National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the Wells Moses Sawyer paintings of masks and tablets excavated at Key Marco, Florida, 1896


Collection ID:
Sawyer, Wells, 1863-1960
No linguistic content; Not applicable
Physical Description:
20 Paintings (visual works)
watercolor and colored pencil
approximately 9 x 13 inches

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
The collection consists of twenty-one (21) watercolor paintings of wooden masks and other objects excavated at Key Marco and Tarpon Springs, Florida. The paintings are signed with the monogram W. M. S. Two of the paintings have pencil drawings of abstract and geometric designs on the reverse.
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 As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today.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.


The paintings are arranged by the original USNM Catalog number.

Biographical Note

Biographical Note
Wells Moses Sawyer (1863-1960) was an American painter, illustrator, and photographer. Sawyer received a law degree in 1882, but pursued a career in art after studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was an illustrator for the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Tribune before becoming a draftsman for the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington D.C. He served as the artist for the Pepper-Hearst Expedition to Key Marco, Florida, 1895-1897. The expedition, led by Frank Hamilton Cushing (1857-1900), uncovered over 1000 wooden artifacts created by Southwest Florida's early Calusa people or their Muspa ancestors. As artist, Sawyer documented these findings in drawings, paintings, photographs, and maps. He resigned from his position with the USGS in 1898 to oversee the design and inspection of furnishings for government buildings. Sawyer's artistic works were well exhibited during his lifetime, first showing in the early 1890s.


Immediate Source of Acquisition
Transferred to the United States National Museum collection from the Bureau of American Ethnology through W. H. Holmes, Washington, D.C., April 1, 1908.
Transferred to Smithsonian Office of Anthropology (SOA) Archives (now the National Anthropological Archives) from the North American Division, SOA, April 19, 1967.

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.
Access to the collection requires an appointment.
Preferred Citation
Wells Moses Sawyer paintings of masks and tablets excavated at Key Marco, Florida, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Related Materials
The National Anthropological Archives holds additional material created by Sawyer for the Pepper-Hearst/Key Marco expedition in MS 1844-b List of manuscript material left by Frank Hamilton Cushing; MS 1849-b Maps of F. H. Cushingʹs excavation at Florida sites; MS 3381 Drawings of crania from Cushingʹs Florida Collection; Frank Hamilton Cushing photograph collection relating to excavations on the west coast of Florida, 1895-1896 (Photo Lot 2).
The Archives of American Art holds the Wells Sawyer papers.
The University of Florida holds the Wells M. Sawyer Collection.

More Information

Local Numbers

Local Numbers
NAA MS 241,241-241,260
USNM Accession 48,531


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Calusa (archaeological) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
North America Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Watercolors Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Florida Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Archaeology Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Works of art Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Paleoindian Tradition (archaeological culture) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

National Anthropological Archives
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