Scope and Contents
These records concern the professional activities of Carleton S. Coon (1904-1981). Coon is well-known as an anthropologist, archaeologist, and writer. In the 1920's, when he began his career, the field of anthropology was not as specialized as it later became. As with many of the professionals in anthropology, Coon became proficient at physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and archaeology. Knowledge and experience in these areas were all tied together by his special interest in the subject of race and the evolution of man.
Coon was particularly interested in the people of the Arab world (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Morocco, etc.). He became fluent in the Arab language and made many trips to that part of the world, both as an anthropologist and, during World War II, as a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
This collection reflects Coon's spectrum of interest. There are original anthropometric records and photographs concerning virtually every race and nationality. In this collection is also a considerable amount of material regarding Coon's many publications, (e.g., notes, drafts, photographs, correspondence), particularly the publications which dealt with race and anthropology (see attached list of Coon's major publications). The correspondence series is almost entirely professional, but there is a small amount of personal correspondence.
The collection contains the following series: Correspondence, 7.14 linear feet (5.25 ft. chronological and 1.89 ft. topical); Anthropometric Data, 11.1 linear feet (5.1 ft. original data and 6 ft. data from published sources); Subject Files, 9.46 linear feet (5.46 ft. legal-sized papers and 4 ft. index cards); Publications, 17.73 linear feet; and Photographs, 53.74 linear feet.
For the first half of his career (1927-1948), Carleton Coon was affiliated with his alma mater, Harvard. In 1948, Coon accepted a dual appointment with the University of Pennsylvania as Professor of Anthropology and Curator of Ethnology at the University Museum, from which he retired in 1963. Some of the records in this collection seem to have been acquired from the university, particularly the photographs credited to the University Museum. The bulk of the material in this collection concerns Coon's years as an active staff member of Harvard and then U. of P., (1927-1963), but there are some records preceding that period, and others which continue virtually up to his death in 1981.
Some records of Carleton Coon have been retained by the family.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or National Anthropological Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.