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Clyde Kluckhohn Papers

Identifier: MsC0640

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Scope and Contents

The papers of Clyde Kluckhohn consist of 2.5 linear feet of manuscripts dating from 1945-1948. Included in the collection are the early drafts of Mirror for Man, The Navaho, and Personality in Nature, Society, and Culture. The bulk of Clyde Kluckhohn's papers are held by Harvard University.


  • Creation: 1945-1948


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Clyde Kay Maben Kluckhohn was born on January 11, 1905, in Le Mars, Iowa, the son of Clyde Clofford, a real estate and insurance broker, and Caroline Maben. Tragically, his mother died at birth and the young man at the age of five was adopted by his maternal uncle, George Wesley Kluckhohn. Clyde began high school in Le Mars, then attended Culver Military Academy and, in 1921 -- 22, Lawrenceville School (New Jersey). In the fall of 1922, Kluckhohn decided to attend Princeton University and had ambitions of being a lawyer. Although he was a backstroke swimming star, Kluckhohn had to quit college because of poor health and was told to spend time in a high, dry climate. Fortunately, his mother's cousin's husband, Evon Z. Vogt, ran a sheep ranch on the edge of a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Vogt himself had gone west because of his tuberculosis, so he understood fully the needs of his distant relative. Not only did the family agree to take him in, but Vogt proved invaluable toward developing Kluckhohn's future vocation. A man of broad intellectual interests, he got Kluckhohn interested in the customs and language of the Navajos. After seven months on the ranch and the passing of his eighteenth birthday, Kluckhohn saddled off alone on a 3000 mile pack horse trip in the Indian country of the American Southwest. For weeks he encountered no English speakers--only Spanish-Americans, and Zuni and Navajo Indians--but he did learn to speak "incorrect but fluent" Navajo. In December of 1922, Kluckhohn published his first paper on the Navajo in El Palacio, the journal of the New Mexico State Museum. After his sojourn in the Southwest, he returned home to Le Mars and spent nine months teaching public speaking at the Le Mars High School. In the summer, he taught swimming at a Boy Scout camp. The burgeoning scientist also found time to work on his first book. This work, To the Foot of the Rainbow, recounted his pack horse wanderings in New Mexico. It was published in 1927 and earned him five thousand dollars.

Kluckhohn entered the University of Wisconsin in 1924 and decided to major in Greek. He took his BA in 1928, and at Wisconsin was class president, president of the male student body, and editorial chairman of the campus paper, the Daily Cardinal. While still a student at Wisconsin, Kluckhohn spent his summers with friends traveling on pack horse throughout the Southwest. These summertime adventures would be recorded later in his second book, Beyond the Rainbow (1933). The money Kluckhohn had earned from his first book would soon come in handy, for from 1928 -- 1930 he was a Rhodes Scholar at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, studying Greek and Latin language and literature. After growing gradually less excited about a career in Greek and Latin literature, and sensing that classical archeology was too narrow for his broad interests, Kluckhohn again considered a legal career. But a few weeks at Harvard Law School convinced him finally that his interests lay not in law, but elsewhere. Anthropology seemed to him the clearest and best vocational choice. It would grant him travel opportunities, allow him time out of doors, and provide him with the largest of arenas of study -- the human being.

Kluckhohn spent the next two years studying anthropology in Europe. At Vienna, he began to learn German and was psychoanalyzed "inexpensively". By revealing the unconscious assumptions of a given people, psychoanalysis, thought Kluckhohn, exposed hidden relationships between culture and the individual personality. Kluckhohn even suggested that young students of anthropology be psychoanalyzed in order to better understand themselves and others.

Back stateside, Kluckhohn was married in 1932 and became assistant professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico. Although happy there (he was also a research associate in archeology at the School of American Research of the Museum of New Mexico) Kluckhohn realized that soon he would have to earn a Ph.D. In 1934 Kluckhohn left the Southwest for Harvard University. Kluckhohn fully expected to return to his beloved New Mexico once he completed his doctoral studies, but later a quarrel with the head of the department of anthropology at New Mexico prompted him to accept an invitation to join the Harvard anthropology faculty. The scientist moved quickly through the faculty ranks, moving from instructor (1935), to assistant professor (1938), associate professor (1940), and finally professor (1946). In his time at Harvard, Kluckhohn contributed to many fields of study, including anthropology, archeology, art, psychology, religion, and Native American languages.

His work, however, was not devoted solely to anthropology, nor to Harvard. Kluckhohn was curator of Southwestern American Ethnology at Harvard's Peabody Museum, and during 1943 -- 1944 served as a staff member of the Harvard School for Overseas Administration. In 1947, Kluckhohn became director of the Harvard Russian Research Center. The Center, which recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, was established to study Soviet society in its political, sociological, economic, and psychological dimensions. Kluckhohn held numerous positions with the Federal government as well: consultant to the Secretary of War; co-chief of the joint morale survey of the War Department and Office of War Information; consultant to the United States Indian Service; director of the Institute of Ethnic Affairs; and Development Board of the Department of Defense.

Although it may appear that his experiences in the Southwest and abroad were far more formative than those from his boyhood days in Iowa, Dr. Kluckhohn insisted that life in Le Mars was what initially moved him to think anthropologically. He said in 1949, "An unusual proportion of anthropologists, I think, have come out of a crossing of cultures. I happened to grow up in an American town which wasn't American. Le Mars, Iowa, was an English colony, settled in 1870 as a place to farm out ne're-do-well sons of the British aristocracy...When I went on to prep school I had a subconscious sense of cultural difference -- something in my background was different." The Le Mars boy came from a special place, and certainly went on to do remarkable things. He authored many books, most of them dealing in some sense with the Navajo. His Mirror for Man (1949), a work that attempted to show the value of anthropology toward achieving world peace, won the $10,000 Whittlesay House and Science Illustrated Prize as the best science book for the general public. He was former president of the American Anthropological Association, and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Society for American Archeology, among others. Kluckhohn was a thinker of great ability and a man concerned about human welfare. He died suddenly on July 29, 1960, at Santa Fe, New Mexico.


2.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Anthropologist and author. Correspondence, early drafts, galleys, and printer's copies of three of Kluckhohn's early works.

Method of Acquisition

Mr. Kluckhohn donated these manuscripts to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1948 and 1958.

Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)