Register to the Papers
By Karen Federing
These papers reflect the professional life of William Armand Lessa (1908-1997), social anthropologist, author and professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Included in the collection are journals of expeditions, correspondence, fieldnotes, notes, photographs, maps, charts, financial records, publications and lecture materials covering the period from 1928 to the 1980s. Most of the materials, however, are dated between 1930 and 1970.
Of primary interest is Lessa's ethnographic work in the Pacific, specifically the Caroline Islands and especially Ulithi Atoll, conducted between 1947 and 1960, at first under the auspices of the United States Navy, Office of Naval Research and later the National Academy of Sciences, Pacific Science Board. Much of this material is in the form of fieldnotes, photographs, census information and copies of resulting publications. Lessa's objective was to complete a thorough ethnographic study of Ulithi with special attention to demography and to explore the effects of American administration and culture contact with natives of the atoll. Other documents relate to a variety of projects including Lessa's studies of human constitution, body divination (somatomancy), Carolinian ethnobotany and folklore, and investigations of the Isles of Sequeiras and "Island of thieves" completed in the 1970s.
Several of Lessa's earliest projects are documented here solely or primarily in the form of photographs and Lessa's own statements that have been added to the collection. These projects include his anthropometric studies in New Jersey and Massachusetts (1928-1929), his work as a research associate at the Constitution Clinic at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York (1929-1930), and the several archeological expeditions in which he was involved intermittently from 1932 to 1940 in Hawaii and Illinois, specifically the Kincaid and Lewis sites and the Kankakee-Desplaines site where he was a co-director of a WPA-sponsored project. There is little material included that reflects Lessa's personal life, his extracurricular responsibilities at UCLA, his involvement with various anthropological and folklore societies or his later professional activities, except in occasional correspondence.
Among correspondents whose letters are included among the papers are George W. Baker, Edwin H. Bryan, Jr., Harold J. Coolidge, John de Yound, George Draper, Thomas Gladwin, Ward H. Goodenough, Earnest A. Hooton, Clement W. Meighan, Father J. Neyret, SM, Mrs. Leilani Pyle, Saul H. Riesenberg, Mrs. Gwladys Simon, Henry L. Shapiro, Rev. William J. Walter, SJ, and Brother Raymond V. Whalen, SJ. Of special note is the correspondence Lessa undertook with Predro Yamalmai, a man he met on Ulithi, who was an important informant throughout Lessa's Ulithian research and a close personal friend until his death in 1983.
In addition to his own materials, Lessa's collection also includes aerial photographs of Ulithi Atoll, taken by the U.S. Navy following the 1960 typhoon Ophelia and depicting its results and copies of articles and papers of various authors used as reading notes, concerning somatomancy, the Isles of Sequeiras and Drake's "Island of Thieves."
The forms included reflect Lessa's research during the summer of 1928 in Boston while he was working in Earnest Hooton's anthropometric laboratory. This research, Lessa said, was inspired by Franz Boas' study of European immigrants, which concluded that environmental influences made "race" a flexible concept.
During the year 1928, Lessa was primarily involved with Earnest Hooton's 12-year survey of the American criminal, a study that was eventually discredited. Included are Lessa's unpublished criticisms pertaining to some serious flaws in the data and his published criticisms in the form of his M.A. thesis for the University of Chicago, An Appraisal of Constitutional Topologies (1941). The photographs included are some of the "mug" shots used for observation during the study.
Box 1 (continued)
The forms included reflect Lessa's uncompleted and unpublished research undertaken from 1927 to 1929 while working in Earnest Hooton's anthropometric laboratory. He began the study while still an undergraduate at Harvard and left the work while a research associate at the Constitution Clinic, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. Lessa pointed out that this work was always done on his own time.
Box 1 (continued)
These letters included serve only to document that Lessa indeed was a research associate at the Constitution Clinic in 1929-1930, working under the supervision of Dr. Harry L. Shapiro of the American Museum. Correspondents include Austin Brues, George Draper, who developed the Clinic, and Earnest Hooton, who discussed Lessa's data on Italians.
Box 1 (continued)
Arranged by Medium and form.
