Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ramon de las Cuevas (1882-1971)

Pseudonym of Mark R. Harrington
Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Author, Museum Curator
Born July 6, 1882, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Died June 30, 1971

By sheer coincidence, I heard from Weird Tales researcher Randal Everts within just a few minutes of posting my entry on Johns Harrington the other day. Mr. Everts, who has been looking into Weird Tales for many years, once wrote an article on four anthropologists who had work published in "The Unique Magazine." I had already posted an article about the anthropologist Alanson B. Skinner (here), but I had also written about another anthropologist without realizing that he, too, was a teller of weird tales. The anthropologist was Johns Harrington's father, Mark R. Harrington. His story was called "Teoquitla the Golden," and it appeared in the November 1924 issue of Weird Tales under the name Ramon de las Cuevas.

Mark Raymond Harrington was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on July 6, 1882. His father, Mark W. Harrington, was something of a Renaissance man, teaching geology, mathematics, botany, and French, as well as serving as curator of the University of Michigan museum. The younger Harrington was fascinated by Indians and their culture even from a young age and began learning their languages and their ways. His family moved to Mount Vernon, New York, where Harrington began collecting Indian artifacts, a hobby that earned him an introduction to F.W. Putnam and the American Museum in New York. Putnam took Harrington under his wing, and so a career in anthropology, archaeology, and curation began. Harrington received his master's degree in anthropology from Columbia University in 1908 and began field work in the United States and Cuba that would culminate in his monumental discoveries in Nevada during the 1920s and '30s. There is an excellent account of this phase of Harrington's career at the website of the Las Vegas Review-Journal's "First 100," here.

In 1928, Harrington became director of research and soon after curator of the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. He would spend the rest of his career with the museum, eventually being named curator emeritus. He was also a historical preservationist and consultant on restoring historic buildings. He himself restored an old adobe home in which he raised a family during the 1930s and '40s.

Harrington also preserved names from the past. In the course of his research, Harrington ran across a historic name, "Ramon de las Cuevas," and adopted it as his nom de plume for Weird Tales. Harrington's only known story for "The Unique Magazine" was "Teoquitla the Golden" from November 1924, the first issue with Farnsworth Wright as editor. Harrington wrote many works of non-fiction under his own name as well.

Mark Raymond Harrington died on June 30, 1971, but his name lives on. The San Fernando Valley Historical Society named its library in Harrington's honor before his death. The society's website has a brief biography of him, here, as does the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, here. Marie Harrington authored something that is becoming increasingly rare, a biography in print. It's called On the Trail of Forgotten People: A Personal Account of the Life and Career of Mark Raymond Harrington, published in 1985 by the Great Basin Press of Reno, Nevada. A quote by Dr. Harrington is fitting for all of us attempting to revive some part of the past:
To follow the trail of a forgotten people, to play detective upon the doings of a man who has been dead 10,000 years or so is a thrilling pastime to an explorer under any circumstances. But when the trail leads into a rich virgin field never disturbed by the spade of the relic hunter, THEN your sunburned desert rat of an archaeologist thinks he has discovered a real paradise.
Ramon de las Cuevas' Story in Weird Tales
"Teoquitla the Golden" (Nov. 1924)

Further Reading
I have listed some sources for further reading above. Another good source is a biography by Bruce Bryan, a fellow anthropologist and teller of weird tales, published in The Masterkey, the journal of the Southwest Museum, in the July-September 1971 issue (Vol. 45, No. 3).

Dr. Mark Raymond Harrington (1882-1971), one-time "boy wonder of the  archaeological world," discoverer of a lost city in the Southwestern desert, father of Johns H. Harrington, and teller of weird tales. Photo from the website of the San Fernando Valley Historical Society.
An adobe house built by Harrington in 1947, located at 11039 Memory Park Avenue, Mission Hills, California 91345.
The Southwest Museum, a painting by Wendy Hultquist.
Weird Tales, November 1924, with a cover story by Ramon de las Cuevas, aka Mark Harrington, and cover art by Andrew Brosnatch, his first for "The Unique Magazine."

Note: Thanks to Randal Everts for his lead on Mark R. Harrington as Ramon de las Cuevas and for a copy of Bruce Bryan's biographical article from The Masterkey.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

Addendum (Jan. 9, 2015): The Indians of New Jersey: Dickon Among the Lenapes by M.R. Harrington (1963). The cover artist may have been Don Louis Perceval (1908-1979), but I can't be sure. Clarence Ellsworth (1885-1961) was another illustrator of this book, though not necessarily of this cover or this edition. In any case, thanks to Bob (comment below) for drawing this book to my attention.

Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I remember DR. Harrington for his 1963 middle grade book, The Indians of New Jersey: Dickon Among the Lenapes. The book shows his vast experience and in brilliantly accessible prose te;;s an important story through the eyes pf Dockon.,

    I don't see it mentioned in his biographies, even though it was most likely his most popular book, and to me his crowning achievement. Still widely available after over 50 years, it is a book for every adult and 9+ youngster to read.

  2. Dear Bob,

    Thanks for your comment. I have added the cover to Harrington's book above.


  3. There's a photo of M.R. Harrington, taken around the time of he wrote this story, modeling his expedition wear here: