The first meeting of the Archaeological Society of Delaware (ASD) was held on Friday, February 24, 1933, at the Dover High School Library. Public school teacher and archaeology enthusiast H. Geiger Omwake called the meeting in the hopes of founding an organization to promote and support the study of archaeology in the state of Delaware. At this first meeting the twenty-nine persons present outlined four goals for the new society with the help of Dr. J. Alden Mason, Curator of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. The goals of the fledgling society were: 1. To promote and encourage the study of archaeology, 2. To encourage careful scientific research and excavation, 3. To preserve important archaeological sites and artifacts, and 4. To record and preserve data relative to any of these. Since that time the Archaeological Society of Delaware has aimed to fulfill these goals through a variety of means including the publication of several serial and special publications, participation in site surveys and archaeological excavations, membership in the umbrella organization the Eastern States Archaeological Federation, gathering and preserving personal and organizational collections of archaeological artifacts, holding annual public meetings, and participation and leadership in state and community archaeological events.
The ASD publishes two regular publications. The Society newsletter Inksherds has been published continuously since 1955 with only one interruption between the years 1988 and 1991 when Society membership was waning. The other publication, the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Delaware , contains articles and reports on archaeological topics and projects by ASD members and has been published since the Society's beginnings in 1933.
The Society holds annual meetings to bring together the individual members and provide them with an opportunity to discuss archaeology in the state of Delaware. In addition to these meetings, the ASD also provides many opportunities for its members to participate in archaeological excavations and site surveys. In recent years the ASD has also played a major role in planning and promoting Delaware Archaeology Month each year during the month of May. During Delaware Archaeology Month the planning committee runs a calendar of events including lectures and presentations, excavation opportunities, and exhibits on Delaware’s archaeology that are open to professional and avocational archaeologists alike.
In addition to providing opportunities for archaeological research to its members and the citizens of the state of Delaware, the ASD has also had an impact on legislation in the state. Through lobbying, the ASD played a role in promoting state legislation aimed at protecting archaeological sites from vandalism. In addition, the ASD has aided in creating a state archaeological review board and encouraged the state to hire professional archaeologists.
In 1957 the first local chapter of the ASD, the Minquannan chapter, was founded. Since that time several additional chapters have been founded and disbanded. As of 2007 there existed four local chapters of the Archaeological Society of Delaware. These chapters are: the Northern Chapter, People's Chapter, Southern Chapter, and Maritime chapter. The first three chapters correlate loosely to Delaware's three counties, with the latter chapter being one primarily interested in shipwrecks and underwater archaeology.
Pratt, H[erbert] T.. History of the Society. Paper No. 6 of the Archaeological Society of Delaware. (November 1958): 25 pages. MSS 578, Records of the Archaeological Society of Delaware, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.
"Delaware's Archaeological Network Government-Based Archaeology." Newsletter published by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. (May 2007): 6 pages. Available online at: http://history.delaware.gov/pdfs/Archaeological%20Network.pdf (accessed October 2008).
Delaware State Historic Preservation Office. "Delaware Archaeological Month." http://www.delawarearchaeology.org/index.htm (accessed October 2008).
Additional information derived from the collection.
The Archaeological Society of Delaware records contains the organizational and administrative records of the society from its founding in 1933 until the present. The collection is divided into nine series according to document-type and, as of 2010, contains 6.3 linear feet of processed materials. It is anticipated that additional materials will be added to this collection on a regular basis.
The materials housed within this collection were compiled and preserved by society members over the course of half a century. In the 1960s one-time ASD secretary Richard Quick bound together two volumes of correspondence, treasurer's reports, and meeting minutes spanning the period from February 1933-November 1963 (F34 and F35) and began the process of preserving the records of the society. When, in 1955, ASD member Herbert T. Pratt undertook writing a special ASD publication on the history of the society he discovered that the society only possessed just over half of the total publications produced by the society in its twenty-year history. This discovery inspired Pratt to begin acting as the society's unofficial archivist. Over the next four decades Pratt actively gathered ASD materials from older members, former officers, and other sources, and set to the task of organizing and documenting these materials. In 1994 the ASD Board of Directors agreed to donate the archives collected by Pratt to the University of Delaware Library and, in 1997, Pratt's "Finding Aid for the Archives of the Archaeological Society of Delaware, 1933-1996" (F1) was published as Paper No. 10 by the Society. Though the organization of the collection has changed from that described in Pratt's finding aid, the materials housed within the collection remain unchanged and thus directly correlate to the items described in the original finding aid.
The first series, Series I. Administrative and organizational documents, spans the history of the society. This series includes several versions of the Society's constitution, bylaws, and incorporation documents, as well as lists of officers and directors and lists of award recipients. Also included in this series are the papers of ASD member Archibald Crozier (F20). These papers were bought at auction by Dr. Allen G. Schiek in 1959 and include newsletters, membership lists, programs, and various other items pertaining to the early history of the society.
The types of documents housed within Series III. Reports and records are similar in many respect to those housed in Series I. Administrative and organizational documents, as both series contain documents pertaining to the administration of the organization. However, whereas Series I. includes many important foundational documents spanning the history of the organization, Series III. contains the records of specific offices within the Society. Represented within Series III. are records and reports dealing specifically with finance, membership, and publications. Of note in this series are a twenty-year span of bank statements for the Society, ASD checkbooks and canceled checks, membership records including several hundred 3"x5" note cards possibly from a Rolodex-type filing system (F54), and membership dues receipts and directories.
