Ohio History Journal




A Question of Authorship: The

Ephraim George Squier-Edwin

Hamilton Davis Controversy



In 1848 Ephraim George Squier, a young, ambitious eastern journal-

ist, and Dr. Edwin Hamilton Davis, a prominent western physician

and antiquarian, laid claim to world attention with publication of

their classic monograph, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Val-

ley. As the first scholarly publication of the fledgling Smithsonian In-

stitution, the appearance of this "Great American Work"1 was a na-

tional cause celebre, conferring recognition upon the authors, the

Smithsonian, and the newly emerging sciences of archaeology and

ethnology.2 In exploring some two hundred mounds and one hun-

dred earthworks in Ohio from 1845 to 1847, Squier and Davis pro-

duced the first systematic study of American antiquities. Their

findings represent the leading edge of knowledge in American ar-

chaeology at mid-century.

Curiously, no inquiry into their controversial association and its af-

termath of enmity has been undertaken. Although their contribution

to science is well-known, Squier's subsequent archaeological renown,

diplomatic ventures, and stormy marriage have received the bulk of

attention by historians.3 In his own right Davis has been ignored, as




Terry A. Barnhart is a doctoral student in history at Miami University.


1. Advertisement, Literary World, 3 (September 23, 1848), 680. For major reviews of

Ancient Monuments see "The Western Mound Builders," Literary World, 3 (October,

1848), 767-68; [Charles Eliot Norton], "Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley,"

North American Review, 68 (April, 1849), 466-96; and [Theodore Dwight Woolsey], "An-

cient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley," New Englander and Yale Review, 7 (Febru-

ary, 1849), 95-109.

2. Representative of the tenuous status of archaeology and ethnology in this period,

the two terms were often used interchangeably. Thus Ancient Monuments, properly an

archaeological work, was frequently referred to as an ethnological memoir.

3. The early period in Squier's archaeological career is examined in Gilbert Tax,

"The Development of American Archaeology, 1800-1879," (Ph.D dissertation, Universi-

ty of Chicago, 1973), Ch. 5, "E. George Squier and the Mounds, 1845-1850," 173-223;

Robert Silverberg, Mound Builders of Ancient America: The Archaeology of a Myth

Question of Authorship 53

Question of Authorship                                            53


has the importance of his contributions to the Squier-Davis research.

No doubt Squier's eventful career was the more significant of the

two. A prodigious scholar, he pursued his archaeological investiga-

tions with style and unabated zeal. The beginning of that career,

however, resulted in no small measure from his early association with

Davis, whose more modest achievements as an archaeologist were

eventually eclipsed by Squier's flamboyant personality and numerous

publications. Whatever their individual attainments, their pioneering

scientific collaboration and the resulting controversy over authorship

of Ancient Monuments justifies an examination of their stormy rela-


Ephraim George Squier, journalist, archaeologist, diplomat, and

entrepreneur, stands in the forefront of nineteenth-century American

scholars. Consumed from an early age by a relentless ambition "that

burns like fire in my veins," his youthful resolve was "to leave at least

a name to the world." A master opportunist, Squier possessed a

talent to turn most situations to his advantage. The very embodiment

of enterprise, he kept a constant eye on the prospects of "making

something handsome," and was never far removed from pursuing his

"golden expectations."4 Awareness of this blend of zealousness,

ambition, and vanity is fundamental to understanding his character

and success, as well as his eventual falling-out with Davis. For al-

though known for his wit, affability, and charm, a telling comment on

Squier's variegated career is that he made many personal enemies.

Born in Bethlehem, New York, June 17, 1821, the son of Joel

Squier, a local Methodist minister and circuit rider of modest means,

and Catherine Kilmer Squier, Ephraim Squier grew up in frugal cir-

cumstances. Unable to afford a private education, he attended local

rural schools, and largely educated himself during the leisure hours

on his father's farm. In 1837 he began a short-lived teaching career

while also working on a local paper. But the mundane duties of keep-




(Greenwich, Conn., 1968); and William Stanton, The Leopard's Spots: Scientific Atti-

tudes Toward Race in America, 1815-1859 (Chicago, 1960). For accounts of Squier's diplo-

macy see Charles L. Stansifer, "The Central American Career of Ephraim George

Squier," (Ph.D dissertation, Tulane University, 1959); Mary Wilhelmine Williams,

Anglo-American Isthmian Diplomacy, 1815-1915 (Washington, D.C., 1916); and her

"Letters from E. G. Squier to John M. Clayton, 1849-1850," Hispanic American Histori-

cal Review, 1 (November, 1918), 426-34. See also Ira Dudley Travis, The History of the

Clayton-Bulwer Treaty (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1899). Squier's fashionable marriage to Miri-

am Follin and their scandalous divorce is chronicled in Madeleine B. Stern, Purple

Passage: The Life of Mrs. Frank Leslie (Norman, Okla, 1953).

4. Squier to [Joel and Maria Squier], June 24, 1842, March 18, 1848, Squier Papers,

New York Historical Society. Hereafter cited as Squier Papers.


54                                                   OHIO HISTORY


ing school proved unsuited to his ambitions: he had no desire to

"live and die a despised and miserable pedagogue-the most illy

paid and thankless of all employments."5 Thus he taught himself

civil engineering, a skill that would eventually serve him well. The

panic of 1837-1839, however, offered little immediate hope to an as-

piring engineer, prompting him to seek a livelihood through the pow-

er of the pen. It was in journalism that Squier established a durable

career. Although rightly remembered as an archaeologist, he was

first and last a journalist. Beginning in 1840, he became editor of nu-

merous short-lived literary and poetic journals, the names and num-

bers of which are less important than the skills they imparted. He

soon developed the polished style of writing that would distinguish

his scholarship from the ponderous style of many of his contempo-

raries. Moreover, he early acquired the superior organizational and

managerial skills that long characterized his many-sided career.

