Frederic W. Putnam

From Ohio History Central

Frederic Ward Putnam was born on April 16, 1839 in Salem, Massachusetts.

Putnam was one of the earliest and most influential archaeologists in the United States. He was the Curator of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University between 1875 and 1909. In 1887, he began teaching anthropology and archaeology at Harvard. This was the first time that archaeology was taught as a program of study at a university in the United States. Beginning in 1894, he also served as the Curator of Anthropology for the American Museum of Natural History.

Putnam organized the archaeology and ethnology exhibits for the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. He hired Warren K. Moorehead to excavate at Fort Ancient and the Hopewell Mound Group in order to obtain exhibit material to represent Ohio. These artifacts helped to form the core of the collections of Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.

Putnam's most important contributions to Ohio archaeology include the preservation of Serpent Mound as a public archaeological park and the first systematic archaeological investigations of that site. He also directed important excavations at the Turner Earthworks, the Edwin Harness Mound, and the Madisonville cemetery.

Frank Cushing, a renowned anthropologist, wrote that Putnam was "…certainly the foremost among American archaeologists…His works in the Ohio mounds must take rank as the first of its kind… no man ought to be allowed to push spade or pick axe into a Western mound or earth-work except as, at least, a disciple to the system of research of Prof. F. W. Putnam."

Putnam died on August 14, 1915 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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