George Foster, a student of Alfred Kroeber, commented on his early training in anthropology, “In those days, we all did folklore.”1 And Melville Jacobs made a similar comment, “Indeed, only a few students returned [from the field] without folklore in some form” (Jacobs 1959b, 122). In the first three decades of this century, the assumption was made that students of anthropology would collect folklore as part of their training in linguistics and ethnology. In addition they would receive training in physical anthropology and archaeology. This inclusive approach was part of Boas’s grand scheme for the development of academic anthropology in the twentieth century. Folklore was, in effect, an area of study within anthropology. Important though it was, still it was to remain just that—part of the larger whole.
In addition to its position as a subfield of anthropology, there was another consideration that provided impetus for the study of folklore. This had to do with the need for a publication outlet. On December 15, 1902, Franz Boas wrote to Kroeber,
My dear Kroeber,
My only reasons for preferring the Folk-Lore Society are that the author is in a better position to control the form of the publication, and the publication will be so much more prompt than in the Bureau.
(Kroeber Papers, Boas to Kroeber, 12/15/1902)
Boas’s strategy was politically astute. It was also necessary. Newell, in his review of Boas’s 1895 Indianische Sagen von der Nord-Pacifischen Kuste Amerikas, told of the difficulties Boas had in finding a publisher for his work. Failing in the United States, he tried publishers in Holland. Then he turned to Germany: “in the end the matter was issued in parts by the Berlin Society. Had the Memoirs of the American Folk-Lore Society been in existence when the arrangement was made no doubt a place might have been found in that series” (Newell 1896, 78-79). According to Newell this circumstance was not unique to Boas, but occurred frequently.
With Boas and his students as editors, the Journal of American Folklore became a major concern of anthropologists. Since publication of the dissertation was a requirement for the Ph.D. at Columbia (Willis 1973, 317), many of Boas’s students published their entire dissertations in the journal. The first footnote to Goldenweiser’s “Totemism, an Analytical Study,” reads, “Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Philosophy, Columbia University” (Goldenweiser 1910, 179, n1). Save for four pages of book reviews, this comprised the entire issue of the Journal of American Folklore.
The journal remained a sympathetic forum for anthropological folklorists. As William Fenton recalled,
In the 1930’s young ethnologists in the Boas tradition were advised on receiving their doctorates to join the American Anthropological Association and the American Folklore Society, because the JOURNAL OF AMERICAN FOLKLORE carried material of interest to those working in the oral tradition, and it was a good place to publish.
(Fenton in Greenway 1968, 104)
Boas’s careful planning and jockeying for power must be viewed as part of the realities of the time. In “The Development of American Anthropology 1879-1920: From Bureau of American Ethnology to Franz Boas,” Darnell points to “the localism of mid-nineteenth century American anthropology” which was centered in Washington, D.C., Cambridge, and Philadelphia (Darnell 1969, 140). She remarks that Boas “deliberately built up a counter power-bloc to the Bureau, in large part through the American Folklore Society and the American Ethnological Society” (Darnell 1969, 875). This was part of the same battle that Boas waged against the Washington anthropologists and their plans for the founding of the American Anthropological Association.2
Boas was important to the development of American anthropology in many ways. In addition to his critical influence on the organizational framework—the development of university programs, museum programs, and societies—he also helped shape anthropological and folkloristic studies through his work as a scholar and a teacher. Melville Jacobs in his appraisal of Boas’s contribution to folklore, remarked.
Among those who worked in non-European folklore, Boas was foremost in collecting and encouraging the gathering of folktales; in setting up rigorous criteria for the ways in which they should be obtained; in their use to show diffusion; and in noting the elements of social organization and culture they contained.
(Jacobs 1959b, 119)
Franz Boas (1858-1942) came to anthropology through his training in physics and the same route brought him to the United States from Germany. In 1881 Boas received his doctorate at Kiel in the subjects of geography, physics, and philosophy. As Boas recalled, his objectives changed during his university training: the natural sciences lead him to geography.
In the course of time I became convinced that a materialistic point of view, for a physicist a very real one, was untenable. This gave me a new point of view and I recognized the importance of studying the interaction between the organic and inorganic, above all the relation between the life of a people and their physical environment.
(Boas Papers, Boas to Jacobi, 4/10/1882)
From this perspective, Boas developed his projected plans for his “life’s work.” “In order to solve such a question I must at least have a general knowledge of physiology, psychology, and sociology which up to now I do not possess and must acquire” (Boas Papers, Boas to Jacobi, 4/10/1882).
Boas was writing to his Uncle Abraham Jacobi in the United States who was attempting to obtain a fellowship for him at Johns Hopkins University (Boas Papers, Boas to Jacobi, 4/12/1882, 11/26/1882).
The chief point is that even in Baltimore I wanted to prepare myself to go out now on scientific expeditions, to see, to learn, and to accomplish something. . . . My greatest desire is directed to the American polar region. . . . I am completely at home in the literature of this region. . . . Furthermore I am learning everything that is needed for scientific trips, and finally and most important I am learning the Eskimo language.
(Boas Papers, Boas to Jacobi, 11/26/1882)
And he concluded, “If I should really succeed in getting there my chief field of work would be the wandering of the Eskimos.”
Boas put together his own course of study and obtained funding for his trip from a German newspaper and from the German Polar Commission (Boas Papers, Boas to Jacobi, 2/8/1883, 5/2/1883). Boas’s contract with the Berliner Tageblatt brought him instant attention. In characteristic modesty, he remarked to his uncle, “Through my activities I have become fairly well known in Germany, but this ‘fame’ (as the newspapers say) is very unpleasant coming before I have achieved anything” (Boas Papers, Boas to Jacobi, 5/2/1883). Boas closed his letter to his uncle, “I hope that a happy fate will lead me from the North to you, and let me obtain a permanent position.” This desire to come to the United States was linked to his romantic attachment to Marie Krackowizer and to the hope of being able to pursue his career unencumbered by the restraints of the anti-Semitism of Germany (Boas Papers, Boas to Jacobi, 1/2/1882; Rukyser Materials, Boas’s autobiographical statement, 9/1915; see also Cole 1983, 13-17).
Boas’s work in anthropology received the enthusiastic support of E. B. Tylor, who wrote,
You must allow me to say from conversation with you & reading your writings that I have seldom known anyone better qualified for all-around work in Anthropology. If we are to get the native religions & other ideas of the North-West thoroughly investigated, I think you are the anthropologist to carry through this task.
(Boas Papers, Tylor to Boas, 12/9/1889)
Both Tylor and Boas were convinced that a great deal of American Indian culture was the result of Asiatic influence. As Tylor wrote to Boas, “It seems to me very likely that you may trace an Asiatic-American connexion [ sic] by transmission of folk-tales” (Boas Papers, Tylor to Boas, 10/9/1890). Under Tylor’s sponsorship, Boas began his study of the Northwest Coast.
In his work on folklore, Boas was concerned with an accurate recording of the texts; and an analysis of the texts either for linguistic purposes or for reconstruction of cultural history through distribution. In 1896, while conducting fieldwork among the Tsimshian, Bella Coola, Tlingit, and Bella Bella on Vancouver Island, he wrote in his diary of the emergence of a new idea through his work in folklore: “This mass of stories is gradually beginning to bear fruit because I can now discover certain traits characteristic of the different groups of people. I think I am on the right track in considering mythology a useful tool for differentiating and judging the relationship of tribes” (Rohner 1966, 159).3
As in all of his work, Boas was intensive, never superficial; he was rigorous, never careless. The narratives he collected were carefully recorded in the native language with literal translations and free translations. His collection techniques were a model for proper field recording. While he insisted that all material be recorded, Boas acquiesced to the restraints of publication in the United States and translated obscene portions of Eskimo narratives into Greek or Latin. Even with the translations, there were objections. Boas’s Tsimshian texts were investigated on a charge of using the mail for obscene purposes (Darnell 1969, 34).4
In his research and writing, Boas focused on folklore, especially oral narratives. This was apparent in his earliest publications. In 1884, he published “Sedna und die religiosen Herbstfeste”; and in 1885, “Die Sagen der Baffin-Land-Eskimos.” In 1887, Boas published an article on the religion and beliefs of the Central Eskimo, “Die religiosen Vorstellungen und einige Gebrauche der zentralen Eskimos”; another on “Poetry and Music of some North American Tribes”; and a third on “The Serpent among the North-West American Indians.”5
Boas’s publications in folklore continued throughout his life. Some of his more outstanding works are the following: Chinook Texts (1894), Tsimshian Mythology (1916), Kutenai Tales (1917), and Kwakiutl Culture as Reflected in Mythology (1935). An examination of Kutenai Tales will illustrate Boas’s thoroughness in the presentation of narrative texts. As Melville Jacobs noted, this work illustrated Boas’s concern for making original texts available for both folklore and linguistic study (Jacobs 1959b, 120). In the first section of the book, Boas published the tales collected by Alexander F. Chamberlain in 1891. In the second section, he presented the tales which he himself had collected in the summer of 1914. In the third section, he gave abstracts of all known Kutenai tales, and provided comparative notes for similar tales from other North American Indian groups. The book ends with a Kutenai-English and English-Kutenai vocabulary, with each item carefully keyed to its location in the text (Boas 1917b).
As Melville Jacobs represented his work, “Boas’ thinking on folklore method and theory was virtually complete by the first World War, and its major exemplification appeared in 1916 in the prodigious Tshimshian Mythology” (Jacobs 1959b, 1920). And Stanley Walens appraised Boas’s collected works on the Kwakiutl as “one of the monuments of American cultural anthropology, the achievement of a half-century of diligent research and careful scholarship” (Walens 1981, 7). Boas presented “the underlying thought” of his approach to the study of narratives in the preface to Kwakiutl Culture as Reflected in Mythology. Boas maintained that through an examination of the cultural life as portrayed in tales it would be possible to present “a picture of their way of thinking and feeling that renders their ideas as free from the bias of the European observer as is possible” (Boas 1935, v). The narratives provided a candid, unedited view of self.
