Robert Hall Merrill Papers
The Robert Hall Merrill Papers document Merrill’s fifty-year interest in archaeology, specifically the Maya Calendar. For over 20 years he corresponded with numerous scholars around the world, challenged their findings, and developed his own theories. He graphed the phases of the sun, moon, and the planets as they pertained to deciphering the calendar. The collection consists primarily of correspondence, graphs, and charts documenting Merrill’s personal research and conclusions.
- 1930 - 1952
- Merrill, Robert H., 1881-1955 (Person)
Access to the collection is unrestricted.
Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.
Robert Hall Merrill was born January 18, 1881 in Grand Rapids, Michigan to Sarah Hills Hall and Robert Wilkins Merrill. Merrill Sr., a successful businessman, served as plant manager for the Phoenix Furniture Company in Grand Rapids for over thirty years. Merrill Jr., educated in Grand Rapids, attended the University of Michigan where he received his Bachelor of Engineering in 1902. He worked for the United States Department of Rivers and Harbors as an assistant engineer, and in the engineering department of the New York State of Court Claims. During this period, he became interested in China’s Grand Canal project (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and ultimately relocated to Tianjin, China where he served as chief engineer (1918-1921) on plans for constructing a series of locks. When it became evident that the project would not be realized, Merrill returned to Grand Rapids and established the firm of Spooner & Merrill with Charles Spooner.
While Merrill was employed as an engineer, he developed a passion for archaeology and served as surveyor for a number of expeditions including Uxmal, Yucatan. There, he developed detailed plans for reproducing the Maya Temple for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair Exposition. He also mapped numerous projects in Alaska, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Italy, and served as surveyor, engineer, and photographer for the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s expedition to Coclé, Panama. Merrill, who was particularly interested in the application of engineering methods to archaeological studies, developed a device for taking vertical photographs of large areas of artifacts, which assisted archaeologists in documentation of the excavation process.
In 1944, Merrill became affiliated with Cranbrook Institute of Science as a member of the Board of Trustees, a position he held until 1953. He was a consultant in the Anthropology Department (1948-1949) and on the Research Committee (1949-1952). He donated periodicals and books to the Institute’s library, and over 500 U.S.G.S. maps and folios. His publication, “The calendar stick of Tshi-zun-hau-kau” was published by the Institute of Science in 1945.
Merrill married Lena Billington in 1907; she died in 1933. He then married Audie Sinclair Weston in 1938. Merrill died June 5, 1955 in Grand Rapids.
3 Linear Feet (5 MS, 1 OS)
Language of Materials
Robert Hall Merrill was a Trustee of the Cranbrook Institute of Science (1944-1953). He was also a Consultant to the Anthropology Department (1948-1949) and on the Research Committee (1949-1952). Born on January 18, 1881, in Grand Rapids, Michigan,he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1902 with a BA in Engineering. He worked for the U.S. Department of Rivers and Harbors and the New York State of Court Claims, where he became interested in China's Grand Canal project. He relocated to Tianjin, China, where he served as Chief Engineer (1918-1921). When it became evident that the project would not be realized, he returned to Grand Rapids. He established the firm, Spooner and Merrill with Charles Spooner. Merrill developed a passion for archaeology and served as surveyor for expeditions to Uxmal, Yucatan, and also created plans to reproduce the Maya Temple for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Merrill developed a device for taking vertical photographs of large areas of artefacts to aid the excavation process. His publication, 'The calendar stick of Tshi-zun-hau-kau' was published by the Cranbrook Institute of Science in 1945. The Robert Hall Merrill Papers document Merrill’s fifty-year interest in archaeology, specifically the Maya Calendar. The collection consists primarily of correspondence, graphs, and charts documenting Merrill’s personal research and conclusions.
The collection has been rehoused in folders following the original order maintained by Merrill in his notebooks, which is not chronological. The notebooks were indexed by his second wife, Audie, and called “codices” which refer to the ancient classical manuscripts of the same name. Each folder heading is taken from this index. In some cases, the documents were too numerous for one folder, so were split into two or three additional folders. While this arrangement may make research more time consuming, it reflects Merrill’s work and thought processes.
An index to the collection is available.
The collection was first donated to the Institute of Science in 1958 by Audie Sinclair Merrill, and housed there until 2016.
Transferred from the Institute of Science in 2016.
Leslie S. Edwards, 2017.
- Guide to the Robert Hall Merrill Papers
- Leslie S. Edwards
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Edition statement
- Resource record created by Laura MacNewman
Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository