National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the William H. Sheldon papers, circa 1920-circa 1980

Collection ID:
Sheldon, William Herbert, 1899-1977
circa 1920 - circa 1980
Physical Description:
129.25 Linear feet

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers reflect much of Sheldon's professional life and aspects of his personal life. Although the material consists mainly of photographs, there are also significant amount of other documents such as letters, notes, questionnaires, lectures, announcements, charts, illustrations, and printed materials. The photographs are usually composite front, side, and rear views of nude individuals, male and female, of all ages. The photographic subjects represent hospital patients, patients in mental institutions, college students, prisoners, and others. Many were taken by Sheldon or his assistants. Also included are photographs of child growth studies, including selected cases from the Growth Study of the Institute of Child Development at the University of California at Berkeley and the Gesell Institute in New Haven, Connecticut. There are also photographs made by other researchers in the field of constitutional studies. Most of Sheldon's own photographs and many of the others include information about the subjects such as identification (number or name), date, place, age, height, weight, and the numerical classication following the Sheldon scheme for morphological types. Some photographs have special information about illnesses and other conditions. There are other accompanying notes for some photographs.
For a period following Sheldon's death, his collection was in the custody of Dorothy Paschal, Roland Elderkin, Emil Hartl, and Edward P. Monnelly. Elderkin was a social worker and one of Sheldon's assistants, and he recorded notes concerning some research subjects. He was also the person who assembled and arranged much of the nonphotographic material. Paschal was also one of Sheldon's assistants, who handled many of this administrative matters. She also carried out photography of women. Emil Hartl, a minister and social worker affiliaged with the Morgan Memorial Charles Hayden Goodwill Inn School in Boston, Massachusetts, helped Sheldon in his early studies of delinquent boys. Sheldon regarded these and certain others as collaborators, and he shared authroship of some of his publications with them. Monnelly, a psychiatrist, was a later colleague and follower of Sheldon. Limited material of all four individuals have been incorporated in the papers.
Correspondents include: Alpert, Sherry L. ; Ames, Louise Bates ; Ansley, Hudson ; Bischof, L.J. ; Barnhouse, Ruth ; Beach, Priscilla Alden ; Bowerman, W.G. ; Bradley, Stanley E. ; Brandon, Mary ; Breen, Walter ; Burgess, E.W. ; Butterfield, Victor L. ; Carter, J.E. Lindsay ; Chaplin, Stephen ; Child, Irvin L. ; Clarke, H. Harrison ; Clausen, John A. ; Coffin, Thomas E. ; Cortes, John B. ; Craddick, Ray A. ; Cressman, Luther Sheeleigh ; Damon, Albert ; Dobzhansky, Theodosius ; Dalrymple, Willard ; DeBoer, Lawrence P. ; Darnall, Eric ; Dupertuis, C. Wesley ; Ellenberger, Henri F. ; Eaton, Joseph W. ; Fletcher, Joseph ; Glueck, Eleanor T. ; Haronian, Frank ; Heston, W.E. ; Hoge, Dean R. ; Hopkins, Carl E. ; Howells, W.W. ; Heath, Barbara Honeyman ; Humphreys, Edward J. ; Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963 ; Huxley, Laura ; Ilg, Francis ; Kretschmer, Ernst ; Krogman, Wilton Marion ; Kline, Nathan S. ; Keleman, Stanley ; Kent, Ian ; Inna, Ida ; Lagey, Joseph C. ; Lewis, Ned ; Larson, Leonard A. ; Lindsey, Gardner ; Lo-Piccolo, Joseph ; Louis, Howard P. ; Martin, John B. ; Maslow, Abraham ; Maslow, Bertha ; McCloy, C.H. ; McKusak, Victor A. ; Merriman, J.E. ; Morris, Charles ; Morse, Wayne ; Mumford, Lewis ; Niederman, James Corson ; O'Connor, Lim ; Oka, Seishi ; Olds, Glenn A. ; Olson, E.D. ; Osborne, Richard H. (Richard Hazelet) ; Osmond, Humphrey ; Packard, Vance ; Page, Melvin E. ; Paschal, Guy ; Pearl, Raymond ; Pearson, Tony ; Porter, Ann Humber ; Ross, William D. ; Rogers, Frederick Rand ; Saltus, Carol ; Schlegel, Richard ; Shore, James H. ; Stevens, Didi ; Swengle, E.M. ; Steele, Henry ; Sheldon, Israel ; Stevens, Stanley Smith ; Tanner, James L., 1941- ; Tenney, Ashton Munroe ; Thompson, Warren H. ; Trotter, Francille ; Tucker, William B. ; Walker, Richard N. ; Wallace, Henry A. ; Weitzman, Ellis ; Wyland, Hugh C. ; Yochelson, Samuel ; Elderkin, Roland D. ; Paschal, Dorothy ; Hartl, Emil ; Monnelly, Edward P.
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.

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
William Herbert Sheldon received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago in 1925 and an M.D. from the same institution in 1933. He taught at the University of Texas in 1923-1924; University of Chicago, 1924-1927; University of Wisconsin, 1927-1930; University of Chicago Theological Seminary, 1931-1938; Harvard University, 1938-1942 (as lecturer in psychology and research associate in anthropology); and University of Oregon Medical School, 1951-1970. He served in the United States Army Medical School, 1942-1944. In 1946, he became the director of the Constitution Clinic of Presbyterian Hospital in New York, and he continued in that capacity from 1946 to 1959, by which time the clinic was transferred to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. Sheldon became a research associate with the Institute of Human Development at the University of California at Berkeley in 1956, and attending chief at the research facility of Rockland State Hospital in Orangeburg, New York in 1961. His last post was a director of the Biological Humanics Foundation in Cambridge, Cambridge, Massachusetts, which he assumed in 1972.
Around 1927, Sheldon became interested in both biological and sociological aspects of personality, and he followed this interest the rest of his life. The interest was reflected in his decision to pursue medical studies and in research pursuits during military service, teaching appointments, and service with medical institutions. Some of his work concerned the relationship between constitutional factors and medical disorders, including psychiatric ones, and much of it involved constitutional factors and personality and behavior, including sociopathic behaivor.
Much of his work remained in the stage of devising tools and techniques for dealing with subjects and collecting data, some of it apparently never developing much beyond the photographs of subjects, his work with female subjects being an example. Still, Sheldon became widely known for having devised a relatively elaborate classification of male body types based on variations and combinations of three characteristics--mesomorphy, endomorphy, and ectomorphy (roughly muscularity, fattiness, and lack of both muscularity and fattiness)--and ascribing personality and behavioral characteristics to the many types.

Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to the archives by Guy Paschal and received June 1987.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The Sheldon Papers include both photographic and textual material that is restricted.
Restricted collection material is restricted until 2050 (80 years from 1970, which is circa date for the most recent files). Restricted material may be requested; however, access to restricted material access is subject to Smithsonian IRB approval. The material is restricted in accordance with policies and regulations relating to privacy because it contains Personally Identifiable Information (PII), photographs, and human subjects data about living individuals.
Access to the William H. Sheldon papers requires an appointment.
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Preferred Citation
William H. Sheldon papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

More Information
Other Finding Aids
Other Finding Aids
Inventories for this collection are available. Contact the repository for more information.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Somatotypes Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Biological anthropology Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gesell Institute of Child Development Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
University of California, Berkeley. Institute of Human Development Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Anthropological Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, Maryland 20746