From Islapedia
Arthur Woodward
Art Woodward,
Channel Islands Biological Survey
Arthur Woodward (fourth from right) aboard Bluefin,
Long Beach, CA. Pier 1, Berth 50, July 21, 1939
Personnel aboard the California Fish and Game Commission Patrol Boat “Bluefin”, at the start of the Third Expedition of the Los Angeles County Museum-Channel Islands Biological Survey, Long Beach Harbor, California, July 21, 1939. This expedition included a week of work on each of four islands. Left to right: George Kanakoff, invertebrate zoologist; Jewell Lewis; Don Meadows, Expedition leader; Capt. Walter Engelke; C. H. Groat, Supervising Fish Warden; Russell Sprong; Arthur Woodward, archaeologist; M. B. Dunkle, botanist; Lloyd Martin, entomologist; Jack von Bloeker, mammologist [Long Beach Sun Photo]
Don Meadows, Theodore Reddick, Arthur Woodward, Jack Von Bloeker, Jr., Lloyd Martin, Russell Sprong (cook)
San Clemente Island, April 1939

WOODWARD, Arthur (1898-1986) [SS# 561-42-6120], curator of history at the Los Angeles County Museum who participated in the museum’s Channel Islands Biological Survey (1939-1941). He accompanied six expeditions, including trips to San Clemente, San Nicolas, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands. On Santa Cruz Island he conducted an excavation at Prisoners’ Harbor in 1939. At Cuyler’s Harbor, San Miguel Island he noted a cemetery that A. R. Sanger had “vandalized as usual.” When Woodward was on Santa Rosa Island in 1939 and again in 1941, he relocated what he believed to be Nidever’s Cave. Woodward’s field notes are in the Arizona Historical Society, Tucson.

Woodward married three times. He had a daughter, Ruth Marjorie Woodward (1925-2003), with his first wife, Eleanor Ruth Rogers.

Barbara Helen Lee Loomis (1910-1981) became Woodward's third wife in 1945. She had participated in the Channel Islands Biological Survey on Santa Rosa Island at the end of 1941.

Woodward's younger brother, Barker Paul Woodward (1907-1989) joined him on the survey to San Clemente Island November 9-December 10, 1939.

Arthur Woodward died at age 87 in Tucson, Arizona.


Woodward worked on:

  • San Clemente Island
  • San Miguel Island
  • San Nicolas Island
  • Santa Barbara Island
  • Santa Cruz Island
  • Santa Rosa Island

  • 1921. Woodward, Arthur Collection from the Channel Islands of California Indian Notes and Monographs, Heye Foundation 3-4(1):5-211, 1921

  • 1929. Woodward, Arthur Shell Fish Hooks of the Chumash So. California Acad. Sci. Bull. 28:3, 1929

  • 1938. Woodward, Arthur Sea Otter Hunting on the Pacific Coast Historical Society of Southern California 20:119-134 1938

  • 1940. Woodward, Arthur Woodward Field Notes, San Nicolas Island, 1940. Pdficon small 2.gif Journals of Two Voyages to San Nicolas Island, California; April 10-April 28, 1940 and November 23-December 12, 1940. Unpublished field notes. On file, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

  • 1941. Woodward, Arthur Notes and News American Antiquity 5(3):252-253, 1940; 6(3):284-285, 1941

[original in SCIF archives]

Woodward, Arthur Juana Maria -- The Female Robinson Crusoe of San Nicolas Island Arthur Woodward archives; MS 1189, Box 35, folder 354 Arizona Historical Society, Tucson Pdficon small 2.gif