In Kwakiutl Culture as Reflected in Mythology, Boas attempted to write an ethnography using narratives as a source of cultural information. The book is divided into the following categories: material culture; personal and family life; tribal organization; emotional life and ethics; ceremonial objects and ceremonial procedure; ceremonials and relation to supernatural power; magical power and objects; numbers; the world; supernatural beings; animals, plants, etc.; origin of local features (Boas 1935, ix-xii). For Boas, drawing ethnographic information from narrative texts was not an idle exercise. It was an attempt to provide an account of a culture whose traditional way of life had been destroyed. In his restudy of Boas’s Kwakiutl material, Walens found Boas “so diligent in recording every possible aspect of a topic that in some ways every given section of his ethnographies is a microcosmic” representation of Kwakiutl custom and belief (Walens 1981, 8).
In 1896, Franz Boas was appointed Lecturer in Anthropology at Columbia University. He offered a course in American Indian languages. A young student of literature, Alfred Louis Kroeber, enrolled in this course, along with two other students. Boas “had his students come each Tuesday evening to his home on 82nd Street. . . where, at the dining table lighted by a fringe-shaded lamp, he held his class” (Kroeber, T. 1970, 46). Kroeber recalled this course, “We spent about two months each on Chinook, Eskimo, Klamath, and Salish, analyzing texts, and finding grammar” (Kroeber, T. 1970, 47). Of Boas’s method of instruction, Kroeber said, it was wholly inductive. “He set before students an interlinear text and proceeded to analyze it, developing the structure of the language as he proceeded” (Kroeber, T. 1943b, 14). His students found this approach both novel and stimulating.
Boas brought an informant to class, an Eskimo woman who was originally from Labrador. Kroeber worked with her and phonetically transcribed her dialect. It was this type of intense, linguistic work to which Margaret Mead referred when she said, “We heard stories of how, in earlier years, he [Boas] would assign a topic to be reported on within a couple of weeks in a language the student did not read. The generation of our elders—Kroeber, Lowie, Goldenweiser, Radin, Sapir . . . had had a hard time.” Mead concluded, “But he treated us rather like grandchildren, and we called him ‘Papa Franz’ ” (Mead 1972, 141).
In addition to American Indian languages, Boas taught a course on anthropological theory, which he called “Statistical Theory” (Steward 1961, 1041), and a course on physical anthropology (Kroeber, T. 1970, 47).6 When Kroeber took this course, it was held in the American Museum of Natural History where Boas had all the necessary implements for anthropometry, including skulls and the skeletons. As Margaret Mead recalled, “With the exception of an occasional course taught by an outsider from another institution, Boas taught everything” (Mead 1972, 140).
Margaret Mead also recalled Boas’s manner of instruction. “His lectures were polished and clear. Occasionally he would look around and ask a rhetorical question which no one would venture to answer” (Mead 1972, 121). He retained “a strong German accent” and would “give references in German, as an afterthought in English” (Hays 1971, 175). Mead remarked that Boas’s course on methods—the same course that Steward referred to as “Statistical Theory”—was formative for herself and for Ruth Benedict. In her article “Apprenticeship under Boas,” Mead includes excerpts from her own lecture notes and from Benedict’s, to illustrate the kinds of ideas presented by Boas, the careful instruction given on a wide range of concerns. All this was given with the stipulation, as Mead’s notes read from a lecture on Cassirer delivered by Boas on March 17, 1925, “to be very critical and skeptical.”
Boas expected his students to be self-motivated. He provided support and encouragement, and schooled them in critical thinking, but they were expected to develop their area of interest. Ruth Bunzel wrote to Margaret Mead in 1959 of her memories of Boas, “You know how he always refused to give reading lists, hated examinations, scorned erudition for its own sake. One learned what one needed when one needed it. It was the sense of problem that was important. He always advised students to spend less time reading and more time thinking” (Mead 1959b, 34). And Melville Herskovits recalled that “dissertation topics were brought to Boas for his approval, not suggested by him.” The student had the freedom to choose the topic and methods of study, “only results were presented for appraisal” (Herskovits 1953, 23).
At times, however, Boas offered the direction that created a career. In her letter to Margaret Mead, Ruth Bunzel recalled,
You want to know how I came to write The Pueblo Potter and became an anthropologist. It is really a story about Boas and the things he believed in. It began in the spring of 1924. I had been working for Professor Boas for two years as secretary and editorial assistant and was becoming increasingly involved with anthropology, but without any formal training whatsoever. That summer Boas was going to Europe and Ruth Benedict was going to Zuni to collect mythology. I thought that if I could see an anthropologist at work at the most crucial and mysterious part of his study, and perhaps try a bit on my own, I would know whether or not I wanted to be and could be an anthropologist. So I thought that I would take my vacation time and . . . meet Ruth Benedict in Zuni. My plan was not too ambitious—I was a good stenographer and I would take down folk tales and interviews in shorthand, and do all our typing. Ruth Benedict seemed pleased with the suggestion so I took it to Boas.
Boas heard me out, snorted in his inimitable fashion and said, “Why do you want to waste your time typing?” (He always thought typing a “waste of time.”) “Why don’t you work on a problem of your own?” I said that I didn’t think I was equipped to do a “problem of my own,” but he paid me no mind and went on. “You are interested in art. Why don’t you do a problem in art? I have always wanted someone to work on the relation of the artist to his work.”
(Mead 1959b, 33-34)
Bunzel’s portrait of Boas shows him as the supportive, encouraging teacher he was to so many students. Noteworthy in this instance was Bunzel’s relationship to Boas: she was his secretary and editorial assistant with no formal training in anthropology. Boas recognized her talent and intelligence for anthropological work. And that, for him, was enough. This was not so for Elsie Clews Parsons who was “outraged” and “threatened to withdraw her support of the mythology project were I permitted to go” (Mead 1959b, 34). But Boas supported Bunzel. “Intelligence and will were what counted.”
Bunzel went to Zuni to study aesthetics in pottery. After she completed her work at Zuni she moved on to other pueblos. She commented, “I was too ignorant at the time to know that I was pioneering; that I was on the frontier of a whole new field of anthropology” that this was the first approach to the study of “the individual in culture” (Mead 1959b, 34). The Pueblo Potter was written during the following winter on week-ends between her regular job. She planned another fieldtrip to Zuni for the following summer. “Elsie Parsons sponsored this trip. A gallant lady, she acknowledged in her own gracious fashion that Boas had been right” (Mead 1959b, 35).
A list of Boas’s students reads like a roster of the important names in anthropology and folklore: Alfred Louis Kroeber, William Jones, Louis J. Frachtenberg, Edward Sapir, George A. Dorsey, L. Farrand, Pliny Earle Goddard, James A. Mason, Frank Speck, Robert H. Lowie, Paul Radin, Fay-Cooper Cole, Martha Warren Beckwith, Ruth Fulton Benedict, Melville J. Herskovits, Gladys A. Reichard, Ruth L. Bunzel, G. Wagner, M. J. Andrade, T. Adamson, Gene Weltfish, E. Deloria, A. Phinney, Alexander Chamberlain, Frederica de Laguna, Zora Neale Hurston, Laura Watson Benedict, and Melville Jacobs (Jacobs 1959b, 122).
In his appraisal of Franz Boas, Alexander Lesser says, he produced two generations of anthropologists “and his students went on to build departments at other major institutions” (Lesser 1981, 2-3). One such student was Alfred Louis Kroeber (1876-1960). Kroeber received his B.A. (1896) and his M.A. (1897) at Columbia University in English. While completing his master’s degree, Kroeber began taking Boas’s course on North American Indian languages. He worked with six Smith Sound Eskimo who had been brought to the Natural History Museum by Robert E. Peary (Rowe 1962, 395; Kroeber 1956, 153). In a letter dated December 10, 1897, Boas told Kroeber how to find his way to the house where the Eskimos lived:
My dear Mr. Kroeber,
I went up to see the Eskimos last night, and everything is ready for you to continue your work. . . . They are located on Feather-Bed Lane, which you reach by taking the cars to Washington Bridge, crossing Washington Bridge, and then taking the street to the north. . . . You will come to a parting of the roads, and there you will see to the right, a small brownish frame house. The Eskimos live in this house. . . .
Please let me know what arrangements you have made. I think I shall be able to go out with you once a week or so, and we will make some appointment for a time to discuss the material that you are going to obtain.
(UC Archives, Boas to Kroeber, 12/10/1897)
This work led to his first publications in folklore, which appeared in the Journal of American Folklore in 1899: “Animal Tales of the Eskimo” and “Tales of the Smith Sound Eskimo.”
In 1899, Kroeber conducted fieldwork among the Arapaho in Oklahoma (Kroeber 1956, 153; Rowe 1962, 395). His work was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History with funds provided by Mrs. Morris K. Jesup (Rowe 1962, 395). This was followed in 1900 by work with the Arapaho in Wyoming; and in 1901, with work among the Gros Ventre and Assinibone.
In the spring of 1901, Kroeber completed his graduate work with a dissertation on the decorative symbolism of the Arapaho (Rowe 1962, 395). He was awarded the first Ph.D. in anthropology at Columbia University (Thoresen 1973, 42). Boas, who had just returned from Europe, wrote to him that his dissertation had been well-received. “Bastian asked me very particularly to tell you that he thought your paper a very important one and that he is expecting very good things from you” (Kroeber Papers, Boas to Kroeber, 10/19/1901). Boas said that Von den Steinen liked Kroeber’s discussion on the development of art, but agreed with Boas that Kroeber had carried the conclusions too far.