These materials relate to Lessa's fieldwork in the study of Hawaiian-Chinese racial blends, commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation to the University of Hawaii. Harry L. Shapiro was in charge of the overall project but did none of the fieldwork and only visited the Islands briefly. Lessa sampled, measured and photographed approximately 5700 Chinese and pure Hawaiians but found fewer truly pure Hawaiians than anyone had supposed, drawing criticism from some who thought his criteria to be too strict. Lessa visited every inhabited Hawaiian Island and community but one, visited China as well, and logged his travels in notebooks, through a multitude of photographs, including some personal items and in anthropometric forms and blood group data. There is also the resulting paper completed by Dr. Shapiro, using Lessa's data. In addition, there are letters from Harry L. Shapiro and correspondence with the University of Hawaii, along with a great deal of miscellaneous correspondence.
Notebooks for fieldwork in the study of Chinese-Hawaiian hybrids on the island of Molokai, Maui, and Oahu, Hawaii.
Hawaii, Photographs (some annotated, nitrate negative available).
Japan, Korea, China, Manchuria, Photographs (most annotated).
Box 3En route to Hong Kong, Photographs (negative available - corresponding rolls for photo packets B - R), 1932
Miscellaneous Photographs of Subjects (some annotated)
Maps of China
Personal Photographs- Enroute to Honolulu and friends on the Hawaiian Islands, 1930-32
Anthropometric Forms of Hawaiian-Chinese hybrids plus resulting paper by H.L. Shapiro using Lessa's field work data
Blood Group Data - Chinese, Hawaiians and Chinese-Hawaiian (unpublished), including notebook
Correspondence with New York, specifically H. L. Shapiro
Correspondence with University of Hawaii
Included are annotated photographs from the five archeological digs in which Lessa participated. His first dig was, in Lessa's words, a purely amateur one, having had no archeological training and working with local amateurs on Maui, Hawaii, 1932. The second was conducted on Oahu in 1935 by Kenneth P. Emory of the Bishop Museum. (The artifacts from that site are in the Bishop Museum.) The third excavation was really a series of neighboring sites, including "Kincaid" in Southern Illinois, part of a training program sponsored by the University of Chicago, Department of Anthropology, with Professor Fay-Cooper Cole in charge. Lessa participated in 1939, when the field director was Edwin Spicer of the University of Arizona.
Lessa also worked on two other projects in Illinois, one as co-director with Gretchen Cutter of a large WPA project in Will county at the Desplaines and Kankakee Rivers in 1940 and the other near Chicago, in a 1940-1941 University of Chicago spring training dig of which Lessa was a supervisor. All of Lessa's field materials were turned over to the University of Chicago, Department of Anthropology.
PAPERS RELATING TO LESSA'S ULITHI RESEARCH.
Lessa began his research in the Caroline Islands, specifically Ulithi Atoll, in 1947 under the auspices of the United States Navy Office of Naval Research. His objective was to complete a thorough ethnographic study of Ulithi with special note of demography and an analysis of the effects of American administration and culture contact with the natives of the atoll. Lessa was in residence intermittently on Ulithi and its surrounding communities from 1947 to 1955 and returned later, in 1960. The results of his research, in the form of extensive fieldnotes, journals, photographs, census and Thematic Apperception Test forms, maps, charts, and general correspondence, are included in this collection.
Arranged chronologically and by medium.
There are field journals and miscellaneous notes for 1947 and 1948-1949, maps, and charts; but of special interest are Lessa's fieldnotes, photographs, 1949 census, Thematic apperception Test materials, and general correspondence for the period. Concerning the fieldnotes for 1948-1949, Lessa's chosen titles and filing arrangement have been preserved, along with his own explanation of the system. The fieldnotes include not only notes about the Ulithian culture but also outline Lessa's relationship with CIMA (Coordinated Investigation of Micronesian Anthropology), including correspondence, contracts and an assortment of reports.
Lessa's photographic materials are organized chronologically and, in most cases, were arranged by himself. Many are annotated by Lessa, some are official U.S. Navy photographs, and all are either photographs of the Islands or the natives sampled in Lessa's 1949 census work.
