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Finding Aid to the Robert Harry Lowie Papers, 1872-1968
BANC MSS C-B 927  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Robert Harry Lowie Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1872-1968
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 927
    Origination: Lowie, Robert Harry, 1883-1957
    Extent: Number of containers: 16 boxes, 7 cartons, 1 oversize folder, 4 card file boxes, and 1 volume Linear feet: Approximately 17.5
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Correspondence and papers relating to his career as professor of anthropology, University of California, Berkeley; field notes of his work on Indians and Indian linguistics, particularly the Crow Indians, as well as of Chipewyan, Hidatsa, Hopi, Kiowa, and Washo Indians; lecture notes; diaries; manuscripts of his writings; subject files and personalia.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English, German, Crow, Chipewyan, Hopi, Kiowa, Washo, as well as some Assiniboine (Sioux dialect), Bannock (Northern Paiute), Cocopa, Hidatsa, and Wahpetan (Sioux dialect)

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner 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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Robert Harry Lowie papers, BANC MSS C-B 927, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Robert H. Lowie Pictorial Collection.
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1980.003--PIC
    Anthropological Essays Presented to Robert H. Lowie in Honor of his Birthday, June 12, 1933.
    Identifier/Call Number: 308x.L918.A62
    Records of the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.
    Identifier/Call Number: CU-23
    • Additional papers of Robert H. Lowie can be found at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec.

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Photographs and one photographic album have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.
    • One volume has been transferred to the Rare Book Collection of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Robert Harry Lowie Papers were acquired by The Bancroft Library in 1964. Additions to the collection were received in 1980 and 1986.


    Robert H. Lowie, a noted anthropologist, professor of anthropology, and specialist on the Crow Indians, was born in Vienna on June 12, 1883. Lowie, his mother, and his sister joined his father in New York City in 1893. He attended New York public schools, and earned his bachelor's degree from the College of the City of New York in 1901. Lowie taught in the New York public schools from 1901 to 1904. He studied under Franz Boas, and received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1908. His dissertation was a study of American Indian folklore, entitled The Test Theme in North American Literature.
    Lowie began his career as assistant curator, and later associate curator, at the American Museum of Natural History. Under the direction of Clark Wissler, he did field work among the Chipewyan, Crow, Hidatsa, Hopi, Kiowa, and Washo, among other tribes. Alfred L. Kroeber offered Lowie a position as a visiting associate professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lowie returned on a permanent basis in 1921. He attained the rank of full professor in 1925, often alternated with Kroeber as chairman of the department, and taught at Berkeley until his retirement in 1950.
    Lowie published several hundred articles and reviews, in German and in English, and many books, including Culture and Ethnology (1917); Primitive Society (1920); Primitive Religion (1924); The Origin of the State (1927); Are We Civilized? (1929); Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (1934 and 1940); The Crow Indians (1935); History of Ethnological Theory (1937); Social Organization (1948); Toward Understanding Germany (1954); Indians of the Plains; and Crow Texts (1960).
    He was active in many organizations. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, secretary and later honorary life member of the New York Academy of Sciences, president of the American Folklore Society and of the American Ethnological Society, editor of the American Anthropologist and of Current Anthropological Literature, and delegate to the Third International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, held in Brussels in 1948.
    Lowie was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Chicago in 1941. He received the Viking Medal in Ethnography in 1948, and the Thomas Henry Huxley Medal from the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland in the same year. He was appointed as Faculty Research Lecturer at U.C. Berkeley in 1949.
    After his retirement in 1950, he lectured and did field work in Europe, continued to teach a course in the history and theory of anthropology at U.C. Berkeley, and was a visiting professor at the University of Washington, Columbia, and Harvard Universities.
    Robert H. Lowie died at his home in Berkeley on September 21, 1957.

    Scope and Content

    The Robert H. Lowie Papers are multifaceted, shedding light on the career of a distinguished American ethnologist and long-time professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. At the same time, these papers illuminate the evolution of anthropology as a distinct academic discipline, and its development in the United States in the first half of the 20th Century.
    The most important and detailed series are the first (Correspondence), third (Writings), and fourth (Field, Lecture, and Research Notes). Lowie corresponded throughout his long career with such anthropological luminaries as Franz Boas, Clyde Kluckhohn, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Elsie Clews Parsons, Paul Radin, Edward Sapir, Leslie Spier, and Clark Wissler. (A partial index of correspondents appears as an appendix to this guide.) Also included is a substantial body of correspondence to and from psychologist Luella Cole, who in 1933 became Robert Lowie's wife.
    The Writings series contains drafts of a number of Lowie's articles, monographs, reviews, and speeches, as well as reviews written about his books. (In many cases, the manuscripts themselves are not dated, and so The Complete Bibliography of Robert H. Lowie, published by the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, as well as typescript bibliographies that form part of the collection, have been consulted, and the date of publication has been written on the folder.) The various drafts of Crow Texts demonstrate Lowie's meticulous work habits, from the initial note-taking done by Lowie in the field, to the final edited typescript, containing both Crow and English versions. There are works ranging from writings in English and German, dating from his high school days, to posthumous publications, edited by Luella Cole Lowie. Included are a few apparently unpublished works.
    Robert Lowie's best-known field work was done with the Crow Indians in Montana and Saskatchewan, and he spoke Crow fluently. Under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History, he visited and studied a number of other tribal groups early in this century. The fourth series contains copious field notes made among the Chipewyan, Hidatsa, Hopi, Kiowa, and Washo peoples, among others. His detailed lecture and research notes demonstrate how much he relied on his first-hand knowledge to enliven his undergraduate lectures and graduate seminars, and what a wide range of courses he taught at U.C. Berkeley. Some of these included Ethnography of the World, Contemporary Civilization, Primitive Society, Primitive Religion, and courses on North American Indians. He also researched the history and culture of the German people, and attempted to explain these to American readers.
    The remaining two series are of use mainly to Lowie's biographers. Series Two, Biographical Information, contains family history documents, a volume of essays prepared in his honor by his students, diaries, engagement books, dream journals, several of his own student notebooks, academic honors, bibliographies, and obituaries. Series Five, a small number of files on organizations and academic institutions, rounds out the collection.