'We Contacted Smithsonian': The Wetherills at Mesa Verde

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Discusses the dispute between the Benjamin K. Wetherill family of Mancos, Colorado, and the Smithsonian. According to the Wetherills, the Smithsonian was contacted after their 1888 discovery of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, but the Smithsonian showed little interest in the area's remains. This story is portrayed by Willa Cather in "The Professor's House." The article details the exchange of correspondence that exists between the Wetherills and the Smithsonian, especially Secretary Samuel P. Langley and Smithsonian archaeologist William Henry Holmes.


  • Cather, Willa
  • Holmes, William Henry 1846-1933
  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Wetherill, Benjamin K


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Six photographs accompany the article, which is extensively footnoted.

Contained within

New Mexico Historical Review Vol. 62 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


July 1987


  • Archaeology
  • Secretaries
  • Ethnology
  • Anthropology
  • Fiction


  • Mesa Verde National Park (Colo.)
  • North America

Physical description

pp. 229-248

Full Record

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