it was passed in March of 1889. Unlike the 1882 Bostonian petition or the 1888 AAAS petition, both of which called for general legislation affecting significant numbers of parcels of public lands (leaving Congress queasy about the potential scope and costs), this memorial asked only for the preservation of one specific ancient landmark—Casa Grande—at minimal expense. On June 22, 1892, President Benjamin Harrison signed an executive order reserving the Casa Grande Ruin and 480 acres around it for permanent protection because of its archaeological value. Thus was established the first formal national archaeological reservation in U.S. history. Its successful passage helped to set the stage for the later Antiquities Act.

  3. Three: Putnam and Section H, AAAS, 1898 to 1906.

    The AAAS was brought back to a central position in American scientific life after Civil War. Under the leadership of Frederic Ward Putnam, permanent secretary from 1872 to 1897, the Association became a stabilizing force for the scientific community in the midst of a turbulent environment.

    When Putnam was elected Permanent Secretary of the AAAS, the national headquarters moved to the Peabody Museum at Salem in 1873, where they remained until 1876, when AAAS office moved to a room over the Merchants Bank in Salem, as Putnam now had taken the job of Curator at the Peabody Museum at Harvard, and could no longer utilize his former liaisons with the Peabody-Salem for AAAS purposes. Thus he arranged for the Peabody Academy of Sciences to hold the official records.

    As permanent secretary, Putnam in a major sense "was" the AAAS, and exerted a tremendous under-appreciated influence on its growth and direction. He did all of AAAS's staff work: he arranged for speakers at annual meetings, negotiated presidential nominations, handled all official correspondence, and managed the membership records and budget of the AAAS. He assumed responsibility for publishing the proceedings of the AAAS (meetings and deciding which papers to publish by title only, and which to publish as contributions) through the Salem Press, Printing, and Publishing Company, which he had organized. Money was so tight for initially that when Putnam needed an assistant in 1874, he had to pay for his assistant for her salary from his own pocket.

    Putnam curated all the proceedings, official records, and the scientific library of the association. These records were transferred to the University of Cincinnati in 1897, when Putnam’s last term of office was finished. Unfortunately, most of the early official papers seem to have been lost by subsequent AAAS officers and institutions, with the transfer of materials around the country.

    Putnam was instrumental in the formation of a special Subsection C, (Archaeology and Ethnology), at the Salem meetings in 1869—the third subsection to be created at the AAAS. This subsection went through two more iterations under Putnam's guidance before finally becoming a full-fledged scientific section H of the AAAS. Elected in 1873 to his first five-year term as Permanent Secretary, Putnam was subsequently elected for five five-year terms. After 25 years as Permanent Secretary, Putnam then served his last year as an officer of AAAS as its President in 1898. He then turned his labors to, among several other things, helping to found the American Anthropological Association, and also to finally getting a federal preservation program in place, utilizing the vehicle he was most familiar with, Section H of the AAAS.

    In 1899, two groups were founded, both with substantial input from Putnam and his supporters. Section H of the AAAS formed the Committee on the Protection and Preservation of the Objects of Archaeological Interest. Its initial membership included Dr. Thomas Wilson, lawyer, diplomat, and since 1887, curator of prehistoric archaeology as USNM, as chairman; and as members Frederic W. Putnam, Newton Horace Winchell (1839-1914, Minnesota geology), Grove Karl Gilbert (1843-1918, ASW, Rocky Mountain geology), Amos William Butler (1860-1937, Indiana mounds, Teotihuacan), and George A. Dorsey.

    The second group established in 1899 thanks to Putnam's maneuverings was the AIA Standing Committee on American Archaeology, with Charles P. Bowditch (chair) and Frederic W. Putnam and Franz Boas members. These two committees combined their efforts with Wilson serving as joint chair, and together developed first direct ancestor to the 1906 antiquities bill in 1899-1900.

    Because the Standing Committee on American Archaeology also was involved in setting up research and field schools, and because the initial drafts of the antiquities bill were running into various types of opposition, the AIA created a second group, the Committee on the Remains of American Archaeology in 1904. Thomas Day Seymour, president of the AIA, was the titular chair, and each of the 17 local chapters had a representative. Obviously an unwieldy group, this group appointed a subcommittee of Bowditch, Putnam, J. W. Foster, W. H. Holmes, and Richard Norton to work on a compromise bill.

    [The first meeting in January 1905 included Alice Fletcher, Baltimore; Sara Y. Stevenson, Penn; George A. Dorsey, Chicago; George Grant McCurdy, Conn; Wm. J. McGee, St. Louis; Charles K. Lummis SW-LA, Alfred L. Kroeber, San Francisco; Mrs. W. S. Peabody, Colorado; Duren Ward, Iowa; Charles P. Bowditch; Franz Boas; George Wm. Bates, M.S. Slaughter, H. N. Fowler, M. Carroll, H. K. Porter, Frederic W. Putnam, William H. Holmes, Jesse Fewkes, J. W. Foster, H. M. Baum, Richard Norton, and L Bradford Prince.]

Final Comments

As others will tell you today, it was not until the third compromise version of the bill, put together on behalf of the AAAS, AIA, and AAA committees on antiquities legislation, working in conjunction with a new advocate, Edgar Lee Hewett, that a successful version was finally attained, and the 1906 act was born. What we see, however, is that this 1906 act was the culmination of a quarter century of Frederic W. Putnam's tireless attempts to shape Americanist archaeology, and to have the American scientific profession stand up, support, and help implement legislation to protect the even-then rapidly disappearing archaeological resources in the American landscape. Putnam astutely employed his position of the Permanent Secretary of the AAAS, as well as his Curatorship at the Peabody Museum, to encourage and recruit a range of 19th century experts to lobby for historic preservation.