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John Canfield Ewers Edit Profile

Ethnologist , historian , author

John Canfield Ewers was an American ethnologist, curator, historian and author, who gained prominence for his anthropological fieldwork among the Plains Indians of North America.


John Ewers was born on July 21, 1909 in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. He was the son of John Ray Ewers and Mary Alice (Canfield) Ewers.


Ewers attended Dartmouth College and got his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1931. Later he studied painting and drawing for a year at the Art Students League of New York. In 1934 John received his master's degree with Honors, graduating from Yale University. After his graduation from Yale University, he took courses at Columbia University.


In 1935 Ewers accepted a post at the United States National Park Service as a curator. By 1941 he had founded the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning, Montana, United States. After serving in the United States Naval Reserve in the Pacific during World War II, John joined the staff of the Smithsonian Institution in 1946. By 1956 Ewers began planning the Museum of History and Technology, now called the National Museum of American History. In 1964, after the museum was officially opened, John Ewers became its director.

Upon his retirement from the Smithsonian in 1979, he was awarded the title of ethnologist emeritus. He also taught at Texas Christian University in 1981 and during the 1970s served as a trustee and research associate of the Museum of the American Indian in New York.


  • John Ewers was known for his studies on the art and history of the American Plains Indians. It is important to note, that in 1989 Native American Art Studies Association presented the award to John for the research and publications on American Indian art. In 1991 Buffalo Bill Center of the West awarded him gold medal for contribution to history of America and in 1996 American Alliance of Museums awarded John Ewers for distinguished service.


  • American Anthropological Association , United States

  • Rochester Museum and Science Center

    Rochester Museum and Science Center , United States

  • Western History Association , United States

  • Cosmos Club , United States

  • The Explorers Club , United States

  • Chevy Chase Club

  • Burning Tree Country Club


In 1935 John got married with Margaret Elizabeth Dumville. They had two children: Jane and Diane.

John Ray Ewers

Mary Alice (Canfield) Ewers

Jane Ewers

Diane Ewers

Margaret Elizabeth Dumville