Stephens, John L., 1805-1852

Alternative names
Birth 1805-11-28
Death 1852-10-13
English, Mayan languages

Biographical notes:

New Jersey author.

From the description of Letter to [ ? ] Sargeant [manuscript], 1841-1843. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647812236

Appointed Special Ambassador to Central America by United States president Martin Van Buren, Stephens arrived in Belize in October 1839, and he traveled through Zacapa, Guatemala not long after.

From the description of Some words of the Chorti language of Zacapa / collected by John L. Stephens, 1839. [between 1851 and 1878] (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 744652835

Biographical Sketch

John Lloyd Stephens was born November 28, 1805, in Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey, the son of Benjamin Stephens and Clemence Lloyd Stephens. He received his A. B. degree from Columbia College in 1822 and his M. A. from Columbia in 1828. In 1824, he was graduated from the Tapping Reeve Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut. Between 1834 and 1836, he traveled extensively through Europe and the Near East, including Egypt, Arabia Petrea and Russia, and in 1837 and 1838, published accounts of his travels. Stephens' archaeological expeditions to Central America, Mexico and Yucatan were in 1839 and 1842. He was accompanied on both of these journeys by Frederick Catherwood, the British architect and artist. The result of these two tours was Incidents of Travel in Central America, which Stephens published in 1841, and Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, published in 1843. In 1847, Stephens became an official of the Ocean Steam Navigation Company and traveled to Germany, where he met Baron Alexander von Humboldt in Berlin. He later wrote of this meeting in An hour with Humboldt, which appeared in the Living Age Magazine. From l848 to 1852, Stephens was engaged in building a railroad across the Isthmus of Panama and became president of the Panama Railroad Company. He died in New York City, Oct. 5, 1852, at the age of 47 -a victim of Chagres fever.

From the guide to the John Lloyd Stephens Papers, 1795-1882, (The Bancroft Library)


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  • Chorti language--Glossaries, vocabularies, etc
  • Indians of Central America--Languages


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  • Guatemala (as recorded)