National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the C. Earle Smith Jr. papers, 1960-1997

Collection ID:
Smith, C. Earle (Claude Earle), 1922-1987
bulk 1960-1987
Physical Description:
7.72 Linear feet
20 document boxes and 1 restricted box
C. Earle Smith Jr. (1922-1987) was one of the founders of the modern field of paleobotany. This collection documents his research and professional activities through correspondence, research notes, data, manuscripts, publications, and photographs. Represented in the collection is his fieldwork in Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Costa Rica.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection documents the research and professional activities of C. Earle Smith Jr. through correspondence, research notes, data, manuscripts, publications, and photographs. Represented in the collection is his fieldwork in Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. The only materials pertaining to his early work in Bat Cave are a few pages of notes and articles about his discovery of early corn remains. Most of the collection dates from the 1960s up to his death in 1987. There is, however, some correspondence dated after his death regarding the return of specimens that he had been analyzing for others. The collection also contains his files as a professor at the University of Alabama; papers he presented; talks that he gave; and photographs of plant remains. His correspondence makes up the bulk of collection and can be found throughout the series. He corresponded with eminent figures in the fields of anthropology and botany, including Kent V. Flannery, Richard MacNeish, Paul Mangelsdorf, and other colleagues.
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 As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today.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.

This collection is arranged in 8 series: (1) Correspondence, 1962-1998; (2) Research, 1942-1991; (3) Writings, 1956-1987; (4) Professional Activities, 1971-1987; (5) University of Alabama, 1964-1987; (6) Writings by Others, 1960-1984; (7) Personal Files, 1950-1953, 1964-1987; (8) Photographs, circa 1960s-1982

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Claude Earle Smith Jr. was one of the founders of the modern field of archaeobotany. Known as "Smitty" to his friends, he was born on March 8, 1922, in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised in Orlando, Florida. He was trained as an economic botanist at Harvard University, where he earned his bachelor's (1949), master's (1951), and doctorate (1953) in botany.
As an undergraduate student at Harvard in 1941, Smith assisted Richard Evans Schultes in collecting plants in the Colombian Amazon. While in the field, news reached Smith of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and he decided to return home to enlist in the Navy. After the war, he continued his studies at Harvard and, in 1948, he was sent by Paul C. Manglesdorf to excavate Bat Cave, New Mexico, where he and Herbert Dick, another Harvard student, discovered the earliest remains of corn. Smith coauthored with Mangelsdorf "A Discovery of Remains of Prehistoric Maize in New Mexico" (1949). Throughout his career, Smith continued to study the early domestication and distribution of corn and other plants including cotton, avocado, and beans.
With his research focused on archaeologically-recovered plant remains and their usage by humans, Smith served as botanist at various archaeological sites in Latin America, working with Richard MacNeish in Tehuacán Valley; Kent Flannery in Oaxaca Valley; Paul Tolstoy in the Basin of Mexico; Ronald Spores in Nochixtlan; Terence Grieder in La Galgada, Peru; Thomas Lynch in Callejón de Huaylas, Peru; Joyce Marcus in Cañeta Valley, Peru; Anna Roosevelt in the Middle Orinoco area of Venezuela; and Michael J. Snarkis in Costa Rica. He also conducted ethnobotanical fieldwork in the Yucatán, Panama, the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and Australia.
From 1953 to 1958, Smith served as assistant curator of botany at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and as acting director of the Taylor Memorial Arboretum. He was also a curator of botany at the Field Museum of Natural History (1959-1961) and Senior Research Botanist for the Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1962-1969). In 1970, Smith took a faculty position in the anthropology and biology departments at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa and was acting chair of the anthropology department between 1981 and 1986. He served as president of the Society for Economic Botany in 1979.
At the age of 65, Smith was killed in an automobile accident on October 19, 1987.
Sources Consulted
Lentz, David L. "C. Earle Smith, Jr. 1922-1987."
Economic Botany
42, no. 2 (1988): 284-285.
Schultes, Richard Evans. "How I Met C. Earle Smith."
Journal of Ethnobiology
10, no. 2 (1990): 119-121.
Born on March 8 in Boston, Massachusetts
Studies at Harvard University
Assists Richard Evans Schultes in ethnobotanical collection in Colombian Amazons
Serves in Navy
Returns to Harvard to continue his studies
Excavates Bat Cave in New Mexico and discovers earliest remains of corn
Earns A.B. cum laude at Harvard
Earns A.M. at Harvard
Earns Ph.D. at Harvard University
Consultant for Smith, Kline and French
Acting Director at Taylor Memorial Arboretum
Assistant Curator in the Department of Botany at Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia
Associate Curator in Department of Botany at Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
Senior Research Botanist at Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Professor of Anthropology and Botany, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
President of Society for Economic Botany
Killed in automobile accident on October 19