In the News~

July 22, 1939 [SBNP]: “Scientists sail for San Nicolas. The story of Juana María, the Indian woman who lived alone on San Nicolas Island for 18 years, is recalled with word that an expedition sailed from San Pedro yesterday for the Santa Barbara Channel to seek the home of the ‘female Robinson Crusoe of the Pacific.’ The story of Juana María is one of the most curious in all the history of this region. When the Indians were removed from the island to the mainland following an epidemic in 1835, Juana María was left behind. The story has it that she left the boat to find her baby and the boat sailed without her. The baby died, but Juana María lived there alone for 18 years, catching fish and birds for her food. She was taken off the island by the late Captain Nidever of Santa Barbara, a sea otter hunter and trapper, who brought her to his Santa Barbara home, but she died soon after. The expedition is led by Arthur Woodward, director of history and anthropology at the Los Angeles museum, and includes Captain C. H. Groat, Don Meadows, Jack Von Bloeker, M. B. Dunkle, Lloyd Martin, George Kanakoff, Russell Spring and Jewel Lewis.”

December 7, 1939 [TI/Avalon]: “Word comes from San Clemente Island that work is progressing well with the Museum scientists who are engaged in their biological survey. The entomological and botanical units have returned after successful work in the region of Mosquito Harbor. They report considerable dryness in the region and many of the insects were in summer hibernation; but, in spite of this fact, a sizable collection of new species was made. The most satisfactory collecting is being done by Jack Von Bloeker, who is taking small mammals. Arthur Woodward reports that anthropological work is progressing satisfactorily in Big Dog Cavern, although it is too early yet to make any report on is findings. The entire party will return to the mainland on December 9.”

December 11, 1939 [SBNP]: “…Returning aboard the U.S.C. Allan Hancock exploration cruiser Velero II, two groups of research experts put in the Los Angeles museum cataloging room their finds of the first stage of a five-year biological survey of San Clemente Island, which the U.S. Navy now uses as a secret training base. From the island itself, Dr. Arthur Woodward, archaeologist, brought votive images in stone, knives, hammers, digging tools, shellfish hooks and bowls, basketry and mission-made pottery…”

December 13, 1940 [OT]: “Relics of Grass-Skirted Tribe Found on Isle off California. Los Angeles, Dec. 13.—On a bleak, wind-swept Pacific island, now a key naval defense site, scientists have found evidence of a prehistoric people whose women wore grass skirts and whose men apparently were accomplished sailors. Arthur Woodward, historical director of the County Museum, returned today from an expedition to San Nicolas Island with what he termed the most important collection of artifacts yet obtained in a series of offshore studies. The grass skirts were found in almost perfect condition. So was primitive cordage, which Woodward reported appeared to have been designed to rig sailing vessels. Either, he suggested, the seaweed from which the articles were made contained preservatives elements unknown to marine botanists today, or unidentified preservative chemicals are part of the island soil. Considerable study will be necessary, he explained, to determine how ancient are the skirts, cordage, primitive fishhooks, whale bone implements and other findings. But there is no question, he added, that they antedate sixteenth century Spanish discoveries on the West Coast and may be several thousands years old. That they go back farther than items found on nearby coastal islands in recent years is indicated by the plainness of fishhooks and arrowheads, whereas those discovered elsewhere were chipped—marks of a more advanced culture. San Nicolas, 65 miles from the California coast, is the westernmost of the seven Santa Barbara Channel Islands. It is eight miles long and three miles wide. Long under Navy control, it has been reported in line defense development. Virtually its only inhabitants for years have been sheep-herders. Two Navy radio operators and two observers for the Geodetic Survey. Almost without fail, even on days when the sea is calm, a howling 40-mile wind sweeps the island for 12 hours. Indians have a legend that the howl is the voiced displeasure of spirits, guarding the graves of a lost Indian empire, at the disturbances caused by alien visitors of the past century.”

November 23, 1941 [TBN]: “… In a land where no elephants exist now outside of circuses and zoos, tiny dwarf elephants use to roam, it was disclosed by scientists here today. Arthur Woodward, noted savant of the Los Angeles Museum made the announcement when he left with an expedition for Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara to take up the bones of the pachyderm. The bones long buried in the island’s scant soil were exposed by rain washing…”

[unattributed; unpublished Santa Rosa Island journal December 1941]: "The Archaeological section of the Museum Survey consisted of Mr. Arthur Woodward, Miss Marion Hollenback and Miss Barbara Loomis. Mr. Woodward, however, remained only for the first three days. They reached Santa Rosa Island via the Fish & Game Commission boat Yellowtail on November 25th, 1941 after a few days delay in getting away from the mainland due to high winds. Already on the island were Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Stager who were studying mammals, and Mr. Bill Fletcher, Mr. Jack Couffer, and Mr. Victor Case, who were concerned with fossil elephants. Mr. and Mrs. Willett of the Zoological division arrived on the 29th via the Scoffield and Mr. Woodward and the Stagers left.

