Smithsonian Olmec Legacy

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Matthew Stirling and Tres Zapotes Monument G. Tres Zapotes, 1939. stirling_19. Photograph by Richard H. Stewart, National Anthropological Archives

Richard H. Stewart
1901 - 2004

Portrait of Stewart
wetmore_533 (detail), Photograph by Alexander Wetmore. A. Wetmore Collection, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Richard Hewett Stewart grew up in Washington, D.C., after being orphaned at a young age while living in Lynch Station, Virginia. In 1924 he began working for the National Geographic Society as a photo lab technician, and his first field assignment was to photograph Pavlof Volcano in Alaska in 1928. Ten years later, Stewart joined Matthew Stirling as a member of his archaeological team, and would continue in that role for all eight following expeditions to Veracruz and Tabasco, from 1939 to 1946. Stewart's photographs illustrated all of National Geographic articles about the Olmec excavations carried out by the Smithsonian, and although he specialized in still photography, he also created several moving picture documentaries of the archaeological finds.

Stewart and Stirling teamed up once more for an archaeological expedition to Panama in 1948-49. After a decade of work with his Smithsonian colleague, Stewart's work with the National Geographic Society took him to many diverse and far-away corners around the world until his retirement in 1966.

He was married for 78 years to Mary Mildred Stewart, who died in the 2001, and they had three children. Richard Stewart died in February of the 2004 at the age of 102 years in Columbia, Maryland.

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