Moving from the poetic to the practical in his writings, Squier took

up social causes as editor of the New York Mechanic, a leading organ

of prison reform in Albany from 1841-1842.6 Characteristic of his un-

bounded energy, the same period saw him translate some 360 pages

of William Beekman's official correspondence as commissary and

vice-director of the old Dutch Colony on the South or Delaware Riv-

er, while also delivering lectures on modern civilization. More impor-

tantly, during this period he co-authored his first book, The Chinese

as They Are.7

Ever restless in his early years, he next immersed himself in poli-

tics. In 1844, in Hartford, Connecticut, he became editor of the Eve-

ning Journal, a pro-Whig publication in which he vigorously cam-

paigned for Henry Clay for president. The disillusioning effects of

Clay's defeat and the unexpected sale of the Journal, however, led

the young Whig to entertain recent offers of editorship with leading

papers in Baltimore, Columbus, and Chillicothe. Convinced that

Clay's defeat would result in the "prostration of our industry, and

the extension of slavery," and that his zealous support of Clay would



5. Squier to [Joel and Maria Squier], December 30, 1841, Squier Papers.

6. See also E. G. Squier, Reports of the Committees on the Sing Sing andAuburn Pris-

ons (Albany, N.Y., 1843); Documents in Relation to State Prison Competition (Albany,

N.Y., 1843); and "The Condition of the Laboring Population of America, and Their In-

terests," in the Working Man's Miscellany (Albany, N.Y., 1843).

7. See William Beekman Papers, New York Historical Society. Squier added his own

notes, appendix, and index. See also "Two Lectures on the Origin and Progress of Mod-

ern Civilization," (Albany, N.Y., 1841-1842), in Squier Papers; and The Chinese as They

Are: Their Moral and Social Character, By G. Tradescent Lay, compiled by E. G. Squier

(Albany, N.Y., 1843).

Question of Authorship 55

Question of Authorship                                                55


now prod his "political and personal enemies" to attack him, Squier

reluctantly determined to leave his beloved Hartford: "There is cer-

tainly an excellent opening in Ohio for a young man . . . Baltimore is

out of the question. I will not live where there are slaves!"8

In February of 1845, Squier came to Chillicothe, Ohio, as editor of

the Scioto Gazette, reputedly the most influential newspaper in the

state. Here he made the first of many acquaintances which would

prove influential in fostering his unprecedented rise as an archaeolo-

gist, Dr. Edwin Hamilton Davis. Both men shared an avid interest in

archaeology and ethnology, which served as the basis of their

friendship. Although there is some evidence Squier possessed this

interest before arriving in Chillicothe, unquestionably his association

with Davis altered the direction of his career.9

Like Squier, Davis possessed diverse interests. The opposite of his

colleague in both personality and stature, Davis was reticent, distin-

guished in bearing, and his tall frame stood in marked contrast to the

short but ardent Squier.10 Ten years Squier's elder, Davis was an ac-

complished physician, surgeon, and "moundologist," who had

made the examination and preservation of American antiquities his

avocation from an early age: "to arrest from destruction the works of

a former age and peculiar people         ... as hundreds are yearly

ploughed into the earth by our money loving tillers of the soil." 11

Born in Hillsboro, Ohio, January 22, 1811, to Henry Davis, a promi-

nent Dartmouth-educated merchant and banker, and Avis Slocum

(Towne) Davis, Edwin Davis grew up in an area abounding with Indi-



8. Squier to [Joel and Maria Squier], January 18, 1845, Squier Papers.

9. Biographical information on Squier is found in Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of

American Biography, vol. 9 (New York, 1935-1936), 488-89; The National Cyclopedia of

American Biography, vol. 4 (New York, 1897), 79; Samuel Austin Allibone, ed., Critical

Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors (Philadelphia, 1870),

2212-16; Appleton's Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events, 1888, vol. 13 (New

York, 1889), 653; Edward A. and George L. Duychinck, eds., Cylopedia of American

Literature, vol. 2 (Philadelphia, 1881), 671-73; Frank Squier, A Collection of Books of

Ephraim George Squier ... (New York, 1939); Rafael Hilodoro Valle, "Ephraim George

Squier (Bio-Bibliographical Notes)," Hispanic American Historical Review, 5 (Novem-

ber, 1922), 784-89; and E. G. Squier, "Our Foreign Relations," American Whig Review, 12

n.s. (October, 1850), 345-52.

10. One such acquaintance found Davis "a very reserved and somewhat diffident

gentleman and of the highest character." By contrast, he found Squier "an entirely dif-

ferent man ... a blonde, small and boyish figure, but one of the most audacious spirits I

have ever known. ... He had a talent for management and not withstanding his insignif-

icant presence could make his way everywhere, with no fear of power, station nor weight

of intellect and character." See Henry Howe, "Some Recollections of Historic Trav-

el. . .," Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, 2 (March, 1889), 466.

11. Davis to John Davis, February, 22, 1847, Squier and Davis Papers, American An-

tiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass. Hereafter cited as Squier and Davis Papers.


56                                                    OHIO HISTORY


an mounds and earthworks, his first school being located near a

mound of the Circleville, Ohio, group. He excavated his first mound

in 1831, while pursuing a medical education at Kenyon College in

Gambler, Ohio. There he presented his early observations to the

Philomathesian Society, which, owing to the general interest in the

mounds, he later expanded into his commencement address on the

"Antiquities of Ohio," September 4, 1833. Daniel Webster, then on a

sojourn through the West, was present at Davis's oration, and en-

couraged the young medical student to continue his work in the

examination and preservation of American antiquities. He even pro-

posed the establishment of a society to purchase, explore, and con-

serve these remains. Webster's enthusiasm inspired Davis to contin-

ue his explorations, and in 1837 he assisted Charles Whittlesey in the

examination of several earthworks in the Scioto Valley for the Ohio

Geological Survey. By the time of his association with Squier, he had

already collected a cabinet of artifacts from the mounds and had es-

tablished a regional reputation for his labors.

