National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the Paul Lemen Cooper papers, 1909-1962

Collection ID:
Cooper, Paul L. (Paul Lemen), 1909-1961
River Basin Surveys
Physical Description:
3 Linear feet
5 boxes

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection is comprised of the professional papers of archaeologist Paul Lemen Cooper, who conducted extensive field work in Nebraska, the Dakotas, and the Missouri River Basin. Included are correspondence, field notes, survey forms, published writings, photographs, maps, research materials, and clippings from periodicals, as well as various personal documents. Though the collection spans Cooper's entire life, the majority of the papers focus on his work as archaeologist and field director of the Missouri Basin Project (a division of the River Basin Survey).
A significant portion of the correspondence and River Basin Survey files are duplicates created through reflex copying, a process that creates a negative copy. These materials are consequently difficult to read.
Please note that the collection contains images of human remains.
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 As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today.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.

Collection is arranged into the following series: 1. Correspondence, 1933-1960 (bulk 1950-1953); 2. Research, 1946-1954; 3. Writings, 1950-1958; 4. Personal, 1909-1962 (bulk 1938-1954); 5.Photographs, circa 1950s.

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Paul Lemen Cooper was born February 11, 1909 in Cuba City, Wisconsin. Shortly after receiving his B. A. in sociology and anthropology from the University of Wisconsin in 1931, Cooper traveled to the Southwest as part of an archaeological expedition from the Field Museum of Natural History. This experience piqued his interest in archaeology, and for the next two decades he would spend at least a portion of each year conducting field work.
During the 1930s Cooper's field research was largely conducted in Illinois, the Tennessee Valley, and Nebraska. He specifically worked as an archaeologist with the Nebraska State Historical Society under the direction of A. T. Hill, with whom he collaborated on several publications. It was also at this time that Cooper developed the site numbering system still used in archaeology today. In addition, Cooper also worked for a time as a graduate assistant in the Anthropology Department at the University of Nebraska.
In 1938, Cooper was designated the Supervisor and State Director of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Archaeological, Paleontological and Museum Project. It was here that he gained the necessary skills to create an adequate laboratory and administration with a limited budget, skills that would become necessary in later field research. After three years with the WPA, Cooper returned to school. He worked as an assistant at Columbia University, while completing coursework towards a Ph.D. At the same time, Cooper also acted as editorial assistant for the Society for American Archaeology.
From 1946 to 1954 Cooper devoted the majority of his time to the Missouri Basin Project of the River Basin Survey (RBS) in Lincoln, Nebraska. A large portion of his research and publications reflect his work in this particular area. From 1950 to 1952, Cooper was the Field Director of the Missouri Basin Project under the Director of the RBS, Frank H. H. Roberts, Jr. Despite some minor problems Cooper faced with personnel, he was able to appraise entire sites on the basis of a limited collection, as well as work proficiently on a small budget.
Cooper spent the last few years of his life in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, working with the firm of Robert G. Cooper and Associates. He passed away on April 14, 1961, at the age of 52.
Sources Consulted: Kivett, Marvin, F. 1962. Paul Lemen Cooper 1909-1961. American Antiquity 27(4): 571-572.
Selected Bibliography
Archaeology of Certain Sites in Cedar County, Nebraska. Chapters in Nebraska Archaeology 1(1): 5-145.
with A. T. Hill. The Schrader, Champe, and Fremont I Sites. Nebraska History Magazine 17(4): 221-292.
with A. T. Hill. The Archaeological Campaign of 1937. Nebraska History Magazine 18(4): 237-359.
Report of Explorations. Nebraska History Magazine 20(2): 94-151.
The Institute Explores the Norton Site. Cranbrook Institute of Science News Letter 15(6):71-73.
Recent Investigations in Fort Randall and Oahe Reservoirs, South Dakota. American Antiquity 14(4): 300-310
An Archaeological Survey of the Fort Randall Reservoir, South Dakota. Proceedings of the Fifth Plains Conference for Archaeology, University of Nebraska Laboratory of Anthropology, Note Book 1.
The Archaeological and Paleontological Salvage Program in the Missouri Basin, 1950-1951. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 126(2).
Archaeological Investigations in the Heart Butte Reservoir area, North Dakota. River Basin Surveys Papers No. 9, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 169: 1-40.
Born February 11 in Cuba City, Wisconsin
Works in the Southwest as a member of the archaeological expedition from the Field Museum of Natural History
Receives B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in Sociology and Anthropology
Conducts field research in Illinois
Graduate assistant in Anthropology at the University of Nebraska
Serves as archaeologist for the Nebraska State Historical Society, where he originates the site numbering system
Supervisor and State Director of the WPA Archaeological, Paleontological and Museum Project
Acts as an assistant in Anthropology at Columbia University while completing his Ph.D.
Editorial Assistant for the Society of American Archaeology
Archaeologist with the Missouri Basin Project of the River Basin Survey in Lincoln, Nebraska
Acts as Field Director to the Missouri Basin Project
Associated with the firm of Robert G. Cooper Associates of Rice Lake, Wisconsin
Dies on April 14 at the age of 52

Jacqueline Saavedra
Processing Note
The papers of Paul Lemen Cooper were received partially organized. The processing archivist kept most of the existing groupings and arrangement and organized the collection into five series. Original folder titles were retained with titles assigned by the archivist placed within square brackets. The photographs are unprocessed.
Processed by Jacqueline Saavedra, 2012
Encoded by Katie Duvall, 2018

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
The Paul Lemen Coopers papers are open for research.
Access to the Paul Lemen Cooper papers requires an appointment.
Preferred Citation note
Paul Lemen Cooper papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Related Collections
Other materials relating to Paul Lemen Cooper at the National Anthropological Archives can be found in the William Duncan Strong papers, the Frederick Johnson papers, Manuscript 4846, the Records of the Bureau of American Ethnology, and the River Basin Surveys Records.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
South Dakota -- Fort Randall Reservoir -- archeology Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Illinois -- Fulton County -- archeology Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Illinois -- Massac County -- Kinkaid Site -- archeology Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Colorado -- Lawry Ruin -- archeology Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
North Dakota -- Heart Butte Reservoir -- archeology Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
University of Chicago -- archeological expeditions Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cranbrook Institute of Science Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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