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Hooton, Earnest Albert, 1887-1954. Papers of Earnest A. Hooton, 1926-1954 (inclusive) : A Finding Aid

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Archives, Harvard University


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Peabody Museum Archives
Call No.: 995-1
Repository: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Archives, Harvard University
Creator: Earnest A. Hooton
Title: Papers of Earnest A. Hooton 1926-1954.
Date(s): 1926-1954.
Quantity: 12 linear feet
Abstract: The Earnest A. Hooton papers include correspondence and manuscripts relating to Hooton's research activities as curator at the Peabody Museum and member of the Department of Anthropology.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

These papers were a gift of Earnest A. Hooton and the Department of Anthropology, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Processed by:

Elizabeth Sandager March 1995;

Related Peabody Museum Collections


Earnest Albert Hooton was born in Clemansville, Wisconsin on November 20, 1887. After graduating from Lawrence College (Appleton, Wisconsin ) in 1907, he won a Rhodes Scholarship, but went first to the University of Wisconsin to receive an M.A. in classics in 1908 and a Ph.D. in 1911. While working on his Ph.D., his interest in anthropology was piqued by a classical book on tribes. At Oxford University, Hooton received a diploma in anthropology in 1912 and the B.Litt. in the same subject in 1913. He joined the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University as instructor in 1913. He married Mary Beidler Camp in 1913.
Hooton's first major archaeological excavation took place in the Canary Islands in 1915, where he researched the ancient Guanche people as part of a collaborative North African expedition with Oric Bates (Bates studied Berber populations). With his wife, Mary Beidler Camp, Hooton established his focus on physical anthropology: biological, racial, and geographic origins of ethnic groups. Hooton's career subsequently included research on the skeletal biology of prehistoric peoples, the relationship between criminal tendencies and physical characteristics; and the anthropology of individuals, or "constitutional studies," in which he used a modified version of Sheldon's somatotyping in attempts to prove a relationship between body form and behavior.
Hooton supervised a number of Peabody Museum --Harvard University Department of Anthropology expeditions, in which both archaeological and ethnographic work was done on single populations, such as the well known "Irish Survey" of the 1930s. He also pioneered a "data-crunching" statistics lab supported by IBM and the Rockefeller Institute using punch cards for data storage in the 1950s. This lab was instrumental in establishing his applied physical anthropology applications in the business community. As well, Hooton published on the importance of primate studies--what would later be the almost ubiquitous inclusion of primatology in anthropology departments by his former students. The interests of his former students helped define the range of physical anthropology as a major discipline well into the 1950s. Hooton died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 3, 1954 at the age of 67, a member of many distinguished professional organizations and the recipient of numerous awards and honors.

Scope and Content Note

Series I Correspondence: most of the correspondence is addressed to Hooton in his dual role as curator and faculty member. A significant portion concerns funding sources (e.g. Social Science Research Council and Armed Forces), Museum lab equipment and operation, and Museum fieldwork, as well as Harvard appointments and recommendations of students. The papers also include professional correspondence with colleagues (e.g., Franz Boas and A.L. Kroeber) concerning Hooton's research in physical anthropology and the sharing of information on research methods and theory (for example, on methods of racial analysis). Along with grant applications, this material appears to be integral to an understanding of the anthropometric data collected by Hooton and various fieldworkers.
A small but significant portion of the correspondence concerns Hooton's involvement in professional organizations (such as the American Association of Physical Anthropology), and eugenics and public health organizations (such as the Sterilization League); Hooton's publishing and lecturing activities; and "fan mail," i.e., responses to Hooton's popular writings. Responses to these writings were addressed to Hooton as a leading authority of the time on the issues of "racial anthropology," body build and behavior, criminal anthropology, human evolution and the methods and statistics of physical anthropology. Occasionally, the correspondence files include original manuscripts of essays, book reviews, and scholarly and popular articles.
Series II Manuscripts: this series includes 68 pieces of Hooton's writing and reflects his interest in the relationship of physical anthropology to cultural anthropology.

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