The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Putnam, Frederic Ward

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The Cyclopædia of American Biography  (1918) 
James E. Homans, editor
Putnam, Frederic Ward

PUTNAM, Frederic Ward, geologist, ethnologist, and anthropologist, b. in Salem, Mass., 16 April, 1839; d. in Cambridge, Mass., 14 Aug., 1915, son of Ebenezer and Elizabeth (Appleton) Putnam. His grandfathers were Ebenezer Putnam (1768-1826) and Nathaniel Appleton (1779-1818); his grandmothers, before marriage, were Elizabeth Fiske and Elizabeth Ward. His father (1797-1876) for a short time after leaving college engaged in fitting young men for college, but soon embarked in business in Cincinnati as a commission merchant, a line in which he was successful. Recalled to Salem by his father's death in 1876, he married there and never after engaged in business, devoting himself to the study and cultivation of plants and fruits, and in the study of politics and the management of the Democratic party in his county. Although frequently offered office he never accepted, except to serve as alderman in the so-called “model-government” of Salem when that town was first chartered as a city, and as postmaster of Salem. His first American ancestor was John Putnam who settled in that part of Salem now called Danvers in 1640-41, having previously lived in Aston Abbots, a Buckinghamshire parish adjoining Wingrave, one of the early homes of the family, and close by Puttenham in Hertfordshire, whence came the family name. The Putnam line is traced through many generations of Putnams (or Puttenhams), an armorial family, and lords of the manor, to the twelfth century. From these early ancestors Professor Putnam inherited the blood of Brocas, Warbleton, Foxle, Hampden, Dammartin, Spigornell, etc., and of families still more illustrious in the history of both England and France. (See the Putnam Lineage, by Eben Putnam.) On his mother's side he claimed descent from the Appletons of Suffolk, England, another armorial family of distinguished lineage and connections. A not remote ancestor was Nathaniel Appleton, D.D. (son of John by Elizabeth, daughter of President Rogers of Harvard College), who married the daughter of Rev. Henry Gibbs (Harvard, 1685), and who had a long and honorable connection with the college, and whose patriotism during the Revolution was noteworthy. The Fiskes were also an ancient Suffolk family, and some of his direct ancestors suffered religious persecution in the time of Queen Mary. Rev. John Fiske, who emigrated to New England, was the ancestor of a long line of ministers, all of whom graduated from Harvard. Professor Putnam's great-grandfather, John Fiske, a noted seaman and merchant, was commander of the “Tyrannicide,” the first armed vessel commissioned by Massachusetts in the Revolution, and after retiring from the sea became major-general of militia. Joshua Ward (great-grandfather, on his mother's side) was also a prominent patriot during the Revolution. Professor Putnam was also a descendant of Rev. Francis Higginson, Rev. Jose Glover, whom many esteem as the prime mover in the foundation of the college at Cambridge. His ancestry includes such famous names as Maverick, Gerrish, Derby, Scollay, Pratt, Dennison, Dudley, Byfield, Whipple, Waldron, Sheaffe, Lander, Hawthorne, Brocklebank, Porter, all of them prominent in early New England history. Professor Putnam's father, Ebenezer, 1815; his grandfather, Ebenezer, 1785; his great-grandfather, Ebenezer, 1739, were graduates of Harvard College. Nevertheless his first intentions were not to seek an education at Harvard, but to go to West Point, to which he had the promise of an appointment. His going to Cambridge was the result of a happy, and indeed fortunate, incident, the discovery of his genius by Louis Agassiz, then on a visit to Salem. His love for all things in nature had from early childhood and through his youth led him to study natural history, and in this study he had been warmly encouraged. As a boy he was a helper about home, worked with his father in cultivating and propagating plants, and considered that early training in work and in regular duties had much to do with making him handy in the use of tools, and ready in emergencies of after life. His mother's gentle ways had a marked influence on his intellectual, moral, and spiritual life. He had no obstacles to overcome in acquiring an education, except delicate health in early boyhood, which caused absence from school. The books he read and found of interest as well as helpful in life were upon natural science in various branches, in early years, also historical works, and in later life zoological, anthropological, and geological works. His preparatory instruction until 1856 was received in private schools, and at home under his father's tuition. He then entered the Lawrence Scientific School, under Prof. Louis Agassiz, and received the degree of B.S. His class is that of 1862. He was honored by Williams College, in 1868, with the degree of A.M., and by the University of Pennsylvania in 1894 with that of S.D. His active scientific life began at Salem, and in 1856 he was appointed curator of ornithology in the Essex Institute, and was assistant to Professor Agassiz at Cambridge in 1857. His determination to devote his life to zoology arose from his unusual aptitude for research in natural history. His early inclination toward West Point, and his later studies under Dr. Jeffries Wyman, had both originated from his natural bent toward science, and what the engineering wing of the army or medical science may have lost, was to the ultimate gain of the natural sciences and eventually of the great science of anthropology. The influences which most helped him to success in life have been the home, early companionship, private study, and contact with men in active life. The professional positions he has held in corporations and institutions are as follows: Curator of ornithology, Essex Institute, Salem, 1856-64; assistant to Prof. Louis Agassiz, Harvard University, 1857-64; curator of vertebrata, Essex Institute, 1864-66; superintendent museum, Essex Institute, 1866-71; superintendent museum, East Indian Marine Society, Salem, 1867-69; director museum, Peabody Academy of Science, 1869-73; curator of ichthyology, Boston Society of Natural History, 1859-68; permanent