Speck, Frank G. (Frank Gouldsmith), 1881-1950

Alternative names
Birth 1881-11-08
Death 1950-02-06
Iroquoian languages, Delaware, English, Siouan languages, Cherokee, Algonquian languages

Biographical notes:

Frank G. Speck was an anthropologist.

From the description of Naskapi scenes, [ca. 1930]. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122523446

From the guide to the Naskapi scenes, [ca. 1930], Circa 1930, (American Philosophical Society)

Frank Gouldsmith Speck was an anthropologist.

From the description of Delaware Indian material, 1928. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122440271

From the description of Catawba texts, [ca. 1934]. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122608853

From the guide to the Delaware Indian material, 1928, (American Philosophical Society)

From the guide to the Catawba texts, [ca. 1934], Circa 1934, (American Philosophical Society)

F.G. Speck was an anthropologist and conducted fieldwork among North American Indians. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania from 1900 to 1950.

From the description of Papers, 1903-1950. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 154298131

A.B., Columbia, (1904); A.M., Columbia, (1906); Ph.D., U. of Pennsylvania, (1908); professor, Dept. of Anthropology, U. of Pennsylvania (1909-1950).

From the description of Papers, 1925-1937. (University of Pennsylvania). WorldCat record id: 122592229

Frank Gouldsmith Speck was an anthropologist, linguist and ethnologist. He was educated at Columbia University (A.B., 1904; M.A., 1905), and at the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D., 1908), where he remained for the rest of his professional career.

From the guide to the Manuscripts on Native Americans, 1913-1946, 1913-1946, (American Philosophical Society)

F. G. Speck was an anthropologist.

From the description of Collection of notes and diaries in the Cherokee syllabary, 1840-1932. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 86155678

From the guide to the Collection of notes and diaries in the Cherokee syllabary, 1840-1932, 1840-1932, (American Philosophical Society)

Frank Gouldsmith Speck was an anthropologist, linguist and ethnologist. He was educated at Columbia University (A.B., 1904; M.A., 1905), and at the University of Pennsylvania (Ph. D., 1908), where he remained for the rest of his professional career.

From the description of Manuscripts on Native Americans, 1913-1946. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122608901

Captain Bernier was leader of an Arctic expedition for Canada aboard the government steamship S. S. Arctic.

Alfred Tremblay was a geologist and explorer who served with Bernier on the S. S. Arctic.

Noo-kud-la was an Eskimo sorcerer and head-man at Pond's Inlet, 1923.

From the description of Explanation of an Eskimo map, 1924. (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 64063282

The United States Indian School at Carlisle, Pa., was founded in 1879 by Gen. Richard Henry Pratt, a Civil War veteran and former commander of the Buffalo soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. Through his experiences in the far west, Pratt developed a loathing for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which he regarded as hopelessly inefficient and corrupt, and he was led to develop his own solutions to the "Indian problem." After being appointed commander at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Fla., guarding over Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Arapaho hostages who refused to live on reservations, he had his first opportunity to act on his theories, which were intended as an alternative to extermination for both pacifying Indians and alleviating their social conditions.

Pratt's thoughts on Indian education drew upon disparate sources. Influenced by Quaker educators, who had eighty years of experience in attempting to instill white values in Indians, Pratt latched onto the idea of using boarding schools as a means of separating Indians from their native cultures and socializing them into "civilized" life, while preparing them for work in industrial and manual labor. Given new white names to replace their Indian ones, the students were prohibited from speaking their native languages, were instructed in Christianity, and were fed, clothed, and housed under strict military discipline.

For his first foray into Indian education, Pratt arranged for 17 Kiowa and Cheyenne prisoners at Fort Marion to enroll at the newly founded Hampton Institute, a school dedicated to providing a vocational, industrial education for freed slaves and Indians. At the same time, he lobbied the government to allow him to establish his own vocational school, receiving permission from the Department of the Interior during the summer of 1879 to use the abandoned barracks at Carlisle, Pa., for that purpose. That September, he recruited 82 Lakota students from the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Agencies, including five of Spotted Tail's sons, a daughter, and a granddaughter. Two of his Hampton students recruited other students among the Kiowa and Cheyenne, and on October 6, 1879, the first students of the Carlisle Training School took residence.

Over the course of its 39 years, over 10,000 students were enrolled at the Carlisle School drawn from tribes all across the continent. Until it closed in 1918, Carlisle served as a model for dozens of other boarding schools who adopted the concept of "civilizing the Indian" by stripping away Indian identity.

From the guide to the Speck-Choate Photograph Collection, 1879-1881, (American Philosophical Society)

The ethnographer Frank Gouldsmith Speck was unusual among the students of Franz Boas in choosing to study the Indian cultures of the eastern United States that he believed were in severe decline. As one of Boas' first graduate students at Columbia, Speck worked extensively in the state of Connecticut, attempting to "salvage" what remained of the native cultures, recording, for example, the Mohegan Pequot language from one of its last native speakers, Fidelia Hoscott Fielding. After completing his degree in 1908, Speck became Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, becoming one of the best know re his research among the Algonquian peoples of the northeast.