After graduating from Cincinnati Medical College, on March 3,

1838,12 Davis established a medical practice in Chillicothe. In 1841,

he met Lucy Woodbridge, daughter of John Woodbridge, a leading

citizen and banker in Chillicothe. Their subsequent marriage and

Davis's successful practice secured for him prominent status within

the community, and his performance of the operation for strabismus

in 1841 established his reputation as a surgeon.13 Davis claimed that

this was the first such surgery conducted in Ohio, and the second in

the country by only a few days. He was thus busily engaged in his

medical and antiquarian pursuits when Squier became editor of the

Gazette. 14

At the time of their meeting, little was known of the conspicuous,

myth-shrouded mounds of the Mississippi Valley. Although much

had been written on the subject, most of the literature was specula-



12. Davis also attended special courses of medicine in Philadelphia, New York, and


13. See also E. H. Davis, "Report of the Committee on the Statistics of Calculous

Disease in Ohio," Transactions of the Ohio State Medical Society (Columbus, 1850),


14. Biographical information on Davis is found in "Dr. Edwin Hamilton Davis," Pro-

ceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 5 n.s. (October, 1888), 368-69; The Edwin

Hamilton Davis Collection, Ross County Historical Society, Chillicothe, Ohio; Dumas

Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 3 (New York, 1930), 113; James

Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds., Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, (New

York, 1894), 96; Appleton's Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events, 1888, vol. 13

(New York, 1889), 630; and The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, vol. 13

(New York, 1906), 319.

Question of Authorship 57

Question of Authorship                                        57


tive, containing little factual value worthy of trust. By the middle of

the nineteenth century, however, romantic and fanciful indulgences

were giving way to the more exacting demands of scientific inquiry.

This was an exciting, expansive time for archaeology and ethnology,

which emerged as new disciplines from their former existence as ap-

pendages of natural history and geography. Beginning in 1838 with

the first report of the United States Exploring Expedition, the found-

ing of the American Ethnological Society in 1842, and the establish-

ment of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846, a new maturity and disci-

pline was imposed where before there had been primarily much

conjecture. As the nation moved beyond the old trans-Allegheny

West and American merchants and missionaries penetrated new

world markets and cultures, new areas were opened to explorations

and new aboriginal peoples were brought under study. The result

was the stimulation of the "infant" sciences of archaeology and eth-

nology.15 Amidst such interest and growth, it is little wonder that

Squier and Davis's investigations excited intense scientific curiosity.

Those researches began in the Spring of 1845. Excavating mounds

proved an expensive business, and Davis provided the initial five

thousand dollars necessary for travel and the hiring of labor. By

July, an exuberant Squier informed his parents of his investigation of

"strange and mysterious squares and crescents," articles of pottery,

carved wood, and metal unearthed in their excavations. He reported

having already assembled a large "cabinet of curiosities," which he

thought the largest ever assembled. These finds soon led him to

contemplate a book on western antiquities and to talk of "my discov-

eries," such as the recovery of one hundred effigy pipes from a single

mound, along with silver, beads, and precious stones.16

It soon became apparent, however, that the necessary scope of

their operations exceeded Davis's resources. In order to continue,

they sought financial support from eastern scientific and antiquarian

societies. In eager anticipation of such aid, both researchers sent let-

ters of introduction east. Confident of their success, Squier vaunted

to his clerical father: "I will show you some things you never

dreamed of in your philosophy."17

Their labors first came to the attention of the American Ethnolog-




15. See John R. Bartlett, "Progress of Ethnology: An Account of Recent Geographi-

cal, Archaeological, and Philological Researches, Tending to Illustrate the Physical His-

tory of Man," Transactions of the American Ethnological Society, 2 (1848), appendix.

16. Squier to [Joel and Maria Squier], July 20 and November 6, 1845, Squier Papers.

17. Squier to [Joel and Maria Squier], March 10, 1846, Squier Papers.


58                                               OHIO HISTORY


ical Society of New York in 1846. In June of that year, Squier appeared

before the society with a presentation of artifacts, maps, plans, and

sectional views of numerous mounds from the Chillicothe area. The

exhibition made a lasting impression on the secretary of the society,

New York publisher and ethnologist John Russell Bartlett, and its

president, the venerable American statesman, financier, and ethnolo-

gist, Albert Gallatin. Two of the founding fathers of American ethnol-

ogy, Bartlett and Gallatin's New York chambers were salons for eth-

nological discussion and speculation. Both men took pains to focus

scholarly attention on Squier and Davis's researches, and their

friendship would be an indispensible boon to Squier's budding ca-


Armed with a letter of introduction from Gallatin, Squier continued

his eastern trek, going on to Boston. Received as a scholarly young

man with important work to be done, he enthusiastically read his

notes and described his researches with Davis to the Boston Acade-

my of Science and Art. The result of his presentation was an honorary

membership and a tentative offer of publication.18 Moreover, at a

meeting of the American Geologists and Naturalists Society he read

the first paper based on his and Davis's preliminary findings, "Ob-

servations on the Fossils, Minerals, Organic Remains, etc. Found in

the Mounds of the West." Curiously, the paper omitted any mention

of Davis's name. A brilliant coup, the text of this address was re-

ported in the Boston Journal and was later published in the Edinburg

New Philosophical Journal, thus introducing Squier into both Ameri-

can and European scientific circles.19

Squier met with similar success at the American Antiquarian Socie-

ty in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1820 the first volume of the socie-

ty's Transactions had been devoted to what its vice president, John

Davis, called "the obscure and dubious history of the tumuli of the

valley of the Mississippi," and the Society now desired that the

mounds be brought under closer scrutiny. Understandably, then,

Squier and Davis aroused great interest when they reported that the

mounds were works of art, complete with sculptured images, pieces

of wrought metal, altars, and other artificial relics. Davis had previ-

ously written the society, requesting financial support for their labors.

