Coming of Age in Chicago


Coming of Age in Chicago

The 1893 World's Fair and the Coalescence of American Anthropology

Edited by Curtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox

624 pages
46 photographs, 25 illustrations, 2 tables, 2 appendixes, index


November 2023


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February 2016


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eBook (EPUB)
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February 2016


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eBook (PDF)
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February 2016


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About the Book

Coming of Age in Chicago explores a watershed moment in American anthropology, when an unprecedented number of historians and anthropologists of all subfields gathered on the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition fairgrounds, drawn together by the fair’s focus on Indigenous peoples. Participants included people making a living with their research, sporadic backyard diggers, religiously motivated researchers, and a small group who sought a “scientific” understanding of the lifeways of Indigenous peoples. At the fair they set the foundation for anthropological inquiry and redefined the field. At the same time, the American public became aware, through their own experiences at the fair, of a global humanity, with reactions that ranged from revulsion to curiosity, tolerance, and kindness.

Curtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox combine primary historical texts, modern essays, and rarely seen images from the period to create a volume essential for understanding the significance of this event. These texts explore the networking of thinkers, planners, dreamers, schemers, and scholars who interacted in a variety of venues to lay the groundwork for museums, academic departments, and expeditions. These new relationships helped shape the profession and the trajectory of the discipline, and they still resonate more than a century later.

Author Bio

Curtis M. Hinsley is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of History and Comparative Cultural Studies at Northern Arizona University. He is the coauthor (with David R. Wilcox) of The Lost Itinerary of Frank Hamilton Cushing and The Southwest in the American Imagination: The Writings of Sylvester Baxter, 1881–1889. David R. Wilcox (1944–2022) was the former head of the anthropology department at the Museum of Northern Arizona and was an adjunct professor at Northern Arizona University. He is the coeditor of Zuni Origins: Toward a New Synthesis of Southwestern Archaeology.


"[Coming of Age in Chicago] will be of interest to historians of anthropology, of course, but also to scholars grappling with visual and material representations, museums and cultural institutions, and the politics of cultural exhibition."—Adam Fulton Johnson, History of Anthropology Newsletter

"Coming of Age in Chicago is a handsome volume that adds to our understanding of the Columbian Exposition's considerable importance."—Roger Biles, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

"A fascinating contribution to the history of anthropology in America."—American Archaeology

"Coming of Age in Chicago is an essential read for all interested in the history of anthropology, world's fairs, and turn-of-the century racial thinking in the United States. It offers an invaluable combination of analysis and original sources that allow the reader to see the intimate connections between the Columbian exposition and the cultural and social history of the field of anthropology."—Abigail M. Markwyn, Pacific Historical Review

Coming of Age in Chicago is at once a major contribution to the burgeoning literature on Chicago’s 1893 World Columbian Exposition as well as a critical examination of a crucial phase in the development of American anthropology. . . . Such notable personalities as Frederic Ward Putnam, Franz Boas, Daniel Garrison Brinton, and especially Frank Hamilton Cushing, as well as lesser luminaries, all come alive and shine forth in this sparkling, multifaceted volume.”—Raymond D. Fogelson, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Chicago

“In this richly detailed account of anthropology at the fair—and of the fair’s exhibits in the minds of anthropologists—the authors deepen our understanding of the cultural origins of the anthropology profession.”—Robert W. Rydell, professor of history at Montana State University and author of All the World’s a Fair

Coming of Age in Chicago presents an account of the interplay of anthropology and the public spectacle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that is both authoritative and engaging. Original documents and photo essays heighten the reading experience and help convey the material realities of anthropology at the fair, just as the discipline was coalescing.”—Frederic W. Gleach, curator of the Anthropology Collections at Cornell University and founding coeditor of Histories of Anthropology Annual

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
List of Tables    
Introduction: The Chicago Fair and American Anthropology in 1893    
Curtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox
Essay 1. Anthropology as Education and Entertainment: Frederic Ward Putnam at the World’s Fair     
Curtis M. Hinsley
Document A. Franz Boas, “Ethnology at the Exposition” (1893)    
Document B. Frederic Ward Putnam, “The Columbus Memorial Museum: Address to the Commercial Club of Chicago” (1891)    
Document C. “Man and His Works: Ethnological Exhibit at the Fair” (1893)    
Essay 2. Ambiguous Legacy: Daniel Garrison Brinton at the International Congress of Anthropology     
Curtis M. Hinsley
Appendix: Analysis of Registered Members of the International Congress of Anthropology, World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893    
David R. Wilcox
Document D. William Henry Holmes, “The World’s Fair Congress of Anthropology” (1893)     
Essay 3. Anthropology in a Changing America: Interpreting the Chicago “Triumph” of Frank Hamilton Cushing    
David R. Wilcox
Document E. Excerpts from the Diary of Frank Hamilton Cushing at the World’s Fair (June 16–September 12, 1893)    
Document F. Monthly Report of Mr. Frank Hamilton Cushing (September 1893)    
Document G. “The Pueblos at Home” (September 1894)
A Visual Interlude: Popular Images of Anthropology and Its Subjects at the Fair    
Curtis M. Hinsley
Essay 4. Refracting Images: Anthropological Display at the Chicago World’s Fair, 1893    
Ira Jacknis
Essay 5. Relic Hunters in the White City: Artifacts, Authority, and Ambition at the World’s Columbian Exposition     
James E. Snead
Document H. Cushing’s Analysis of the Hazzard Cliff Dweller Collection (1895)     
Document I. Warren King Moorehead, “The Ancient Man: The Anthropological Exhibit at the World’s Fair” (June 22, 1893)    
Essay 6. Patrons, Popularizers, and Professionals: The Institutional Setting of Late Nineteenth-Century Anthropology in Chicago     
Donald McVicker
Document J. “Heir of the Big Fair: Field Columbian Museum Opened” (1894)    
Essay 7. Going National: American Anthropology Successfully Redefines Itself as an Accepted Academic Domain    
David R. Wilcox
Appendix: Comparison of Primary Contributors to the American Anthropologist, 1888–1925    
David R. Wilcox
Document K. Daniel Garrison Brinton, “The Aims of Anthropology” (1895)     
Document L. Franz Boas, “The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthropology” (1896)     
Afterword: The Ironies of the Fair, the Uncertainties of Anthropology    
Curtis M. Hinsley

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