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Finding Aid to the Washington Matthews Papers MS.561
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Processing history
  • Scope and Contents
  • Note
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Biographical note
  • Acquisition
  • Preferred citation
  • Use
  • Access
  • General note

  • Title: Washington Matthews Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS.561
    Contributing Institution: Autry National Center, Braun Research Library
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 0.3 linear feet (1 box)
    Date (inclusive): 1893-1945
    Abstract: Major Washington Matthews, M.D., LL.D. (1881-1905) was a surgeon with the United States Army and a scholar and writer on Navajo culture and people. This collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, magazine and newspaper clippings, and a scrapbook from 1893-1945 related to Native Americans and Dr. Matthews' work.
    Language: English and German.
    creator: Matthews, Washington, 1843-1905

    Processing history

    Processed by Glenna Schroeder, circa 1977-1981. Final processing and finding aid completed by Holly Rose Larson, NHPRC Processing Archivist, 2012 October 5, made possible through grant funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commissions (NHPRC).

    Scope and Contents

    This collection consists of printed material from 1893-1945 related to Native Americans and Dr. Matthews' work. Materials include biographical materials collected upon Matthews' death, correspondence, manuscripts, magazine and newspaper articles, a report, and a scrapbook. The scrapbook was given to Charles Fletcher Lummis by Matthews circa 1905 and includes newspaper clippings, programs, and photographs of Washington Matthews. Scrapbook contents are from 1893-1905, and some items are in German.


    Copies of Washington Matthews publications are in the collections of both the Braun Research Library and the Autry Library.

    Related Archival Materials

    Microfilm edition of the Washington Matthews Papers, Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives, ca. 1864-1905, microfilm, National Anthropological Archives.

    Biographical note

    Major Washington Matthews, M.D., LL.D. (1881-1905) was a surgeon with the United States Army and a scholar and writer on Navajo culture and people. He was stationed in Dakota Territory (1860s-70s), California (1875-1880), New Mexico (1880s and 1890s), and Washington, D. C. (late 1880s).
    In Dakota Territory, Matthews started his self-training as an anthropologist by working with the Mandan and Hidatsa. Unfortunately, most of the unpublished material relating to this study was destroyed in a fire. In California, Matthews carried out limited studies among the Modoc. In New Mexico, he undertook work for which he is perhaps best remembered among the Navajo. Conversant in Navajo, he was one of the earliest recorders of Navajo culture.
    In Washington, stationed at the U. S. Army Medical Museum, he carried on physical anthropological work, especially on the specimens from the Hemenway Expedition.


    Donation from Washington Matthews, circa 1905; Charles Fletcher Lummis; Frederick Webb Hodge, 1932 December; Dr. F. A. Blossom, 1934 August; Richard Van Valkenburgh, 1942.

    Preferred citation

    Washington Matthews Papers, 1893-1945, Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; MS.561; [folder number] [folder title][date].


    Copyright has not been assigned to the Autry National Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Autry Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Autry National Center as the custodian of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.


    Collection is open for research. Appointments to view materials are required. To make an appointment please visit http://theautry.org/research/research-rules-and-application or contact library staff at rroom@theautry.org.

    General note


    1. Letter Thomas Keam to Matthews – March 16, 1904 re: Navajo dyestuff (2 copies: original and t.c.). Other correspondence from Keam (a trader with the Indians) is in Frank D. Lewis collection MS 552. (Letter gift of Dr. Hodge).
    2. Letter Matthews to Charles F. Lummis – April 23, 1904 re: Navajo dyestuff
    3. Photostat copy of Matthews’ “The Suppressed Part of ‘The Mountain Chant: a Navajo Ceremony.’ Extract from the Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Technology, Washington D.C. 1888” Fort Wingate, New Mexico, 1892 (suppressed because describes erotic dances)
    4. Two letters Matthews to Lieutenant Edward H. Plummer, U.S. Indian Agent, Fort Defiance, Arizona re: Navajo personal difficulties November 20, 1893; January 23, 1894
    5. Matthews - “The Basket Drum” – use among the Navajos ; - “Ichthyophobia” – fear of fish among the Navajos
    6. Matthews - “The Study of Ceremony” ; "Some Illustrations of the Connections Between Myth and Ceremony”
    7. Matthews - “Songs of Sequence of the Navajos” ; - “A Study in Butts and Tips”
    8. Matthews - “The Study of Ethics Among the Lower Races”
    9. Biographical and In Memorium articles - [Charles F. Lummis] – “Authorities on the Southwest: Washington Matthews” Land of Sunshine vol. 6 no. 3, February 1897 - [Charles F. Lummis] – “Washington Matthews” The Nation vol. 81 no. 2090, July 20, 1905 - Mooney, James – “Washington Matthews 1843-1905” American Anthropologist vol. 7 no. 3, July-September 1905

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Lummis, Charles Fletcher, 1859-1928.
    Dakota Territory
    Indians of North America
    Navajo Indians
    New Mexico