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Abstract

Material collected by Muriel Rukeyser in the late 1940s and 1950s for a proposed biography of Franz Boas, including original manuscript materials of Boas, correspondence between Boas and Rukeyser, biographical data, early family letters and documents relating to him, school and military records, family reminiscences of Boas, and some professional correspondence. There is one box of material specifically related to the publication of Rukeyser's biography, including notes, a synopsis of the book, and correspondence with publishers and funding agencies. There are also boxes of Boas-related newsclippings, and publications concerning Boas.

Background note

Born in Minden, Germany, on July 8, 1858, the anthropologist Franz Boas was the son of the merchant Meier Boas and his wife, Sophie Meyer. Raised in the radical and tradition of German Judaism, Franz's youth was steeped in politically liberal beliefs and a largely secular outlook that he carried with him from university through his emigration to the United States.

At the universities of Heidelberg and Bonn, Boas studied physics and geography before completing a doctorate in physical geography at Kiel in 1881. Intending on testing then-current theories of environmental determinism, he signed on to an anthropological expedition to Baffin Island in 1883-1884, expecting that he would document the close adaptative fit of Central Eskimo cultures to their extreme climate. His experiences in the arctic, however, led him to the contrary conclusion: that social traditions, not environmental, exerted a dominant influence over human societies, and from this point onward, he was led to pursue the cultural over than physical dimensions of humanity.

Although he returned to Berlin after the expedition, Boas emigrated to the United States in 1885 to assume an editorial position with the journal Science, hoping to use it as a stepping-stone to an academic appointment. In 1886, he embarked upon a second major field excursion into what would become his most famous ethnographic project, working among the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw) Indians of the Northwest Coast, after which he secured his first academic position in 1889, at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. After three years at Clark and a failed appointment at the Field Museum in Chicago in 1892 (during which he played a part in organizing the anthropological exhibits for the Columbian World's Fair), Boas moved to New York City.

The restless activity of Boas's early years slowed in New York. Hired by the American Museum of Natural History (1895-1905), which became the recipient of the amazingly rich anthropological collections he accumulated on the Northwest Coast, Boas began to teach classes at Columbia University in 1896, where three years later he was appointed Professor of Anthropology. For the next 37 years, Boas ruled the anthropological roost at Columbia, accruing unprecedented power in his discipline, wielding grants, recommendations, and appointments with remarkable dexterity, and collecting about him a remarkable group of younger scholars as students and colleagues.

Distancing himself from some of the main currents of contemporary anthropological thought in the United States, and particularly from the evolutionist assumptions that riddled the discipline, Boas championed an anthropology that viewed human cultures as shaped more by historical "tradition" than biological propensity. Claiming to resist any overarching, synthetic theories of human relations, and particularly evolutionary theories of sociocultural development, Boas laid the theoretical groundwork for what became modern cultural relativism. In the process, he helped to clarify the demarcation between the concepts of culture and race and its expression in the divergence of the four fields in anthropology -- linguistics, ethnography, physical anthropology, and archaeology.

Boas's relatively few forays into physical anthropology included a pioneering anthropometric study in 1910-1911, demonstrating that the alleged mental and physical inferiority of immigrants disappeared statistically by the second generation. Opposed to immigration quotas and disdainful of the claims to science used to justify them, Boas was a consistent, strident opponent of racial determinism in intellect or behavior. A committed, politically active Socialist, he was frequently an outspoken critic of American policy. During the First World War, he spoke out against the treatment of German Americans and "enemy aliens" -- to the point of putting himself at risk -- and the rise of the Nazi party in Germany proved an even greater crusade. Despite his age, Boas took an active role in the anti-fascist struggle in the United States and was involved with numerous committees to assist refugee scholars. He was equally ardent in his efforts to criticize racial and ethnic bigotry in the United States.

