1893 - 1899
Biographical or Historical Note
- The Hyde Exploring Expeditions to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico excavated
ancient Anasazi cliff dwelling civilizations and discovered an earlier
"Basketmaker" civilization beneath the canyon floor. The expeditions were
sponsored by Benjamin Talbot Babbitt (B.T.B.) Hyde and and his younger brother
Frederic Erastus Hyde, Jr., were conducted under the auspices of Frederic
Putnam, Curator of Anthropology in the American Museum of Natural History.
Richard Wetherill was the expedition leader and guide. George Hubbard Pepper was
the lead archaeologist. The Hyde expeditions also included ethnological studies
by Aleṧ Hrdlička, who set up a laboratory in Pueblo Bonito.
The Hyde Exploring Expeditions (1893-1899) conducted anthropological and
archaeological fieldwork in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Arizona,
Nevada, and Utah. The first expedition in the winter of 1893-1894 explored the
civilization of the ancestral Pueblo cliff-dwelling people, then referred to as
“Anasazi.” This expedition made the stunning discovery of an earlier
civilization, the “Basketmakers” beneath the canyon floor of the cliff houses. A
second expedition (aka the “Whitmore Exploring Expedition”) was conducted in the
winter of 1896-1897 to further explore burial grounds, kivas, and cliff houses
in the region. The Hyde brothers (Benjamin Talbot Babbitt Hyde and his younger
brother Frederic Erastus Hyde, Jr.) financed the first expedition, purchased the
finds from the second expedition, and donated the collections to the American
Museum of Natural History in 1897. The Hyde brothers continued to finance
archaeological work, anthropological studies, and trading posts throughout the
region. These excavations of the American southwest were the first ones
conducted under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History. The Hyde
Exploring Expedition was incorporated and a variety of commercial ventures were
launched under its aegis, including a journal (The Papoose), stores, and an
export trade to market ancient and modern Native American objects and
Frederick W. Putnam, Curator of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural
History, supervised the Hyde Exploring Expeditions. He appointed George Hubbard
Pepper as field director for the expedition that set out for Chaco Canyon during
the summers from 1896-1899. The local guide and excavator for the Hyde
Expeditions was Richard Wetherill, a rancher and self-taught archaeologist with
knowledge of the region and fluency in the native Ute and Navajo languages. The
physical anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička conducted ethnological research by
comparing human skeletons with native peoples living in the region, including
laborers on the archaeological digs. Geographical mapping of the region and
analysis of the antiquity of the ruins in Chaco Canyon was assigned to Richard
E. Dodge, a professor at Columbia University.
Over time, the trove of objects collected through the Hyde Exploring Expeditions
were separated from their documentary and descriptive information as significant
portions of the collections were dispersed, first to the University of
Pennsylvania and then to George Gustav Heye’s Museum of the American Indian in
New York City. The American Museum of Natural History’s original specimen
numbers on objects excavated by the Hyde Exploring Expeditions were effaced and
replaced by new numbers in a re-inventory by the Museum of the American Indian.
The context and provenance of archaeological finds were lost in this shift of
custody; the significance of objects and their research value was
Reconstruction of the history of the Hyde Exploring Expeditions has been an
iterative process. In 1909, the museum launched the Huntington Southwest Survey
to develop a timeline of human habitation of the Southwest, building and
verifying discoveries by the Hyde Expeditions. In 1916, the museum’s Curator of
Ethnology, Pliny Goddard, wrote to Clayton Wetherill to ask for help
interpreting his brother’s catalogue references to locate caves and rooms
referred to by numbers. In 1920, the Cartier Expedition led by Nels C. Nelson,
Curator of North American Archaeology, accompanied by B.T.B. Hyde, went to Grand
Gulch in an attempt to identify the particular cliff-houses and canyons from
which the museum’s collection was taken. Annual Report 52 for the year 1920
states: “Completion of the reports of the Hyde explorations on the Pueblo Bonito
between 1895 and 1900 has been rendered possible through two years’ special
labor of Mr. B. Talbot B. Hyde of this Museum, who was the chief donor, and the
active cooperation of Mr. George H. Pepper of the Museum of the American Indian,
who was in charge of the excavations.” In the 1930s, the Works Project
Administration put unemployed people to work, including Ms. Henrietta Jonas, who
typed the Hyde Expedition correspondence in the Division of Anthropology. Today,
more than a century after the Hyde Expeditions, the Wetherill-Grand Gulch
Research Project continues the painstaking process of “reverse archaeology”
tracing dispersed museum artifacts back to the canyon recesses and alcoves from
whence they came.
James E. Snead, Ruins and Rivals: The Making of Southwest
Archaeology (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001), 22-23.
