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Alexander M. Stephen collection, 1880-1930


Overview of the Collection

Creator: Bushnell, Olive 1865- Parsons, Elsie Worthington Clews, 1874-1941 Reichard, Gladys Amanda, 1893-1955 Stephen, Alexander MacGregor, -1894
Title: Alexander M. Stephen collection,
Inclusive Dates: 1880-1930
Quantity: 8.25 cm textual material
Identification: MS-369
Repository: Museum of Northern Arizona
3101 N. Fort Valley Rd.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
928-774-5211 ext. 256 or 269

Biographical Note

Alexander Macgregor Stephen (1850?-1894) was a Scottish mining prospector trained in metallurgy at the university of Edinburgh. When he emigrated from Scotland to the United States he enlisted in the New York Militia during the Civil War from 1861-1866. Afterwards, he prospected in search of the lost Merit silver mine in Nevada and Utah during the 1870s. From 1880-1894 it is not known whether Stephen lived with Thomas V. Keam, owner of a trading post, at his canyon ranch or at various places on the Hopi mesas. He did spend a decade building relationships with the Navajo and Hopi learning their language and their culture and recording it in what he considered an unbiased manner. Stephen and Keam worked together to collect and catalogue 4,500 ethnological specimens, which are today known as the Thomas V. Keam collection. Keam sold the collection to Mary Hemenway who then went on to fund the Hemenway Expeditions to the Southwest. Stephen was employed by Hemenway to assist the directors of the Expeditions: Jesse W. Fewkes and later anthropologist, Frank Hamilton Cushing. Stephen served as researcher, informant, and field director.

In 1894, Stephen came down with influenza while living with the Hopi. The disease had already spread through the mesas. Stephen believed that he was being punished for secretly observing burial customs and then joking about them. He died shortly therafter. Keam erected monument at the canyon [Keam’s Canyon] in honor of him.

Stephen’s catalogue of the Keam collection is considered one of the first typologies of southwestern ceramics. Stephen’s contribution to the catalogue is valued for the remarkable insight into the mythic associations of pottery designs with Hopi religious beliefs.

Scope and Content

This collection contains the original notes taken by Stephen during his stays on the Navajo and Hopi lands. Stephen describes and illustrates Native American dwellings, ceremonies, medicine, games, clothing, language, etc. He also transcribed interviews between the Navajo chief Ganado Muncho and Major John Wesley Powell, and others. Parts of Stephen’s journals were later transcribed by Olive Bushnell and Elsie Clews Parsons. Their notes and manuscripts were then annotated by Gladys Reichard in the 1930s.


Conditions Governing Access

This collection contains culturally sensitive material. Therefore, the collection was restricted by staff at the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department on 30 October 2007. Contact the Museum of Northern Arizona archivist for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished and published manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Related Material

MS-369 probably came from The American Philosophical Society’s Elsie Clews Parsons papers (Mss.Ms.Coll.29), which still contains some of Stephen’s records. The Peabody Museum Archives at Harvard University has records created by Stephen in their Hemenway Expedition records and in their Thomas V. Keam collection. Cornell University Library also has Stephen records in their Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition Papers (Collection Number: 9186). The University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library also has Stephen’s material.

Controlled Access Terms

Personal Name(s)
Keam, Thomas V.
Parsons, Elsie Worthington Clews, 1874-1941
Powell, John Wesley, 1834-1902
Reichard, Gladys Amanda, 1893-1955
Stephen, Alexander MacGregor, -1894

Corporate Name(s)
Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition (1886-1894)

Geographic Name(s)
Navajo County (Ariz.)

Hopi Indians
Hopi Indians -- Social life and customs
Hopi language
Navajo Indians
Navajo Indians -- Dwellings
Navajo Indians -- Rites and ceremonies
Navajo Indians -- Social life and customs
Navajo history
Navajo language

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Alexander M. Stephen collection, MS-369 [Box Number]. Museum of Northern Arizona. Flagstaff, Arizona.

Acquisition Information

This material collection was found as part of the Gladys A. Reichard accession #MS-29 that was received in 1963 from Reichard's estate.

Processing Information

Processed in August of 2010.

Container List

11 "Hogan Songs": notes, circa 1880s
12 Notes on Hopi life and language, circa 1880s
13 Notes on Navajo architecture, circa 1880s
14 Ash kon: dialogue between the Humbler and a woman, 1882
15 "Bookoody’s Dance": notes, 1882
16 Transcribed dialogues, 1882
17 "A Navajo Medicine": notes, 1883
18 "Keam’s Canyon": notes, 1885
19 Navajo notes, 1885-1887
110 "When John the Jeweler Was Sick" and "Navajo Shoemaker": notes, 1886-1887
111 "Ho-hran [Hogan] Nomenclature": notes, 1889
112 "Vocabulary of the Sarcee Compared With the Navajo": notes, 1889
113 "Notes on the Navajo Indians" incomplete transcription of Stephen’s journals by Olive Bushnell, circa 1930s
114 "Notes on the Navajo Indians" transcription excerpts of Stephen’s journals by Olive Bushnell, circa 1930s
115 Stephen notes transcribed by Olive Bushnell/Gladys Reichard, circa 1930s