Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A thank you to all who have been a part of the adventure

I was just thinking that I have neglected to publicly thank all of the wonderful people who worked with me on this documentary. I'm almost afraid to name names for fear that I leave anyone out.

Bert Atkinson, thank you for your time and for sharing your appreciation of Charles Lummis with me. I look forward to seeing your documentary one day, and I hope that you will keep at it. There is no one more devoted to this subject than you.

I want to thank Kim Walters, for all of your time and sharing your remarkable knowledge of Charles Lummis, the importance of his legacy and his impact on California and Los Angeles. Jonathan Spaulding, thank you for the beautiful script that you wrote so well and for all of our pow-wows and plans. I am very grateful to you for all of fun we shared working on this!

Thanks to Neal Brown for driving out to the Mojave Desert to film our promo, which is beautiful. Beth Spiegel, thank you for editing our footage and holding my hand. Pablo Castel de Oro, your re-enactment of Lummis tramping across the desert was most convincing! And thank you to our crew, Andrew McKay, Nikki Rose and Cesar Cejudo.I'll never forget what fun we shared, including the delicious fiesta that followed!

Melinda Utal-Martinez- you kept me afloat when I thought I couldn't keep going. You are someone that everyone should have close by when navigating an ambitious undertaking! Mary Trunk gave me wonderful filmmaker to filmmaker advice, as did my entire supportive Cinewomen group.

Mark Thompson, I revisited our interview at the Southwest Museum many times for information, thank you. Lisa Posas, thank you for your help as the project began. Your interest meant so much to me. Marilyn Van Winkle, thank you for the images that you helped me to license and for your positive encouragement. Dennis Harbach, thank you for your interest and offer to help. Lynn Holley, thank you for your efforts and friendship. I know I'm leaving people out, but today felt like a good day to say thank you.

Lastly, I want to mention and thank Scott Shumaker. I'm so happy to have discovered you, and our lunch at the Autry was inspiring and fun. I love that you followed the path of Charles Lummis and shared it so interestingly. Keep at it. You are a very fine writer! http://southwesttramp2010.blogspot.com/2010/01/finding-lummis-trail.html

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Researching Today

                           Photo Courtesy of Autry National Center/Southwest Museum Los Angeles P_8405

I've spent the past week examining many of the astonishing photos in the Lummis archive that we've collected over the past three years. I'm so thankful to the Autry National Center for sharing these files with us to include in the documentary, and so look forward to sharing them with a wide audience~!

Today I was looking at a book written by Bradley B. Williams, entitled Charles F. Lummis: Crusader With A Camera. I love the title. Here is a passage from the book that I enjoyed, because it made me imagine what it must have been like to meet such a colorful character as Charlie. Enjoy.

 In 1889 Mr and Mrs Clay Needham were traveling on the newly completed Santa Fe railroad on their way west when just outside Albuquerque the conductor asked if they would mind sharing their Pullman with another man. The conductor assured the Needham's that the gentleman would not only be an entertaining companion, but was also an authority on the Southwest. In a moment the porter arrived with some baggage, followed by a rather small man dressed in a faded corduroy suit and cowboy hat, a .44 calibre revolver strapped to his belt. ‘My name is Lummis’, the little man said, extending his right hand, his left hanging lifeless at his side, ‘and I live in Los Angeles’. Mrs Needham stared incredulously at the corduroy cowboy. ‘Not C. F. Lummis, the author of “"Quito's Nugget"”!’ she said, glancing knowingly at her husband and then at the visitor. ‘Yes’, came the reply. ‘I wrote that tale’.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lummis and the Founding of the Southwest Museum by Kim Walters

                                  Photograph of the construction of the Caracol Tower, Southwest Museum circa 1913  
                                         Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; Photo #S1.493

We are so fortunate to have Kim Walters as our film's Advisor and knowledgeable member of our creative engine. She recently shared with us this great article that she wrote about the founding of the Southwest Museum.


Kim Walters ©

The Southwest Museum founded in 1907 is a product of the period in the United States when museums, educational institutions and academic fields of study were being created to acquire archaeological and ethnological material, knowledge of Southwestern and Native America and other cultures throughout the world, and it is an excellent example of this type of institution which focused on acquiring knowledge through systematic study and education dissemination programming. Contextually it relates to the realization of the importance to study archaeology throughout the United States and, specifically in California and the Southwestern United States. Further the distinguished work of various professionals associated with the Southwest Museum is important to the development in the academic fields archaeology and ethnology and study of American and Southwestern United States cultures, and museums in the United States with education programs related specifically to Southwestern and Native American material. 

