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Guide to the William S. Laughlin papers

Collection number: HMC-0360.
Creator: Laughlin, William S.
Title: William S. Laughlin papers.
Dates: 1931-1998.
Volume of collection: 89.0 cubic feet. 
Language of materials: Collection materials are primarily in English.
Collection summary: The papers of a physical anthropologist who worked in the Aleutian Islands.

Biographical note:
William Sceva Laughlin was born in Canton, Missouri in 1919. He grew up in Salem, Oregon, where his father was a professor at Willamette University. His education included bachelor's (Willamette University, 1941) and master's (Haverford College, 1942) degrees in sociology, and master's (1948) and Ph.D. (1949) degrees in anthropology from Harvard University. His academic career in anthropology included professorships at the University of Oregon (1949-1955), the University of Wisconsin (1955-1969), and the University of Connecticut (1969-1999). His primary field of specialization was physical anthropology, including Aleutian-Siberian studies, human biology, population history and human evolution. Laughlin first came to Alaska in 1938 as a member of the Smithsonian Expedition to the Aleutian Islands, directed by Dr. Ales Hrdlicka. In 1948, he was the field director for the Peabody Museum's Expedition to the Aleutians. Over the years, he made over twenty trips to the Aleutians to study its peoples.  His research there culminated in the publication in 1980 of his book, Aleuts: Survivors of the Bering Land Bridge. He also co-edited the book, The First Americans: Origins, Affinities and Adaptations, with Connecticut colleague, Albert B. Harper. Laughlin was a member or fellow of several professional societies, edited the American Journal for Physical Anthropology (1958-1963), and served on several scientific committees, including the U. S. National Committee for the International Biological Program, the Committee to Evaluate National Science Foundation Programs, and the Programs Advisory Committee of the National Institutes for Dental Research. William S. Laughlin died in Portland, Oregon, in 2001.

Collection description:
The collection consists of the professional papers of anthropologist William S. Laughlin.  The collection includes but is not limited to: biographical materials, correspondence, Harvard University class notebooks and term papers, writings, departmental papers, teaching files, colleague files, graduate student writings, writings by colleagues, professional organizations files, International Biological Program committees and related files, other scientific research committee files, grant funded training and research files, research study data, subject files, and photographs. Much of the collection remains undescribed at this point.

Arrangement: A portion of the collection has been arranged into series by type of document. 

Digitized copies: This collection has not been digitized. For information about obtaining digital copies, please contact Archives and Special Collections.

Access restrictions: Portions of the collection are closed to access: primarily those with student grades or information.  Because the collection contains physical information about individuals who served as research subjects for his studies as well as other potentially culturally and personally sensitive information, all requests to access the collection must be accompanied by a letter from the researcher stating her/his commitment to abide by the American Anthropological Association’s Code of Ethics in using this collection. (available at:

Rights note: Copyright to the materials authored or created by William S. Laughlin has been transferred to Archives and Special Collections.  The collection contains materials created by others. The Archives does not hold copyright to these materials.

Preferred citation: William S. Laughlin papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.

Separated materials: Most of the published items (books, journals, reprints) have been separated from the collection and have been added to the Consortium Library’s Rare Books collection. Those items can be found in the Consortium Library catalog.  

Acquisition note: The first portion of the collection (boxes 1-85) was given to Archives by William S. Laughlin between 1987 and 1998.  After William Laughlin’s death, additional materials were provided to the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North by his daughter (boxes 90-121).  The Museum of the North transferred these records to Archives and Special Collections in 2008-2009. Four additional boxes of material (boxes 86-89) were transferred to Archives in 2012 from Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.

Processing information: The portion of the collection transferred directly by William Laughlin was arranged and described by Jeffrey Sinnott in 2008.  A box list has been excerpted from the inventory prepared.  The additional boxes from the Museum of the North have not yet been described. Box-level description for the materials coming from the University of Connecticut is provided in the list below.  Researchers in need of further information regarding the contents of the collection should contact the reference archivists at Archives and Special Collections for further assistance.

Container list:





Biographical materials.






Harvard University class notebooks and term papers (note: see Access Restrictions note above.)

Undated, 1946-1949


William S. Laughlin writings.



University departmental papers.



Teaching files. (note: see Access Restrictions note above.)



Colleague files.



Graduate student writings.



Colleagues’ writings.



Conference, seminar, institute and other professional organization papers.



Scientific research committee files.



Grant funded training and research files.



Research study data.



Subject files (reference materials.)






Administrative records, correspondence, publications regarding human evolution and biology, human variation and the National Science Foundation



Administrative records, books, correspondence, and publications regarding American anthropologists, Grassland ecosystems, evolution and biology, International Biological Program, National Research Council, and the National Science Foundation

1968-1972, 1977


Administrative records, correspondence, and publications regarding the Arctic, aquatic studies, desert biome, International Biological Program, National Research Council, and the U.S. Tundra Biome Symposium

1969-1972, 1977


Administrative records, correspondence, and publications regarding anthropology, ecology, genetic studies of American Indians, human evolution, and the National Research Council.

1969, 1973, 1976


As yet undescribed.