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| Anne Q. Stoll | Trip Reports

Something to think about?

This just in -

Always a delight to get a DE newsletter – especially one that highlights this group at its best, doing things for the folks out in the desert. Want to correct one small blooper – the so-called “bird” glyph outside Inscription Canyon was the logo of the ASA (Archaeological Survey Association). I know because I was the last director of that group, before we disbanded. I’m attaching a piece I wrote on the history of the ASA, as recently printed in the CVAS December newsletter.    ~ Anne

Something to think about?

By Anne Q. Stoll

This is a true story about a man who loved rock art and archaeology and who believed in the power of legacy. This man was Charley Clayton Howe (1897–1987), a shopkeeper in Los Angeles by day and an avid photographer and amateur archaeologist in his heart. Charley was one of the early volunteer members of the Archaeological Survey Association (ASA). He joined in 1948, just a year after the group’s founding at a pivotal meeting at the Southwest Museum in Highland Park in January, 1947. The big thinkers of the day had the idea to divvy up the state of California and archaeologically survey “everything” within its borders. This monumental task is of course still far from complete but the point is, at that time they genuinely believed it could be done. The field crew were to be drafted from the ranks of volunteers already known to the local institutions, some of whom had been collecting and bringing in “treasures” to museums for years.

 Charley Howe was just the kind of volunteer they were looking for – he loved the outdoors, had the needed skills and possessed a strong desire to help. Thus in the late 1940s the ASA was born and soon a dedicated group was out nearly every weekend conducting archaeological reconnaissance of the southern half of the state. Early field leaders included Stuart Peck, Freddie Curtis, Charles Rozaire, Edwin Walker, William Wallace, Ruth DeEtte (“Dee”) Simpson and Ben E. McCown. Charley Howe served as the ASA’s official photographer, helping with surveys and excavations whenever he could. Between 1948 and 1963, when the ASA’s headquarters were located at the Southwest Museum, Howe photo-documented ASA’s work at over 78 sites. Toward the end of 1963, Dee Simpson and the San Bernardino County Museum took over and the ASA’s orientation shifted to recording sites in the Mojave Desert. Charley Howe remained ASA photographer through 1972, and even served a term as organization president. When he retired, Charley transferred title to all of his negatives and images to the ASA, along with copyright, a very great gift. His photos were his legacy and he hoped they would prove useful someday.          

Fast forward to the 1990s -- Charley and most of the original ASA crew had passed on. The party celebrating ASA’s 50th anniversary in 1997 was a very small event and at the last general meeting on October 26, 2002 only 19 members attended. This is how the conversation about legacy formally began for the ASA. Those of us who remained realized we had a big job ahead of us. The ASA had valuable assets, paintings, photographs, tapes, site records, manuscripts, organizational records, artifact collections, maps, Super 8 movies, and many books, gifts and bequests from former members -- boxes and boxes of stuff, all being stored for “the future.”

The work of sorting, selling, giving and finding the right home for everything took several years. Charley Howe’s images became the star of the ASA legacy show and finding them the ideal new home was perhaps our greatest success. In 2008 we formally presented the Charley Clayton Howe Photograph Collection to Cal. State San Bernardino John M. Pfau Library Special Collections. One of our board members, Rosalind Srivastava, catalogued and created a finding aid for the collection and oversaw the restoration of much of the film that had been improperly stored and damaged over the years. Most importantly, all the images were digitized and placed online where they can be seen and used today. Although permission must be formally requested, there is no charge to use any of the Howe images. Go to to see the finding aid (bottom of the page). Once you get an image number you want to see, go to to check it out. Jill Vasailakos-Long in Special Collections (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is the contact for the collection.

Charley Howe photographed many sites in California and Nevada. These images are now about 50 years old. Some of the perhaps better known sites he photographed include Black Canyon, Inscription Canyon, Burro Flats, Painted Cave, Mutau “Meadows,” Little Lake, Grapevine Canyon, and Coso Hot Springs. But there are many smaller, lesser known wonders in the collection as well, along with people and excavation shots and the inevitable mystery items. Charley seems to have enjoyed photographing native people. In the 1960s in Lone Pine, California he documented a meeting between ASA and the elders and children of the local Paiute tribe. In 1956 and 1957, he went with camera to Baja California and later did a series with the Tarahumara in Copper Canyon, Mexico. Not all the images are good quality but I invite you to check them out. And perhaps you will be inspired to find a good home for all your great shots of our amazing deserts!