Edgar Lee Hewett and the Political Process

The Antiquities Bill Alliance

The dawn of the twentieth century brought many changes to an America that was enjoying great economic prosperity and international prestige as it became more urban and industrial and less rural and agricultural. Henry Mason Baum (1902b: 1), in the inaugural issue of Records of the Past, grandly stated that the beginning of the century was "an era of unparalleled activity in the search for truth." One truth that many perceived was that the nation's natural resources were not limitless. The conservation and preservation goals of the Progressive Era were popular themes. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, a confirmed conservationist who became President in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinated, provided vigorous and charismatic leadership for the promotion of those themes. The House Committee on Public Lands was chaired by "one of the towering figures in the conservation movement" (Ise 1961: 147), John Fletcher Lacey. His Bird and Game Act, first introduced in 1892, finally passed in 1900, giving the nation its first wildlife conservation law (Lacey 1915b; Rosenbaum 1995: 762). Lacey was also deeply concerned about the future of the nation's forests. In 1900 he introduced a bill to create a Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona to preserve the evidence of ancient forests just as he tried to protect modern stands of timber (Lacey 1915d).

The archaeological community, which had been working to protect prehistoric ruins for many years, took full advantage of this new and favorable climate. Professional groups and government agencies began to cooperate and national goals began to replace regional concerns. Archaeologists stopped petitioning and memorializing Congress and started submitting bills, such as Dolliver's (Lee 1970: 47-51; pp. 223-26), that presented solutions as well as problems and couched them in modern and implementable language. Land managers like Secretary of Interior Hitchcock (fig. d), who proposed to Lacey a bill to establish the Pajarito Park, became key players in the new approach to archaeological conservation. The women of the Colorado Cliff-Dwellings Association convinced Congressman John Franklin Shafroth, a Michiganeducated Progressive and a supporter of women's suffrage, to introduce a bill to create an archaeological national park in the Mesa Verde area (Smith 1988: 47). Hewett's indirect complaints about what he considered to be improper excavation by Richard Wetherill in Chaco Canyon for the Hyde Exploring Expedition brought prompt action by the General Land Office, which was developing an active program of temporary withdrawals to protect ruins in the Southwest (Snead 1999: 263).

Edgar Lee Hewett entered upon this heady scene in 1900 when he made his first trip to the nation's capital, where his friendship with Frank Springer helped to open doors (Bloom 1939: 17; Chauvenet 1983: 42; Lange 1993: 3). He met John Wesley Powell, whom he greatly admired, as well as Holmes, Fewkes, Putnam, and Lacey. These encounters greatly increased his awareness of the importance of the federal agencies to the western territories. He noted the key role that the Smithsonian Institution played in the development of anthropology, especially through the Bureau of American Ethnology and the National Museum (Fowler and Wilcox 1999: 210). Although he believed firmly that Westerners should present and defend their own concerns, he also realized that powerful Easterners were essential allies if western problems were to be seen in a national perspective (Rothman 1992: 68-70). He had the advantage of visiting Washington as the president of a college in New Mexico, but he realized at once that if he wished to play an effective role in the political process, he would have to get more involved professionally at the national level.

Already a member of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) through the Colorado chapter, Hewett joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Anthropological Association (AAA). All three of these organizations were active in the effort to pass antiquities legislation. Hewett attended their national meetings and in 1902 presented a paper on the Pecos survivors at Jemez Pueblo at the annual meeting of the AAAS in Washington, which was published in the American Anthropologist (Hewett 1904d).

Although Hewett's recommendations for the establishment of the Pajarito Park in his reports as president of the Normal University in Las Vegas (Hewett 1902, 1903) brought him to the attention of agency officials in Washington, they also contributed to the loss of his position at the Normal University. Unemployed in the spring of 1903, he attempted to find a similar position elsewhere, writing to institutions in Arizona, Illinois, Texas, and Wyoming (Chauvenet 1983: 48). His lack of success caused him to reevaluate his own goals, and he found that he was now much more interested in archaeology than in pedagogy. He realized that he would need some formal training in archaeology to facilitate this career shift. There were few opportunities for advanced study in archaeology in this country at the turn of the century. Pennsylvania, Harvard, and Columbia were in the initial stages of creating effective doctoral programs, but only Frederic Ward Putnam at Harvard (fig. e) had actually trained archaeologists. However, Hewett could not seriously consider Harvard, even though it was the obvious choice, because of Cora's health. Putnam was also involved in a fledging program at Berkeley and in August 1903 Hewett inquired about the possibility of studying with Putnam in California (Mark 1980: 80).