The same year he received his degree, Kroeber, with the support of Zelia Nuttall and Frederick Ward Putnam, was successful in his search for a position. The job offer came in the form of a telegram from Phoebe Apperson Hearst: “The position here permanent. Hope this message will reach you in good time” (Kroeber Papers, Hearst to Kroeber, 7/29/1901; Thoresen 1975, 264.) Kroeber responded with the following telegram:
Thanks for kind telegram. I accept. I have offer from Berlin Museum for four months. . . . To conclude unfinished researches among Arapaho Tribe which I began two years ago should therefore like to come California after delay four months, but will come at once if thought essential by you or President Wheeler.
(Kroeber Papers, Kroeber to Hearst, 7/22/1901)
Four years later, Kroeber reflected on his decision and on his struggle to establish a department of anthropology, “I took California [because it offered] greater independence and a larger chance for activity. . . . But the kingdom must come soon or it will no longer find me waiting for it” (Kroeber Papers, 2/23/1905).
With his acceptance of the position, Kroeber became the instructor at the nascent Department and Museum of Anthropology at the University of California (Thoresen 1975a, 266). As Thoresen says, “This offer needs to be placed in some perspective. Kroeber in 1901 was young, educated, genial, promising, ambitious, and otherwise irrelevant.” And, Thoresen adds, “There was no department of anthropology in California” (Thoresen 1975a, 265). Thoresen’s sketch of Kroeber as a young man in 1901, certainly differs from Eric Wolf’s recollection of Kroeber’s importance in the 1940s. “For anthropologists of my generation, Kroeber was the living embodiment of American anthropology. His books and his words accompanied us through graduate school, and he appeared in our professional lives again and again” (Wolf 1981, 36). Wolf met him in later years, and recalled him as “personable and delightful, a benign, Apollonian, Olympian figure.” “But,” he adds, “there were many people who lived in terror of him” (Wolf 1981, 37).
Clearly, Kroeber had built a reputation for himself in forty years. He had also established the study of anthropology on the West Coast, and had directed the study of ethnology in California. Still, he started on a small scale, with one course on North American ethnology first offered in January 1902, for two hours credit to six students (Buzaljko 1982, 9; Rowe 1962, 397).7 Among the students in this course was Samuel A. Barrett who continued to study with Kroeber. In 1903, Kroeber wrote a letter to the chairman of the Committee on Scholarship, saying, “Mr. Barrett has followed three courses in Anthropology with me and has shown himself a faithful and thorough student” (Kroeber Papers, Kroeber to Wickson, 5/24/1903). Barrett transferred to Columbia for a year of study with Boas, Farrand, Bandelier, and Laufer (1907-1908). (See also National Research Council 1940, 10; Peri and Wharton 1965a, b, c.) In his work in folklore, material culture, and ritual, Barrett carried on the tradition of his mentors.8
Originally, Kroeber had been hired to direct the organization of the museum and to collect specimens, and not to offer courses. Putnam, when he heard that Kroeber was going to teach a course, reminded him that “the primary object is investigation and the accumulation of material” (Kroeber Papers, Putnam to Kroeber, 12/9/1901; Thoresen 1975, 266). And Boas cautioned him,
If you were to work out a course of systematic anthropological instruction, you would have to give up for years all research work, and even then your success would depend entirely upon the degree of co-operation that you could get from other men in the university. All you can hope to do is really to pave the way for systematic instruction.
(Kroeber Papers, Boas to Kroeber, 5/20/1902)
Kroeber’s correspondence with Frederick Ward Putnam, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and Franz Boas concerning this initial course on North American ethnology clearly marks this as a sensitive issue (Kroeber Papers, Kroeber to Putnam, 12/1901; Kroeber to Hearst, 12/27/1901; Kroeber to Boas, 1902).
Kroeber was apparently successful in assuaging Putnam. A few years after this flurried exchange of correspondence concerning the course of instruction in the Department of Anthropology, Kroeber published an article in the American Anthropologist entitled “Recent Progress in Anthropology at the University of California.” After a brief review of the founding of the department, he stressed that “the primary object of the department is research and the increase of knowledge” (Kroeber 1906c, 484). He linked this directly to the founding of the museum. This was, in essence, a paraphrase of Putnam’s remark in his 1901 letter to Kroeber (Kroeber Papers, Putnam to Kroeber, 12/9/1901).
Kroeber did continue offering courses. On May 19, 1903, he wrote to Boas,
We shall have six courses in Anthropology next year, though none of them I regret to say will run beyond two hours a week for half a year. I gave three in the first half year and Merriam and Goddard three in the second. For the year after I have a scheme for more elaborate and thorough work, to talk over with Professor Putnam when he visits us this summer.
(Kroeber Papers, Kroeber to Boas, 5/1903)
In 1905-1906, Goddard began teaching “Religious Practices and Beliefs of Non-Literary Peoples” and continued teaching it through 1908-1909. This was described as “A study of the religious practices connected with the birth, development, death, and burial of the individual, and at the more general ceremonies performed at the change of seasons. . . . Especial attention is given myths which explain origins and creation, and beliefs concerning the human soul.”9
Kroeber added his course on “Comparative Mythology” in 1906-1907, described as “Lectures on typical mythologies of civilized and uncivilized races of the Old and New World.” In 1907-1908, the course title was changed to “Studies in Comparative Mythology,” and the course description was expanded:
A research course dealing with certain problems of comparative mythology, such as the question of the linguistic development or transmission of similar traditions among distinct peoples, and the variations undergone in different periods and regions by the same myths. 3 hrs., throughout the year. Prerequisite: Anthropology 14, or equivalent.
The prerequisite was “Comparative History of Mythology and Philosophical Speculation.”
Waterman introduced a course called “Primitive Religions” in 1910-1911, which focused on “Conspicuous elements in primitive religions, and survivals of these among historic peoples.” This course was taught by Wallis in 1915-1916, but the theoretical orientation had changed: “Magic and religion; the function of religion in social life. New religions, messianic manifestations, religious experience of the individual. Ceremony and ritual; prayer and offering; ethics; the sacred and the supernatural.”
When Lowie joined the department in 1920, he taught “Primitive Religion” with a focus on “examples of the beliefs and ritual of primitive peoples.” He examined “the relations of myth and ritual; the functions of ceremonialism; the relations of magic and religion; [and] taboo.” And he compared the “theories of Tylor, Lang, Schmidt, Marrett, Goldenweiser, [and] Durkheim.”
John Rowe lists Kroeber’s first interests in anthropology as linguistics, ethnology, and folklore (Rowe 1962, 398). The interest in the latter was evidenced in Kroeber’s early publications in folklore, in the courses he developed in the Department of Anthropology, and in the topics of graduate research pursued under his sponsorship. The first master’s degree in anthropology was awarded to Louisa McDermott in 1904; her thesis topic was on the ethnography and folklore of the Flathead (Salish) of Montana. In 1908, Samuel A. Barrett earned the first Ph.D. with his dissertation on Pomo basketry (Rowe 1962, 397).
In the early years, Kroeber provided the link for the American Folklore Society with the far western state of California. He was appointed to a three-year term as councilor to the American Folklore Society. In the letter of appointment, Newell said, “You are one of the very few representatives of the Society on the Pacific Coast. Can you suggest any plans for extension of membership in that quarter?” (Kroeber Papers, Newell to Kroeber, 1/23/1901). In the two letters that followed, Newell suggested the formation of a local organization that would encourage the development of folklore studies in California (Kroeber Papers, Newell to Kroeber, 8/24/1901; 9/2/1901). In the letter dated September 2, 1901, Newell appended a handwritten note at the bottom of the page:
Members in California
1. Charles F. Lummis
2. Dr. J. A. Munk, Pasadena
3. A. C. Vromen
4. Mrs. A. Fenges, Mare Island
5. Also Dr. G. P. Bradley
(Kroeber Papers, Newell to Kroeber, 9/2/1901)
In addition to these individual members, Newell included the libraries of Los Angeles, Sacramento, and the Mechanics Institute of San Francisco as subscribing members.
Kroeber took Newell’s suggestion to heart. In 1905, he was a charter member in the Berkeley Folklore Club. And later the same year, he helped organize the California Branch of the American Folklore Society (Thoresen 1973, 42). The purpose of this latter organization was to study the folklore of California (Darnell 1969, 399).
Kroeber reported on the progress of both the California Branch of the American Folklore Society and the Berkeley Folklore Club in a note published in the American Anthropologist. At the seventh meeting of the California Branch of the American Folklore Society which “was held in South Hall, University of California, Berkeley, on Tuesday, March 20, 1906, at 8 P.M.,” two new members were elected to the society, and “Professor Vernon L. Kellogg of Stanford gave an address, illustrated with lantern slides, on ‘In Samoa’ ” (Kroeber 1906a, 435). At the next meeting, the California Branch of the American Folklore Society and the Berkeley Folklore Club agreed to investigate “the feasibility of making a special study of the folk-lore of Berkeley and vicinity” (Kroeber 1906a, 435).
From the viewpoint of the American Folklore Society, there were problems with the quality and the intent of the California Branch of the American Folklore Society. As Putnam reported in a letter to Newell, “Kroeber resorted to lantern slide lectures to arouse interest” (Darnell 1969, 399).10 As the branch society grew, so did the feeling of independence. This regional organization did not identify with the national organization or with the journal (Darnell 1969, 400; Boas Papers, Kroeber to Boas, 1/14/1908). This was carried to such an extent that the California branch “nearly became an independent folklore society” (Kroeber Papers, Dixon to Kroeber, 1/22/1910; Darnell 1969, 400).