He now suggested that Squier include his name, along with Gallatin's



18. Squier to [Joel and Maria Squier], June 29, 1846, Squier Papers. Notably present

were Jared Sparks, Edward Evert, and William Hickling Prescott, all of whom later

sponsored Squier as Charge d'Affaires to the Republics of Central America.

19. Boston Journal, September 24, 1847; Edinburg New Philosophical Journal, 44

(October, 1847-April, 1848), 141-44.

Question of Authorship 59

Question of Authorship                                        59


introductory letter, lest such an omission lead them to "think there

was some collision or competition [between us] otherwise." The soci-

ety, however, deferred its decision on financial assistance and pub-

lication. Desiring additional information, it awaited a "reasonable

promise of credible results," presumably a manuscript.20 Undaunt-

ed, Squier remained determined to find a firmly committed sponsor.

The next leg of his whirlwind tour took him to the New Haven

home of Professor Robert Silliman, publisher of the American Jour-

nal of Science and Arts. Established in 1818, Silliman's Journal was

among the first American scientific periodicals to seriously examine

American antiquities, and was a publication in which several of

Squier's early works would appear. Like Gallatin and Bartlett, Silli-

man was also drawn to Squier and Davis's work, and promoted inter-

est among others by publishing brief accounts of their scientific in-

vestigations.21 He also introduced   Squier to the Connecticut

Academy of Science and the faculty of Yale, who proved equally en-

thusiastic about what had been accomplished; so much so, in fact,

that the faculty of Yale elected Squier an honorary member of the


In New Haven, Squier made tentative arrangements to publish a

preliminary abstract of the planned definitive work on the mounds.

Davis advised him to give Silliman only enough of a general sampling

to provoke his excitement and attention, thinking it best to "reserve

our ammunition for the main fire." Monitoring the progress of

Squier's sweep of great men, Davis also expressed concern over not

receiving due credit for his contributions, and reminded his col-

league that all "papers should appear under our joint signatures-

author[']s name [Squier's] first. This will be no more than justice to

each, as we expect to conduct the whole matter jointly." Wishing

him continued success in his eastern swing, Davis pointedly re-

minded Squier not to "forget your friend at home. Meet [sic] out to

him equal credit and a due share of the honours, etc."22

Davis further cautioned against being "too sanguine," comparing

Squier's success to that of a conquering general: "a la mode Taylor



20. Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 1812-1849 (Worcester, Mass.,

1912), 518, 520; Davis to Squier, June 14, 1846, Squier Papers, Library of Congress. Here-

after cited as SPLC.

21. E. G. Squier, "On Discoidal Stones of the Indian Mounds," American Journal of

Science and Arts, 2 sec. s. (November, 1846), 216-18; his "Hieroglyphical Mica Plates

from the Mounds," American Journal of Science and Arts, 4 sec. s. (November, 1847),

145; and E. H. Davis, "Footprints and Indian Sculpture," American Journal of Science

and Arts, 3 sec. s. (May, 1847), 286-88.

22. Davis to Squier, June 9 and 15, 1846, SPLC.


60                                        OHIO HISTORY

[you] carried them, horse, foot, and dragoon." Nonetheless, Davis

strongly disagreed with his tactic of approaching several different so-

cieties at once, believing it more prudent to concentrate on one or two,

rather than risk producing jealousies of interest. He advised Squier

"to cool down a degree or two,-and concentrate your mighty ener-

gies..." Additionally, he could not countenance Squier's method

of soliciting information from various correspondents far and wide. In

sober earnest he urged discipline:

... don't attempt too much predicated upon the hope of exciting the same

enthusiasm professed by yourself, in a hundred antiquarians scattered over

the U. States by pen and ink batteries. My God! You might as well expect in-

formation from the moon by addressing the man there. . 23

Davis continued to keep abreast of eastern developments while

hosting the first of several distinguished visitors to Chillicothe, Dr.

Montroville Wilson Dickenson. A fellow physician and antiquary,

Dickenson's explorations of mounds in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas




23. Davis to Squier, July 7, 1846, SPLC.

Question of Authorship 61

Question of Authorship                                   61

paralleled Squier and Davis's in the Ohio Valley. His investigations

had made no less an impression in eastern scientific salons than had

their own, and had particularly excited John Bartlett, who often

spoke in glowing terms of Dickenson's discoveries.

Dickenson visited Davis in Chillicothe for two days. Davis found

his gracious guest unassuming and intelligent, and learned he had in-

deed accomplished much. Davis was not, however, uncritical, and

observed that Dickenson knew "more of astrology than mounds."

After examining ten of Dickenson's books of notes and sketches,

Davis characterized them as "all interesting . . . some wonderful."