As a mentor, Boas had a reputation of being directive, at times overbearing, and at the same time of doing too little to prepare his students for the rigors of fieldwork. The extraordinary number of students coming out of Columbia under his care, however, has arguably done as much to extend the Boasian approach than Boas's own writing. Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Elsie Clews Parsons, Alfred Kroeber, Frank Speck, Edward Sapir, Zora Neale Hurston, Ella Deloria, Melville Herskovits, Leslie Spier, Paul Radin, and Ashley Montagu are all students of Boas. Many continued in the same intellectual stream, some diverged, yet all bore traces of Boas's influence. He left a mark as well on the institutions of the discipline, as one of the founders of the American Anthropological Association and of the International Journal of American Linguistics.

Scope and content

Material collected by Muriel Rukeyser in the late 1940s and 1950s for a proposed biography of Franz Boas, including original manuscript materials of Boas, correspondence between Boas and Rukeyser, biographical data, early family letters and documents relating to him, school and military records, family reminiscences of Boas, and some professional correspondence. There is one box of material specifically related to the publication of Rukeyser's biography, including notes, a synopsis of the book, and correspondence with publishers and funding agencies. There are also boxes of Boas-related newsclippings, and publications concerning Boas.

Collection information

Provenance

Gift of William Rukeyser, 1983 (accession number 1983-1515ms).

Preferred citation

Cite as: Boas-Rukeyser Collection, American Philosophical Society.

General physical description

2 lin. feet

Related material

The American Council of Learned Societies Committee on Native American Languages, Franz Boas Collection of Materials for American Linguistics ( Mss 497.3.B63c) is a large collection of primary materials on Native American languages assembled, in part, under Boas's supervision, and including a large quantity of material written by Boas himself.

Boas appears as a correspondent in numerous APS collections, and in addition to its rich collections for the history of anthropology, the library houses the papers of several of Boas's former students and proteges, including Frank Speck ( Mss. Ms. Coll. 126), Elsie Clews Parsons ( Mss. Ms. Coll. 29), John Alden Mason ( Mss. B M384), Paul Radin ( Mss. 497.3 R114), and Ashley Montagu ( Mss. Ms. Coll. 109).

The APS also houses a microfilm (372.3, reel 1) of original materials in the Office of Anthropology Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., relating to Boas's trips to Baffin Island (N.W.T.) and British Columbia, during which he studied and collected cultural materials, 1885-1909.

The papers of Boas's son Ernst Boas ( Mss. Ms. Coll. 10) are housed at the APS. A physician, Ernst Boas shared his father's liberal political outlook and activist social views.

Other Franz Boas Collections
Franz Boas Papers, 1862-1942 (Mss B B61) View Collection
Franz Boas Professional Papers, ca. 1860-1942 (Mss B B61p) View Collection
Boas Family Papers, 1862-1942 (Mss B B61f) View Collection
Franz Boas field notebooks and anthropometric data, ca. 1883-1912 (Mss B B61.5) View Collection

Bibliography

Rohner, Ronald P., ed., The Ethnography of Franz Boas: Letters and Diaries of Franz Boas, Written on the Northwest Coast from 1886 to 1931 (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1969). Call no.: B B61e.r

Stocking, George, ed., The Shaping of American Anthropology, 1883-1911: A Franz Boas Reader (N.Y.: Basic Books, 1974). Call no.: 572.081 B63s

Cole, Douglas, Franz Boas: The Early Years, 1859-1906 (Seattle: Univ. of Washington, 1999).

Boas, Franz, The Mind of Primitive Man (N.Y.: MacMillan, 1911). Call no.: 572 B63m

Boas, Franz, Ethnology of the Kwakiutl (Washington, D.C.:Government Printing Office, 1921). Call no.: 572.97 B63e

Boas, Franz, Primitive Art (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1927). Call no.: 571.7 B63p

Boas, Franz, ed., General Anthropology (Boston: D.C. Heath, 1938). Call no.: 572 B63g.r

Boas, Franz, Race, Language and Culture (N.Y.: MacMillan, 1940). Call no.: 572.081 B63r

Indexing Terms

Genre(s)

  • Clippings.

Occupation(s)

  • Anthropologists -- United States.