There was resentment in the national organization about this. As Tozzer wrote to Boas,
I have long felt that the California Branch and Kroeber especially seem to think that we cannot exist without their aid. As a matter of fact they have been a drag upon our resources ever since they joined the Society. Kroeber has always been the one to dictate to us rather than receive our views first.
(Boas Papers, Tozzer to Boas, 3/2/1908)
Tozzer suggested that the “scrappy contributions from California” be placed at the end of the journal under a separate heading. Boas wrote to Kroeber on October 6, 1908, that the California Branch of the American Folklore Society would soon have to be self-supporting. Boas also took issue with Kroeber about the need to “expand and go on expanding without improving our scientific methods” (Darnell 1969, 400). As Darnell notes, “Amateur contributions, at least to the anthropological segment of the Journal were virtually eliminated by Boas’ editorial policies.” Kroeber “favored a more inclusive policy.” In spite of these problems, Kroeber maintained a secure position in the American Folklore Society. In 1906, he served as president of the society. He was the first of Boas’s students to receive this high degree of professional recognition (Thoresen 1973, 42).
Timothy Thoresen in his work on Kroeber marks 1909 as the year when Kroeber’s interests changed from folklore to archaeology and California linguistics (Thoresen 1973, 42). This change of emphasis is apparent in the course catalogue for the Department of Anthropology at the Unviersity of California. In 1910-1911, Kroeber’s course, “Studies in Comparative Mythology,” was not listed. It was taught once again in 1912-1913, and omitted from the catalogue after that. In Kroeber’s correspondence still another change of emphasis is apparent between 1914 and 1915, when the topic of discussion shifted to social organization. It was decades later, after his retirement, that Kroeber returned to his old folklore texts in an attempt to prepare them for publication.
In 1921, Robert H. Lowie, joined Kroeber at the University of California, Berkeley, where he remained until his retirement in 1950. Lowie received his B.A. at the City College of New York in 1901. He entered Columbia University in 1904, where he studied with Boas. As he said, “I decided to study under Boas because his record appealed to me, because I felt that he could give me scientific method better than others in the field open to me” (Lowie Papers, Lowie to Radin, 10/2/1920). In an autobiographical statement, Lowie remarked, “In anthropology I took Professor Boas’s seminars, linguistic and ethnographic courses, as well as a dreaded course in theory of statistics, in which one year I had as my only fellow students two members of the faculty” (Lowie Papers, Lowie to Liveright, 12/6/1919). While still a graduate student, Lowie worked in the anthropological division under Clark Wissler’s direction at the American Museum of Natural History. He was asked by Wissler to undertake fieldwork with the Lenhi Shoshone of Idaho in 1906. “I seized this opportunity to meet ‘savage man’ in the flesh and derived a host of new impressions, both through ethnographical experience and my first contact with the life of the frontier.” In 1907, Lowie worked among the Assinibone, Blackfoot, and Crow (Kroeber 1957, 142; 1958, 1-2). He continued his work with the Crow, focusing on social organization and religious practices. One year later, to reach the Chipeways, he undertook what he called the most interesting journey “from a traveler’s point of view,” “I descended the Athabaska River in the Hudson Bay Company’s open scows, running rapids, eating dried moose meat, and hobnobbing with mixed breeds and Indians, not to forget the altogether peculiar type of Hudson Bay Company officials” (Lowie Papers, Lowie to Liveright, 12/6/1919). In 1908, Lowie completed his Ph.D. dissertation, entitled “The Test Theme in North American Literature.” From 1912 to 1915, he continued his work with the Plains Indians. Working with ten tribes on the Great Plains, he published eighteen monographs with the American Museum (Kroeber 1958, 2).
Paul Radin praised Lowie as “one of the best ethnographers of his day” who “studied every aspect of culture ... in detail. . . . His Crow work and his investigation of the Plains societies are in a class by themselves. The latter study, for its completeness, its clear-cut recognition of the problems involved and its admirable solution, has never been excelled” (Radin 1958, 360-61).
Lowie’s early publications, both articles and book reviews, show his interest in folklore. In 1908, two articles appeared in the Journal of American Folklore: “Catchwords for Mythological Motives” and his dissertation, “The Test-Theme in North American Mythology.” In 1909, he coauthored “Shoshone and Comanche Tales,” wrote “Additional Catchwords,” “Hero-Trickster Discussion,” and a review of George Lawrence Gomme’s Folklore as a Historical Science, all appearing in the Journal of American Folklore. Lowie’s involvement in folklore resulted in his election to the presidency of the American Folklore Society in 1916 and 1917.
Of Lowie’s work, Erminie Voegelin remarked, “More, perhaps, than any other anthropologist of his generation, Lowie concerned himself throughout his lifetime with American Indian folklore” (Voegelin 1958, 149). From her memories as his student, she recalled that he frequently conducted seminars in folklore. Katherine Luomala remarked on this too.11 Lowie directed six master’s theses in folklore. Included among these were Erminie Voegelin’s “Kiowa-Crow Mythological Affiliations” (1930), and Katherine Luomala’s “Turtle’s War Party: A Study in Comparative Mythology” (1933). He directed eight doctoral dissertations in folklore, among which were the following: D. S. Demetracopoulou, “The Loon Woman Myth: A Study in Synthesis” (1931); E. W. Count, “The Earth-Diver: An Attempt at an Asiatic-American Trait-Correlation” (1935); E. K. Luomala, “Maui the Demi-God: Factors in the Development of a Polynesian Hero Cycle” (1936): F. J. Essene, Jr., “A Comparative Study of Eskimo Mythology” (1947) (Voegelin 1958, 150).
Frank Gouldsmith Speck (1881-1950) carried Boas’s influence to the University of Pennsylvania. He did his undergraduate work at Columbia (B. A. 1904) where he studied with the linguist J. Dyneley Prince. Prince directed his student to Boas, and Speck completed his M.A. one year later. Under Boas’s direction, he began his fieldwork in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma (Yuchi, Creek, Chickasaw, and Osage) (Hallowell 1951, 69). Speck went to the University of Pennsylvania on a newly established fellowship in anthropology (1907-1908) (Darnell 1970, 88). After he received his doctorate (1908), he was hired by George Gordon to be the Assistant Curator in Ethnology at the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania (1909-1911). In 1909, Speck began teaching courses as well.
Speck’s writings on the Montagnais, Naskapi, Penobscot, Algonkian, and other American Indian groups provide detailed accounts of rituals, sensitive explanation of symbolism, native ethnoesthetics, and critical oral historical accounts. His classic, The Naskapi (1935), is a stunning account of the ritual and symbolism attached to the woodland life of hunting. His book, The Penobscot, which was written in 1915 but not published until 1940, provides crucial oral historical information on a group of native Americans whose way of life had almost passed when Speck began his interviews. Speck was a consummate fieldworker. He conducted annual summer fieldtrips among the Naskapi and among the Eskimo of southern Labrador (National Research Council 1938, 92).
His contributions to folklore studies were both extensive and creative. Weston LaBarre called Frank Speck “the major contributor in the field of folk sciences” (Hallowell 1951, 68). While Speck used the term ethnohistory in his later writings, Hallowell observed that he was always an ethnohistorian. He had a continuing interest in material culture (Hallowell 1951, 70); and in his works he linked material culture to the ceremonial and social life of the people. He also had an abiding interest in religion and ritual. This was reflected in the course called “Primitive Religion” that he taught for many years (Hallowell 1951, 74) and in his publications.12
Melville Jacobs (1902-1971) took his B. A. in history and philosophy at the City College of New York (1922) and his M.A. in American history at Columbia (1923). In 1924, he began course work in the Anthropology Department, where his fellow students were Ruth Benedict, Melville Herskovits, George Herzog, Alexander Lesser, Margaret Mead, and Gene Weltfish (Thompson, L. 1978, 640). With two summers devoted to his Sahaptin fieldwork, Jacobs completed the work for the doctorate in December 1927. The degree was not awarded until the Sahaptin grammar was published in 1931 (Thompson, L. 1978, 641). In 1928, Jacobs went to the University of Washington, where he would remain for the rest of his life.
Following the terms of his appointment, Jacobs was relieved of his teaching responsibilities for six months of every year so that he could conduct fieldwork. Much of this research was devoted to recording Indian languages soon to pass away with the deaths of the last surviving speakers.13 The linguistic notes were taken with great care, and “following the Boasian ideal,” included “traditional texts—myths, tales, and ethnographic commentary.” Jacobs used an Ediphone dictating machine to record songs on wax cylinders. In 1934, Jacobs had a portable electric phonograph recorder constructed which used the voltage from his car battery. “He put it to immediate use recording some of Annie Peterson’s Coosan songs and narratives. Thus we have actual sound recordings of these largely extinct tongues” (Thompson, L. 1978, 641).
In his retiring presidential address to the American Folklore Society in 1964, Jacobs spoke on “A Look Ahead in Oral Literature Research.” His remarks show both his theoretical concerns and an aspect of his personality to which his student, Laurence Thompson, referred—the “bitter side,” the “caustic” criticism of others (Thompson, L. 1978, 643).
In folklore, Boasian anthropologists seemed incapable of going beyond catchword kinds of captions which historicogeographical folklorists were using for those rude assemblages or macro-units called “motifs.” Even the terminology employed by the anthropological folklorists was inconsistent. Robert H. Lowie wrote about a father-in-law “test theme,” but Thomas T. Waterman wrote about “explanatory elements,” both in doctoral dissertations prepared under Boas.
