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Harrington Microfilm Volume 9

The Papers of John P. Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution 1907-1957
Volume Nine, Microfilm

A Guide to the Correspondence

The Correspondence series within the John Peabody Harrington papers, perhaps more strikingly than any other part of the collection, highlight the amazing scope of Harrington's linguistic work, the wide variety of his peripheral interests, and the large number of correspondents with whom he kept in frequent contact. Harrington maintained correspondence with fellow linguists and anthropologists and colleagues and administrators at the Bureau of American Ethnology (B.A.E.). In addition, he exchanged many letters with scientists in other fields, numerous Indian agents, staff at many government agencies, individuals involved in Indian rights organizations, museum and library personnel, local historians, and representatives of various technical companies. The bulk of the Harrington's correspondence was with friends, including a number of people who assisted him in the field and on various projects. There is also correspondence with members of his family, including his daughter Awona.
The primary focus of Harrington's correspondence is his work--both that which he undertook on an official basis for the B.A.E. and that which he pursued because of strong personal interests. References to his research and fieldwork take the form of passing references in letters to acquaintances, detailed accounts in letters to close friends, requests for authorization of proposed fieldwork, and reports of work accomplished in letters to supervisors, and lists of instructions to field and clerical assistants.

Much of the correspondence involves queries and the exchange of information and questions. Harrington wrote to scientists for identification of plant, animal or mineral specimens collected during fieldwork, and to postmasters, Indian agents, and social works in search of informants. There is also correspondence regarding acquisition of books, photostats, microfilm, and various supplies and equipment. There are also letters to editors of various journals enclosing articles for publication as well as letters of introduction, obtained by Harrington to facilitate his own work or prepared by him for use by his assistants. A number of letters involve answers, which Harrington prepared to questions, which were addressed directly to him by members of the public or were referred to him in the capacity of Senior Ethnologist at the B.A.E.
Several hundred items of correspondence relate to Harrington's duties when detailed to the Office of Censorship from 1943 to 1945. Most of these reflect his efforts to obtain translations of letters in foreign languages, which he could not identify or for which dictionaries were not available.

Finally there are letters exchanged with landladies; real estate agents; bank personnel; and city, county and federal officials regarding payment or collection of rent, selling of property, confirmation of bank balances, and payment of taxes, as well as letters written to friends and family dealing with purely personal matters.

Volume 9, Reels 1-17:

Reel 1-17: Letters Received

Reel 12-16: Letters Sent

Reel 16: Third Person letters


Sincere appreciation and thanks to those who helped make the Harrington collection more widely accessible to the interested public. Support for preparation and digitization of the collection for online access has been provided by the following:

Arcadia Fund; Colorado College Library; Cow Creek Band of Umpqua; Pechanga Band of Luiseno; Recovering Voices, SI; Rosetta Project, Long Now Foundation; Save America’s Treasures, DoI; Matthew Vestuto, on behalf of BarbareƱo/VentureƱo Band of Mission Indians; Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival (AICLS); and the Collections Program of the National Museum of Natural History.


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