Vladimir Fewkes papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives [Contact Us]3260 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104-6324
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
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Vladimir Jaroslav Fewkes was born to a prominent family in Nymburk, Czechoslovakia on March 23, 1901. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1921. He spent ten months with two families, doing domestic work and learning English. Within a few years, he mastered English without a trace of accent, and was said to have had a scientific knowledge of fifteen European languages and a conversational knowledge of twelve. He paid his way through the University of Pennsylvania by working in hotels, clubs, and cafés. The Wharton School awarded Fewkes a Bachelor of Science degree in 1926; he then went on to achieve a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology in 1928 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1930. During most of his five years of graduate study, he was an Assistant or Instructor in the Anthropology department, and thereafter a research associate in the University Museum. Between 1927-1937, he studied extensively the archaeology of Central Europe, using the earlier results as a basis for his dissertation. In 1927 he was named fellow at the American School for Prehistoric Research, and in 1928-1929 he did special work at Charles University in Prague. During the summer seasons of 1929-1931 he conducted a joint expedition in the Danube Valley for the University Museum and Harvard’s Peabody Museum, mostly at a late Neolithic village (dated circa 2000 B.C.) called Homolka. In 1931, he did archaeological reconnaissance of Yugoslavia, and in 1932 he headed the joint expedition of the Peabody Museum, the American School of Prehistoric Research, and the Fogg Museum of Art to Serbia. There he helped unearth painted pottery at Starčevo, a site belonging to the earliest farming and pottery-making phase of the Eastern European Neolithic dating back to the fourth millenium B.C. Until 1937 he was associate with the Peabody Museum, working on material obtained on expeditions to Central Europe. He was also associated with the American School of Prehistoric Research: as Associate Director from 1932-1937 and as Acting Director in 1938. During these years he directed its summer school at his excavations in Central Europe.
From the very beginning of Fewkes’s career in anthropological study he became interested in the problems of American archaeology. In 1929 he began cataloguing and revising archaeological collections in the New Jersey State Museum in preparation to open a new museum building. Despite his short stay of only a few months, Fewkes was undoubtedly the inspiration for the New Jersey Works Progress Administration (WPA) Indian Site Survey Project as well as the formation of the Archaeological Society of New Jersey. From 1937-1938, he superintended excavations at Irene Mound near Savannah, Georgia, a WPA project sponsored by the Savannah Chamber of Commerce. In 1938, he returned to Philadelphia to supervise a WPA project at the University Museum, where at first he was responsible for bibliographical research in ceramics, but later took over the ceramic technology laboratory, where he could focus on the technological problems that had always been his main interest (see separate finding aid for the records of the WPA-sponsored ceramics technology laboratory). In his later years he specialized in ceramic technology in which he performed long series of experiments and researches into the technical and chemical problems of pottery making, particularly in Catawba (which he wrote about in “Catawba Pottery Making”). Fewkes also held the distinguished position of chairman of the Committee on Ceramic Terminology and Classification (in the Society of American Archaeology).
Despite Fewkes’s successes in America, he received more honors by far in Central Europe. He was an honorary member of three Yugoslav, one Hungarian, and three American scientific societies; and a fellow, correspondent, or research associate of ten Czechoslovakian and three Yugoslav museums and institutes. He was awarded the White Lion of Czechoslovakia and was the only archaeologist to hold the Royal Crown of Yugoslavia. Prague’s Charles University and the University of Belgrade each awarded him an honorary degree. He was a member of most local and national American anthropological and archaeological organizations, a member of Sigma Xi, and was a contributing editor to the American Journal of Archaeology and to several scientific journals in Central Europe.
Fewkes was said to be an amiable man who made friends easily and enjoyed collecting coins, art work, and rare books. Sadly, his days of revelry took quite a toll on his liver and other vital organs which lead to his untimely death in 1941 at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.
Much of this information was obtained from an obituary written by J. Alden Mason. Please see Fewkes’ biography file for the original.
The textual records from the personal papers of Vladimir J. Fewkes consist of 1.5 linear feet of correspondence, fieldwork and research notes and catalogues, published and unpublished writings, and school notes. The arrangement of the records reflects the major groupings apparent, and has been divided into the following series: alphabetical correspondence, fieldwork and research, other research, writings, education-related papers, and personal papers.
The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient/correspondent. Most of the correspondence is located in this first series; however, expedition-related correspondence can be found at the beginning of each set of excavation records.
The fieldwork and research series is arranged chronologically by site and includes correspondence, field notes and drawings, photographs, financial records, catalogues, and reports. He did extensive research in Central Europe, as well as Works Progress Administration work on the east coast of the United States.
Records pertaining to research that could not be incorporated into the fieldwork and research series were arranged separately in an “other research” series. This includes notes for an apparently unwritten book tentatively entitled Nature, Man, Culture, a collaboration with five other anthropologists (1939); pottery drawings by Sidney Auerbach (1939); and notes on pottery making.
The writings series includes three essays by Vladimir J. Fewkes: “A War Scattered Family” (this one lists an anonymous author but was most likely written by Fewkes), “Delayed But Undismayed,” and a radio talk dated 1930 entitled “The Scope and Task of Archaeology.” This series also includes book reviews that Fewkes wrote for various periodicals, including the American Journal of Archaeology and the Science Service.
The education-related series includes notes from anthropology classes he took while a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. Many of the classes he took were taught by Frank G. Speck and Irving A. Hallowell, two founders of the anthropology department at Penn. This series also includes the abstract from his PhD dissertation when he presented it in 1931. A copy of Fewkes' course transcript is available in his biography file, the original of which can be found in the University of Pennsylvania Archives.
Finally, there is a folder which includes some personal effects such as an eyeglass prescription, his wife’s Red Cross card, and photographs of a wooden Madonna and Child. There is also a miscellaneous folder for a few things that did not fit into any of the afore-mentioned categories.
For additional and sometimes overlapping records relating to Fewkes, see also Administrative Records—Works Progress Administration.
The V.J. Fewkes Collection was discovered in the Harrison Auditorium basement and transferred to the archives in 1979. In 1981 it was processed by Trudy Van Houten. The original order of documents within the folders and the original order of the folders themselves were preserved. However, this order in 1979 was most likely not the order in which Fewkes himself had left the records. Therefore, a new, more organized and accessible order has been imposed to facilitate the use of the collection.
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This series contains correspondence between Fewkes and other colleagues and friends, both work-related and personal. Arranged alphabetically by correspondent.
This series is arranged chronologically by site and contains correspondence, field notes and drawings, photographs, financial records, catalogues, and reports.
This series contains records pertaining to research that could not be incorporated into the fieldwork and research series. It includes notes for an apparently unwritten book tentatively entitled Nature, Man, Culture, a collaboration with five other anthropologists (1939); pottery drawings by Sidney Auerbach (1939); and notes on pottery making.
This series contains three essays by Vladimir J. Fewkes: “A War Scattered Family” (this one lists an anonymous author but was most likely written by Fewkes), “Delayed But Undismayed,” and a radio talk dated 1930 entitled “The Scope and Task of Archaeology.” This series also includes book reviews that Fewkes wrote for various periodicals, including the American Journal of Archaeology and the Science Service.
This series contains class notes from Fewkes’ graduate education at Penn. Notable are the classes taught by Frank G. Speck and Irving A. Hallowell. Also included is the abstract from his PhD dissertation when he presented it in 1931.