(Jacobs 1966b, 415)
Jacobs continued with a criticism of every anthropological folklorist from the 1890s to the moment he was speaking. Then he moved on to a criticism of the literary folklorists who had no concern “with building fundamental theoretical knowledge,” or with studying non-Western oral literatures (Jacobs 1966b, 420-21).
Jacobs’s theoretical orientation was expressed in the title of his work, The Content and Style of an Oral Literature (1959). As he explained, “I did not venture toward perfection in the linguistic aspect of my research, because of my overruling concern with folklore content and literary style” (Jacobs 1958, 3). Jacobs focused on a specific oral literature. As Thompson said, “He rejected the projection of West European values onto non-Western folktales” (Thompson, L. 1978, 643). Yet, ironically, Jacobs chose to use Western theatrical terms such as “play, acts, scenes, epilogues, and entr’actes” as captions for “each myth or tale recital” (Jacobs 1960, viii). He suggested that, although “oral literature recitals lack stage settings,” still they resemble “in presentation and structuring of content those special performances of plays in which one speaker acts all the actors’ roles” (Jacobs 1960, viii). His was an innovative and provocative approach, one that is now reflected in performance theory.
While Alfred Kroeber and Robert Lowie were establishing their sphere of influence on the West Coast at the University of California, Berkeley, and Frank Speck was building up the Anthropology Department at the University of Pennsylvania, Boas brought other individuals to the study of anthropology and folklore from his position at Columbia University. Some of these stayed with Boas in New York and added to his base of power there, and some moved on to establish other centers of anthropological study.
Melville J. Herskovits (1895-1963) came to Columbia University in 1921, after his undergraduate work in history at the University of Chicago. At the New School for Social Research in New York, Herskovits met Alexander A. Goldenweiser (Simpson 1973, 2), Elsie Clews Parsons, and Ruth Benedict (Simpson 1973, 2). At Columbia, he worked with Boas; he received his M.A. degree in 1921, and his Ph.D. in 1923. In 1927, he took a position at Northwestern where he remained until his death in 1963 (Merriam 1964, 83).
Margaret Mead, who was a senior at Barnard College when she first met Melville Herskovits, remembered his ebullient personality. “One of his famous remarks—when we had all gone to dinner in Chinatown—was ‘I don’t expect to be a Boas, but I do expect to be a Lowie or an Ogburn’ ” (Simpson 1973, 3).14
Along with his wife, Frances Shapiro Herskovits, Melville Herskovits conducted his first fieldwork in Suriname, Dutch Guiana in 1928, followed by a second expedition in 1929. Together they collected the Guiana narratives which appeared in Suriname Folklore (1936). Herskovits was fascinated by the relationship between the African cultures and the black cultures in the Western hemisphere. He continued his studies in Haiti (1934), and in Brazil (1941-1942).
As Melville and Frances Herskovits remarked, their work collecting and researching the Guiana narratives provided them with the expertise to launch their study of Dahomean Narratives (1958). This classic book was the result of their 1931 fieldwork in Aloney, Dahomey. The narratives were recited in Fon by the informants, rendered in English by the translator, and typed by the Herskovits, all in one sitting. Of this method, the Herskovits said,
The use of the typewriter brought out interesting reactions. At first, both teller and translator, watching the play of the machine with fascination, spoke on and on; some of the fullest tales were recorded under the influence of the novelty of having what was said taken on the typewriter.
(Herskovits and Herskovits 1966, 7)
As the informants grew more accustomed to the typewriter, they would at times “attempt to confound the yovo, the whites—that is, ourselves—by talking rapidly and including the elaborations of the actual story-telling session to test our typing skill” (Herskovits and Herskovits 1966, 7).
The opening lines of Dahomean Narrative mark the Herskovits as scholars in the Boasian tradition: “The narratives in this collection have taught us much about how the Dahomean sees his world and himself, and how his imagination plays on the realities of everyday life” (Herskovits and Herskovits 1966, v). Taking the narratives as a reflector of culture, they anchor their research in a nonbiased acceptance of the native view. As they say, fundamental to their approach “is the rejection of terms such as ‘primitive’ and ‘savage’; as ‘civilized’ and ‘barbarian’ or ‘backward’; as ‘greater’ or ‘lesser’ tradition” (Herskovits and Herskovits 1966, 4). As all good students must, Herskovits added to his mentor’s work. Together with Frances Herskovits, Melville Herskovits formulated new questions that directed the work in narratives to the heart of concerns that are now central to much folkloristic research:
What functioning role does the culture assign to its spoken arts? What is its attitude toward improvisation? Is it permissive, encouraging and rewarding it; or is it indifferent or even hostile toward its exercise? Does it have named criteria which distinguish the excellence of artistry from merely competent repetitions? What in the structure of the narrative form is dictated by the fact that it is spoken, and is thus more akin to drama than are written forms? How closely and in what situations does the teller’s participant audience hold him to fixed versions?
(Herskovits and Herskovits 1966, 4-5)
Herskovits trained an outstanding group of scholars. Among these was one—Herskovits’s first Ph.D. student in anthropology—who was to make profound contributions to anthropology and folklore. William Russel Bascom (1912-1981) took his undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Wisconsin in 1933, and a master’s in anthropology in 1936. He went to Northwestern University in 1936, to study anthropology “in a very small program under the dominant figure of Melville J. Herskovits, who ‘first interested me in Africa, the Yoruba people, and the city of Ife’ ” (Ottenberg 1982b, 3). Greatly influenced by Herskovits, Bascom specialized in African religion, art, folklore, and Afro-American connections.
Bascom’s first fieldwork was among the Kiowa of Oklahoma in 1936. This was followed by his work among the Yoruba in southwestern Nigeria (1937-1938). His interests in Afro-American and Afro-Cuban cultures led to his research among the Gullah Blacks of South Carolina and Georgia, and to his work in Cuba (Ottenberg 1982b, 4). After World War II, he carried out an economic study of the people of Ponape in the Caroline Islands.
Bascom’s publications reflected his years of involvement with African cultures and Afro-Cuban and Afro-American cultures. Among these are the following: African Art in Cultural Perspective (1973), African Dilemma Tales (1975), and Sixteen Cowries: Yoruba Divination from Africa to the New World (1980). In 1969, Bascom was awarded the Giuseppe Pitre International Folklore Prize for Ifa Divination: Communication Between Gods and Men in West Africa.
Bascom began teaching with Herskovits at Northwestern in 1939 and continued until 1957. He served as Chairman of the Department of Anthropology and Acting Director of the Program of African Studies for the 1956-1957 academic year. In 1957, Bascom came to the University of California, Berkeley, as Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Robert H. Lowie Museum of Anthropology and remained in that position until 1979. As he said, his good friend and colleague, Archer Taylor, professor in the German Department, was instrumental in this change of university affiliation (Bascom 1981d, 285). Bascom taught the successor of Taylor’s folklore course. During his years in the Berkeley department, he offered courses in prose narrative, African art, and African folktales.
During his initial fieldwork in Nigeria in 1937-1938, Bascom began his lifelong work with Yoruba proverbs. In World War II, he was stationed in West Africa. As he said, “My collection grew to around five thousand Yoruba proverbs. I had bitten off a very large morsel” (Bascom 1981d, 288). In 1950-1951, William Bascom and Berta Montero Bascom returned to Nigeria on a Fulbright Fellowship. While William Bascom conducted ethnographic work, Berta Bascom “worked with English-speaking Yoruba informants, translating the proverbs into English, exploring their social contexts, and probing for their deeper meanings” (Bascom 1981d, 288).
In a largely autobiographical account of his scholarly work, “Perhaps Too Much to Chew?” Bascom noted the lengthy nature of his undertakings:
It does seem that I get involved in large projects with lengthy production times, but I did manage to complete Ifa Divination (1938-69) and Sixteen Cowries in twenty-nine years (1951-80). Meanwhile I have my teeth into another big project and, even in retirement, the proverbs have been neglected.
(Bascom 1981a, 288-89)
Berta Bascom continues the work on the proverb, the project carried on with her husband for more than thirty years, and which Bascom himself had been engaged in for forty-four years.
Among those who were influenced by Boas and who stayed on to work with him in New York were Ruth Benedict, Elsie Clews Parsons, Ruth Bunzel, and Gladys Reichard. Elsie Clews Parsons (1875-1941) was a folklorist of independent means.15 Generous with her support, she was also a patron of the American Folklore Society. Reichard said of her, “She was an anthropological institution because of her varied interests, her cooperation with many universities and museums, her incredible tolerance, her discrimination and her judgment, in short, because of her philosophy of life” (Reichard 1943a, 45).
Parsons came to folklore and anthropology after years of work in sociology. She took her B. A. at the newly established Barnard College in 1896. At Columbia University she studied sociology under Franklin H. Giddings, and received her M.A. in 1897, and her Ph.D. in 1899. Parsons served as a fellow at Barnard College from 1899 to 1902, and as a lecturer in sociology from 1903 to 1905.16 In 1919, Parsons helped establish the New School for Social Research in New York, where she lectured on anthropology at one of the first sessions (Boyer 1971, 21; Chambers 1973, 182).
Parsons’s career shifted from an earlier interest in American family life and feminist issues to an involvement in folklore and anthropology. This change of research focus manifested a long-term interest Parsons had in the Southwest. And it was also linked to a profound disillusionment with the ability to affect social and political change. As a committed pacifist, Parsons took the involvement of the United States in World War I as a sign that her movement had failed. She wearied of the struggle and took solace in her work in anthropology and folklore. This was a conscious change from a front-line political arena to an absorption in other cultures. Important for her work was her friendship with Pliny Earle Goddard of the American Museum of Natural History, who was also president of the American Folklore Society (1915) (Chambers 1973, 183; Hare 1985, 135-37). Even more crucial, as Leslie Spier said, she “fell in with” Franz Boas (Spier 1943, 246), and their relationship was one that grew in friendship and respect. The major focus of Parsons’s work, however, remained essentially the same throughout her life: she was concerned with the control that custom and culture exerted over the individual.
