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Ross Parmenter Papers

Identifier: Manuscripts-Collection 152


1931 – 1999. Papers of this writer, journalist, artist, polymath and self-taught Mesoamerican archaeologist. Included are biographical materials, personal papers, correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, sketchbooks, music editorial materials from the New York Times, published and unpublished book manuscripts and research notes, research on highland Mexican codices and lienzos, manuscript and research for a biography of Zelia Nuttall, photographs and slides, and miscellaneous publications and research on a variety of topics that interested Parmenter throughout his long professional life. The bulk of the collection consists of Parmenter’s correspondence with a vast network of professional acquaintances, collaborators, friends, family, and researchers and the documentation of his meticulous research for a multitude of writing projects (published and unpublished), including versions of his unpublished biographical manuscript of Zelia Nuttall.


  • 1931-1999


Conditions Governing Use

Open to the public, no known restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

Charles Ross Parmenter (b. Toronto, Ontario 1912, d. New York City, New York 1999) was a Canadian-born writer and music critic with a lifelong interest in Mexico. After graduating from Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1933, he worked briefly for the Toronto Evening Telegram before moving to New York where he began writing for The New York Times in 1934 as a general reporter covering shipping news. Capitalizing on his piano and voice studies, he joined the music department in 1940 and was later appointed music news editor in 1955. He remained on the music staff until his retirement from the Times in 1964.

Parmenter’s 30-year long career at The New York Times was punctuated by a three-year stint in the armed forces during World War II. Between 1943 and 1945, he served as an army medic at airforce bases in Utah and California. After his discharge from the military, like many other North American travelers, he began to explore Mexico. Parmenter became enthralled with the people, culture, and history of the country. He wrote extensively about his trips to Mexico and after his retirement, he divided his time between his apartment in New York and a second home in Oaxaca. He published several books on Mexico focusing upon his interests in Mesoamerican archaeology, colonial architecture, and Mixtec painted manuscripts. Parmenter did not confine himself to Mexico. He wrote and published on topics as varied as philodendron plants to Buddhist architecture in Japan. At the time of his death, Parmenter was editing a biographical manuscript on archaeologist, Zelia Nuttall, that he had been working on since at least the 1970s, if not earlier. It is an unpublished, three volume work which details Nuttall's life, family and career that mirrors also the development of modern archaeology in Mexico.

Parmenter’s interest in Mixtec codices and Mexican archaeology led him to Tulane University where he worked closely with several affiliated scholars, notably Dr. Mary Elizabeth Smith. He researched and wrote an essay about Tulane’s acquisition of the Codex Tulane (also known as the Códice de Huamelulpan) which accompanied Smith’s commentary and facsimile edition in a co-authored monograph, The Codex Tulane (1991). He also researched two former Directors of Tulane’s Department of Middle American Research, Frans Blom and William Gates, for his biography of Zelia Nuttall.


115 Boxes

Language of Materials



The Ross Parmenter Collection contains 10 series that together total 115 boxes, 78 bound volumes, 19 loose scrapbooks, and one oversized folder of material. The collection arrangement is the following:


I. Biography

Sub-series A - C; Boxes 1-2, Oversize Boxes 108-109, 112, 115

II. Correspondence, 1943-1998

Sub-series D - E; Boxes 3-42, 78 bound volumes

III. Diaries, 1943-1993

Boxes 43-46

IV. Scrapbooks, 1943-1962

19 bound loose scrapbooks, Box 47, and Oversize Boxes 110-111, 113

V. Sketchbooks, 1936-1973

Boxes 48-51

VI. New York Times Music Editor Material

Boxes 52-54 and 7 bound loose scrapbooks

V. Book Manuscripts, 1943-1996

Sub-series F-H, Box 55 and Oversize Boxes 108-109 Sub-series I-J, Box 56 and Oversize Box 108

Sub-series K, Box 57

Sub-series L, Boxes 58-61 and Oversize Boxes 108-109

Sub-series M, Boxes 62

Sub-series N, Box 63

Sub-series O, Box 64

Sub-series P, Box 65 and Oversize Box 115

VIII. Codices and lienzos

Sub-series Q-S, Box 66

Sub-series T, Boxes 67-68 and Oversize 112

Sub-series U, Box 68 and Oversize 112

Sub-series V, Box 69

Sub-series W, Box 70

Sub-series X, Boxes 71-76,106 and Oversize Boxes 107,109,111-112

IX. Zelia Nuttall

Sub-series Y, Box 77

Sub-series Z, Boxes 78-85

Sub-series AA, Box 86

Sub-series BB, Boxes 87-91

Sub-series CC, Boxes 92-97 and Oversize Box 112

X. Miscellaneous

Sub-series DD, Box 98 and Oversize Boxes 109,112

Sub-series EE, Box 99

Sub-series FF, Box 100

Sub-series GG, Box 101

Sub-series HH, Box 102 and Oversize Box 112

Sub-series II, Boxes 103-104

Sub-series JJ, Boxes 105-106 and Oversize Box 112

Related Materials

1. Ross Parmenter-David Farmer Correspondence Collection 138, Manuscripts Collection, The Latin American Library

2. Copies of Parmenter’s unfinished manuscript, “Zelia Nuttall and the Recovery of Mexico’s Past” are held in the Bancroft Library at the University of California-Berkeley and the Tozzer Library at Harvard University.

3. Collection of Zelia Nuttall papers related to her travels to Russia as part of an expedition sponsored by the University of Pennsylvannia. See the finding aid HERE
Ross Parmenter Papers
Manuscript Collection 152, Manuscripts, The Latin American Library, Tulane University
Sara Kittleson
June 21, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition, 2019

Repository Details

Part of the The Latin American Library at Tulane Repository

7001 Freret Street
Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, 4th floor
Tulane University
New Orleans Louisiana 70118 US
(504) 865-5681