Catalog Number. H934, The Hyde Expedition, American Museum of
Natural History, Division of Anthropology Archives
Fred M. Blackburn and Ray A. Williamson, Cowboys and Cave Dwellers:
Basketmaker Archaeology in Utah’s Grand Gulch (Santa Fe, New Mexico: School of
American Research, 1997) 47.
“Outline History of Early Explorations,” Division of Anthropology
Archives, American Museum of Natural History, 1895-34.
The Papoose, Vol. 1, No. 1, December 1902.
Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (New York: W.W. Norton
& Company, 1981) 21, 31.
Catalog Number. H934, The Hyde Expedition, American Museum of
Natural History, Division of Anthropology Archives.
AMNH Central Administrative Archive, Hyde Collections, Anthropology of
We contacted Smithsonian: The Wetherills at Mesa Verde, David
Harrell, New Mexico Historical Review, July 1987.
American Museum of Natural History, Central Archives, Box 99, Folder
“1st Wetherill Collection,” 1893-95, Accession Number 1895-34,
Catalogue Numbers 29/1-293, American Museum of Natural History, Division of
Anasazi Basketmaker, Papers from the 1990 Wetherill-Grand Gulch
Symposium, Cultural Reserouces Series No.24. Bureau of Land Management, Salt
Lake City, Utah.
Hecktoen, Ludvig, "Biographical Memoir of Theophil Mitchell Prudden,
1849-1924" National Acadamy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs,
The prehistoric ruins of the San Juan watershed in Utah, Arizona,
Colorado and New Mexico, by T. Mitchell Prudden. Publisher Lancaster, Pa., New
Era Printing Co., 1903.
Lister and Lister, Chaco Canyon (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
Press, 1981) 24.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. "Frederic Ward Putnam", accessed
January 4, 2014
Archive Finding Aid, Department of Anthropology, AMNH, Staff,
1873-1996. American Museum of History, Division of Anthropology Archives.
- 1889 May: An “Ancient Aztec Relics Collection ” excavated by Richard Wetherill
and companions is displayed in Durango and later Denver, Colorado. The
Colorado Historical Society purchases this “First Wetherill Collection”
to prevent its removal from the state.
- 1888 December: Richard Wetherill and Charles C. Mason rediscover Cliff Palace while
searching for a stray calf.
- 1892 August 12: Fred Hyde Sr., Fred Hyde Jr., and Benny Talbot Babbit Hyde visited
cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, Guided by “Richard.”
- 1893: Chicago (Meeting) Site for World's Fair.
- 1893 May 1 - 1893 October 30: Chicago World’s Fair (World’s Columbian Exposition) spurs interest
and competition to excavate the American Southwest. Richard Wetherill
meets B.T.B. Hyde and Fred Hyde Jr. again at the Exposition. Hyde
brothers purchase archeological finds unearthed by Wetherill.
- 1893 November 29 - 1894 April: Richard Wetherill leads Hyde Exploring Expedition to Grand Gulch.
- 1894 Summer: Richard Wetherill takes the Hyde brothers on an expedition to Grand
- 1895: Hyde brothers donate collection to AMNH.
- 1896: George Pepper named Assistant Curator of the Department of the
Southwest and field director for Hyde Expeditions in Pueblo Bonito from
- 1896 - 1897: Richard Wetherill leads second expedition, the Whitmore Exploring
Expedition to Grand Gulch.
- 1897: Hyde brothers donate second collection to AMNH
- 1900: Sante Fe Historical Society passes resolution against Hyde Exploring
Expedition for “spoliation” of ruins.
- 1902: New
York, NY (Meeting) Thirteenth meeting of International Congress of Americanists
- 1902: Federal Land Office restraining order against Hyde Exploring
- 1902 October: AMNH hosts International Congress of Americanists and displays finds
from Hyde Exploring Expedition.
- 1902 December - 1903 June: The Hyde Exploring Expedition publishes The Papoose.
- 1903: Hyde Exploring Expedition incorporated in New Mexico.
- 1906: Antiquities Act.
- 1907: Chaco Canyon National Monument established.
- 1908: B.T.B. Hyde transfers part of collection deposited with AMNH to the
University of Pennsylvania.
- 1910: Richard Wetherill is murdered.
- 1916: B.T.B. Hyde sells part of his collection to Gustav Heye, founder of
the Museum of the American Indian in New York.
- 1920: Cartier Expedition goes back to Grand Gulch with B.T.B Hyde in effort
to identify provenance of items remaining in AMNH collection.
- 1930s: Works Progress Administration hires workers to type field notes in
AMNH Anthropology Department from Hyde Exploring Expeditions.
- 1987: Chaco Canyon named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- 1990: Wetherill-Grand Gulch Research Symposium.