During the late nineteenth century many Americans, especially in scientific fields, went to German universities for their doctorates. When Hewett learned that his boyhood friend, Shakespearean scholar and oil geologist Charles William Wallace (Pound 1936), was planning to take up studies for a doctorate in Germany (degree from Freiburg im Breisgau in 1906), he decided he would also seek a European doctorate. Chauvenct (1983: 47) suggests that this decision was at least in part a product of the friendly competitiveness that developed when Hewett and Wallace were in high school. Hewett sold his ranch in the Pecos Valley (Ferdon 1993: 14), and he and Cora went to Switzerland to attend the University of Geneva, from which he received a doctorate in 1908. Although Geneva, on the western edge of the Alps, might not seem to be much better for Cora's health than Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Hewetts spent much of their time in Europe, with the support of his doctoral committee, visiting archaeological sites in the Mediterranean region (Ferdon 1993: 15). Cora required a wheelchair much of the time.

It is not clear why Hewett decided to go to Switzerland rather than Germany, but Lang suggests that Hewett, whose reading of Bandelier's work had "created a strong urge in him to emulate Bandelier's example," may have had "an interest, almost an unconscious drive, in capturing some of Bandelier's multilingual abilities for himself " (Lange 1993: 3, 4). Lange also points out that the "relaxed relations in graduate studies at Geneva [were] strongly reminiscent of the academic life [Hewett] had instituted at Las Vegas and for which he had been sharply criticized" (Lange 1993: 4). Had Hewett worked out a way to study with Putnam, he might have avoided many of the difficulties with eastern academics that plagued him in subsequent years. He might have gained access to the eastern establishment rather than rejection by it. During the 1930s, Emil Haury, who had "observed firsthand the problems that Byron Cummings in Arizona and Edgar Lee Hewett in New Mexico were having with better trained and often condescending colleagues from the East," co-opted such critics by obtaining a Harvard degree and becoming "almost an agent of the eastern establishment" (Thompson 1995: 651).

While Hewett was busy arranging his further education in Switzerland, he was still deeply involved in the Pajarito Park project and expended considerable effort on it in the summer and fall of 1903. Although he was clearly focused on the "national park" approach to preservation (Pajarito and Mesa Verde), he was beginning to consider how to protect all the other sites. He suggested to Holmes that the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) might assume responsibility for protecting ruins and for permitting excavation in them (Hewett to Holmes, 29 September 1903, NAA). Unemployed and about to risk all of his resources on a course of doctoral study in Europe, he was also anxious to find a source of income that would enable him to finish his fieldwork on the Pajarito Plateau and prepare an exhaustive report on it. He was hoping to obtain a research assistantship from the just established (1902) Carnegie Institution of Washington (Hewett to Holmes, 28 November 1903, NAA). When it seemed that such support might not be forthcoming he wrote to Holmes from Geneva inquiring about the possibility of BAE support: "Will you kindly give the matter your consideration" (Hewett to Holmes, 4 March 1904, NAA). Writing from Florence, Italy, six weeks later, Hewett tried to help Holmes in that "consideration" by spelling out in greater detail his plans for further Pajarito work (Hewett to Holmes, 17 April 1904, NAA).

Carnegie did not come through, but Holmes did. When Hewett returned from Europe in August 1904, his friends in Washington had arranged not only support for him but also responsibilities that went well beyond the completion of his Pajarito research. His employment under these conditions was evidence of the emergence of a new political coalition for archaeological conservation that Lummis called the "antiquities bill alliance" (Lummis to Seymour, 16 September 1905, AIA). The Department of the Interior, the Smithsonian Institution, concerned Congressmen, and the archaeological community had joined forces and were beginning to pay attention to the basic principles of the political process (Hewett 1930: 184). Hewett's return from Europe may have been a stimulus for this new activity, but there are many reasons for suggesting that more than serendipity was involved.