The site chose for a test excavation — designated "5 E" by a previous survey — was on a bluff above the sea about three miles east of the ranch on Beechers Bay. Measurements were taken and work begun on November 26th by Mr. Woodward, Miss Hollenbach and Mr. Fletcher. It proved to consist of loose earth, very black with sifted charcoal, containing burned shells, particularly mussels and barnacles and the bones of sea mammals, fish and birds. Cultural material was not very abundant, but a few items were found, such as a bone barb for a harpoon, bone awls, bone beads, and tarred pebbles for waterproofing baskets. About 4 feet below the surface a whale scapula and big pieces of whale ribs were unearthed. These were probably the remains of a whale bone house.

A number of other sites on the north side of the island were "surfaced." One series of ten sites west and south of Skunk Point yielded large numbers of chipped stone scrapers, choppers, blades, points and drills and also bone awls and barbs for harpoons. In contrast to the other Channel Islands, shell and bone fish hooks do not appear on Santa Rosa. Only one broken bone hook was found. One of these sites ("14E") was covered with innumerable tiny stone drills and olivella shell beads in all stages of manufacture. 230 little stone drills were picked up in a few minutes.

Another site at the mouth of Lobos Canyon west of Carrington Point had been exposed by rains since the previous survey. Burials, some bone implements and many beautiful flint, blades and points were washing down on the beach.

We also explored Old Ranch Canyon and Water Canyon finding two sites near the head of the latter.

On December 7 Pearl Harbor was bombed and shortly afterwards the Fish & Game boats were taken over for patrol duty and the use of the radio telephone forbidden so that there was some uncertainty as to how and when the party would leave, especially as the Santa Rosa Ranch's own boat was out of commission. However arrangements were made for the motor schooner Santa Cruz to arrive and take the remaining members of the museum staff to the mainland.

January 27, 1986 [Arizona Daily Star]: “Arthur Woodward dies; archaeologist, curator. Arthur Woodward, an archaeologist, museum curator and book collector who lived in Tucson for 33 years, died Friday of pneumonia. He was 87. Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at East Lawn Mortuary and Cemetery, 5801 E. Grant Road. Woodward was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1898, and his family moved to San Francisco in 1907. After serving in the infantry in World War I, he enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley in 1920, where he studied anthropology, history and English. He left after two years to take a reporting job with the New York Evening Journal. He was a journalist for about three years. Woodward's first job as museum curator with the Museum of American Indians in New York in 1925. He moved later that year to work at the Los Angeles County Museum, where he was curator until he retired. He excavated prehistoric sites from Arizona to the South Pacific, and moved to Tucson in 1953 after his retirement. During World War II, Woodward served as a naval intelligence officer in the South Pacific. Woodward helped the Arizona State Museum design one of its first exhibits on the history of Arizona. He also became a state Park Service consultant for the Tubac museum. In 1961 Woodward was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree from the University of Arizona. He started collecting books in 1922. He had more than 24,000 columes, the oldest a 1599 dictionary of English and Spanish. In addition to collecting books, he also wrote several, including a history of Navajo silversmithing. "Feud on the Colorado," and other historical accounts. Woodward is survived by his daughter, Ruth Duggan of Tucson; two brothers, Barker and guy of Ramona, Calif.,; a sister, Otilla Hamlin of Ramona, Calif.; three grandsons; two great granddaughters; nine great-grandchildren; and 12 nieces and nephews. The family requests memorials in Woodward's name be made to the Disabled American Veterans.”