Holmes, William Henry, 1846-1933

Alternative names
Birth 1846-12-01
Death 1933-04-20

Biographical notes:

Participated in Hayden Geological Survey. Named six Colorado mountains.

From the description of Explorations in the Rocky Mountains, 1872-1887, [1932?]. (Denver Public Library). WorldCat record id: 16905051

William Henry Holmes, archaeologist and artist, served as chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution from 1902-1920.

From the description of Letter : Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, to My dear Mr. [E.A.] Burbank, 1908 Sept. 18. (Newberry Library). WorldCat record id: 37834392

Epithet: Knight 1856; of the British Guiana civil service

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000703.0x000284

William Henry Holmes (1846-1933) was an anthropologist, archaeologist, artist, and geologist. Born near Cadiz, Ohio, Holmes graduated in 1870 from McNeely Normal School in Hopedale. After teaching for a brief period, Holmes left Ohio for Washington, D.C., where he studied art under Theodore Kauffman. In Washington, Holmes became acquainted with the Smithsonian and soon began sketching natural history specimens for staff members of the National Museum. In 1872, Holmes was appointed artist-topographer to the United States survey of the territories under Ferdinand V. Hayden, and in 1874 was appointed assistant geologist. Holmes' survey in New Mexico and Arizona eventually led to his career in archeology and his interest in the cliff-dwellings of the southwest. Holmes joined the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1880 and remained with the survey until 1889 when he transferred to the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE). Between 1882 and 1889, Holmes was also honorary curator of aboriginal ceramics, United States National Museum (USNM). Holmes left the BAE to serve as head curator of anthropology at the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago, 1894-1897, and subsequently held positions as head curator of the Department of Anthropology, USNM, 1897-1902, and chief of the BAE, 1902-1909. Holmes served as curator of the National Gallery of Art from 1907 to 1920, and as head curator of the Department of Anthropology from 1910 to 1920. When the National Gallery of Art (now known as the National Collection of Fine Arts) became a separate bureau of the Smithsonian, Holmes severed his ties with the USNM and served as director of the National Gallery from 1920 until his retirement in 1932.

Smithsonian Institution Archives Field Book Project: Person : Description : rid_42_pid_EACP41

Member of the Hayden Geological Survey, named six Colorado mountains.

From the description of Papers : 1873. (Colorado Newspaper Project, Colorado Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 27210233

Painter and museum director; Washington, D.C.

Holmes served as Curator of the National Gallery of Art from 1907 to 1920 (now known as the National Museum of American Art) and its director from 1920-1932.

From the description of William Henry Holmes artists' files, 1879-1932. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82903227


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  • Mountains--Manuscripts
  • Names, geographical
  • Manuscripts, American
  • Artists
  • Museum Directors
  • Painters--History--20th century--Sources
  • Mountains--Names


  • Artists
  • Archaeologists
  • Geologists
  • Anthropologists


  • United States (as recorded)
  • Washington (D.C.) (as recorded)
  • Colorado (as recorded)
  • Colorado (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Washington (D.C.) (as recorded)
  • Holy Cross, Mount of the (Colo.) (as recorded)