In terms of the census and TAT materials, these were also arranged by Lessa numerically, with the numbers on the census forms corresponding to those present on the TAT materials. Background data concerning Lessa's methods is also included, explaining the TAT testing procedures followed, as well as copies of the resulting publications from Lessa's census and TAT research.
Persons whose letters appear in the correspondence include Saul Riesenberg of the Smithsonian Institution; Ward H. Goodenough of the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Anthropology; Pedro Yamalmai, a close friend of Lessa's on Ulithi, and assorted associates on Yap with whom Lessa communicated frequently. These letters are in chronological order, an include incoming as well as outgoing letters.
Box 4 (continued)
Field Journals (moved) and Miscellaneous Notes, 1947, 1948-1949.
Fieldnotes, 1948-1949 (prearranged and filed by Lessa): titles supplied by Lessa as well
Kin and Local Groups
Law and Social Control
Status and Stratification
Distribution and Exchange
Health and Disease
Flora and Fauna
Ulithi and Outer Native World
CIMA (Coordinated Investigation of Micronesian)
CIMA: Correspondence - in
CIMA: Correspondence - out
CIMA: Documents, Orders
CIMA: Reports by Lessa
CIMA: SONA (School of Naval Administration)
CIMA: Military Government Reports
Miscellaneous Fieldnotes, 1947-1948
Photographs of Ulithi Atoll - 1944, prior to U.S. invasion; 1957, Ulithi and Falalop Islands - official U. S. Navy photographs (some annotated)
Photographs - Zeiss Ikon, 1947, front and side views of male Ulithians; with small notebook
Miscellaneous Photographs 1948-1949 - natives of Ulithi, Mogmog and Fassarai Islands with rolls of contact prints (mostly annotated) plus other rolls of negatives - houses on Mogmog and Ulithian women
Photographs, 1948-1949, organized by Lessa
Box 1, Packs I-IX
Box 2, Packs X-XX
Box 2, Packs XXI-XXVIII
Box 2, Packs XXIX, XXX plus those lacking numbers
Census, 1949 - copy of resulting publication, "Depopulation on Ulithi" (1955)
Nos. 1-60; 61-120; 121-185; 186-259
260-320; 321-380; 381-415
Thematic Apperception Test-original responses,
1948-1949 (out of numerical order)
Thematic Apperception Test-original responses cont., 1948-1949 (out of numerical order)
TAT Responses (typescript from original)
TAT Analytical Forms - Criteria: Feelings and Activities and Relationships
TAT Miscellany: Publication, "Ulithian Personality As seen through Ethnological Materials and Thematic Test Analysis" (with Marvin Spiegelman) 1954; TAT original Drawings; Unused Forms; Rough Notes on Percentages
TAT Background Data, including testing procedure utilized
Aadditional TAT Responses typescript from originals) - "protocols" (out of numerical order)
Maps and Charts, 1948-1957, genealogical charts and maps of Mogmog and the entire Ulithi Atoll.
General Correspondence, 1947-1959 (including Pedro Yamalmai, Saul Riesenberg, Mrs. Gwaladys Simon, Rev. William J. Walter, George P. Murdock and Ward H. Goodenough)
These materials were included by Lessa to show the uses to which anthropology may be applied. It should be noted that he was extremely reluctant to accept the position due to ethical and qualification considerations.
He was first contacted to translate a few lines of dialogue but was later retained for the entire film which was eventually released as Down Among the Shelterinq Palms.
Included here is a copy of the original script, autographed by members of the cast and crew; newspaper clippings pertaining to the film; related notes and translations; and correspondence and receipts for payment.
Box 12 (continued)
Personal Note and copy of shooting script for "Friendly Island", released as Down Among the Sheltering Palms.
Related newspaper clippings, notes and translations of dialogue, correspondence, contracts and receipts
Papers Relating to Lessa's research of body divination and somatomancy, Mostly 1950s.