Nevertheless, he concluded, Dickenson had conducted his investi-

gations over too wide a field, encompassing too many subjects. Cer-

tainly he had something yet to learn of "moundology." His methods

appeared "too loose," and at times unreliable, and his notes consist-

ed of many "hearsay facts." The use of slaves in his excavations

Davis found "very cozy" but also inefficient: "The negroes dig and

he sketches." Although an inexpensive arrangement, it was suspect

in exactness and thoroughness. Upon his departure, Dickenson

arranged an artifact exchange with his fellow enthusiast, from what


62                                                      OHIO HISTORY


were undoubtedly the two most unique and valuable private collec-

tions in the country.24

Having at last accomplished his eastern mission, Squier returned to

Chillicothe in triumph. With the official blessing and support of the

American Ethnological Society, Squier and Davis expanded their in-

vestigations with renewed vigor. At Albert Gallatin's request, Squier

busied himself in the preparation of an introductory piece for the so-

ciety's Transactions. From New York, Bartlett encouraged Squier to

forge ahead: "All who feel an interest in removing the obscurity that

envelopes our aboriginal history must be greatly gratified and

obliged by your zealous and effective endeavours..." As for the

antecedent work, it would "be the best feeler we can throw out. It

will soon show the world that we have antiquarian treasure among

us. ..." Adverse reaction to the introductory work would undoubt-

edly delay and perhaps prevent publication of the larger study. Un-

derstandably, Bartlett was startled with Squier's initial proposal of

three to four hundred pages of text. Such length was unnecessary for

"a recital of facts," and he further cautioned against giving too much

away in his article for Silliman, advising, as Davis had, to excite only,

not satisfy curiosity over their investigations.25

By the spring of 1847, Squier and Davis's investigations were essen-

tially completed, and it was obvious that the cost of publishing the

entire manuscript exceeded the financial resources of the American

Ethnological Society. The need to limit the scope of their ambitious

project was averted, however, by the timely counsel of Congressman

George Perkins Marsh, a member of the Ethnological Society and re-

gent of the Smithsonian Institution. Marsh suggested that Squier

would do well to submit the manuscript to the Secretary of the

Smithsonian, Professor Joseph Henry of Princeton. Henry was inter-

ested and, given the liberal endowment of the Institute, likely to pub-



24. Davis to Squier, December 24 and 29, 1846, SPLC. Dickenson unsuccessfully at-

tempted to open a museum for his artifacts, which were later sold to the University of

Pennsylvania. See Steward Culin, "The Dickenson College of American Antiquity," Uni-

versity of Pennsylvania Musuem Bulletin, 2 (1900), 113-68. Davis was initially no more

successful in placing his treasures, alternatively known as the "Davis" and "Squier-

Davis Collection." In 1863 he at long last sold these artifacts to William Blackmore of

Liverpool, England, who opened the Blackmore Museum for their display at Salisbury

in 1867. Squier's name was not mentioned in the transaction, he being then in Peru. See

Edward [Thomas] Stevens, Flint Chips: A Guide to Pre-Historic Archaeology as

Illustrated by the Collection in the Blackmore Museum, Salisbury (London, 1870). The

artifacts were later sold to the British Museum, where they remain despite efforts to ef-

fect their return.

25. Bartlett to Squier, September 10 and November 13, 1846, and February 8, 1847,


Question of Authorship 63

Question of Authorship                                          63


lish their findings in full. If accepted, the work would appear in the

best possible letter press and illustration, and would probably earn

for its authors liberal remuneration. Publication under the auspices of

the newly established Institute would be "a better honorarium for

your labors than you can hope for in any other way."26

Marsh's wise counsel now urged Squier onward to the final draft-

ing of the Squier-Davis manuscript. Having been temporarily di-

verted from his writing by a short stint as Clerk of the Ohio House of

Representatives, Squier now reported, "I have scarcely been out of

doors for the past 70 days, except perhaps to verify some measure-

ments. Since the legislature adjourned, I have written not far from

800 foolscap pages, besides making sketches and drawings." No

worse for the wear, Squier reported to be in good health and spirits:

"Exercise is repairing the exhaustion of five months of sedentary ap-

plication." With the Herculean task completed, Squier now sought

release from any obligation to publish exclusively with the American

Ethnological Society. Gallatin enthusiastically agreed to publish only

the introductory article, the Smithsonian to present the large work in

a folio edition. The initial estimated cost of printing the engravings

alone amounted to $3,500, the manuscript in toto from $5,000 to


Final consideration for acceptance by the Smithsonian involved

the formation of an evaluative committee to appraise the originality

and value of the manuscript, which was initially entitled, "Archaeo-

logical Researches: An Inquiry Into the Origin and Purposes of the

Monuments and Remains of the Mississippi Valley." At Henry's re-

quest, Gallatin formed a blue-ribbon committee from the ranks of the

American Ethnological Society consisting of Edward Robinson, W.

W. Turner, Samuel George Morton, Bartlett, and Marsh.28

Gallatin himself judged the work superior to that of Squier and

Davis's worthy precursor, Caleb Atwater, whose "Description of the

Antiquities Discovered in Ohio and Other Western States" was previ-

ously the most significant work on the subject.29 He concluded that



26. Marsh to Squier, February 23 and March 26, 1847, SPLC.

27. Squier to [Joel and Maria Squier] May 30 and June 9, 1847, Squier Papers; [Samuel

Foster Haven], "Account of the American Antiquarian Society," Squier and Davis Pa-


28. Not dealt with here is Squier and Davis's association with Morton and George

Robins Gliddon, leading lights of "the School of American Ethnology." See "Progress

of Ethnology in the United States," Ethnological Journal (September, 1848), 170-85. For

a vivid account of the American School see Stanton, The Leopard's Spots, passim.

29. "Description of the Antiquities Discovered in the State of Ohio and Other West-

ern States," Archaeologia Americana: Transactions of the American Antiquarian Socie-

ty, 1 (1820), 105-267.


64                                                OHIO HISTORY


"Squier and Davis are animated by that thorough love of truth

which renders their researches worthy of entire confidence." Galla-

tin's committee heartily concurred. They were particularly impressed

with the narrative's clarity, simplicity, directness, and aversion to

theory. Marsh deemed it the first systematic study of American ar-

chaeology, and believed the Smithsonian publications "could not

begin with a more appropriate or credible essay." In similar praise,

Morton described the work as "by far the most important contribu-

tion to the Archaeology of the United States that has ever been of-

fered to the public." With the enthusiastic endorsement of such illu-

minati, the Smithsonian officially accepted the Squier-Davis

manuscript for publication in June of 1847.30

It was precisely in their moment of success, however, that Squier

and Davis's relationship began to deteriorate rapidly. During the fi-

nal deliberations of Gallatin's committee, both Squier and Davis had

traveled east to conclude matters with Henry. Afterwards, Davis re-

turned to Chillicothe while Squier remained in New York to superin-

tend the printing of their manuscript, thereby ending his residence

in Ohio. Thus separated, Davis became increasingly apprehensive

over Squier's failure to answer three letters; his silence made agree-

ment on revisions in the preface difficult, and Davis became pointed

in his suggestions and criticisms of proof sheets sent him by Squier.

