Foundations of Anthropology at the University of California   Seal of The University of California
Section 6 Composite

Section 6 Composite
Guide to the Collections, Staff, Anthropology Museum

Curriculum, Collections, Facilities and Staff
For the present the department will be mainly one of research …. Short courses of public lectures on anthropological subjects will from time to time be given at the University by members of the Department and by visiting anthropologists.”
Announcement of Courses, 1902-1903

he founders envisioned a department that was primarily a research program of ethnological field work and a museum collection of cultural artifacts and archaeological discovery. They were quite specific about priorities, as expressed in the “founding document” they drafted at Pleasanton in 1901. Instruction could wait.

Putnam reiterated these intentions in a public lecture he gave just after the Regents’ action in 1901, as well as in a note published about the same time in Science, and in his annual reports. Nevertheless, President Wheeler wished to establish a course of instruction as early as possible. With Putnam safely back in Cambridge after his pronouncement, Wheeler suggested Kroeber might begin instruction, diplomatically stating he would leave it up to the Department. In consulting Putnam, Kroeber made Wheeler’s desire known, and Kroeber offered the department’s first course the following semester. Putnam in reality had little to do with the decision. The limitations on staff and funds, coupled with the Department’s ambitious plans for field work, may have helped persuade Putnam of the advantages of having free student labor to assist in the effort.

“North American Ethnology,” a 2-credit course, was offered by Kroeber in the Spring semester of 1902. By the 1904-1905 academic year no less than thirteen courses were listed in ethnology, linguistics, archaeology, and “Geologic History of Man” (taught by the paleontologist/geologist Merriam). Thus, early in its history a comprehensive curriculum paralleling the research and collecting programs was established. The Department’s first M.A. was awarded in 1904, followed by the first Ph. D. in 1908.

Just as Franz Boas had trained the first generation of American anthropologists, his students educated the second generation. At the University, Kroeber and Lowie carried on this tradition admirably. In the early years, the focus of the Department was on undergraduate instruction, but an increasing emphasis on graduate education after Lowie’s arrival in 1921 produced several Ph. D. students who joined the faculty in the 1930s and 1940s. Illustrious visiting faculty who taught summer sessions included Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowsky, and Margaret Mead.

Letter from Franz Boas to A. L. Kroeber

Franz Boas

Letter to A. L. Kroeber

20 May 1902

“My own opinion in the matter is that you were appointed in California primarily for the purposes of investigation, and that instruction should take secondary place … all you can hope to do is pave the way for systematic instruction [in the future].”

Induced by Wheeler to pursue regular instruction in the first year, Kroeber sought Boas’s advice as to whether he should continue in the second. Boas advised against it, seeing teaching as interfering with the critical ethnographic research program.

full transcription

BANC MSS C-B 925 9:26

Letter from A. L. Kroeber to F. W. Putnam

Alfred Louis Kroeber

Letter to F. W. Putnam

1 November 1902

“I urge upon the Committee that thorough training courses are essential to the development of the Department as a research Department …”

Having decided to continue to offer instruction, Kroeber faced a decision on which of two paths the curriculum would follow. Concluding the Department could “either be a vehicle primarily of scientific research or of popular diffusion of knowledge,” Kroeber argued for the former. His decision partly rested on the fact that this course would not significantly interfere with research, and he also believed an important goal was the training of “future investigators in California anthropology.”

BANC MSS C-B 925 Ctn 1:1

Robert Harry Lowie: Lecture Notes for Anthropology 124, Primitive Religion

Robert Harry Lowie

Lecture Notes for Anthropology 124, “Primitive Religion”


With the hiring of Lowie in 1921, the burden of instruction that had largely been carried by Kroeber could again be shared with another permanent faculty member, and new courses could be offered. These are notes for a course that drew extensively on Lowie’s research on Plains Indian cultures. A year later, he published a comprehensive book on the subject by the same title.

BANC MSS C-B 927 Ctn 7:2

Alfred Louis Kroeber: The field and relations of Anthropology [Sketch]

Alfred Louis Kroeber

“The field and relations of Anthropology”

ca. 1925-1927

By the 1920s, with the growing scope and complexity of anthropology as a discipline, Kroeber recognized that the faculty and curriculum must expand as well. In planning for the future needs of the Department, he envisioned anthropology and its relation to other disciplines as represented in this sketch. With respect to archaeology and physical anthropology, he notes (at bottom) “the shaded area is undeveloped in the University’s curriculum.”

CU-23 Ctn 85

Alfred Louis Kroeber: Objectives of Graduate Instruction and Research in Anthropology

Alfred Louis Kroeber

“Objectives of Graduate Instruction and Research in Anthropology”

24 October 1932

“…for the next few years at least, we shall continue to train men really in only one of the sub-fields of anthropology, whereas our competitors, if I may call them so, train them in two or in three. Sooner or later this condition will have to be remedied….”

In the 1930s, Kroeber continued to press for expansion of the faculty and curriculum in the sub-fields of linguistics, archaeology, and physical anthropology, as this document (attached to a letter addressed to Dean C. B. Lipman) indicates. He gave special attention to graduate study, suggesting too much focus on undergraduate instruction up to this point. His concern may have been prompted in part by the addition of new graduate programs at Pennsylvania and Yale in the previous year, while Harvard, Columbia, and Chicago already offered graduate degrees.

full transcription

BANC MSS C-B 925 Ctn 3:16

Franz Boas: Report on the Academic Teaching of Anthropology

Franz Boas

Report on the Academic Teaching of Anthropology

14 September 1917

“… the value of the college of anthropology becomes at once apparent, because it trains the mind to clear thinking in relation to the forms of our cultural life – one of the great needs of those who take an active part in public activities.”

Kroeber’s years of teaching experience were drawn upon when a group of scholars, including Boas and Goddard, drafted this report advocating the instruction of anthropology in the United States.

full transcription

CU-23 Ctn 35

UC Students Learn On Location in the Desert - San Francisco Chronicle

“UC Students Learn ‘On Location’ in the Desert”

San Francisco Chronicle

23 July 1950

Practical training and field work were always an important part of the Department’s program. Early on, graduate students were sent out on their own to conduct ethnographic research, particularly in California. The expansion of the faculty to encompass archaeology and physical anthropology moved formal instruction into the field in areas throughout the world.

BANC MSS 78/17 c Ctn 29