PALMER, Francis “Frank” M.
PALMER, Francis “Frank” M. (1849-1923), born in New York, he studied dentistry in San Jose, California, and by 1900 had moved with his wife and children to Burbank, California. In 1906 the Palmers moved to Redondo Beach, California. Although Palmer was not an archaeologist, he had a personal interest in the Native Americans of Southern California, and amassed a large and impressive private collection of artifacts. Palmer collected extensively on Santa Catalina, San Clemente, San Nicolas, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands.
Mrs. M. Burton Williamson noted in an article published in the Southern California Academy of Sciences Bulletin of March 1904:
- “ The collection [of artifacts] in the Chamber of Commerce [Los Angeles] contains relics from all the islands of Southern California as well as those found on the mainland. Some other islands on this coast are represented by a larger number of objects than Santa Catalina Island. The large local collection was made by Dr. F. M. Palmer and afterward purchased by the Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, Cal. The city is greatly indebted to Mr. Frank Wiggins, the indefatigable secretary of the Chamber of Commerce for his influence in securing these relics and those from the other Santa Barbara islands in Los Angeles county.” [The Chamber of Commerce transferred its collections and archives to the Doheny Library, U.S.C.]
Along with Charles Lummis, Palmer was a founder of the Southwest Museum, and he served as the museum's first curator when it opened in 1907. In 1909, a serious dispute arose between the two men, much of which was aired publically, and Palmer left the museum. In 1917, Palmer gifted a part of his collections to the Redondo Union High School to enable students to enjoy "pre-historic evidence of the lives and customs of the ancient people who first inhabited the land in which our own homes now are located". In 2003 the Southwest Museum merged with the Autry Museum:
Frank Palmer (1849-1923) =  Kate Minerva Bachman (1855- )
- Marion Frances Palmer (1882-1977) = Frank Lorin Perry (1880-1961)
- Marion Elizabeth Perry (1920-2008)
- Francis Leroy Palmer (1888-1924)
» Palmer, Frank M. Reports on Researches Conducted by the Southwest Society of the Archaeological Institute of America in The American Journal of Archaeology 10(1):21–26, 1906
In the News~
1889-1890: Dr. F. M. Palmer of this city has made quite extensive explorations of the Rancherias on the islands off our coast, and has succeeded in making a very valuable collection of Indian relics, in fact one of the most complete in Southern California. He has resurrected upward of three thousand burials and has found several interesting specimens of dental deformity. He states that in fully fifty per cent, the teeth came together in direct antagonism; this appearance is undoubtedly due to the excessive abrasion occasioned by their mode of living. On his last trip he secured a very interesting specimen which shows conclusively that the same conditions existing in an uncivilized mouth will produce the same results as though the owner was civilized. Southern California Practitioner. [American Journal of Dental Science 23:104, 1889-1890].
Added in another journal to the same article above: “...as the last of the Indians were removed from from this island (Catalina) more than eighty years ago, the baneful influences of civilization could not have acted on the lower of the jaw illustrated below. The cut represents the left superior maxillary of a child about ten years of age. The last temporary molar has maintained its position and has crowded the second bicuspid outside the arch, which has rotated the latter so as to strike the first bicuspid obliquely. The lateral incisor is crowded inside the arch and the canine would have erupted so prominently as to be termed a “tush”. “One swallow does not make a summer,” but a few more specimens like this one illustrated will dispel the illusion that the uncivilized man has perfect teeth.” [Palmer, F. M. Dental Irregularities of the Native Races in Southern California Practitioner, 1889 p. 252]
1890: Dental Irregularities of the Native Races “In the Southern California Practitioner, Dr. E. E. Townsend, of Los Angeles, discusses the question as to whether there are any influences connected with civilization that are productive of degeneracy of the dental system. He takes issue with the generally-accepted statement that the uncivilized and semi-civilized races are largely exempt from dental malformations, irregularities, and caries, and thinks that the percentage of such conditions among savages is quite equal to those found in the civilized races. He claims to have had fairly good opportunities for examining the reservation Sioux Indians in Minnesota and Dakota, the Klamath Indians of Oregon, and the Pueblos of New Mexico, and found decayed teeth and irregularities common among them. Dr. F. M. Palmer, of Los Angeles, has made quite extensive explorations of the Rancherias on the islands of the California coast, and has resurrected upward of three thousand burials. He secured one interesting specimen, which is represented in the cut, —the left superior maxilla of a child about ten years of age. The last temporary molar has maintained its position, crowded the second bicuspid outside of the arch, and rotated it so that it strikes the first bicuspid obliquely. The lateral incisor is crowded inside the arch, and the cuspid would have erupted into a very prominent position. As the last of the Indians were removed from the island (Catalina) more than eighty years ago, the baneful influences of civilization could not have acted on the owner of the jaw illustrated below. Dr. Townsend says truly, "It is a pity that archeologists should have spent so much time in collecting things constructed by savage races, and allowed the construction of the savage himself to pass unnoticed." I think the illustration will prove interesting to the dental student. — E. H. L.” [The Dental Cosmos, 1890 p. 416]
November 15, 1893 [LAH]: “There are very few people in Los Angeles who are aware that there is in the city the completest collection of Indian relics, pertaining to the Indians of Southern California. Yet such is the fact, and Dr. F. M. Palmer, the collector and owner, yesterday exhibited his treasures to Mr. Joseph Medill, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Tribune, H. O. Collins, Esq., and a Herald reporter. For 15 years past Dr. Palmer has been engaged upon his labor of love, and although his collections have been drawn on twice for eastern museums, yet the cream of them all he has kept, and the remarkable display was described by him with pardonable pride in its ethnological importance and completeness. The articles were arranged systematically on tables in his cozy cottage at the corner of Toberman and Seventeenth streets, and number several thousand. The most remarkable feature of the exhibit is the preservation of the articles. All broken and marred specimens he was able to reject, owing to the abundance of the supply, so that the entire list is composed of specimens without blemish. The articles have most of them been found by Dr. Palmer himself in his researches and came from the counties of Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Bernardino, and the Channel Islands of Catalina, San Clemente, San Nicolas, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz. They comprise vessels of stone for grinding corn and stone implements of all kinds, bone and shell ornaments and implements for fishing and hunting, arrow heads, spear heads, and curious articles of stone, the use of which can only be conjectured The islands appear to have been the most prolific field of search, and one marked characteristic of the articles is the ingenuity and taste which the tribe of Southern California Indians displayed...”
