Brinton, Daniel G. (Daniel Garrison), 1837-1899

Alternative names
Birth 1837-05-13
Death 1899-07-31
Mayan languages, Italian, English, Spanish; Castilian, Latin, French, German

Biographical notes:

Dr. Daniel Garrison Brinton (13 May 1837-31 July 1899) was born in Thornbury Township, Chester County, Pa., on "Homestead Farm" to Lewis and Ann (Garrison) Brinton. Brinton entered the army as a surgeon and served as Medical Director of the II Army Corps, holding the rank of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. After the war, Brinton became well known for his work in ethnology, anthropology, and linguistics of North and South America.

From the description of Dr. Daniel Garrison Brinton papers, 1863-1899 (bulk 1863-1864). (Chester County Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 648131415

David Zeisberger served as a Moravian minister.

From the guide to the Essay of an Onondaga grammar; or A short introduction to learn the Onondaga al. Maqua tongue / [edited by John W. Jordan], Circa 1887, (American Philosophical Society)

American archaeologist and ethnologist, educated at Yale University and Jefferson Medical College. During the Civil War he was a surgeon in the Union army, and after the war he practiced medicine in West Chester, Pennsylvania. In 1884 he joined the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia as a professor of ethnology and archeology, and in 1886 he became professor of American linguistics and archeology at the University of Pennsylvania. He also served as an editor for the weekly Medical and surgical reporter (1874-1887), and also of Science magazine under James McKeen Cattell (1894-1895). Until his death he was an active member of multiple learned societies (including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Folklore Society, the American Philosophical Society and the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, amongst many others), and lectured extensively on a wide range of ethnological and linguistic subjects.

From the description of Daniel Garrison Brinton papers, 1869-1901, n.d. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 226388645

Daniel Garrison Brinton was born in Thornbury, Chester County, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 1837. He received his in 1858 from Yale University, where he developed literary and bibliophilic interests. He prepared for a career as a physician at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia (1858-1860; M.D., 1861) and, after a year of study at Heidelberg and Paris, he began practicing medicine in West Chester, a community located west of Philadelphia. Brinton served as assistant editor of the Medical and Surgical Reporter between 1867 and 1874, and as editor from 1874 to 1887. In 1887, at the age of fifty, he retired to devote himself to the study of anthropology.

From the description of Brinton (Daniel Garrison) letter, [18--?] (Johns Hopkins University). WorldCat record id: 668091836

Stephen Bowers (1832?-1907) was a geologist, archaeologist, journalist and Methodist minister, who maintained an interest in southern California, including area fossils and artifacts. His geological and archaeological work was financed by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of the Interior. In 1997 a California archaeologist and Simi Valley, California resident Arlene Benson published Bowers’ field notes, collected by Smithsonian field ethnologist John Peabody Harrington, under the title The Noontide Sun: The Field Journals of the Reverend Stephen Bowers, Pioneer California Archaeologist.

Bowers was born near Wilmington, Indiana on March 3, 1832 to David and Esther Bowers. One of thirteen children, the family moved to a farm eight miles north of Indianapolis when he was one year old. A studious lad, he walked or rode on horseback several miles to a small rural schoolhouse. Poor health kept him indoors as a child during the winter months. Realizing that he was not cut out to be a farmer, Bowers decided at an early age to pursue the ministry, and at twenty-three was ordained a Methodist minister, affiliated with the Indiana Conference. He was dispatched as a Methodist circuit rider ninety miles west of his birthplace in Lawrence County, Indiana. In November 1856, just ten months after beginning his ministry, Bowers married the seventeen-year-old Martha Cracraft from the farming community of Greencastle. Their first son, Hayden, was named for Bowers’ hero Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden (1829-1887, APS 1860), the leader of U.S. government surveying expeditions to 109 western territories in 1859-60.

From his youth Bowers became a lifelong collector of artifacts and geological specimens. Although he dedicated himself to the pastorate and later also pursued a second career as a newspaper publisher, his primary interest was always archaeology. With the exception of military service with the 67th Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War, Bowers spent several decades in pastoral ministry that took him to churches in Kentucky, Oregon and finally (because of his wife’s failing health) to California. In 1874 he moved from his first pulpit in Napa City to the city of Santa Barbara. There Bowers found the lure of the Indian burial grounds on the Santa Barbara channel irresistible.