In “Some Next Steps in the Study of Negro Folklore,” Melville J. Herskovits remarked, “The contributions of Elsie Clews Parsons to the study of Negro folklore are so extensive as to comprise, in themselves, the bulk of the available materials in this field” (Herskovits 1943, 1). He added that “no significant work” could be done in this field without using Parsons’s work as a foundation. Parsons had indicated her interest in working on black folklore in a letter to Boas: “I’d like to try it, particularly if it would require doing and directing field-work in the West Indies and getting correspondents there. From visits to Hayti and the Bahamas ... I believe there is a rich, unexplored field” (Boas Papers, Parsons to Boas, 11/25/1915). Parson’s involvement was formalized at the December 1915 meeting of the American Folklore Society. Boas reported, “The President was authorized to appoint Mrs. Elsie Clews Parsons upon the Editorial Board to assist in the publication of material on Negro folk-lore” (Peabody 1916, 297). By the next year and Boas’s next editorial report, Parsons had collected “the material for the first Negro number” and publication was scheduled for the following year (Boas 1917a, 269-70; see also Hare 1985, 137). Not only did Parsons collect the material but she also paid the publication expenses (Dwyer-Shick 1979, 228). Further, she assumed the expenses for all subsequent Journal of American Folklore publications on Negro folklore.
Reichard called Parsons “a respecter of evidence,” a trait that, when combined with collecting, yielded detailed works. Parsons once told Gladys Reichard that she thought of her own work “as a mosaic and that she hated to omit any detail” (Reichard 1943a, 47). “Dr. Parsons held the theory that many isolated details obtainable but perhaps not comprehended at the time of collection, should be preserved until a time when ‘someone would know more and be able to interpret them’ ” (Reichard 1950, 309). She was also wary of generalizing. As she wrote to Boas, “I am so pleased you liked that chapter. I was afraid there might be too much guessing to suit you. There has to be some and the best one can do is to indicate plainly that a guess is a guess” (Boas Papers, Parsons to Boas, 9/8/1936).
Because of Parsons’s emphasis in empiricism, fieldwork was crucial for her study of folklore. As Hare notes, “she came to recognize that psychological and philosophical generalizations were not enough and that rigorous empirical study . . . was necessary.” It was Parson’s belief that through her intensive fieldwork she “would ultimately illuminate her own society as well as the other cultures she so meticulously investigated” (Hare 1985, 20). She undertook extensive fieldtrips:
to the Pueblo Indians, 1915-32, to Andros Islands, Balina, and many Negro communities in U.S., including Cape Verde Islanders, 1919, to Micmac of Cape Breton Island, 1923, to Pima Indians, 1926, to Kiowa Indiana, 1927, to Lesser Antilles, 1924, 1925, 1927, to Egypt and Soudan, 1926, to Zapotecan Indians, 1929-33.
(National Research Council 1938, 77)
Parsons found in fieldwork the excitement and freedom that she felt was so dismally absent in the wealthy social circles of New York with which her family was associated. She also found in it the mental and physical challenge for hard work. And then at the end of a long day, she liked to enjoy a moment of relaxation. As Reichard remarked: “She used to say that her idea of complete comfort was to have at the same time a cigarette, a cup of coffee, and an open fire. And characteristically she added quietly, ‘You know it is very hard to get all three together. It is easier among Indians than among ourselves” (Reichard 1943a, 48).
Parsons’s wealth made it possible for her to maintain a large retinue of servants, to employ people to care for her four children, and to travel frequently and extensively (Rosenberg, 1982, 154; Chambers 1973, 193). She could also purchase items that would facilitate her work, such as the expensive sound recording equipment that she used to record the cantefables (Chambers 1973, 187) and a yacht for sailing to the Caribbean islands.
Parsons’s work in folklore yielded many important works (Reichard 1943b; Hare 1985, 169; Voegelin 1943, 136). Folk-Lore of the Sea Islands, South Carolina (1923) and Folk-Lore of the Cape Verde Islands (1923) were published as memoirs of the American Folklore Society. Hopi and Zuni Ceremonialism (1933) and Taos Tales (1940) are among the many works from her fieldwork in the Southwest among the Pueblo Indians. Parsons’s Pueblo Indian Religion (1939) was recognized as the most comprehensive piece of research on the subject (Kroeber 1943a, 254) in which the author “combed archaeological reports for clues to the interpretation of modern rituals and beliefs” (Reichard 1943a, 46). Parsons’s extensive work in Mexico culminated with Mitla, Town of the Souls (1936) wherein she examined the connection between the Southwest Pueblo Indian culture and the Indian cultures of Mesoamerica. Parsons was also interested in the influence of the Spanish and of Catholicism on the Indians.
Parsons was exceedingly generous with her wealth. While contributions to the Journal of American Folklore from 1916 to 1941 were in excess of thirty thousand dollars, Chambers suggests that the actual sum of her contributions was substantially larger. As he remarks, “she quietly supported many individual scholars in large and small projects and resorted in some cases to the facade of anonymous donations” (Chambers 1973, 197). This is illustrated in a letter to Boas, where Parsons wrote, “Enclosed is a check for $60 to tide over Dr. Frachtenberg. I would prefer to have the matter remain private to you and me” (Boas Papers, Parsons to Boas, 1/3/1918). Parsons also funded Aurelio Espinosa’s trip to Spain for an amount exceeding two thousand dollars (Boas Papers, Parsons to Boas, 11/4/1919).
Susan Dwyer-Shick stresses Parsons’s key role as a benefactor of The Memoirs of the American Folklore Society. From 1917 to 1940, in addition to her support of the journal, Parsons contributed a recorded amount of $12,113.54. She also assumed the expenses for five volumes of this series for which the publication figures are not available (Dwyer-Shick 1979, 285). As Chambers notes, at the time of his writing in 1973, Parsons had paid for “nearly a third of the whole series from 1889 to 1973” (Chambers 1973, 197, n69).
Though as Leslie Spier remarked, Parsons “had no interest in formal recognition or personal aggrandizement for herself” (1943, 244), still she received much recognition during her lifetime. She was elected president of the American Folklore Society in 1918 to serve through 1920. As Boas commented, “In the Folk-Lore Society we have elected Mrs. Parsons president, in the hope particularly that she may be able to devise some means of increasing our membership. She is very energetic and resourceful” (Boas Papers, Boas to Tozzer, 12/30/1918). Parsons was associate editor of the Journal of American Folklore from 1918 until her death. In 1928, Reichard wrote to Parsons,
My dear Dr. Parsons,
At the meeting of the American Folk-Lore Society on December 29, 1927, the Council requested the Secretary to send you a letter expressing the deepest thanks of the Society to you for the large amount of help and interest which you have rendered us particularly during the last year. It was decided that a letter to this effect be sent you and that a copy be laid upon the minutes.
(UPFFA, Reichard to Parsons, 2/18/1928)
Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) was first a student of Elsie Clews Parsons and then a student of Franz Boas. In 1919, Benedict began taking courses from Alexander Goldenweiser and Elsie Clews Parsons at the New School for Social Research (Mintz 1981, 144). As Virginia Briscoe says in “Ruth Benedict, Anthropological Folklorist,” “she approached the academic life very cautiously, taking one course a semester for two years at the New School for Social Research” before going on to Columbia to study with Boas (Briscoe 1979, 446). Benedict came to Boas on Elsie Clews Parsons’s recommendation. “With Boas’ blessing, she completed her doctorate at Columbia in three semesters” (Mintz 1981, 144). After taking her degree, Benedict became a teaching assistant at Barnard College (Mead 1974, 20). It was here that she had as a student the young Margaret Mead. Years later, Mead wrote an article entitled “Ruth Benedict, a Humanist in Anthropology.” This title, in fact, encapsulates much of Benedict’s contribution to anthropology and folklore. She brought to her work in the social sciences a background in the humanities. Her undergraduate degree from Vassar College (1909) had been in literature. She remained throughout her life a poet, publishing under the pen name of Ann Singleton. Ruth Benedict was conscious of her dual approach to anthropology and folklore. In December 1947, she delivered her retiring presidential address to the American Anthropological Association on “Anthropology and the Humanities.” She maintained that, not only were the humanities compatible with the study of anthropology, but necessary for the vitality and sensitivity of the discipline (Benedict 1948).
Ruth Benedict had a formative impact on her students. Margaret Mead recalled, “The intensity of her interest, combined with the magnificent clarity of Boas’ teaching, made anthropology . . . something of a revelation to me” (Mead 1974, 3). Another of Benedict’s students, Sidney Mintz, remembered the first time he saw her in the fall of 1946:
Benedict stood before us, tall, spare, seemingly rather distant, her voice startlingly low and slightly hoarse, plainly dressed, her silver hair short and severe, what I judged to be her shyness heightened by the contrast between the penetration of her ideas and the somewhat absent gaze with which she regarded us. I was astonished by her, and by her lecture. It simply had never occurred to me before that a total culture might be looked upon as if it were a work of art, something coolly contemplated, something utterly unique and distinctive, yet available to be studied, analyzed, understood.
(Mintz 1981, 156)
Margaret Mead’s and Sidney Mintz’s recollections of their teacher convey the intellectual power and style of this remarkable anthropologist and folklorist. They present the reader with Ruth Benedict the humanist—the one who studied “a whole culture as a work of art”—as well as with Ruth Benedict the scientist.