In the United States during the mid to late nineteenth century the majority of museums which collected archaeological and ethnological materials relating to Native Americans were established. Many of these new institutions were natural history museums. The academic disciplines of anthropology and archaeology were beginning in the United States. In mid-nineteenth century Europe, anthropology as a discipline grew out of natural history, as the study of human beings. The study of language, culture, physiology, and artifacts of European colonies was more or less equivalent to studying the flora and fauna of those places. Anthropology as a professional discipline in the United States was established in the early 1900s with the first Ph.D. program at Columbia University under Franz Boas. This is the cultural and social context in which Charles Lummis founded the Southwest Museum.

The founder of the Southwest Museum, Charles F. Lummis, had many colleagues from these eastern institutions and was concerned about material leaving the Southwest and what this meant to future generations. He transformed his vision into a viable institution with the Museum's incorporation in 1907. His life long friendship with Adolph Bandelier exposed Lummis to many cultures in the Americas. Lummis’ experience with Bandelier in Peru and Bolivia on an archaeological expedition in 1893 influenced his ideas about archaeology. Lummis also had a close friendship with Frank Hamilton Cushing whose work and collecting for the Smithsonian Institution, the British Museum and a national Museum in Germany further helped to form Lummis’ vision for establishing a museum in the Southwest.

When Lummis became the editor of the Land of Sunshine magazine in 1895, in his earliest issue he wrote his editorial comments about establishing a museum dedicated to vast and varied interests in Southern California. Lummis wanted the museum’s mission to include a range of scientific and aesthetic interests that would highlight the seven counties in Southern California. The collection and study of flora, fauna, ethnology and archaeology were to be paramount to this new institution. In the next three issues he wrote articles dedicated to important private collections of Palmer-Campbell and Yates that focused on materials relating to Southern California. His idea for a museum took tangible form in 1903 with the founding of the Southwest Society, the western branch of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA).

When Francis W. Kelsey, general secretary of the Archaeological Institute of America, wanted to expand the influence of the Institute beyond the East through local affiliates, he reached out to fellow Harvard graduates for support. Kelsey was trying to get more people to focus on United States archaeology through local affiliates support of the parent organization by way of dues and programs. Within two years of its founding the Southwest Society had more members then the other 21 branches of the AIA.

Once Lummis agreed to establish the Southwest Society, he began to pursue his idea of a museum. Within the year he began to solicit collections and to raise money in order to purchase collections. One of the first was the Palmer-Campbell Collections of Southern California Archaeology and Baskets. He also hired Frank M. Palmer as curator to maintain his collections. In keeping "archaeology alive" Lummis began to record California Spanish folk songs. Early in 1906 Lummis and the Executive Committee of the Southwest Society began to look for land in order to his idea of a “great museum” come to fruition. The group secured 38 acres of land in Highland Park in its current location in the spring of 1907. The Southwest Museum became a reality on December 31, 1907 when it received its letters of incorporation from the State of California.

Lummis was of the opinion the Eastern museums and the national museums of Germany, England and Spain were carrying out expeditions to amass archaeological materials from the southwestern United States, that he felt belonged in the Southwest. At the time Lummis wrote it was time “to save something for Our children.” Once the Southwest Society began collecting artifacts (1905), a museum exhibition space was established in the Pacific Electric building in downtown Los Angeles. It was moved in 1908 to the Hamburger Building where it was housed until the Southwest Museum building opened in 1914.

Lummis’ interests also lay in conducting systematic archaeological surveys in the Southwest as an important means of developing museum collections in order to save them for research. The first project sponsored by the Society was conducted by Frank M. Palmer in 1905 in Redondo Beach, California. During this time Lummis battled with the Department of Interior to be able to carry on archaeological field work in Arizona on Indian Reservations. He finally succeeded and was granted a permit to work on federal land with the provision that the Society report findings to the Bureau of American Ethnology. While Lummis was working on this, he and Edgar L. Hewett were instrumental in getting the 1906 Antiquities Act passed, with the hopes of stalling the excavations of sites in the Southwest. Lummis and the Southwest Society funded the early excavations of the pueblo of Puye in New Mexico by Edgar L. Hewett with the idea that Lummis would get exhibit quality objects that were eventually be featured in the museum’s Hamburger Building space.