Lorain Wang
The C. Earle Smith Jr. papers were processed with the assistance of a Wenner-Gren Foundation Historical Archives Program grant awarded to Vernon (Jim) Knight of the University of Alabama.
Processing Information
The papers of C. Earle Smith Jr. were received with most of the materials organized in folders with titles. Original folder titles were retained with titles assigned by the archivist placed within square brackets. Stacks of miscellaneous files were sorted and placed in folders containing related materials or assigned their own folders. Restricted materials in the collection were separated and replaced with notes indicating original and new locations. As there did not appear to be any pre-existing arrangement or grouping, the folders were rearranged and organized into eight series.
The archivist would like to thank Ann Hunt for her assistance in processing the collection.
Processed by Lorain Wang, June 2009
Encoded by Jocelyn Baltz, July 2012, and Katherine Christensen, March 2020
Immediate Source of Acquisition
At his death, C. Earle Smith Jr.'s papers were left with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alabama. They were donated to the National Anthropological Archives by Smith's widow, Roberta Smith Largin.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Contact repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
Grant proposal reviews in Series 4: Professional Activities and materials with student grades in Series 5: University of Alabama have been restricted.
Access to the C. Earle Smith Jr. papers requires an appointment.
Preferred Citation
C. Earle Smith Jr. papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Related Materials
Photographs from C. Earle Smith Jr.'s excavation of Bat Cave can be found in Photo Lot R86-67 Copies of Herbert W. Dick photographs of excavations at Bat Cave, 1948-1950,

More Information
Selected Bibliography
Selected Bibliography
1949. with Paul C. Mangelsdorf. "A Discovery of Prehistoric Maize in New Mexico."
Journal of Heredity
40, no. 2 (1949): 39-43.
1959. with J.W. Thieret. "Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859): An evaluation and bibliography."
Leaflets of Western Botany
9 (1959): 33-42.
1962. "Henry Muhlenberg-botanical pioneer."
Proceeding American Philosophical Society
106 (1962): 443-460.
1966. "Archaeological Evidence for Selection in Avocado."
Economic Botany
20 (1966): 169-175.
1968. with T. Kerr. "Pre-conquest Plant Fibers from the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico."
Economic Botany
22 (1968): 343-358.
1971. with S.G. Stephens. "Critical Identification of Mexican Archaeological Cotton Remains."
Economic Botany
25 (1971): 160-1683.
1973. with T. Lynch and L. Kaplan. "Early Cultivated Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) from an intermontane Peruvian Valley."
179 (1973): 76-77.
Modern Vegetation and Ancient Plant Remains of the Nochixtlan Valley, Oaxaca
. Vol. 16
Vanderbilt University Publications in Anthropology
. Nashville: Vanderbuilt University, 1976.
1977. with M.L. Cameron. "Ethnobotany in the Puuc, Yucatan."
Economic Botany
31 (1977): 93-110.
1978. "Plant Remains from the Chiriqui Sites and Ancient Vegetational Patterns." In
Adaptive Radiations in Prehistoric Panama
, edited by O.F. Linares and A.J. Ranere, 151-174.
Peabody Museum Monograph
No. 5. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University, 1978.
1978. "The Vegetational History of the Oaxaca Valley." In
Prehistory and Human Ecology of the Valley of Oaxaca
, edited by K.V. Flannery and R.E. Blanton, 1-30.
No. 10. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1978.
1980. "Chapter 5. Plant Remains from Guitarrero Cave." In
Guitarrero Cave. Early Man in the Andes
, edited by T.F. Lynch, 87-119. New York: Academic Press, 1980.
1981. with Paul Tolstoy. "Vegetation and Man in the Valley of Mexico."
Economic Botany
35 (1981): 415-433.
1986. "Preceramic Plant Remains from Guila Naquitz." In
Guila Naquitz: Archaic Foraging and Early Agriculture in Oaxaca
, edited by K.V. Flannery, 256-274. New York: Academic Press, 1986.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Botany Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Plant remains (Archaeology) Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Guilá Naquitz Cave (Mexico) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Oaxaca (Mexico : State) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tehuacán (Mexico) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Peru Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Botany, Economic Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
University of Alabama Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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Suitland, Maryland 20746