The final break in their association came abruptly with release of the

report of Gallatin's evaluative committee. Davis read the report on

September 22, 1847, and then angrily penned his last letter to Squier.

He "was not only disappointed, but grieved to find they [the com-

mittee] had stepped out of their way to inflict severe injury on my

character." His resentment centered on the original wording of the

committee's second resolution: "we agree the work prepared by Mr.

Squier upon this subject is an object of general interest . . . worthy of

the subject and highly credible to the Author."31 Davis complained

of being unaware the committee had been empowered to decide au-

thorship of the manuscript, and believed the offending resolution

had been forced upon them. In pointed fashion he charged Squier

with foul play:

To say the least, I consider it a breach of our private understanding (an

arrangement of your own proposal as your letters show), and that too, with-



30. "Correspondence Relative to the Acceptance for Publication of the Ethnological

Memoir of Messrs. Squier and Davis," Smithsonian Annual Report (January 6, 1848),


31. Gallatin to Henry, June 16, 1847, SPLC.

Question of Authorship 65

Question of Authorship                                        65


out the slightest cause on my part to justify the course. I have never publicly

or privately claimed the literary honours of the work .... But my dear sir,

there are many other considerations no less worthy of honour, connected

with the authorship of such a work. For instance, the scientific portion, re-

quiring so much patient research into all branches of geology, minerology,

conchology, and even natural history together with many subjects too nu-

merous to mention here. Yet requiring that archaeological acumen which is

alone the result of long experience in conducting investigations . . . I can't

conceive that you desire to appropriate the whole of the credit, as the resolu-

tion does to yourself, nor will I as yet believe it was intended-I should re-

gret very much the occurrence of anything that should disturb that friend-

ship which has sprung from several years of constant intercourse.32

In prompt reply, Squier expressed astonishment at the tone of

Davis's letter. He saw nothing objectionable in the report, and

denied having any influence with the committee: "I suggested noth-

ing, asked nothing, knew nothing of it..." Taking umbrage at

Davis's seeming breach of friendship, Squier resolved that justice

would be done to himself and his work, and delivered the

"ultimatum" to Henry that the title page and preface must reflect the

responsibility for the work as fully his own.

As for Davis's contributions to the partnership, Squier considered

himself consistently generous in the apportioning of credit, "al-

though the work was wholly and exclusively my own, so far as de-

sign and execution are concerned." It had always been his intention,

Squier added, to grant Davis equal credit, even though Squier

claimed to have "made every drawing, written every paragraph, and

personally surveyed every mound." Beyond Davis's initial outlay of

money, Squier asserted, he performed only perfunctory tasks: carry-

ing the surveyor's chain and cleaning and arranging artifacts, chores

capable of being "performed by any boy in the country possessing

ordinary intelligence." In these circumstances, Squier considered it

an "excess of impudence" for Davis to suggest that his name should

appear first on the title page. Moreover, he was infuriated by the ac-

cusations made in Davis's letter to others, which impugned his char-

acter by claiming he was "endeavoring to rob him of honours which

he never earned."33

And accusations there were. Davis openly sought allies among

those familiar with their association, such as Samuel Foster Haven.

More than any other easterner, Haven knew firsthand the mechanics



32. Davis to Squier, June 27 and September 22, 1847, SPLC.

33. Squier to Davis, September 30, 1847, and Squier to Henry, December 31, 1847, in



66                                              OHIO HISTORY


of their collaboration. He had first met Squier and Davis in Bartlett's

New York office, and had been present at their initial interview with

Henry. Additionally, as Librarian of the American Antiquarian Socie-

ty, he had been sent on a fact-finding tour of their field of operations

at the time of Squier and Davis's application for assistance. There he

had examined the principal Ohio works at Portsmouth, Marietta,

Chillicothe, and Newark, and learned "the views of persons living

among the remains themselves, or who . . . had made them the sub-

ject of study." Davis had hosted Haven during his stay in Chilli-

cothe, and counted him among his friends.34

Accordingly, Davis's invective against Squier is most clear in his

correspondence to Haven. Davis chafed at the unequal share of hon-

ors originally granted Squier by the American Ethnological Society:

"nice distinction indeed! to denominate me a mere explorer, while

the whole credit of preparing the work is given to another." He chal-

lenged their authority to determine authorship of the manuscript

submitted under joint title, and painfully recalled Haven's earlier pre-

science: "I have often thought of your prediction 'that my little

friend would run off with the lion's share.' It has been verified to the

letter and even further. He is now first in research; all in preparing the


To bolster further his plea for redress, Davis sought to enlist Haven

into his campaign of correspondence against Squier, and submitted to

Haven a "history" of his association with him. He held that Squier

knew little or nothing of mounds before his arrival in Chillicothe,

"having never seen before an ancient earthwork." Furthermore, giv-

en Squier's duties as editor of the Gazette and then as Clerk of the

Ohio House of Representatives, Davis incredulously wondered

"where has he had the time to do everything?" For himself Davis

claimed much experience, knowledge, and "one of the best collec-

tions of antiquities from the mounds in the western country," before

ever having met his partner.

The beginning of that partnership, Davis reiterated, was exclusive-

ly Squier's proposal: that he join Davis as a "junior partner" in his on-

going explorations. Elated at having met a kindred spirit, Davis ac-

cepted the proposal, saying of Squier: "He came into the firm

bringing a ready pen and skillful pencil, with some knowledge of sur-

veying." In tandem they opened and surveyed antiquities for the two




34. [Haven], "Account of the American Antiquarian Society," Squier and Davis Pa-


Question of Authorship 67

Question of Authorship                                             67


years of their association,35 "(and almost entirely at the expense of

the senior partner)." At the end of their activities in the field,

... the junior partner takes up his abode in the library and cabinet of the

senior, where both toil almost day and night for many months producing the

work in question. Now who is entitled to the most credit? I am of a tempera-

ment to bear most things, but this is beyond all forbearance.... I conceive

myself wronged by the last one who should have inflicted an injury upon


At least in part, then, Davis implied that Ancient Monuments was as

much a result of his years of solitary research as of his association

with Squier. With such an open breach in their relationship, all that

now remained of their association was publication of the monograph.

