J. C. (Pinky) Harrington

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J. C. (Pinky) Harrington

J. C. (Pinky) Harrington

Know widely as the Father of American Historical Archaeology, Jean Carol “Pinky” Harrington (1901-1998) was an American archaeologist best known for his work at Colonial National Historical Park at Jamestown, Virginia, –  America’s first permanent English settlement (1607). Harrington received the nickname “Pinky” for his red hair and was known as such throughout his life by friends and family.  Born in Millbrook, Michigan, Harrington completed a Bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering at the University of Michigan in 1924. The University required students to complete internships in architecturally related projects.  Harrington spent the summer of 1923 with the School of American Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico, creating measured drawings of Spanish Mission Churches.  During the project, Harrington met archaeologists Edgar Lee Hewitt who was excavating the Gran Quivira ruins. Harrington’s lifelong interest in archeology was born. During the Great Depression he received a Master’s degree in archaeology from the University of Chicago but left ABD before completing his dissertation.  In 1936, the National Park Service approached him to join the excavations then underway at Jamestown. As he used to tell it, not wanting to work on such a” recent site”, he asked for $600 more a year than he thought would ever earn.  The Park Service met his offer.

While working at Jamestown, Harrington married Virginia Hall Sutton in 1938, the first female National Park Ranger ever hired by NPS. Together they worked on archaeological sites at Jamestown championing public tours and interpretive programs.  The Harrington’s (along with other NPS employees) founded the Eastern National Park and Monument Association in 1948.  The excavations continued until World War II when Harrington was made Acting Park Superintendent at Colonial. He held that position until 1946 when he went on to become the Eastern Regional Archaeologist for NPS’s southeast region in Richmond, Virginia. Pinky Harrington retired from NPS in 1965. Harrington is recognized today largely for his development and legitimization of historical archaeology as a professional discipline. His “Archaeology as an Auxiliary Science to American History” (1955) published in American Anthropologist is still viewed as a watershed manifesto for historical archaeology.  Both Pinky and Virginia Harrington were involved in the organization of the Society for Historical Archaeology at its first meeting in 1967. In 1981, the Harrington’s created the J.C. Harrington Medal, the Society for Historical Archaeology’s award recognizing scholastic contributions to the discipline.

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