He also wanted to establish other museums or research centers throughout the Southwest to promote learning and scientific advancements. Lummis was in contact with the corporate headquarters of the Archaeological Institute of America about this idea, while they were in the process of establishing the School of American Research. He tried to get them to bring it to Los Angeles, but they thought it was better in Santa Fe because the staff would be in the region where they were conducting research.

Unlike many of his contemporaries who founded museums, such as George Gustav Heye, Lummis was not wealthy. He did not have a personal systematic collection and was not necessarily careful about recording provenance of objects. Rather, he acquired mementos and souvenirs that had meaning for him because of their age, or their associations with people and events. Other contemporaries of Lummis' such as Heye, Sheldon Jackson, Rudolf F. Haffenreffer, Phoebe Apperson Hearst and Mary Cabbot Wheelwright were amassing Native American material for their personal interests. They too began to take interests in establishing museums.

George Heye was able to use his personal wealth and compulsive behavior to collect any type of material culture he wanted. Heye also was more interested in the "stuff" than in the provenance. He funded expeditions to gather material which he split with the American Museum of Natural History and then later with the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Always having the first pick of the materials discovered, Heye amassed a large enough collection that he decided to establish his own museum in New York City, the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation in 1916. Heye continued to purchase collections, especially immediately following the Stock Market crash. This collection is now the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.

The Southwest Museum according to Lummis' early vision as written in 1895 was at first a general museum that represented material culture, the flora and fauna of Southern California. Although his 1907 article indicates that the museum is to focus on the cultures of the Southwest which includes, California, Arizona and New Mexico. When J. A. B. Scherer took over as director in 1926 the Museum's collection began to be more focused on Native Americans. Scherer argued that there were other museums in the Los Angeles area collection the natural history specimens, so he wanted the Museum to refocus back to Lummis’ original vision. “The Modern American museum is first of all an educational institution. It supplements our general educational system at two points: sharing honors with the university in increasing knowledge through scientific research, and assisting ‘the grades’ by bringing large numbers of pupils into direct contact with typical and inspiring examples of nature or art, scientifically exhibited and sympathetically interpreted.” The staff looked at the Museum's collection and began to exchange the flora and fauna with other local institutions such as The Los Angeles Museum of Art, History and Science (now the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) Beginning in 1932, during the tenure of well known anthropologist Frederick Webb Hodge as the Museum’s director, the focus on Native American culture was established. A sizable percentage of the present Southwest Museum collections were amassed under Hodge's leadership.

The Southwest Museum collections relate to Native Americans from Alaska to Terra del Fuego. The Museum garnered its reputation through its publication series and the systematic archaeological surveys and excavations its staff conducted from the mid-1920s through to the early 1960s. The staff worked in Arizona, Mexico, Nevada and California. The Museum research library includes manuscript, photographs and sound recordings collections. Many of the items in the manuscript collections relate to the development of archaeology and anthropology in the United States. Today collections of the Museum are utilized by national and international researchers.

With the founding the Southwest Society and later to the Southwest Museum, Lummis intended to bring a cultural institution to Los Angeles, to make Los Angeles the center of art and culture in California , and to establish ties with fledging national museums, primarily located in the East. In his writings he makes reference to New York, Boston and Chicago as eastern art and cultural centers that Los Angeles should strive to emulate.

Beginning in 1926 with a now more focused institutional vision on anthropology and Native American cultures, the Southwest Museum’s new director James A. B. Scherer was responsible for hiring professional staff, such as Charles Amsden, Monroe Amsden, Harold Gladwin, and Mark Raymond Harrington. The research efforts and the publication of the findings of these distinguished archaeologists, anthropologists and other professionals were pivotal in the establishment of the Southwest Museum’s reputation as an important repository of Native American material. Scherer also started the Masterkey, the Southwest Museum membership magazine.


Hinsley, Curtis, 1981 Savages and Scientists: The Smithsonian Institution and the Development of American Anthropology, 1846-1910. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Hinsley, Curtis, 1994 The Smithsonian and the American Indian: Making a Moral Anthropology in Victorian America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Jacknis, Ira, 2006 “A New Thing? The NMAI in Historical and Institutional Perspective.” In American Indian Quarterly, vol. 30 no. 3&4. pp. 511-542.