Personal Name(s)

  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887
  • Bandelier, Adolph Francis Alphonse, -- 1840-1914.
  • Baur, Georg, 1859-1898
  • Benedict, Ruth, 1887-1848
  • Benedict, Stanley Rossiter, -- 1884-1936.
  • Boas, Franz, 1858-1942
  • Bogoras, Waldemar, 1865-1936
  • Brinton, Daniel Garrison, 1837-1899
  • Butler, Nicholas Murray, 1862-1947
  • Cattell, James McKeen, 1860-1944
  • Champion, Martha
  • Clarke, Hans Thacher, 1887-1972
  • Dakin, H. D., (Henry Drysdale), 1880-1952
  • Dorsey, James Owen, -- 1848-1895.
  • Goldenweiser, Alexander, 1880-1940
  • Hale, Horatio, 1817-1896
  • James, William, 1842-1910
  • Kroeber, A. L., (Alfred Louis), 1876-1960
  • Laufer , Berthold, 1874-1934
  • Mead, Margaret, 1901-1978
  • Nuttall, Zelia, -- 1858-1933.
  • Rukeyser, Muriel, 1913-1980
  • Tozzer, Alfred M. -- (Alfred Marston), -- 1877-1954.
  • Tylor, Edward Burnett, -- Sir, -- 1832-1917.

Subject(s)

  • Anthropology--United States--History.
  • Authors and publishers.


Detailed Inventory
Boas-Rukeyser Collection
1869-19402 linear feetB B61ru
American Anthropological Assoc.
1903 
American Folk-Lore Society -- W. W.Newell
1904 
American Museum of Natural History -- Albert S. Bickmore
1887 
Andree, Richard
1897 
Andrew?, R
  
Averkieva, Julia
1934 
Baird, Spencer F.
1886 
Bakwin, Harry
1934 
Bandelier, Ad F
1905-07 
Bastian, Adolph
1893 
Baur, Georg - Synopsis of letters, 1885-1915. (In possession of Frances Baur Henkel)
  
Beckwith, Martha Warren
1934 
Benedict, Ruth
1934 
Benedict, Stanley
1911-35 
Letters from: Lafayette B. Mendel
  
H. H. Dale
  
Otto Folen
  
Berle, Adolf A. Jr.
1934 
Bertholet,
1934 
Beynon, William
1934 
Bilden, Rudiger
1934 
Black, Algernon D
1934 
Blooah, Charles G
1934 
Boas - Arctic Expedition - Reminiscence written for children, n.d.
 (4 folders)

Sketches

General physical description: (4 folders)

- Birthday greetings, 1907,39,41
  
- Biographical - Reminiscences of relatives
  
- Biographical materials
  
- Family - Letters & documents, 1862-1915
  
- Military records
1882 
- Poetry
  
- Portrait, 1934
  
- Radio broadcast, 1949. 1946 "The Min, of Primitive Man" Moderator: Robert Redfield; with Leon Duprez (ACLU Counsel) & W. Lloyd Warner (Univ.Chicago.)
  
- Schooling - Certificates/Diplo
  
Boas, Franziska
1924 
Boas, Ernst - "Franz Boas: His work as described by some of his contempol aries" n.d.
post 1946 
Boas, Henry - re. Condolences on his death,1925
  
Boas, Marie - re. Condolences on his death,1930
  
Bolling, G M
1934 
Bogoras, Waldemar
1900,1903 
Borbolla, D.F. Rubin de la
1934 
Brinton, Daniel G
1887,1897 
Brooklyn Jewish Center
1934 
Buchner, M
1898 
Buckstein, Jacob
1934 
Buschman, Harold
1934 
Butler, Nicholas M
1910 
Canyes, Manuel
1934 
Carney, Mabel
1934 
Cattell, James McKeen
1934 
Chamberlain, Joseph C.
1934 
Champion, Martha
1934 
Chase, Chancellor of N.Y.Univ.
1934 
Clarke, Edwin L.
1934 
Clarke, Hans T.
1934 
Cleveland, Treadwell
1934 
Cohen, Morris R
1934 
Cole, Fay-Cooper
1934 
Collier, John
1934 
Commission Investigating Fascist Activities Edward Dahlberg
1934 
Committee on Academic Freedom
  