General information and copy of publication (1952)
Newspaper clippings and minor correspondence
Arabic somatomancy - reading notes
Non-Arabic Somatomancy - Reading Notes, lecture manuscript
Ulithian Somatomancy - Copy of Lessa Publication (1953)
Ulithian Somatomancy - Manuscript/Original
Version of above publication and original photographs
Ulithian Somatomancy - Field Record Forms
Ulithian Somatomancy - Tables of Observations of
Copy of Chinese Body Divination (1968)
Photographs and Pictureboards
Papers Relating to Lessa's Research within and around the Caroline Islands (excluding Ulithi atoll), Mostly 1950s.
Box 14 (continued)
Copy of Publication "The Mapia Islands and their Affinities"
Preparatory Reading Notes
General Correspondence (including Saul Riesenberg and Edwin H. Bryan, Jr. )
Box 15 (continued)
Copy of publication "Traditional Uses of the Vascular Plants of Ulithi Atoll with Comparative Notes (1977)
Notes (including Flora Records) and correspondence (including Edwin H. Bryan, Jr., Mrs.Leilani Pyle and Saul Riesenberg)
Miscellaneous Correspondence (including Mrs. Leilani Pyle)
Turtles - Copy of publication "Sea Turtles and Ritual: Conservation in the Caroline Islands" (1983)
Correspondence (including Thomas Gladwin and Pedro Yamalmi)
Fish - Notes
Address book, 1960
Fieldnotes, 1960 (prearranged and titled by Lessa):
Copy of publication "More Tales from Ulithi Atoll" (1980)
Folktale Notes (prearranged and titled by Lessa):
Copy of "Discoverer-of-theSun-Mythology as a Reflection of Culture"; original tale and manuscript notes
Folklore Miscellany- Notes and Minor Correspondence
Ulithian Mythology - Reading Notes and Correspondence (including Edwin H. Bryan, Jr.)
Additional Mythology Reading Notes
Glossy charts of island chain and genealogies
Miscellaneous Library Research Notes
Carolinian Ethnohistory Notes
Carolinian Ethnohistory Translations
Census of Ulithi, 1960:
Journal: 1960, 1961
Social Effects of Typhoon Ophelia, 1960:
Notes , Manuscript Drafts and correspondence (including George W. Baker)
NSF - Disaster Research Group (including George W. Baker)
Office of Naval Research
NAS-Pacific Science Board (including George W. Baker)
Office of Naval Research
NAS-Pacific Science Board (including Harold J. Coolidge)
U.S. Dept of the Interior-Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (including John deYoung and Mrs. Gwladys Simon)
Miscellany - wartime data and 1960 status report
Receipts and Forms
Bills and Receipts
American Anthropological Association programs and Correspondence
General correspondence (prearranged by year by Lessa):
Copy of publication "Bwang, A Martial Art of the Caroline Islands" (1978-with Carlos G. Velez-I.)
Correspondence about Bwang (including Ward H. Goodenough and Saul Riesenberg)
Photographs (dated and numbered)
Information from Pedro Yamalmai - notes, photographs and terms explained in workbook Lessa sent him
Papers Relating to Lessa's Other Pacific Research, 1962-
Box 21 (continued)
Field Journal, 1962
Copy of publication "The Sex Ratio of Live Births in Three Pacific Island Populations (Yap, Samoa and New Guinea)" (1965, with Arobati Hicking); plus notes
Photographs-prints and contact sheets (numerically annotated)
Personal Miscellany-greeting cards and pamphlets
Correspondence (including Bailey Diffie and C.R. Boxer)
Notes and Xeroxed Copies
Copy of Drake's Island of Thieves: Ethnological Sleuthing (1975)
Correspondence, 1962-1980, mostly 1974-1975 (including Edwin H. Bryan, Jr., Clements Meighan and Father J. Neyret, S.M.)
Permission Forms and Letters for publication credit
Reading Notes (non-hilippines)
Papers Relating to Lessa's literary and academic life, mostly 1960s-1980s
Articles (some fragmentary and dateless)
Notes - ANTH 290C - Autobiographical
Notes - "Comparative Religion":
Outlines and Exams (Fall, 1969)
"Comparative Relgion" exams
Notes for "Peoples of the Pacific:"
Outlines and Examinations (Winter 1970)
The Australian Culture Area
Assorted Associated Stencils (labeled in folders)