Wilson, Thomas H. and Cheri Faulkenstien-Doyle, 1999 “Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Origins of the Southwest Museum.” In Shepard Krech, and Barbara A. Hail, eds. Collecting Native America: 1870-1960. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. Pp.74-104.

Lummis, Charles F. 1895. “The California Liar.”     Land of Sunshine February vol. II no. 3 (February 1895): 53. -- museum

Lummis, Charles F., 1895 “The Palmer Collection.” Land of Sunshine March vol. II no. 4 pp. 68-69.

Lummis, Charles F., 1895 “The Campbell Collection of Baskets.” Land of Sunshine April vol. II no. 5 pp. 85.

Lummis, Charles F. 1906 “the Southwest Society , Archaeological Institute of America”, March vol. xxiv, no. 3 p. 238.

Lummis, Charles F., 1907 “Southwest Museum” Out West Magazine, May vol. xxvi. no. 5 pp. 389-412.

Moneta, Daniela A.,1985  Chas. F. Lummis- the Centennial Exhibition: Commemorating his Tramp Across the Continent. Los Angeles: Southwest Museum.

Morley, Sylvanus G., 1910. “Southhouse, Puye” Sixth Bulletin, The Southwest Society. Los Angeles.

Palmer, F. M. 1905, “First Field Season”. Out West Magazine or The Southwest Society Bulletin. Los Angeles.

Snead, James E, 2001 Ruins and Rivals: The Making of Southwest Archaeology. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Thompson, Mark, 1998 An American Character: the Curious Life of Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Rediscovery of the Southwest. New York: Arcade Publishing.

Yoeman, Sharyn, 2003 Messages from the promised land Bohemian Los Angeles, 1880-1920. Denver: University of Colorado, Ph.D.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

We are Making Progress!

                                      Jayne McKay, Jonathan Spaulding, Neal Brown, filming a Tramp re-enactment- Mojave Desert, 2014

 I'm so grateful for the support and encouragement I get from the film making community. Especially the documentary club, we wacky ones who passionately pursue our topics, knowing that we have months, maybe years of research and fundraising and clearances ahead of us. But we persevere, because we get crazy. We get devoted. It's like a calling, and it's really, really hard to walk away from a calling. Especially, I find, when that calling is coming from Charles Lummis.

If you know anything about Lummis, you know that he was a zealot. He worked round the clock, slept little, wrote copious letters, manuscripts and editorials. He hosted exciting parties and made countless introductions, mentoring talented friends and building their confidence and their fame. He had a tenacity that I envy. I wish I had his stamina most days!

I've had plenty of distractions, including the need for actual income over the past year. But ole Charlie Lummis just won't go away! My co-conspirators, Jonathan Spaulding and Kim Walters, are patiently at the ready for the green light that's entirely up to me at this point. I'm the Director, and all of the planning and writing and gathering of information and images has been progressing well. The hold up is the fund-raising. It turns out that launching an Indie-go-go campaign isn't as simple as it sounds. At least, not if you want a very good chance of reaching your goal.

We have a wonderful fiscal sponsor, From The Heart Productions. Founder, Carole Dean, is the most knowledgeable person I've ever met when it comes to creating a campaign that can exceed it's goal. She gave me many assignments, which I am developing carefully. I've learned my lesson about posting target dates online...so none today.

Just rest assured that we haven't abandoned the project, we are quietly completing the behind the scenes work and will let you know when we launch the campaign.

I hope that some of you will be attending the 10th Annual Lummis Day Celebrations. It's great fun, an opportunity to tour El Alisal and see all of the treasures within- and so much more. There's incredible poetry, local musicians take to the stages over at Heritage Square. It's a fun family day, and a chance to catch up with me if you'd like. Please come say hello!

Jayne McKay
A Tramp Across The Continent:
Charles Lummis Discovers America

Monday, February 2, 2015

Charles Lummis Recording History

Portrait of Rosendo Uruchurtu taken at El Alisal, Highland Park, June 5, 1904. Photo by Charles F. Lummis. Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; P.33391B

I recently found a wonderful article from 2009, written by Kim Walters and Michael Khanchalian, in the Autry’s Convergence magazine. Keeping Archaeology Alive- The race against time to save the Lummis sound recordings. I wanted to write a post to synopsize this interesting article.

