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Reviewed by:
  • David Crockett Graham (1884–1961) as Zoological Collector and Anthropologist in China
  • Nicholas Tapp (bio)
Hartmut Walravens, editor. David Crockett Graham (1884–1961) as Zoological Collector and Anthropologist in China. Opera Sinologica Documenta 1. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006. 251 pp. with index. Paperback €58, ISBN 3–447–05042–X.

David Crockett Graham, FRGS, spent most of his life in Sichuan Province, where he was curator of the West China Union University’s Museum of Archaeology, Art, and Ethnology. At first he was stationed in Suifu (now Yibin), then transferred to Chengdu in 1932. He produced monographs and major articles on religions in Sichuan, the Qiang, and the “Lolo” (Nosu, or Yi) people, and his 1954 collection of Miao (Hmong) tales and legends from Sichuan is superlative. Parts of his collection can still be seen at Chengdu University, where the museum he ran continues, but the greater part of it is at the Smithsonian Institution, which he was attached to as a collector for the U.S. National Museum since 1919. Although the Smithsonian website ( ) has a short biography of him and a list of the various boxes in which his diaries and papers are kept, this collection is a valuable piece of archival footnoting to what must have been quite an extraordinary career. Graham presented two live pandas to the New York Zoo and about 400,000 specimens to the Smithsonian (p. 8). Some of the letters collected here to introduce his diaries make amusing reading: “October 22, 1925. Dear Mr. Graham, It gives me pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of four frogs, eight snakes, two salamanders and three lizards, seventy-two fishes, one hundred and thirty-five specimens, seventeen species of molluscs, thirty-seven bird skins, two mammals, three crabs, fifty shrimps, one earthworm, and a collection of miscellaneous insects . . .” (p. 33). The letters, from Alexander Wetmore, who later became the sixth Secretary of the Smithsonian (1944–1952), are stored at Whitman College, where Graham graduated before becoming a Baptist minister in 1911.

As the introduction (pp. 7–9) says, probably the most valuable part of this volume is the bibliography of Graham’s 177 works (pp. 11–27), including his monographs and many contributions on archaeology, anthropology, and natural history to journals such as the Chinese Recorder and the Journal of the West China Border Research Society (JWCBRS); besides these, he published one article on the Lolo in American Anthropologist (1930) and several in Man (1938–1939) There is also a one-page list (p. 28) of short notices and (mainly) newspaper articles, and one senior thesis, perhaps at the Smithsonian, about Graham and aspects of his work. Sketch maps of his collection treks accompanying the relevant diaries are provided at the back (pp. 246–251), after the index. Graham was a folklorist, a Christian, a collector of animal and plant specimens, and an observer of human traits. The locals called him “Da Ren” (Great Man), according to his own notes. The [End Page 251] value of this collection is hard to assess, except as a piece of antiquarian interest. The diaries are not particularly well written—they do not compare well, for example, to those of his contemporary Samuel Pollard in Yunnan, extracts from which were published both by the latter’s son and by R. E. Kendall in 1954. And unlike the Pollard diaries, there is not a word about God in them, perhaps because they were intended mainly as records for the Smithsonian of his collecting expeditions. Yet flitting through them may give one a taste of what life was like at that time for unusual men like Graham who devoted themselves to a life in China engaged in proselytism and research.

Graham, who received his doctorate in practical theology from Chicago in 1927 before further studies in cultural anthropology at Chicago and Harvard, must have been busy, taking anthropometric measurements of the Chinese and “aborigines” around him, attending to their ailments as a doctor, hunting all kinds of animals and birds, training taxidermists, collecting cultural artifacts and specimens of flora and fauna, developing his photographs, delivering sermons and even a speech on modern American women, teaching at the...