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Wilson Dallam Wallis papers

Identifier: ua-00481

Scope and Content

The Wilson Dallam Wallis collection consists of 28 unpublished manuscripts written by himself and his wife, Ruth Sawtell Wallis. Many of the manuscripts are based upon the couple's research of the Micmac and Dakota Indians of Canada. One folder of correspondence regarding publishing of Wallis' writings is also included in the collection.


  • Creation: 1935-1954


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch of Wilson D. Wallis (1886-1970)

Wilson D. Wallis was born in Forest Hill, Maryland on March 7, 1886. In 1903, he attended Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, specializing in philosophy and law. Graduating in 1907, Wallis journeyed to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. While there, as a student of R. R. Marett, he became interested in primitive religion and it was here at a lecture given by E. B. Tylor that he "discovered" anthropology. Wallis earned a B.Sc. in research and a diploma in anthropology from Oxford in 1910.

At that time, anthropology was scarcely recognized as a profession, and jobs were scarce. After an extended tour in Europe and the Near East, Wallis returned to the United States, receiving a Harrison fellowship that permitted him to enter the University of Pennsylvania as a graduate student in philosophy; he completed his Ph.D. in 1915.

Wallis was interested in religion, Native American cultures, European ethnic cultures, human behavior and biology, linguistics, and archaeology. From 1911-1912, he spent his summers in Nova Scotia, studying the social life and customs of the Micmac and in 1914 he spent his summer studying the Canadian Dakota Indians in Manitoba, descendants of a group that fled from Minnesota into Canada after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. From 1950-1953, he and his second wife Ruth spent their summers again among the Micmac Indians of the Maritime Provinces (summers of 1950 and 1953) and among the Dakota Indians (summers of 1951 and 1952), in order to update his earlier findings.

Wallis's first wife Grace Allen died in 1929, leaving him a widower with two children. In 1931, Wallis married Ruth Sawtell, a well-known anthropologist with a Ph.D from Columbia University. Together they collaborated on many projects, some which are in this collection.

Wallis began his academic career at Fresno Junior College in 1916. World War I cut his time at Fresno short. He entered the service as a 1st Lieutenant in the Sanitary Corps. Wallis' time in the Army spurred his interest in physical anthropology and he collected a large amount of data on the physical measurements of army recruits during his time in the service. In 1921, Wallis began teaching at Reed College in Portland in an experimental program in liberal education. Wallis joined the new anthropology department at the University of Minnesota in 1923. He became department chairman in 1938 and continued to serve as chairman until his retirement in 1954. After his retirement, he and his wife Ruth purchased an old coach house in South Woodstock, Connecticut, and he began teaching at Annhurst College nearby. He was still teaching there at the time of his death, in 1970, at age 84. Ruth Sawtell Wallis died eight years later at the age of 83.

Some of the organizations to which Professor Wallis belonged were Sigma Xi, The American Anthropological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


15 boxes (6.25 linear ft.)


The collection consists of manuscripts by Wilson D. Wallis, professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota.


The manuscripts are arranged alphabetically; none are dated. According to Ruth Sawtell Wallis' notes [which are sketchy], the following was the original arrangement of the "Primitive Science" series:

1. Universe

2. Supernal Region and Phenomena in Primitive Beliefs

3. World of Primitive Man

4. Water, Wind, Weather on Fire in Primitive Concepts

5. Primitive Botany

6. Primitive Zoology and Veterinary Science

7. Animals Species in Human Cultures

8. Role of Animals in Primitive Culture

9. Life and Death

10. Medicine and the Treatment of Disease

11. Primitive Psychology

12. Primitive Anatomy and Physiology

13. Divination, Fate, and Omens in Primitive Culture

14. Numeration and Mensuration

15. Calendar and Time Counts

Related Materials in University Archives

University of Minnesota. Gown in Town papers

Wilson Dallam Wallis papers, 1935-1954
Archives Staff; updated by Karen Spilman
Updated April 2004
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

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