Lummis, founder of the Southwest Museum, dedicated much of his life to preserving cultures that he felt were vanishing. He also believed that a large part of the culture of the Hispanic people of the Southwest would be forgotten if not recorded. The music, he felt, was as important as the visual records that he photographed during his travels.

In 1904, the newly founded Southwest Society began recording Californio folksongs on Edison recorder and wax cylinders. In a passage from his 1923 Spanish Songs of Old California songbook Lummis explained:

Personally, I feel that we who today inherit California are under a filial obligation to save whatever we may of the incomparable Romance, which has made the name California a word to conjure with for 400 years. I feel that we cannot decently dodge a certain trusteeship to save the Old Missions from ruin and the Old Songs from oblivion. And I am convinced that from a purely selfish standpoint, our musical repertory is in crying need of enrichment-more by heartfelt musicians that by tailor-made ones, more from folksong than from potboilers. For 38 years I have been collecting the old, old songs of the Southwest; beginning long before the phonograph but utilizing that in later years. I have thus recorded more than 450 unpublished Spanish Songs (and know many more in my “Attic”). It was barely in time, the very people who taught them to me have mostly forgotten them, or dies and few of their children know them. But it is a sin and a folly to let each song perish. We need them now!

The singers that Lummis hired for his Hispanic music recordings were mostly from families in Los Angeles. The recordings included Serenades associated with rancho life and nursery songs from the Mission schools. Almost all of the recordings were done at El Alisal, Lummis’ home in Highland Park.

In addition to Hispanic music, the collection includes several hundred Native American songs from 23 different tribes. The wax cylinder collection contains more than 900 recordings, including about 450 Spanish songs and more than 100 Isletan songs. The entire Lummis archive held by the Braun Research Library includes correspondence, sheet music, song workbooks and photographs of the singers.

I’m hoping that we will be able to include some of these exciting recordings in the documentary. Through the tireless efforts of many, including Dr. Michael Khanchalian and his team, there are now over 450 cylinder that have been digitized. Lummis would be so pleased!

For more information visit:

Friday, May 30, 2014

Why did Lummis choose to walk across America?

Charles Lummis is an American classic: blustery, a little insecure, but ready for anything and willing to work hard to realize his dreams. His tramp across America is the perfect example. In some ways, it was less of a crazy notion in the 1880s than it is today. Trains, planes and automobiles were yet to make a trip across the continent a routine event.Transcontinental trains did not start running until the 1870s. Before that, getting across the continent involved arduous stage coach routes, or a slow, bumpy slog by wagon or horse. Some people walked, of course, but not many did it for fun!

Lummis owed some of his inspiration to the great naturalists, like Alexander von Humboldt and John Muir who logged long journeys of discovery through the Americas. Lummis was more interested in people. What he discovered on his tramp across America was eye-opening for him. It was an America he had never experienced back in New England. It changed his life. Our new tramp promises to open a few eyes as well. Who knows what we will find.

Jonathan Spaulding

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A feature-length documentary now in Pre-Production in Los Angeles

Charles Fletcher Lummis

In 1884, a 25 year-old Harvard dropout decided that he would walk from his home in Ohio to Los Angeles, where a job at the Los Angeles Times was waiting. He began his 3,507 mile walk along the railroad tracks, but eventually veered off of his intended path, encountering blizzards, bandits, mad dogs and mountain lions. Over the course of 143 days, Charles Lummis' adventure took him to remote places where he was exposed to vastly different cultures than anything he’d ever experienced in his life. 

Young Lummis was forever changed from his Tramp, and in his lifetime he wrote over 30 books, took thousands of photographs, founded the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles and became a powerful advocate for the Native-American and Hispanic peoples he would never have met, had he stayed home in the mid-west. He often called upon his friend and former Harvard classmate Teddy Roosevelt to further his causes, and he lived a vividly colorful and historically vibrant life.

Producers Jayne McKay and Jonathan Spaulding are currently penning the script for this exciting tale of Charlie's adventures, as well as planning an ambitious new Tramp Across the Continent in Spring 2015.We are working on the details and will keep you posted.

We hope that you will consider joining us-this is going to be quite an experience!