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Benjamin Welcome Hathaway
1881-1959
Benjamin Welcome Hathaway is related to 183 records

As the initial Curator and Director of the California State Indian Museum, Benjamin Welcome Hathaway (1881-1959) was the first architect of the collection. Within his foothill hometown of Ophir, California, Hathaway's zeal for collecting Indian material began at the age of seven when he took over his father's small museum. He quit public school after the eighth grade to devote the majority of his spare time toward collecting throughout the Sierra foothills and along the banks of the Sacramento River.

In the early 1900s Hathaway's collecting hobby was funded by various odd jobs including those of shipbuilder, contractor, upholsterer, trucker, and eventually welder for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Sacramento. He was also a member of the local Masonic Lodge in Sacramento, which contributed greatly to his growing private collection. Fellow Masonic members, among them State officials, began to take notice.

By 1926, Hathaway had classified and prepared enough material to display an exhibit at the California State Fair. He then loaned his collection to the State of California, moving it from his home to the State Library and Courts Building in 1927. This loan marked the beginning of the California State Indian Exhibit.

In 1928, Hathaway was granted a temporary state position as "Custodian" of the Indian Exhibit. His new title allowed him to solicit advice and support from college and university faculty. Professor A.G. Zallio of Sacramento City College and Dr. A.L. Kroeber at the University of California, Berkeley assisted Hathaway with several collection projects. By 1933, Mr. Hathaway was appointed as the first Curator of the California State Indian Exhibit.

Mr. Hathaway's ledger book, notes, and correspondences reflect extensive purchases from commercial dealers and private collectors. Between the years 1927 and 1941, Hathaway acquired large, historically significant collections of basketry from several early California residents, such as the Hearn, Diggles, and Kelly-MacCallum families.

Judging from Hathaway's records, he also actively participated in field collecting directly from Indian basket weavers and their family members. According to the late Anne Hathaway, his wife, and through personal correspondence, his relationship with Indian weavers was based on goodwill and kinship, particularly during the Depression-era period. In particular is his relationship with the Patwin-Wintun communities at Rumsey and Cortina. Mr. Hathaway's ledger book includes entries for baskets purchased at Rumsey from January 1934 through 1941 in which he made 39 visits. During this time, Hathaway established a patron-artisan relationship with Rumsey resident and weaver Mabel McKay and her family.

In early 1939, Hathaway was forced to move his ever-expanding Indian Exhibit from the Capitol Building to a small concrete room in an R Street warehouse. The City of Sacramento Chamber of Commerce and both Sacramento newspapers staunchly advocated relocating the collection to the California National Bank Building at Seventh and J Streets. The Bank Building allowed Hathaway ample space to display hundreds of baskets, along with the many other cultural objects he had collected. The Sacramento Bee reported that: "Among the 2,000 woven baskets on display is one which Hathaway contends is one of the finest examples of Indian weaving in the United States . . . a large basket, fashioned by women of the Pomo tribe in Mendocino County."

On December 13, 1940 the California State Indian Museum became the permanent home for Hathaway's collections. For the next ten years, Hathaway continued to make acquisitions primarily among Indian communities along the Klamath River and from private collectors. His last major purchase comprised a number of Yurok items from W.S. Waers. Upon his retirement in 1951, the Benjamin Welcome Hathaway Collection, as appraised and purchased by the State of California, numbered 37,536 catalogued items, including 592 baskets.

Source: California State Museum Resource Center, Hathaway Archival Collection, researched by April Farnham.




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Primary Name:  Benjamin Welcome Hathaway