Continuation of their personal dispute, however, and the related is-

sue of due credit to contributors, delayed its appearance and threat-

ened severe consequences for the authors and the Smithsonian.

During their investigations, Squier and Davis made use of several

surveys of James McBride of Hamilton, Ohio, Charles Whittlesey of

Summit County, and a few from Dr. Samuel P. Hildreth of Marietta

and Dr. John Locke of Cincinnati.37 Much of the same stripe as

Davis, all had distinguished themselves in antiquarian avocations.

Early in their collaboration, Squier and Davis had turned to Mc-

Bride for advice in the printing and illustrating of their projected

work. Davis had been particularly keen on examining McBride's col-

lection of drawings, hoping to select the best for publication with

their own. Writing to "Father McBride," Davis obtained permission

to use his drawings and notes,whereupon several of the "old man's

sketches" were incorporated into the Squier-Davis manuscript. Fur-

thermore, Davis was insistent that McBride's name should clearly

appear on all selected surveys, understanding that McBride had ex-

pressed concern over receiving due credit for his labors.38

Davis's uneasiness proved well-founded. Shortly after his own



35. Davis claimed to have joined Squier in the excavation of over one hundred

mounds, and to have personally surveyed about fifty earthworks. See Davis to John

Davis, February 22, 1847, Squier and Davis Papers. Elsewhere, however, he allowed

that his medical practice at times prevented him from accompanying Squire in the field.

See Davis to Bartlett, October 27, 1846, Bartlett Papers, John Carter Brown Library,

Providence, Rhode Island.

36. Davis to Haven, October 12, 1847, Squier and Davis Papers.

37. See James L. Murphy, "Authorship of Squier and Davis's Maps of the Marietta

Earthworks: A Belated Correction," Ohio Archaeologist, 27 (Summer, 1977), 20-21.

38. Squier and Davis to McBride, September 10, 1846, McBride Papers, Cincinnati

Historical Society; Davis to Squier, June 15, July 3, December 29, 1846, and July 1, 1847,



68                                                       OHIO HISTORY


break with Squier, the issue of crediting contributors to their re-

search became a matter of contention. The controversy centered on

the appearance of Squier's preliminary article for Gallatin.39 In a letter

appearing in the Cincinnati Gazette, Squier was charged with unjustly

appropriating credit for McBride's labors. The author, identified as

"J. W. E." and a friend of McBride, objected to Squier's manner of

crediting McBride's surveys, which required the "aid of good

glasses." The writer hoped the situation would be rectified in the

forthcoming Smithsonian publication.40

As a regent of the Smithsonian, Marsh was deeply troubled by

this allegation. Marsh believed that if McBride had indeed made

his surveys and drawings independently, he had a right to expect

his name would appear as the author instead of merely the surveyor.

McBride eased tensions by informing Squier he had full confidence

in his honor and integrity, and denied having ever doubted he

would receive anything but his full due. He claimed not to have seen

the letter in question, and was unaware his name had been men-

tioned. McBride did acknowledge, however, that Charles Whittle-

sey had written him, stating his apprehension that Squier would not

give due credit for several of the former's surveys of Miami County,


Whittlesey began his archaeological investigations as Topographi-

cal Engineer for the Ohio Geological Survey in 1837, and had known

Davis at least since that time. In a curt letter of complaint to Squier, he

too objected to the "spirit" pervading his introductory article, and

protested Squier's tendency to refer to all other explorers as anony-

mous: "A reader not otherwise acquainted with the fact, would infer

that before you there were none worthy of notice . . . that you are

the original and principal source of information." Whittlesey could

not believe Davis would ignore such worthy predecessors as Thad-



39. E. G. Squier, "Observations on the Aboriginal Monuments of the Mississippi

Valley," Transactions of the American Ethnological Society, 2 (1847), 131-204; and pub-

lished separately as a pamphlet (New York, 1847). Squier's briefer abstract for Silliman

had also appeared by this time. See "Observations on the Use of the Mounds of the

West with an Attempt at Their Classification," American Journal of Science and Arts, 3

sec. s. (May, 1847), 237-48; also published separately as a pamphlet (New Haven, 1847).

Although these articles were clearly based on Squier-Davis research, Davis receives

only passing mention in them. In a footnote to the introductory work for Gallatin, Davis is

identified as co-author of the forthcoming Smithsonian memoir, and as an "associate"

in the abridgement for Silliman.

40. Cincinnati Gazette, December 30, 1847. "J. W. E." was in all likelihood J. W.

Erwin, Engineer of the Miami Canal and McBride's assistant in several surveys of Ohio


