W J McGee (William John McGee was known to his colleagues and signed his notebooks as "W J McGee", without periods) was a geologist with the United States Geological Survey primarily in charge of surveying the Atlantic Coastal Plain, 1881-1893 and was an ethnologist in charge of the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) at the Smithsonian Institution from 1893 to 1903. After resigned from the BAE McGee lead the Department of Anthropology of the St. Louis Exposition. Then, from 1905 to 1907, he was the first Director of the St. Louis Public Museum. In March of 1907 he was elected Vice-Chairman and Secretary of the federally created Inland Waterways Commission and also was appointed as an expert on soil waters in the Bureau of Soils, U.S. Department of Agriculture; he held both positions until his death in Washington, D.C. in 1912.
The McGee Papers consist of four field books from his geological trip during the summer of 1890 that saw him go from Washington, D.C. to Pennsylvania, then on down to Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas. There is also one field book that contains his geological observations in Iowa. The field books document his geological observations and include occasional drawings and lists of expenses incurring during his travel.
For additional materials related to McGee, the National Anthropological Archives and the University of Arizona have collections of photographs taken while McGee was at the BAE, while the Library of Congress holds the W J McGee Papers, 1880-1912.
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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