In the summer of 1875 Bowers accepted an assignment as guide for several survey parties of the Army Corp of Engineers, working on both sides of the Santa Barbara channel. Wheeler’s party included archaeologist Paul Schumacher, botanist Joseph Trimble Rothrock (1839-1922, APS 1877) of the University of Pennsylvania and Henry Wetherbee Henshaw, an ethnologist and ornithologist with the Smithsonian Institution. The Wheeler survey occupied all of Bowers’ time, except Sundays, for three months and Wheeler’s notes make sixteen references to him. It was through Henshaw that Bowers came to the attention of Smithsonian professor Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887, APS 1855), who carried on an extensive twelve-year correspondence with him. Through Bowers’ excavations the Smithsonian would acquire thousands of California and Midwestern fossils and native American artifacts for its collections-seventeen accessions over twenty-nine years.

Since no trained archaeologist had ever visited the native American burial grounds on the San Nicholas and Santa Rosa Islands before Bowers’ 1875 excavation, he was the first to examine the remains of these settlements, and remove the skulls, implements and artifacts for shipment to the Smithsonian and other museums, as well as to private collectors. Most of the skeletons and artifacts were from the Chumash tribe. During his three-year tenure as pastor of the Santa Barbara Methodist congregation at the corner of De la Vina and De la Guerra streets, made one trip after another to the islands, usually accompanied by correspondent Simon Peter Guiberson of the Ventura Free Press and sometimes by his wife Martha and Dr. Lorenzo Yates of Centerville.

Although methods of archaeological excavation were crude at the time, and Bowers was not the only untrained archaeologist doing field work, modern historians and archaeologists, who are familiar with his activities generally regard him as “a meddler who destroyed fully as many artifacts as he preserved-and rendered the site scientifically useless as well.” They find his “flagrant disregard for orderly methods and his failure to preserve sites” inexcusable. It is unclear how many barrels of native American skulls, utensils and implements Bowers sent to collectors in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and the District of Columbia, but the Smithsonian alone credits 2,200 to 2,500 of its native American relics to his excavations between 1876-1905. Harvard’s Peabody Museum recorded 826 and hundreds made their way in public and private collections from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

No doubt, Bowers used questionable methods and was generally too impatient to exercise care in his excavations. Dr. Baird of the Smithsonian and Professor Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819-1894, APS 1863) of Harvard, two of his primary customers, were probably unaware of Bower’s methods, although the former was definitely impressed by him. Bowers completed his excavations for the Smithsonian in September 1877, and moved to Indianapolis to accept a temporary call. Sometime in 1878 he returned to California and resumed his excavations. But after his wife and son Hayden died within months of each other in October 1879 and April 1880, he could not bear to continue excavations. Instead, he departed from Santa Barbara to launch a new career as a newspaper publisher in Beloit, California; Platteville, Wisconsin; and Falls City, Nebraska. By October 1883 he had returned to California with a new wife Margaret Dickson to become publisher of the Ventura Free Press. Also serving a the Methodist pastor in the nearby town of Santa Paula, he launched another daily newspaper he called the Golden State. As a Prohibitionist and a Republican Bowers became involved in political controversy in his newspapers and in the pulpit, often teetering on the edge of libel. All the while he found time to continue digging artifacts in the Santa Barbara Channel!

In 1899 the aging Bowers was appointed State Mine Examiner by California Governor Henry T. Gage. He had attracted the attention of one of the governor’s aids by some earlier pamphlets he had written for the state mineralogist, as well as reports that made use of some of his geological contributions on rocks, fossils and oil-bearing strata. During his tenure Bowers endured the heat of the San Diego County desert to dig fossils in thirteen different counties and also undertook an assignment from the U.S. Geological Survey to survey fossil around Riverside.

Bowers enjoyed excellent health into his mid-seventies, and was accustomed to delivering two sermons weekly. However, in the final hours of 1906 while on a New Years vigil, he fell ill and three days later suffered a stroke from which he died. He was survived by his wife Margaret, his son DeMoss, and daughters Anna Bailey and Florence Cooper.

The American Philosophical Society’s holdings of his letters show that he corresponded with major nineteenth century American naturalists, including Asa Gray (1810-1888, APS 1848) and Joseph Le Conte (1823-1901, APS 1873), as well as the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Museum of Natural History, the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Geographical Survey. Bowers also received an honorary doctorate from Willamette University in Oregon.

