Register to the Papers of
Richard O. Marsh

By Robert S. Leopold

National Anthropological Archives
Smithsonian Institution

June 2000


Scope and Content Note

Chronology of the Life of Richard O. Marsh

Container Lists



Richard Oglesby Marsh (1883–1953) was an engineer, American diplomat and amateur ethnologist who participated in several engineering and ethnological expeditions to Panama. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and Human Rights of the Tule People of San Blas and the Darien and was the author of White Indians of Darien and several popular articles on Panama.

The Marsh papers were donated to the archives by Richard O. Marsh, Jr., in 1997. The collection occupies four linear feet of shelf space.


Scope and Content Note

The Marsh Darien expedition of 1924-1925, the focus of this collection, was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution together with the American Museum of Natural History, the University of Rochester, the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, the Military Intelligence Division of the U.S. Army, the Canal Zone administration, and the government of Panama. Expedition members included John L. Baer (Smithsonian Institution ethnologist), Paul Benton (Rochester Times-Union reporter), Charles M. Breder, Jr. (New York Aquarium biologist), Raoul Brin (botanist), Charles Charlton (Pathé News cinematographer), Herman L. Fairchild (University of Rochester emeritus geologist), Harry Johnson (taxadermist) Omer Malsbury (Canal Zone Administration), Lieut. Glen Townsend (U.S. Army) and Francisco Pinzón, the expedition cook.

The Marsh Papers include diaries, photographs, correspondence, maps, articles in draft and published form, and miscellaneous papers, chiefly relating to Marsh's experiences as leader of the Marsh Darien expedition to Panama in 1924-1925 and his contacts with the Kuna (also known as Tule). The collection also features materials on the negotiations that took place on the U.S.S. Cleveland with representatives of the U.S. and Panamanian governments and the Kuna Indians during the Kuna uprising of 1925, in which Marsh served as a mediator.

Correspondents include Marsh's wife, Helen Louise Cleveland Marsh; his son Richard O. Marsh, Jr.; and C.L.G. Anderson.

Additional material relating to the Marsh Darien Expedition is included in MS 4550 in the National Anthropological Archives. Additional Marsh correspondence is contained in the Papers of Aleš Hrdlicka. On Marsh's adventures in Panama, see James Howe, A People Who Would Not Kneel: Panama, the United States, and the San Blas Kuna (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.) 


Chronology of the Life of Richard O. Marsh


Born in Illinois


Enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Employed by the Army Corps of Engineers in Texas


Enrolled in the University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Sept. 1909

Married Helen Cleveland

April 1910 Appointed First Secretary of the US legation in Panama
1912 Secretary, American Embassy, St. Petersburg, Russia
1915 Elected mayor of Warsaw, Illinois
June 1923 Returned to Panama as employee of engineer George Goethals
Jan. 1924 Headed Marsh-Darien expedition to Panama
1925 Returned to San Blas, Panama
1925 Published "Blond Indians of the Darien Jungle" in The World's Work
1931 Traveled to Nicaragua
1933–35 Public Works Adminstration
1934 Published White Indians of Darien (New York: Putnam)
1935–39 Chief engineer, Land Utilization Division, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Dec. 1941 Reconnaissance engineer, U.S. Military, North Africa
1949–52 State Road Department, Florida
Sept. 4, 1953 Died, Vero Beach, Florida


Container Lists


Diary (5 February–15 April 1924)

Diary (5 February–15 April 1924) [photocopy]

Diary (17 April–2 May 1924)

Diary (17 April–2 May 1924) [photocopy]

Diary (6 May–3 June 1924) [photocopy only]

Diary (2–26 February 1925) [photocopy only]

Diary of the 1925 Expedition

Marsh's letters to his wife, (29 January–10 March 1925

Marsh's letters to his son (28 June–28 July 1923)

Correspondence (29 January 1924–12 September 1976)


[Amendments to Book Manuscript]

"The Discovery of the White Indians of Panama"

Lost Colony of Greenland Norsemen, Are They the White Indians of Darien? (as edited by Richard C. Marsh, copyright 9/12/76, Sewickley, Pa.)

[Miscellaneous Journal Entries and Correspondence: Redacted photocopies]

[Notes on Rainfall" La Palma, Darien, Panama]

[Resume of White Indian Expedition]

"The Trail of the White Indian"

"The White Indians of Darien" (Memorandum submitted for "Believe It or Not, 29 July 1940)

Obituaries of Richard O. Marsh

Correspondence between James Howe and Richard O. Marsh, Jr., regarding R. O. Marsh

Correspondence: Others

Harry B. Johnson, Heads and Tales (1958) [photocopy]

Clyde Keeler, [Miscellaneous publications]

William Markham, [Miscellaneous accounts and correspondence] [photocopies]

National Geographic Society, "The San Blas: Indians with a 'Superiority Complex'"

Sakla Tomal [et. al.], "Declaration of Independence and Human Rights of the Tule People of San Blas and the Darien"

Kuna Language Publications

Maps of Panama

[Miscellaneous leaves]

Newspaper clippings on Kuna Art


[Miscellaneous photocopies of material in earlier boxes]


"Conclusion" [Continuation of Marsh's Diary of the 1925 Expedition]

"Synopsis: The Primitive White People of Eastern Panama." [3 copies]

Misc. Photographs [arrived at NAA in folder labeled "Social Committee" (label not necessarily in Marsh's hand). Includes copy of article on Marsh from The Monday AD-Venture (21 February 1929)

Photograph album (disbound)


Photograph album (disbound): Marsh-Darien Expeditions 1923-24-25. Book 1. Pacific Coast, Negroids, Cholas, Chocoi, Tacarcuna, Cunas, Cunas Bravos, Chucunaque.


Photograph Album (disbound): Marsh-Darien Expeditions 1923-24-25. Book 2. Caribbean Coast, Cuna Caribe, San Blas, White Indians, American Intervention, Panama's Temporary Conquests, Caribbean West of Canal, Gatun Lake, Miscellaneous, Bolivia, Etc.


Photograph Album: Book 2 (continued)

Last updated: June 8, 2000
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