June 30, 1895 [LAH]: “Dr. F. M. Palmer's collection of Indian relics is matchless and unique. None so fine anywhere. Complete history in stone, bone, wood and shell. Of the Southern California Indians who lived on the Island and coast counties. Imagine, if you please, a long table, so long that it extends almost the entire length of two good-sized rooms, ans so wide as to quite fill the space of the double doors which connect these two rooms. It is not a common ordinary table, but one built for the purpose for which it is used and is only about four feet high. It is covered with spotless white muslin cloth and lying on its surface is an edition, complete in one volume and with no missing chapters, of the archaeological history in stone, bone wood and shell, of all the tribal races of the Southern California Indians. This curious table with its matchless and invaluable contribution to modern discovery and science is to be found by the privileged visitor in the attractive home of Dr F. M. Palmer on Forrest Avenue in this city. Dr. Palmer is a dentist by profession, a collector by instinct and inclination, and a scientific archaeologist and ethnologist by education, than whom there are few if any more competent along his line of thought and action. For almost every piece in his collection, which has not a duplicate or equal either in America or abroad, is the result of personal research, and those few pieces he has not excavated himself are exchanges or trades, of which he has authentic record so that there is not one illogical specimen in the collection... From Catalina and Clemente, from San Nicolas and Santa Rosa, from Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands; and those coast counties, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles, has this unique collection been made slowly, with the infinite patience and energy, the untiring devotion and conscientious zeal of a born collector, and the explorations and investigations extended over nineteen years. Dr. Palmer's birthplace was New York; when a boy he was interested in the Indians of Michigan, and after reaching California, about twenty years ago, he decided to make investigations that would give him an insight into the religious, political, social, domestic and industrial habits and methods of both peaceful and warlike tribes of Southern California Indians from prehistoric times up to the early historic days... Dr. Paul Schumacher, the able scholar and accomplished gentleman who superintended the gathering of the relics in the Smithsonian and Peabody collections, was a personal friend of Dr. Palmer's until Dr. Schumacher's death, the two students worked together much of the time...”
June 28, 1909 [LAH]: “Museum curator in tilt with secretary. Archaeologists charge incompetency, inefficiency and lack scientific reputation in exchange of belligerent letters. What Mr. Lummis thinks of Dr. Palmer. What Dr. Palmer thinks of Dr. Lummis. The plot thickens in the fued between Charles F. Lummis and Dr. F. M. Palmer, curator of the Southwest Museum. Each has admitted that one of the two is “crazy”, but there is a painful difference of opinion as to which one it is. In a broadside of letters exchanged between the two men a few days ago each insinuated that the other was a shine bug hunter and could not tell the difference between a noctoluca and a sponge. Mr. Lummis declares that as an archaeologist Dr. Palmer is not there. Not even next door. Dr. Palmer, on the other hand, declares that Mr. Lummis wouldn't know an icthiosaur if he met one on the road. In a letter published several days ago, in reply to the communication of the doctor which opened the controversy, Mr. Lummis eloquently sets forth the shortcomings of his opponent as an archaeologist, and scores him for “disemboweling what was once the home of human beings.” Dr. Palmer, yesterday passed the buck back to Mr. Lummis by sending a formidable array of charges against the latter to President Chaffe of the board of directors of the museum and to President Koepfli of the Southwest Society of the Archaeological Institute. The doctor declares that Mr. Lummis' reports to the society are unreliable, that he has involved the organization in debt, that “he has debauched the historic truth of the museum exhibits and publications” and that he has other faults...”