41. McBride to Squier, January 25, and 27, 1848, SPLC.

Question of Authorship 69

Question of Authorship                                     69


deus Mason Harris, Rufus Putnam, Daniel Drake, Caleb Atwater,

John Locke, and James McBride. Furthermore, he had fully ex-

pected that his own contributions would be granted more recogni-

tion than they had so far received. Accordingly, he could not be so

accommodating as to allow his labors to be appropriated by another,

and desired the return of his contributed plans and descriptions, to

"abide future events." It was only after receiving a full explanation

and assurances of Squier's intentions that Whittlesey agreed to their

further use and apologized for any injury to Squier's feelings or repu-

tation. He nevertheless regretted that he and Davis had not joined

him in producing an account of all surveys to date.42

Such controversies were a source of frustration to all parties con-

cerned. Apart from their potential to besmirch Squier's reputation,

they also threatened to forestall or prevent altogether his plans to

publish a second Smithsonian monograph on the antiquities of his

native state.43 Moreover, Marsh and Henry were wary of the possible

consequences of Squier and Davis's continuing feud. Marsh had as-

sumed the existence of a private understanding between them rela-

tive to authorship, was aware that Squier had drafted the manu-

script, and further assumed that he had also made collateral

investigations with Davis. Urging generosity as the best course,

Marsh counseled Squier that "the whole literary credit will in the

end redound to you, and that you can well afford to spare a crumb to

those who have occupied a humbler rank than yourself in the field

of labor." He advised an easy corrective to the situation: Squier

should arrange the title page, preface, sketches, and plans of contrib-

utors so as to clearly give full credit to all concerned.44

Henry also desired a speedy and equitable settlement of griev-

ances. He could not tolerate the very real possibility of a public fray

over authorship and contributions to the Smithsonian's initial publi-

cation. Accordingly, he attempted a carrot-and-stick solution to the

problem by delaying the release of Ancient Monuments on the one

hand, and directly appealing to Squier's ambition and vanity on the







42. Whittlesey to Squier, December 6 and 20, 1847, SPLC. For a supplement to

Squier and Davis's Ancient Monuments see Whittlesey's "Description of Ancient Works

in Ohio," Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, 3 (1852).

43. E. G. Squier, "Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York," Smithsonian

Contributions to Knowledge, 2 (1849).

44. Marsh to Squier, January 7, 1848, SPLC.


70                                                OHIO HISTORY


I consider your [Squier's] present prospects superior to those of any other

young man of my acquaintance and with proper prudence and a continued

and laborious use of your talents you will secure a lasting reputation and com-

mand not only respect but funds sufficient to providing your researches over

the whole american continent [sic] . . .

Such future success, however, depended on a change in Squier's cur-

rent manner of dealing with Davis: "You must make up your mind to

act not only justly but perhaps generously towards Dr. D."45 Private-

ly, however, Henry confided his exasperations to the noted botanist

Asa Gray: "The attention which Squier has received from some of

the great men in Boston and New York has nearly turned his head

and caused him to give me considerable trouble."46

Squier resented such importunities and what he felt to be the mis-

takenly neutral position of the Smithsonian. Moreover, he was further

incensed by Davis's unexpected appearance in New York, and could

not comprehend why Henry and the regents demanded Davis's

presence during the final printing: "He had done nothing, will do

nothing, can do nothing." Seeking an end to his vexations with

Davis, Squier submitted his own account of their relationship.

Predictably his rememberances ran counter to those of his estranged

colleague, and were far more begrudging than his public acknowl-

edgement of Davis's contributions in the controversial preface of An-

cient Monuments.

Squier claimed to have had an interest in American antiquities prior

to his arrival in Chillicothe. Dissatisfied with existing accounts of the

mounds, he had already determined to conduct his own inquiry. It

was then, he recalled, that he met Davis. Their mutual interest fos-

tered a working relationship, and he was "gratified" that Davis

agreed to accompany him on visits to local works. He further claimed

to have allowed Davis to make copies of his notes and plans; Davis,

he maintained, had made no previous surveys, maps, or plans, "nor

has he opened a single mound, or if he had, certainly could tell

nothing of their contents." Davis's medical practice, he avowed, al-

lowed him little time to do more than add specimens to his cabinet,

the contents of which Squier claimed half-ownership.47 Such dispu-

tations became a matter of litigation between the authors, and talk of




45. [Joseph Henry to Squier, ca. November 24, 1847], Joseph Henry Papers, Smith-

sonian Institution Archives.

46. Henry to Asa Gray, January 10, 1848, in Nathan Reingold, ed., Science in

Nineteenth-Century America: A Documentary History (New York, 1964), 159.

47. Squier to Henry, June 8, 1848, SPLC.

Question of Authorship 71

Question of Authorship                                                71


lawsuits continued for some time. Despite such controversy, however,

Ancient Monuments finally made its public appearance.48

In after years, Squier's integrity would continue to be assailed by

his detractors in Ohio.49 For his part, Davis would ever regret "my

ill-started connection with Mr. S." He remained indignant over

Squier's habit of referring to Ancient Monuments as "my" work; this

"worse-than-egoism" was a recurring source of irritation to the em-

bittered Davis. Moreover, he continued to fear for his future reputa-

tion, "because efforts have been made to appropriate the results of

my labors for the benefit of others."50

An attempt to determine the relative weight of Squier and Davis's

contributions is difficult at best. Unquestionably there would have

been no Ancient Monuments but for Squier's ambition, relentless

drive, and superior managerial skills. The finished product bears his

indelible stamp. Nonetheless, Davis's familiarity with western antiq-

uities and antiquarians, his knowledge of natural history and scientif-

ic training, his prized collection of artifacts, and his willingness to in-

vest time and money into the explorations were of inestimable value.

With such generous aid the talented and ambitious Squier indeed

accomplished much. That he could have done so without Davis's

collaboration is open to historical speculation.















48. Also published separately from vol. 1 of Smithsonian Contributions to Knowl-

edge. E. G. Squier, A. M. and E. H. Davis, M.D., Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi

Valley: Comprising the Results of Extensive Original Surveys and Explorations (New

York and Cincinnati, 1848). Of the separately published edition, appearing at the exor-

bitant subscription price of $10.00, Squier received two-thirds of the meager profits.

Squier to [Joel and Maria Squier], March 10, 1848, Squier Papers.

49. One such partisan was Col. James F. Wharton, a contributor to Ancient Monu-

ments. He later recalled, in another context, that Squier "knew nothing of archaeology"

before his arrival in Chillicothe, where he "got hold of Dr. Davis's collection and notes,

skimmed over the state of some, collecting what notes he could, and in 1847 went east to

publish .. ." Wharton to J. P. Maclean, June 19, 1879, in [John Patterson] Maclean, The

Mound Builders (Cincinnati, 1879), 98-99.

50. Davis to Henry, September 21, 1848; Davis to Haven, March 29, 1858, Squier and

Davis Papers; and Davis to Jas. McCormick, November, 1853, Archives of the Kenyon

College Library, Gambier, Ohio.