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Clark Wissler papers

Identifier: MSS-304

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of correspondence, publications, manuscripts, project files, research notes, a Michigan navigability study, and other records ranging from 1897 to 1979 documenting the life and career of prominent American anthropologist Clark Wissler.


  • Creation: 1897-1979

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries, Muncie, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Archives and Special Collections.

Biographical Note

Clark David Wissler was born on September 18, 1870 in Cambridge City, Wayne County, Indiana. Wissler graduated from Hagerstown High School in 1887 and received a B.A. and M.A. in Experimental Psychology from Indiana University in 1897 and 1899, respectively. He later received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia University in 1901.

At Columbia University, Wissler became interested in the anthropological work of Franz Boas. In 1902, he joined the American Museum of Natural History in New York as assistant in ethnology under Frank Boas and also taught at Columbia University. In 1906, he was named curator of the Department of Ethnology and then curator of the Department of Anthropology in 1907 when the two departments were combined. Wissler held this position until his retirement in 1942. In 1924, Wissler became a faculty member at Yale University’s Institute of Psychology. In 1931, he became a professor in the newly-formed Department of Anthropology.

While at the American Museum of Natural History, Wissler conducted fieldwork and directed numerous projects within the fields of ethnology, physical anthropology, and archaeology, most of which concerned the cultures of North American Indian tribes such as the Dakota, Gros Ventre, and Blackfoot. Wissler published eleven monographs based on his fieldwork and oversaw the publication of thirty-eight volumes of the Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History. Wissler also wrote the foreword to the seminal 1929 sociological case study by Robert S. and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture, in which he described the Lynds' study as a “pioneer attempt to deal with a sample American community after the manner of social anthropology.”

Wissler served as the president of the American Anthropological Association from 1919-1920, chairman of the Division of Anthropology and Psychology of the National Research Council from 1920-1921, president of the New York Academy of Sciences from 1930-1931, and president of the American Association of Museums from 1938-1945. Clark Wissler died on August 25, 1947 in New York City. He is buried in West Lawn Cemetery in Hagerstown, Indiana.

Source: National Academy of Sciences, "Clark Wissler 1870-1947: A Biographical Memoir by Stanley A. Freed and Ruth S. Freed," 1992.


13.5 Cubic Feet (14 boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged in the following series:

Series 1: Histories, 1924-1989

Series 2: Correspondence, 1906-1947

Series 3: Publications, 1897-1947

Series 4: Manuscripts and notes, 1933-1945; undated

Series 5: Subject files, 1925-1950; undated

Series 6: Michigan navigability study, 1855-1979; undated

Custodial History

This collection was received by Archives and Special Collections as a donation from the Ball State University Anthropology Department on 2010/10/01 by Ronald Hicks.


No further additions are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of the records in Series 2 (Correspondence, 1906-1947) of this collection are available online in the Ball State University Libraries Digital Media Repository:

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2011/05/01 by Ryan Rindler, 2011/05/24 by Helen Boyer. Collection processing completed and EAD finding aid created 2012/02/01 by Amanda Carver. EAD finding aid revised 2012/07/15 by Bethany Fiechter and 2014/10/17 by Brandon Pieczko.

Clark Wissler papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Stoeckel Archives of Local History Repository

Alexander M. Bracken Library
2000 W. University Avenue
Muncie Indiana 47306 USA