Foundations of Anthropology at the University of California   Seal of The University of California
Hacienda del Pozo de Verona

Hacienda del Pozo de Verona
Pleasanton, California
G. E. Gould, ca. 1900

Historical Overview
Founding and Early Years
(1901 - 1920)

n 1901, the Regents of the University of California created a department and museum of anthropology, the first West of Chicago. Regent Phoebe Hearst had proposed the action which coincided with President Benjamin Ide Wheeler’s vision of creating a major research university. The Regents chose Frederic W. Putnam, professor of anthropology at Harvard and director of its Peabody Museum, to chair the department, and Alfred L. Kroeber, fresh out of Columbia’s new doctoral program, as curator and instructor. Rounding out the initial appointments were Pliny E. Goddard, who had taken a linguistics degree with Wheeler, instructor and librarian, and John C. Merriam, assistant professor of paleontology. Goddard was succeeded by Edward W. Gifford who became assistant museum curator in 1912.

Also included in the department were the field agents Hearst commissioned beginning in 1899: George Reisner in Egypt, Max Uhle in Peru, Alfred Emerson in Greece and Italy, and Philip M. Jones in California. Hearst completed funded the entire program until 1900.

The first priority was field research and collecting. After 1901, most of the department’s efforts were devoted to California Indian ethnology and archaeology, the subjects of a survey officially announced in 1903. Also in 1903, the department began a publication series, University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology. Kroeber’s monumental Handbook of the Indians of California, appearing in 1925, essentially established Californianist anthropology.

Instruction began in the spring of 1902, with a course taught by Kroeber, but teaching expanded slowly. Students such as Thomas T. Waterman assisted. The first doctorates were awarded to Samuel A. Barrett and J. Alden Mason in 1908 and 1911.

With Putnam’s retirement in 1909, Kroeber became effective (although not official) director of the museum and departmental chair. In 1903 the collections were transferred from the “Tin Shack” Hearst built in Berkeley to the Affiliated Colleges in San Francisco. Public exhibits began in 1911 and it was here that Ishi, the last Yahi Indian, spent the last years of his life (1911-16).