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MS Am 2369

Putnam, Anne Eisner. Anne Eisner Putnam papers, 1913-1995: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Cataloging funded in part by the Francis P. Scully and Robert G. Scully Class of 1951 Fund.

Descriptive Summary

Location: pf, b
Call No.: MS Am 2369
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Putnam, Anne Eisner.
Title: Anne Eisner Putnam papers
Date(s): 1913-1995
Quantity: 17 linear feet (49 boxes, 4 volumes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English, French, German, and various African Bantu languages including Swahili.
Abstract: Papers of the New York artist Anne Eisner Putnam, who lived in the former Belgian Congo during the 1940s and 1950s, while she ran Camp Putnam.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

85M-66 (part). Gift of John McDonald; received: 1985-1986. Some material from this gift (of the Patrick Putnam papers) was moved to the Anne Eisner Putnam papers.
94M-11. Gift of Professor Christie McDonald, Department of Romance Languages and Literature, 201 Boylston Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts 02138; received: 1994 October 17.
2002M-55, 2003M-57, 2006M-6, 2014M-104, 2016M-23, 2016M-120. Gift of Professor Christie McDonald; Department of Romance Languages and Literature, 201 Boylston Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts 02138; received: 2002 March 7 and 17, 2004 March 24, 2006 July 21, 2014 December 18, 2016 August 18, and 2017 June 2.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Megan O'Shea and Bonnie B. Salt, with the assistance of Professor Christie McDonald.

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Anne Eisner Putnam Papers, 1913-1995 (MS Am 2369). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Separated Materials

Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam materials found in Anne Eisner's papers have been separated and moved to the Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam Papers (unprocessed as of August 2014) 85M-66.

Biographical / Historical

Anne Eisner Putnam (1911-1967) was a New York abstract and landscape painter, watercolorist, and collector of African art. She was also one of the founders of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, and later a writer, her best known book being her account of her experiences in the Belgian Congo, Madami: My Eight Years of Adventure with the Congo Pygmies . Together with her husband, Patrick Tracy Lowell Putnam (1904-1953), she ran a compound known as Camp Putnam in the Congo (now Congo Democratic Republic). Patrick Putnam was a Harvard graduate and student of anthropology who, beginning in the 1930s, established Camp Putnam on the Epulu River in the Congo. Patrick Putnam met Anne Eisner in the U.S. in 1945 and eventually they moved together to Camp Putnam, marrying 1948.
Camp Putnam was on the edge of the Ituri forest of the Belgian Congo, the home of the Mbuti Pygmies. Anne and Patrick Putnam spent years studying and recording information about the pygmies, while they ran Camp Putnam as an African "dude ranch" or hotel, hosting paying guests, and at the same time running a medical clinic and offering legal aid to the local people. Over the years, the Putnams were visited by many outsiders, both tourists and researchers, including anthropologist Colin M. Turnbull who later authored the best-selling book about the Mbuti Pygmies, The Forest People. While at Camp Putnam, Anne and Patrick Putnam collected African masks and other African artifacts. Much of their collection eventually became part of the collection of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Patrick Putnam died in 1953 at age 49. Anne stayed on in Africa for some years running Camp Putnam, but in 1958 the Camp was closed and she returned to live in New York. There she continued her artistic career and wrote and lectured on her experiences in the Congo. She died of cancer in New York City in 1967.
The following detailed biographical information about Anne Eisner Putnam's life was provided by her niece, Christie McDonald:


For additional information see:


The following books also have information concerning Anne Eisner Putnam:


Organized into the following series: Please note that item numbers 482, and 529-531 were inadvertently omitted from this finding aid.

Scope and Contents

The papers include all variety of materials surrounding the life of Anne Eisner Putnam (AEP), some materials concerning the business of Camp Putnam, and notes and data on the Mbuti Pygmies. The papers had very little original order and most of the organization was determined in the repository. It should be noted that original titles given by AEP to compositions or groups of materials (such as notebooks or notes), were saved whenever possible.
The materials concerning AEP's artistic career include: original drawings; lithographs of drawings; watercolors; sketchbooks; loose sketches; slides, photographs and negatives of paintings and watercolors; juvenilia; portrait sketches; and costume studies. Subjects of original drawings are primarily Africa, life of the pygmies, abstracts, nudes, figures, still life, and portraits of Patrick Putnam among others. There is a fairly complete set of photographs and slides of AEP's paintings and watercolors. Also includes art exhibition photographs of her works taken by photographers Michael Katz, Peter A. Juley, Aaron Siskind, Oliver Baker, and Colten & Siegler.
The writings series includes AEP's autograph manuscripts, typescripts and carbons, notebooks, notes, journals, stories, transcriptions of pygmy legends, drafts and notes for Madami, lecture notes, and drafts for lectures. Topics concern the Mbuti Pygmies and all aspects of life at Camp Putnam such as gardening, African languages, movie ideas, Ituri forest animals and people, weddings, ceremonies, etc...
Other series include: materials concerning the Putnam collection now housed at the American Museum of Natural History, items relating to anthropologist Colin Turnbull, Camp Putnam miscellany (including guest registers), financial and banking records of both AEP and Camp Putnam, and biographical miscellany concerning AEP such as clippings, passports, resumes, and other material.
Correspondence includes: friends and family (both Eisners and Putnams), banking and financial correspondence, condolence letters to the family on AEP's death, and some third-party correspondence.
The visual materials series, is a combination of all the visual materials from the Anne Eisner Putnam papers and the Patrick Putnam papers (unprocessed as of January 2006). This includes photographs, slides, negatives, prints, printed graphics, picture postcards, and a few manuscript lists concerning groups of images. Subjects of images concern the Putnam family, Eisner family, early lives of both AEP and Patrick Putnam, Patrick Putnam's early trips to Europe (1924), the Far East (1925-1927), New Mexico (1938), and his African years before he met AEP (beginning 1927). There are extensive photographs of Camp Putnam, the Belgium Congo and other areas of Africa (especially Nigeria), Mbuti Pygmies and other African natives, African collection items, portraits of individuals and groups, African animals, and other topics. Includes photographs by the photographers: Colin M. Turnbull, Herbert Lang, Francis S. Chapman, Aaron Siskind, and others.

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