secretary, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1873-98; assistant, Kentucky Geological Survey, 1874; instructor, Pennikese School of Natural History, 1874; assistant to United States engineers in surveys west of 100th meridian, 1876-79; assistant in ichthyology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, 1876-78; curator of the Peabody Museum, 1875-1909, honorary curator, 1909, honorary director, 1913 to his death, 14 Aug., 1915; Peabody professor of American Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1886-1909, Peabody professor emeritus, 1910 to his death; State commissioner of fish and game, Massachusetts, 1882-89; chief of department of ethnology, World's Columbian Exposition, 1891-94; curator of anthropology, American Museum, New York, 1894-1903; professor of anthropology and director of the Anthropological Museum of the University of California, 1903-09; professor emeritus of anthropology, 1909. He was also for a brief period a member of the School Committee of the city of Salem. Prior to entering the Scientific School, Professor Putnam was an active member of the Salem Light Infantry, and although he had no war record he ever maintained his interest in military matters, and at his death was a member of the Salem Light Infantry, Veteran Association, and of the Cambridge Battalion. He was vice-president of the Essex Institute, 1871-94; Boston Society of Natural History, 1880-87, and president, 1887-89; president American Folk-Lore Society, 1891, and of the Boston Branch of that society since 1890; president American Association for Advancement of Science, 1898, and permanent secretary, 1873-98; vice-president Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia since 1896; vice-president for the United States at the International Congress of Americanists in New York, in 1902; chairman Division of Anthropology, International Congress of Arts and Sciences, at St. Louis Exposition in 1904; president of the American Anthropological Association in 1905-06. He received the cross of the Legion of Honor from the French government in 1896; Drexel gold medal from the University of Pennsylvania in 1903; both for services in aid of American archeology; and was made a member of the Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard University, 1892; and of the Sigma Chi of California University in 1903. Professor Putnam has written more than 400 papers, reports, and notes on zoology and anthropology since 1855. He has also done a large amount of editorial work. (See Bibliography in the Putnam Anniversary Volume.) He has made extensive research and investigation in American archeology. He considered the greatest achievements of his life work to be: The establishment and development of new departments of anthropology in Harvard and California Universities; the development of anthropological museums; and the preservation of prehistoric monuments in the United States. Since the year 1858 he has been a member of many societies at home and abroad. Prominent among those in the United States are the following: American Philosophical Society; National Academy of Sciences; Massachusetts Historical Society; the Historical Societies of Maine, of Ohio, and of Minnesota; American Academy of Arts and Sciences; American Antiquarian Society; American Association for Advancement of Science; San Francisco Academy of Science; Archeological Institute of America (a founder); Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia, of Davenport, and of Washington; American Ethnological Society; American Anthropological Association (a founder); Anthropological Society of Washington; American Folk-Lore Society (a founder); Boston Society of Natural History. Among those abroad: honorary member of the Anthropological Societies of London, Brussels, and Florence; Geographical Society of Lima: and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Honorary academician of the Museum of the National University of La Plata; Foreign Associate, Anthropological Societies of Paris and Stockholm. Corresponding member of Anthropological Societies of Berlin and Rome; of British Association for the Advancement of Science; the Society of Americanists in Paris; and the Academy of Belles-Lettres, History and Antiquities of Stockholm. He was a member of the following clubs: Cambridge Saturday Club; Harvard Religious Club; Harvard Travellers' Club; Naturalists' Club; Thursday Club; Examiner Club, Boston; Explorers Club, New York; Colonial Club, Cambridge; Century Association and Harvard Club, New York, and of the Society of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay. In politics he was independent, but with few exceptions in national elections cast his ballot for the Democratic electors. In religious faith and church affiliations he was a Unitarian. For sport and relaxation in youth he enjoyed the study of nature, fencing, horseback riding, and baseball; and was a member of the first regular baseball club organized in any of the departments of Harvard University; in later years archeological exploration and research in the field. Professor Putnam married, first, 1 June, 1864, Adelaide Martha, daughter of William Murray and Martha Adams (Tapley) Edmands, and granddaughter of John and Mary (Murray) Edmands, and of John and Lydia (Tufts) Tapley, and a descendant of Walter Edmands, who came from Norfolk County, England, to Concord, Mass., previous to 1639. Three children came of this marriage: Eben, actively engaged in genealogical and historical work; Alice Edmands; and Ethel Appleton Fiske, wife of John Hart Lewis (Harvard University, 1895), an attorney-at-law and referee in bankruptcy in North Dakota. He married, second, 29 April, 1882, Esther Orne Clarke, daughter of John L. and Matilda (Shepard) Clarke, a descendant of Rev. John Clarke, of Boston, and of Rev. Thomas Shepard, of Cambridge. No children were born of this marriage. Professor Putnam, from his observation and judgment, offered as suggestions to young Americans for strengthening sound principles, methods and habits in American life and most helpful to young people in gaining life success, the following: High Ideals; Honesty; Charity; Courtesy; Hard Work. Frederic Ward Putnam died at his home, 149 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Mass., 14 Aug., 1915. He was buried in Mount Auburn, the funeral services being held in Appleton Chapel, Harvard University, 17 Aug.