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Harrington, John Peabody, 1884-1961
1907-1959 (some earlier)
683 Linear feet
Collection ID:
National Anthropological Archives

Harrington was a Bureau of American Ethnology ethnologist involved in the study of over one hundred American tribes. His speciality was linguistics. Most of the material concerns California, southwestern, northwestern tribes and includes ethnological, archeological, historical notes; writings, correspondence, photographs, sound recordings, biological specimens, and other types of documents. Also of concern are general linguistics, sign language, writing systems, writing machines, and sound recordings machines. There is also some material on New World Spanish, Old World languages. In addition, there are many manuscripts of writings that Harrington sketched, partially completed, or even completed but never published. The latter group includes not only writings about anthropological subjects but also histories, ranging from a biography of Geronimo to material on the history of the typewriter. The collection incorporates material of Richard Lynch Garner, Matilda Coxe Stevenson, and others. In his field work, Harrington seems sometimes to have worked within fairly firm formats, this especially being true when he was "rehearing" material, that is in using an informant to verify and correct the work of other researchers. Often, however, the interviews with informants (and this seems to have been the case even with some "rehearings") seem to have been rather free form, for there is a considerable intertwining of subjects. Nevertheless, certain themes frequently appear in his work, including annotated vocabularies concerning flora and fauna and their use, topography, history and biography, kinship, cosmology (including tribal astronomy), religion and philosophy, names and observations concerning neighboring tribes, sex and age division, material culture, legends, and songs. The fullness of such materials seems to have been limited only by the time Harrington had to spend with a goup and the knowledge of his informants.