Benedict’s dissertation, “The Concept of the Guardian Spirit in North America,” brought praise from an anthropologist who was to become a close colleague and life-long friend. Edward Sapir wrote to her from Ottawa,
I read your paper yesterday in one breath, interrupted by supper, most necessary distractions, only. Let me congratulate you on having produced a very fine piece of research. It makes a notable addition to the body of historical critiques that anthropology owes to Boas. I put it with such papers as Golden-weiser’s “Totemism” (1910) and Waterman’s “Explanatory Element in American Mythology” (1914) except that it impresses me as being decidedly more inspiring than either of these.
(Mead 1974, 22)
Ruth Benedict is remembered primarily for her book Patterns of Culture. Published in 1934, the book was an immediate success. Indeed, it has become a classic in anthropological literature. Benedict discussed individual cultures as wholes composed of patterned social and expressive behavior, of style and design that are replicated in every area of life. As Benedict said in a letter to Reo Fortune in 1932, “The theme of course is cultural configuration again” (Mead 1974, 41). According to Benedict’s analysis, each culture had its own pattern; each culture was personality writ large. She examined Zuni culture as Apollonian; Kwakiutl culture as Dionysian; and Dobuan culture as schizophrenic. Her critics pointed to the labeling of non-Western cultures by terms laden with Western value-judgments, that is, schizophrenic, Dionysian, and Appolonian. But the power in the book lay in the elucidation of the symbolic patterning of social behavior and expression. From folktales, to dance, to child rearing practices, the same patterns or configurations emerged.
In the introduction to Zuni Mythology, Benedict stressed that “the intensive study of one body of folklore” had been neglected in both European and American scholarship. With a stress on “far-flung comparative studies,” scholars had missed the opportunity to examine “a living folklore” (Benedict 1968, 103, 102, 106). There had been exceptions that illustrated “the great amount of cultural material in myth,” and those that stressed “the value of folklore for an understanding of the culture” (Benedict 1968, 103). This approach was present in Boas’s work on the Tsimshian (1916) and the Kwakiutl (1935).
For Benedict, a “profitable” study would result from an intensive examination of a single body of mythology and of folktales. These “should hold an important place in the tribal life” (Benedict 1968, 103). There should be a large body of tales recorded over a period of time; the culture should be adequately studied; and “folklore among that people should be a living and functioning culture trait” (Benedict 1968, 103-104). These conditions were met at Zuni.
Benedict examined the themes in the narratives and their relationship with the culture. She found that certain themes did not correlate with Zuni life and values. Though she did not phrase it in this way, Zuni mythology provided an imperfect reflection of Zuni culture. “It has always been obvious to students of every theoretical persuasion that folklore tallied with culture and yet did not tally with it” (Benedict 1968, 105). An oft-used explanation stressed the retention in folklore of past customs: “cultural survivals of earlier ages are perpetuated in folklore.” Benedict eschewed this approach. A body of lore which reflected only “long-discarded customs” was “a dead lore rather than a living one” (Benedict 1968, 105).
What, then, was the explanation for the emphasis on polygamy in Zuni tales, when Zuni marriage was monogamous? Why the recurrent theme of the abandoned infant when this was not condoned in real life? In the first instance, Benedict suggested that the narratives provided both “mythological exaggeration” and “compensatory daydreams.” Though in life, one had a single partner, in folktales, one could indulge. “Just as the hero of folktales kills a buck every day, or four in a single day, so he also is courted by eight maidens and marries them” (Benedict 1968, 107-08).
The explanation for the popularity of the theme dealing with the abandonment of children lay in “the fact that the hearer’s identification is with the child, not with the mother.” The hearer, in fantasy, becomes a child again and punishes the aberrant mother (Benedict 1968, 108-09).
Ruth Benedict taught courses in folklore and anthropology at Columbia from 1926 until her death in 1948 (Briscoe 1979, 446). In her teaching, she was known not only for her rigor and expertise, but also for the concern and support given her students. The personal guidance that Benedict extended to her students is conveyed in the following excerpt from a letter written to Margaret Mead in March 1926:
Then this week Klineberg—do you remember the very fair, neat-minded boy in psychology—reported on psychoanalytic treatment of myth. I told him to do it as sympathetically as possible, and he thought at first that with the best will in the world that was impossible. But with the help of Malinowski’s work and of suggestions we cooked up, he gave an exceedingly interesting report.
(Mead 1974, 28)
Still another mark of the personal encouragement she gave her students was in material support. After the death of her husband, Stanley Benedict, she used her considerable inheritance to help finance her students’ field-work.
In addition to her teaching, research, and writing, Ruth Benedict served in many other professional capacities. She contributed articles on “Animism,” “Dress,” “Folklore,” “Magic,” and “Myth and Ritual” to the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Social Science (Briscoe 1979, 445-46). In the late 1920s and the 1930s, Benedict worked with Gene Weltfish and Erna Gunther on a project funded by Elsie Clews Parsons which involved a compilation of a Southwest Indian mythology concordance (Briscoe 1979, 464). And in the 1940s, Benedict was one of the anthropologists working for the United States government as part of the war effort. In 1943, she took a position at the Office of War Information; she moved to Washington, D.C., and began her studies of “cultures viewed at a distance” (Mead 1974, 61). Her book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Patterns of Japanese Culture (1946), was the result of her wartime work.
From 1925 to 1939, Ruth Benedict served as editor—indeed, as the first woman editor—of the Journal of American Folklore and of the Memoirs of the American Folklore Society.17 Benedict encouraged the publication of ethnic folklore collections. But, unlike Newell, her stress was not on British folk communities (Briscoe 1979, 463). In 1936, she wrote to Katherine Luomala saying, “What is needed is Finnish, Greek, Swedish and French folklore and the like” (Briscoe 1979, 463).18
Benedict received national and international recognition as an outstanding American anthropologist. In 1933, she was listed in the official register American Men of Science. As a further mark of her esteemed position, her name was starred as a leading scientist. She was among a group of seven out of one hundred scientists who were so designated as leading scholars. And she was the only living woman anthropologist to be listed—but then the register only listed three women (Briscoe 1979, 457-58). In addition to this, Benedict received many awards and held many offices. She was president of the American Ethnological Society (1927-1929); fellow at the Washington School of Psychiatry (1945); vice-president of the American Psychopathological Association (1946); president of the American Anthropological Association (1947); and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1947). In 1946, she received the American Design Award for War Services and the Achievement Award, from the American Association of University Women; in 1947, she was awarded an honorary D.Sc. from Russell Sage College (Mead 1949, 35); and in the summer of 1948, Benedict attended a UNESCO seminar in Czechoslovakia.
Yet it was only in July of 1948 that Columbia University bestowed the title of full professor on Ruth Benedict. This was, as Sidney Mintz said, “a shamefully tardy attempt” on the part of Columbia “to make up for its previous treatment of a great scholar” (Mintz 1981, 144). Ruth Benedict had taught at Columbia for twenty-six years, twelve of those as an associate professor. She was never, however, to teach under the title of full professor. She died two months after she was named full professor, in September 1948, at the age of sixty-one.19
Gladys Reichard (1898-1955) was another of Boas’s students who took her degree at Columbia (1925) and stayed on to conduct courses at Barnard College (Columbia). Marian Smith said of Reichard, her teaching was “patterned” after Boas and “her interests had the same breadth” (Smith 1956, 914). In 1922-1923, she had a research fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, which enabled her to write her dissertation, “Wiyot Grammar and Texts.” Reichard completed the Ph.D. in 1925; and did a year of post-doctoral work (1926-1927) at the University of Hamburg, Germany (Reichard 1963, 805). Reichard began research among the Navajos in 1923, and continued working with them for more than twenty-five years. She spoke the language fluently and learned Navajo weaving as well during her four summers spent with a Navajo family (Reichard 1963, 805). She also worked among the Coeur d’Alene Indians (1927, 1929). Her fieldwork among the Navajo resulted in numerous publications, among which were Navaho Religion, a Study of Symbolism (1950), and Spider Woman, a Story of Navaho Weavers and Chanters (1934). Reichard’s An Analysis of Coeur d’Alene Indian Mythology (1947) was awarded the Chicago Folklore Prize in 1948.
Reichard’s work was grounded on the solid rock of Boasian anthropology, but had expanded into areas of symbolism and worldview. In the introduction to Navaho Religion, Reichard explained her intent—to go beyond the dance, song, and sandpaintings and to explicate the religious system that has sustained the Navajos in a rapidly changing world. Her aim was “to show how and why these people are preoccupied with ritual, and further, how the principles of their system differ so radically from our own” (Reichard 1963, xxxiii). Her work was divided into three parts. In the first, on dogma, she examined Navajo categories, worldview, the nature of man, the supernatural beings, the theory of disease and curing, and ethics. The second part focused on symbolism, and the third, on ritual. The concordances dealt with supernatural beings, ritualistic ideas, and rites, and were followed with a list of concordance topics.
Paul Radin and Martha Warren Beckwith followed a professional course that differed from that of the other anthropological folklorists. Both were trained by Boas; both conducted fieldwork and published works in folklore. But Radin (1883-1959), described as a man “of everywhere and nowhere” (Goldenweiser 1922, vii), refused to attach himself to an institution. He moved from job to job—University of California (Berkeley), Mills College, Fisk, University of Chicago, Kenyon College, and Brandeis. Julian Steward said, “his charm got him about every job in Anthropology in the country” (Diamond 1981, 72). Radin, who criticized the academic as “dependent upon his official academy” and “linked to the ruling establishment” (Diamond 1981, 75), once boasted that “he had turned down more job offers than any other anthropologist” (Sapir 1961, 67).