Congres International des Sciences Anthropologiques et Ethnologiques,1934
1933-34 
Cooper, John M
1934 
Corbin Transient Service Bureau, Kentucky
1934 

(re. Proposed survey of transient mountaineers)

Cowell, Henry
1934 
Cranmer, Dan
1934 
Cranmer, Dan: To Franz Boas. 1934-01-06
1934-01-06 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-01-15
1934-01-15 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-01-24
1934-01-24 
Cranmer, Dan: To Franz Boas. 1934-01-27
1934-01-27 
Cranmer, Dan: To Franz Boas. 1934-02-02
1934-02-02 
Cranmer, Dan: To Franz Boas. 1934-02-14
1934-02-14 
Cranmer, Dan: To Franz Boas. 1934-02-17
1934-02-17 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-02-23
1934-02-23 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-03-21
1934-03-21 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-03-27
1934-03-27 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-05-01
1934-05-01 
Cranmer, Dan: To Franz Boas. 1934-05-13
1934-05-13 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-05-21
1934-05-21 
Cranmer, Dan: To Franz Boas. 1934-06-09
1934-06-09 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-07-02
1934-07-02 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-07-20
1934-07-20 
Cranmer, Dan: From Franz Boas. 1934-10-10
1934-10-10 
Cranmer, Dan: To Franz Boas. 1934-10-19
1934-10-19 
Cushing, Frank Hamilton
1898 
Czekanowski, Jan
1934 
Dakin, Henry D
1932,34 
Dawson, George M
1898 
Dixon, Roland B
1904 
Dorsey, J. Owen
1893,1907 
Ehrenreich, P
1898 
Ellis, Havelock
1898 
Emergency Society on German & Austrian Science & Art, 1921
 (10 folders)
Finsch, Otto
1894,1897 
Fletcher, Alice C
1898 
Gatschet, Albert S
1898 
Gatschet, Mrs. Albert S
1910 
The German American
1942 
Goddard, Pliny Earle
1910 
Goldenweiser, Alexander
1910 
Grasse, E
1897,98 
Grinnell, George B
1899 
Haddon, Alfred C
1905 
Hale, Horatio
1888,94 
Heger, F
1897 
Holmes, Wm. H Berthold Laufer
1894 
Internationales Archif fur Ethnographie
1882 
Jones, William
1905 
Keller, Helen
1940 
Kroeber, Alfred L
1916-35 
Laufer, Berthold
1901,02 
Livi, Ridolfo
1896 
Luschan, Felix von
1893,97 
Map of N. American Indian Groups
  

(Boas notations on paterlineal & matrilineal kinship) Native American Images note: Map of North American Indian groups

Mason, Otis
1898,1906 
Mead, Margaret
1925 
Meyer, A B
1931 
Mooney, James
1905 
Moore, Clarence B
1905 
Motion Picture Films - re. "Race" film, c.1939
 (4 folders)
Films For Democracy(company)
  
*Gardner Jackson
  
Robert K. Speer
  
Samuel J. Rodman
  
Louis D. Brandeis, Justice
  
Walter F. Wanger
  
Frontier Films (company)
  
Muller, F. Max
1899 
Myers, John L
1910 
Newell, William Wells
1894 
Newsclippings
  
Nuttall, Zelia
1905 
Putnam, Frederick Ward
1905 
Ranke, F
1905 
Ratzal, F
1890 
Rink, H
1885 
Rus, W
1885 
Schwatka, Frederik
1885,86 
Seler, Eduard
1898 
Societe des Americanistes de Paris
1919 

re. Eloquent letter on nationalism & internationalism

Steinen, Karl von den
1903 
Steinthal, Prof.
1897 
Tozzer, Alfred
n.d. 
Turner, Lucien M
1887 
Tylor, Edward B
1898 
Wilson, Daniel
1889