From the guide to the Stephen Bowers correspondence, 1860-1915, 1860-1915, (American Philosophical Society)

Daniel Garrison Brinton, considered one of the founders of American Anthropology, was born in Thornbury, Pennsylvania and attended Yale University, awarded his A.B. in 1858. He then studied medicine at Jefferson Medical College. After attaining his medical degree in 1861, Brinton traveled and studied in Heidelberg and Paris for a year before establishing his medical practice in West Chester, Pennsylvania. During his medical studies, Brinton published "Notes on the Floridian Peninsula", which suggested his later career change.

In 1862, Brinton began his service in the Union Army, appointed acting assistant surgeon to the Federal Army at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. He rose to Surgeon-in-Chief also serving in battle at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. Brinton returned to his medical practice in 1865 but retired at age 50 to devote himself to the study of Anthropology.

Brinton was appointed Professor of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in 1884, followed in 1886, by his appointment to Professor of Archaeology and Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Brinton did not participate in field work, his investigations based on archival and library research. From 1859 to 1899, he published a total of twenty-three books and over 200 essays on mythology, folklore, ethnography, and linguistics of the American Indian from South America to Alaska. Brinton is also known for his systematic classification of the aboriginal languages of North and South America, published as The American Race, in 1891. Brinton's Library of Aboriginal American Literature incorporates his translations and annotations of native mythology and folklore.

Brinton was instrumental in purchasing materials from Carl Hermann Berendt, a German-born natural historian, linguist, and ethnologist, now a part of the Daniel Garrison Brinton Library at the University of Pennsylvania. Brinton arranged for additional Berendt materials not available for purchase to be copied for the library. The Berendt Collection contains hand-written transcriptions of important manuscripts, in indigenous languages, from the native people in Mexico and Central America. There are 183 entries pertaining to the more than forty languages of Mexico and Central America covering the period from mid-sixteenth to late-eighteenth centuries.

Carl Hermann Berendt, born in Danzig, Germany in 1817, received his medical degree in 1842 from the University at Konigsburg. He established a medical practice in Breslau in 1843 and later taught surgery and obstetrics at the University of Breslau. In 1848, Berendt was a member of the Vor-Parlament where his liberal political views resulted in his removal to Graudenz and the loss of his University position. Then, in 1851, Berendt was exiled to America.

Berendt lived briefly in New York then traveled to Nicaragua where he spent two years investigating the natural history and anthropology of the region. This was followed by a move to Orizaba, Mexico then to Vera Cruz. Berendt stayed in the region from 1855 to 1862. He abandoned the practice of medicine and devoted himself to the natural sciences, linguistics, and ethnology, eventually gaining the sponsorship of The Smithsonian Institution to collect natural history specimens.

Berendt transcribed two important Maya vocabularies that dated from the colonial period while subsidized by the Peabody Museum at Harvard University ; the sixteenth century Diccionario de Motul by Antonio Ciudad Real and the Compendio de nombres en lengua Cakchiquel by the Franciscan priest, Pantaleon de Guzman. In 1974, Berendt settled in Copan, the center of the German coffee plantations in Honduras and purchased land with coffee groves. He returned to the United States at least once to arrange for the sale of his papers to Daniel Brinton. Berendt died of fever in Copan on May 12, 1878.

From the guide to the Daniel Garrison Brinton Mexico collection, Bulk, 1868-1891, 1868-1956, (University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Mayan languages--Writing
  • Nagualism
  • Indians of North America--Languages
  • Anthropologists
  • Ethnology
  • Indians of Central America--Religion
  • Archaeology--History
  • Mayan languages
  • Indians of Central America--Languages
  • Surgeons--Correspondence
  • Fossils--Collection and preservation--California
  • Indians of North America--California--Antiquities
  • Chancellorsville, Battle of, Chancellorsville, Va., 1863--Personal narratives
  • Physical anthropology
  • Gettysburg, Battle of, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863--Personal narratives
  • Military hospitals
  • Onondaga language
  • Indians of Mexico
  • Indians of Central America
  • Indians of North America


not available for this record


  • Illinois--Quincy (as recorded)
  • Central America (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania (as recorded)
  • Central America (as recorded)
  • Quincy (Ill.) (as recorded)
  • Virginia (as recorded)
  • America (as recorded)
  • Chester County (Pa.) (as recorded)
  • Illinois (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)