Series II. Meetings preserves meeting minutes, programs, agendas, and notices from the Society's board of directors, officers, and public meetings. Typically, the annual public meetings provided an opportunity for ASD members to gather and touch base with one another about archaeological practices and specific archaeological projects. The meetings also usually included a presentation from a noteworthy figure in archaeology. One such presentation, a lecture by John Witthoft at the Second Annual ASD Seminar in 1964, is preserved on reel-to-reel audiotape and housed within the collection (F33). In contrast to the public meetings, the officers' and board of directors meetings afforded these bodies with the opportunity to discuss issues related to the administration of the Society. Thus, the minutes of the officers' and board of directors meetings (F34-F39) provide a useful record of the concerns and activities of the Society over time.
The earliest materials included in Series IV. Correspondence are housed in four folders of correspondence kept by former ASD secretary Leon DeValinger between the years 1933 and 1940. Aside from being a prominent early member and officer of the ASD, DeValinger served as Delaware state archivist for over forty years and was a pioneer in developing Delaware's state archival system. The DeValinger correspondence (F61-F64) was obtained for this collection by ASD member Ronald A. Thomas from the Delaware State Archives. In addition to the DeValinger correspondence, the series also contains several additional folders of miscellaneous correspondence loosely organized by date and spanning nearly half a century from 1952-2000.
The items housed within Series V. Activities and public relations provide information about the work conducted by the Society. In addition to promoting the field of archaeology, the Society was also established to aid its members in conducting archaeological excavations and site surveys. This series houses information relating to some of the surveys in which the Society was involved. Of particular note in F73 Archaeological Site Surveys is a report by Jacob W. Gruber entitled "Preliminary Report of the Archaeological Survey Along the Right-of-Way of FAI-1, State of Delaware." This report was written in 1962 following a site survey conducted along the proposed right-of-way of "FAI-1" which became Interstate 95 through northern Delaware. The report discusses the land that would be used for I-95 extending from Churchman's Marsh west to the Maryland state line. As such, the report is a unique early example of the processes used to try to detect prehistoric sites on land that was being developed as a result of the 1955 Federal Highway Construction Act. Though no archaeological finds were made during the survey, the report includes several interviews with local residents and Gruber's reflections on how such surveys could be improved in the future. The I-95 survey is just one of many site surveys housed in F73.
In addition to site surveys, the ASD also aided in the development of an archaeological review board for the state of Delaware. Series V. Activities and public relations preserves items related to the work of this review board as well as ASD's involvement in Delaware Archaeology Month (F79). The final types of materials found in Series III. are public relations materials created by the Society and newspaper clippings and notices about the work being conducted by the Society.
Series VI. Publications is the largest of the collection and comprises over two linear feet. The series houses both the Society's regular publications as well as several special and occasional publications. Additionally, several non-ASD published items are included in the series because they were authored by ASD members. The regular publications of the Society housed in this collection are the Society's newsletter Inksherds and the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Delaware . The holdings of these regular publications are for the most part complete and comprehensive until the year 1999. Missing issues or other unusual circumstances related to these publications are noted in the detailed contents list of this finding aid.
Series VII. and Series VIII. are both rather small and self-explanatory. Series VII. ASD Chapters contains information relating to specific local ASD chapters rather than to the Society as a whole. Over the years the names of these chapters have changed and new chapters have been added as necessary. The first local chapter to be founded was the Minquannan chapter in 1957. In addition to records from this chapter (F136) the series also contains records from the Tancopanican, Kent County, and New Castle County chapters.
Series VIII. Eastern States Archaeological Federation contains records, correspondence, programs, and reports pertaining to ASD's relationship with the umbrella organization the Eastern States Archaeological Federation (ESAF). The series also contains a thirty-six year run (1941-1977) of ESAF's publication the Bulletin of the Eastern States Archaeological Federation . Several audio and video recordings of speakers from ESAF meetings are housed at the end of this series. F148 contains three reel-to-reel audio recordings of four speakers from the 1958 ESAF meeting held in Wilmington, Delaware, and F149 contains two VHS recordings of speakers at the Delaware session of the 1995 ESAF meeting. Additional information about ESAF can be found in the organization's records which are housed at the University of Delaware. (MSS 0579, Records of the Eastern States Archeological Federation, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.)
The final series in the collection, Series IX. Mary C. Sawyer papers (1961-2010) contains a small collection of the personal and professional papers of long-time ASD member and DuPont employee Mary C. Sawyer. The bulk of these papers reflect Sawyer's involvement in ASD, including participation at archaeological field sites. The series also includes a near-complete run of the Kent County Archaeological Society Newsletter, Chips & Points , from 1966 to 1973, as well as correspondence related to ASD's Mary C. Sawyer publication fund, which was established in Sawyer's honor at the request of her sister Frances Sawyer. Finally, the series also documents Sawyer's career with DuPont, involvement in various professional organizations (including the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and the American Society for Testing and Materials), and involvement with the Scottish Games Association of Delaware, Inc.