New York, et al. 1921-1934. Large heavy folio, 12 x 14 inches. 81 leaves, cloth covers with string-through binding. Housed in a custom clamshell box. Good to Very Good. Item #List408
Leonidas Westervelt was a New York-based playwright and theater historian who also had an interest in archaeology. This scrapbook documents his digs in the New York City region in a time when many interesting artifacts were exhumed due to the city’s rapidly developing infrastructure, both in the expanding subway system of northern Manhattan and the regional development of automobile transportation during the Robert Moses era. Westervelt conducted digs under the auspices of the New York Historical Society and the Museum of the American Indian, and the scrapbook includes correspondence from George Heye and the fellow archaeological adventurer William Louis Calver. Westervelt operated as a scout of sorts for Heye, and some of Heye’s letters ask Westervelt to evaluate potential sites for MAI excursions.
Much of note exists in the scrapbook, in which Westervelt documented his expeditions through New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Upstate New York and Long Island. Highlights include: photographs from a series of 1921 digs in West Point that unearthed coins and tools, with corresponding typed reports; a series of photographs of an Indian rock shelter in Haskel, New Jersey; a series of panoramic photographs and archeological photographs of Montauk sites near Easthampton, Long Island; a photograph of the artifact room of the MAI with an inscription to Westervelt on verso; American Indian skeletons exhumed in Staten Island and Manhattan in 1927; Revolutionary War-era photographs in Redding, Connecticut; a few snapshot photographs of the Indian Village at Chicago’s Century of Progress exhibition. The letters from Calver are particularly entertaining, as the shared obsessions for digging and all things historical are on full display. Much of the scrapbook is filled with clipped articles, photographs, pamphlets, which provide context for the original material and relay Westervelt’s obsessive interest in the region’s history.
Overall in good to very good condition with contents generally excellent save for toning to scrapbook contents and
wear and tear at the binding due to the large size of the pages. Slipcase in fine condition. A wonderful relic of automobile-era archaeology, with primary source material on American Indian excavations, worthy of perservation. Please see our site for additional images.