National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the James Mooney papers, 1859-1919

Collection ID:
Mooney, James, 1861-1921
Physical Description:
1.25 Linear feet

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Although this colletion includes a few items concerning the American Indians (especially the Kiowa, Pamunkey, Nansemond and other Virginia Indians) it is notable because it includes biographical material and material concerning Mooney's non-Indian interests, particularly his interest in the Irish. Incorporated in the papers are material relating to Mooney's death and to biographies of Mooney.
The series of letters includes letters from Mooney's grandmother in Ireland to his father. Most of the correspondence is made up of incoming letters. Correspondents include Jeremiah Curtin, Natalie Curtis, Hamlin Garland, M.C. Knowles, Sister Mary Agnes Mooney, Thomas J. Shahan, Vilhjalmar Stefansson, H.C. ten Kate, C.C. Uhlenbeck, and Henry Voth.
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 As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today.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
James Mooney (1861-1921) was an ethnographer with the Bureau of American Ethnology from 1885 to 1921. Mooney is a well-known author of works on the Cherokee and other Southeast tribes, the ghost-dance religion, the Kiowa, and other Plains tribes. He also researched in the Southwest among the Pueblos and the northern plains tribes.
James Mooney's formal education was limited to the public schools of Richmond, Indiana. In his knowledge of American Indians, he was self-taught in an endeavor that begun early in life. He read widely and began a compilation of tribal names. After working as a teacher and newspaperman, he sought employment with John Wesley Powell, Director of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology, who engaged him in 1885. At the BAE Mooney developed such a breadth and depth of knowledge that he came to be recognized as one of the most outstanding authorities on American Indians.
Mooney advocated meticulous field study and sought long association with his subjects. His work with the Cherokee began in 1887 and continued for the rest of his life. His other chief concern was the Kiowa tribes. He also spent considerable amounts of time studying and collecting among the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Apache, Dakota, Kiowa-Apache, Wichita, and Comanche and lesser amounts with the Hopi, Paiute, Shoshoni, Caddo, and small groups in northern Mexico and in the Southeast. His publications and field work also reveal interest in southern mountain people, the Irish, Florida aborigines and missionary efforts among the Indians.
Mooney's investigations led him to several cross-cultural studies, including most notably an investigation of the Ghost Dance Religion and the use of peyote. His study of the American population at the time that contact with Europeans was published posthumously. He also wrote many articles for Frederick W. Hodge's Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (BAE Bulletin 30, 1907 and 1910) and prepared several exhibits for international expositions.

James R. Glenn
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The material in this collection was donated by Mr. John M. (Jack) Scott, a grandson of Mooney's, in 1991.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The James Mooney papers are open for research.
Access to the James Mooney papers requires an appointment.
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Preferred Citation
James Mooney papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsoian Institution

Related Materials
Most of Mooney's papers are among the National Anthropological Archives's series of Numbered Manuscripts.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Kiowa Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
North America Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Irish Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Europe Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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