Radin did his undergraduate work at City College of New York (1902-1907); he wrote his thesis on the embryology of sharks. In 1907, Radin went to Munich to pursue his interests in icthyology. Here he studied with Ranke and developed an interest in physical anthropology. He took course work at the University of Berlin with Karl von den Steinen, Eduard Seier, and Paul Ehrenreich. On his return to Columbia, Radin minored in history under James Harvey Robinson, while majoring in anthropology under Boas. He completed his doctorate in 1911. Diamond, who discusses the intellectual life of his mentor, suggests that “the combined effect of Robinson’s skeptical humanism and Boas’ empirical insistence upon the indivisible potential of primitive and civilized mentalities . . . originally led Radin to question all notions of primitive inferiority” (Diamond 1981, 71).
Radin’s first fieldwork was with the Winnebago Indians in 1908. This became his area of intense specialization. He wrote The Culture of the Winnebago: As Described by Themselves (1923). A classic among his works was Crashing Thunder; The Autobiography of an American Indian (1926). Radin claimed only to be the editor of this work. However, as Sapir remarked, Radin provided in the notes “the essential background material which makes the struggle of this Indian in the face of white culture fully intelligible” (Sapir 1961, 65).
In addition to the Winnebago, Radin worked with the Ojibwa, the Fox, the Zapotec, the Wappo, the Wintu, and the Huave. He also studied the Italians of the San Francisco Bay Area. The thrust of Radin’s work was to give voice to the people. As Stanley Diamond explained, Radin’s continual concern was “that the values of social science itself were only reflections of the dominant social and economic currents peculiar to the civilization in which they existed.” Radin felt “that studies of primitive life continually face the risk of reflecting ourselves and the established framework of Western thought more than primitive society” (Diamond 1981, 79).
Radin’s work in folklore was extensive. His analytical perspective on folktale as literature is exemplified in Literary Aspects of North American Mythology (1915), and “Literary Aspects of Winnebago Mythology” (1926). Radin used the native terms for the narratives, and attempted to analyze the narratives for style, theme, and cultural content. In “The Literature of Primitive Peoples,” Radin represented oral literature as drama. He spoke of the raconteur as the impersonator of the actors in the drama, with the audience as a participant. In his appraisal of Radin’s work, Sapir says, “One looks for dramatic interaction between audience and actors, between audience and raconteur, and between raconteur and actors” (Sapir 1961, 66). Sapir concludes, “Oral literature looked at this way should, in the future, come up with interesting results.” Radin’s work followed the innovative thrust of his mind. He focused on the individual in culture, both in terms of the creative and intellectual capacity. Dell Hymes said, “Boas had no peer in American anthropological work except his students, Sapir and Radin” (Hymes 1965, 334).
With her academic training in anthropology and literature, and her unique appointment as a research professor in folklore, Martha Warren Beckwith (1871-1959) perhaps best exemplified a scholar who later would be classified as a folklorist. She did her undergraduate work in English literature at Mt. Holyoke College, which was followed by ten years as an English instructor at Elmira, Mt. Holyoke, Vassar, and Smith. Beckwith completed her master’s work with Boas in 1906, and in 1918, she received her Ph.D. On her return to Vassar College in 1920, Beckwith was given a special appointment as research professor for the Folklore Foundation. She was also assistant professor of comparative literature. While this latter position terminated in 1929, she retained her position with the Folklore Foundation until 1939, when she retired as professor emeritus of folklore (Luomala 1962, 341-42; Boas Papers, Beckwith to Boas, 12/14/1919).
The research professorship was created through an endowment. Only after Beckwith’s retirement did the contributors become known: Mr. and Mrs. Alexander of Hawaii had donated funds solely for the employment of Martha Beckwith. Beckwith, who had grown up on the island of Maui, was a friend of this family. She dedicated her final work on Hawaiian folklore, The Kumulipo, A Hawaiian Creation Chant (1951), “To the memory of Annie M. Alexander, Lifelong Friend and Comrade from early days in Hawaii, whose generous sponsorship has made the author’s research possible” (Luomala 1962, 3341-42).
Beckwith worked extensively on Hawaiian folklore; her Hawaiian Mythology (1940) was a detailed work of 575 pages. Yet in the preface, Beckwith said, “The study covers, as any old Hawaiian will discover, less than half the story (Beckwith 1970, xxxi). Beckwith returned frequently to Hawaii to pursue research. She had a position as research associate in Hawaiian folklore at the Bishop Museum, where she translated Hawaiian manuscripts. In addition to her work on Hawaiian folklore, Beckwith contributed to studies of folklore and ethnography among Jamaicans, native Americans (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Oglala), and the Portuguese of Goa (Luomala 1962, 342).
Beckwith wrote Folklore in America, Its Scope and Method (1931), a work that as Luomala noted “has had less notice than it deserves” (Luomala 1962, 345). Beckwith’s survey of the study of folklore in the United States was scholarly and comprehensive. She began with a “Definition of the Field,” followed with “The Method of Folklore,” and ended with “Folklore in America.” In the first two sections, Beckwith included the European and American approach to folklore. Clearly in control of the scholarship, she reviewed the major works and discussed pertinent works that were neglected in many contemporary histories of folkloristics. (See Beckwith 1931, 1-52).
The work of the anthropological folklorists expanded from an initial concentration on North American Indians to a consideration of Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Africa. (See also Lowie 1960, 462.) The change of geographical focus had to do with a conscious expansion of research boundaries. This was reflected by Boas’s suggestion in 1908 that the Journal of American Folklore be renamed the American Journal of Folklore in order to justify the inclusion of non-American material (Willis 1973, 317; Boas Papers, Boas to Tozzer, 3/18/1908). One such anthropologist who illustrates this move beyond the continental United States was Laura Watson Benedict (1861-1932). Pursuing her fieldwork with little support, she went to the Philippines where she taught school to Bagobo children in Santa Cruz in order to obtain funds for her ethnographic work. She remained there for fourteen months, enduring great hardships from the stress of rigorous fieldwork and a demanding teaching schedule. Benedict collected ethnographic specimens with a care for detail, a sense of native aesthetics that set her work apart from the often haphazard collecting of the time. Her observations of ritual show her sensitive appreciation of the people. After her return from the Philippines, she undertook the study ot anthropology with Franz Boas at Columbia (See Bernstein 1982).
Boas’s plan for anthropology involved establishing control of university teaching and research, editorial control of the Journal of American Folklore, and supervision of museum collecting (Boas Papers, Boas to Nuttall, 5/14/1901; Parmenter 1966, 98-99). Boas did gain control of university instruction in anthropology. Just as Child and Kittredge had done at Harvard, so Boas did at Columbia. He trained the young anthropologists who fanned out across the country and carried on his form of anthropology. As Darnell commented, “Boas’ students . . . came to constitute the major power bloc in American anthropology early in the century, headed academic departments which looked to Columbia and to Boas for access to publication outlets and money for fieldwork” (Darnell 1969, 235).
For Boas and for his students, folklore was not separate from anthropology (Boas 1904, 520). Again, this is an attitude similar to that of the literary folklorists discussed in the last chapter. For them, folklore was not separate from their literary studies, but a part of their research and of their instruction. For neither the literary folklorists nor the anthropological folklorists was there a separate and independent study of folklore. It was a sideline for Stith Thompson; and it was a subarea for Franz Boas.
Boas remained faithful to his initial plan for the science of anthropology. As he confided to Zelia Nuttall in 1901, the success of his vision depended on his power to mold and direct academic concerns, “I believe that it will be of advantage to American anthropology if I can retain a certain amount of control in the direction of the various activities ... for a few years” (Boas Papers, Boas to Nuttall, 5/14/1901). He added that he was opposed to a single man “retaining longer than is absolutely necessary” the power and control that were necessary to effect his “multitude of plans.” Part of Boas’s strategy was to develop anthropology in all areas—physical, archaeological, linguistic, ethnological—to the extent that a specialist would be needed for each. Further, he did not deviate from the position that he shared with William Wells Newell when they struggled to keep folklore under the wing of anthropology. It was not Boas’s intent to develop a curriculum in folklore studies. He taught folklore related subjects as part of other anthropological instruction. As Melville Jacobs remarked, “For years Boas gave university courses on the mathematical tools for description of populations, on the science of languages, and on American Indian languages, but to my knowledge he never offered a course on folklore, though by 1910 he had set a commanding example by his publications” (Jacobs 1959b, 121). Thus, in doing linguistic translations, an anthropological folklorist would collect and transcribe folktales. Or in studying diffusion through distribution, one would examine style and form in art, in narratives, in ritual. In the Boasian view, folklore illustrated other anthropological concerns. It did not stand alone.
Ben-Amos remarks on the two forms of institutionalization: “the learned societies and the university departments and centers.”
Boas and Newell controlled the Society, but their ambition, particularly that of Boas, was to establish authority over university research and teaching. Indeed, in due time Boas achieved his goal in anthropology, but folklore lagged behind and only many years later gained a stronghold at the university.
(Ben-Amos 1973, 122).
In truth, Boas, by establishing authority over university research and instruction in anthropology, brought to fulfillment the initial plan for folklore. That folklore should be kept under the wing of anthropology was first stated by Newell in his capacity as editor of the Journal of American Folklore. Further, it should be emphasized that folklore was taught in the early years by anthropologists—not by Boas, but by his students. Kroeber taught “Studies in Comparative Mythology.” Goddard, Speck, Radin, and Lowie taught seminars in folklore and courses in primitive religion, which included a consideration of mythology, magic, and ritual; Radin taught a course on primitive literature. Clearly, anthropological folklorists did make major contributions to the academic study of folklore.