Beginning in the 1920s, Speck began to expand the scope of his research to include Indian piopulations in the mid-Atlantic states and the southeast. In his studies of the North Carolina Cherokee, Speck's primary consultant and collaborator was Will West Long. Born in Big Cove, N.C., on January 25, 1870, Long was raised in traditional Cherokee. At 25, he studied at Hampton Institute in Virginia, and spent five years after that working in Massachusetts before returning to Big Cove during the fall of 1904. For 28 years he was a member of the Cherokee tribal council, and served as clerk for an additional two, but Long played a key role in collecting and tramsitting information about traditional Cherokee culture to younger generations, passing on knowledge about Cherokee medicine, carving, music and dance, and language. Long, who died in 1947, was listed a co-author of Speck's and Leonard Bloom's on Cherokee Dance and Drama (Norman, Okla.: 1951).

From the guide to the Frank Gouldsmith Speck Cherokee Collection, 1880-1948, (American Philosophical Society)

Anthropologist and ethnographer Frank Gouldsmith Speck was unique among Franz Boas' early graduate students at Columbia University. Unlike other ethnographers of his time who focused their studies on the Western Indian tribes, Speck chose to study the cultures of the Eastern Woodland Indians. Becoming the self-appointed salvage ethnographer for those tribes, Speck was regularly with the Indians he studied collecting all aspects of their culture.

Although he spent the majority of his career in the field, Speck did not come from a rural background. Born in Brooklyn, NY on November 8, 1881 Speck spent the first seven years of his life in the city, a fragile and sickly child. As was common at the time, Speck's parents felt that a rural environment would be better for their son's health, and in 1888 placed him in the care of family friend Fidelia Fielding, living in Mohegan, CT. Fielding was a widow, a Native American, and the last speaker of her tribal language in New England. While with Fielding the seeds for many of Speck's professional interests were laid as she tutored him in nature, natural history, English literature, and Mohegan language and literature. At age fourteen Speck returned to his family, now living in Hackensack, NJ.

When Speck entered Columbia University at the turn of the century, he had not settled on a career - though he was leaning towards the ministry. That changed when he enrolled in a language course with the eminent linguist John Dyneley Prince. During the class Prince became fascinated by Speck's ability to provide first hand information on Native American languages long thought to be dead - particularly Pequot-Mohegan and Delaware-Mohican. Before graduating, Speck and Prince co-authored three articles. Prince also introduced Speck to anthropologist Franz Boas, who had begun his tenure at the helm of Columbia's anthropology department less then a decade earlier. Through Boas and Prince's encouragement Speck decided to pursue a career in anthropological linguistics, and after receiving his A.B. in 1904 started his graduate work under Boas. Speck was one of Boas' first graduate students and was one of a generation of anthropologists (along with Margaret Mead, Elsie Clews Parsons, Alfred Kroeber, Paul Raden, and Ashley Montagu) to learn and promote the Boasian approach to anthropology. Under Boas, Speck began his fieldwork among the Yuchi Indians of Oklahoma in 1904, receiving his M.A. from Columbia a year later. Speck initially planned to continue with graduate studies at Columbia with Boas until he was awarded a George Leib Harrison Research Fellowship from the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania in 1907. Leaving Columbia for the University Museum, Speck received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1908 and remained in Philadelphia for the rest of his career.

When Speck first arrived at Penn he was appointed as an instructor and assistant in general ethnology, working and teaching out of the Museum. Since the University did not have an independent department of anthropology at that time, courses were taught either out of the University Museum or the Department of Religion. During these early years Speck continued with his field work, which eventually put him at odds with the Museum's director, George Byron Gordon. Gordon wanted Speck to focus less on fieldwork and more on public and social functions important to fundraising at the museum. The feud between Gordon and Speck led to a number of incidents, including the confiscation of Speck's Penobscot manuscript (which was eventually published in 1940 as Penobscot Man ). Finally in 1911 Speck was fired from the University Museum, only to be hired by the University as an assistant professor to replace Daniel Garrison Brinton. Two years later Speck became acting chair of the new Department of Anthropology, and chair in 1925.

It was not long after arriving in Philadelphia that Speck began his study of the Algonkians of the Eastern Woodlands. Speck went on to study the Algonkians of Delaware, the tribes of tidewater Virginia, the Cherokee in the Southeast, and the Iroquois, especially their ceremonialism. Speck's work among the Eastern tribes was indicative of his efforts to record dying languages and cultures. In many regards Speck was ahead of his time with his efforts to document the ways of life for relatively acculturated tribes, an idea which many anthropologists disdained. The eastern tribes had been overrun by European settlers during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries and were largely destroyed by war, famine, and disease. Those who had survived were pushed westward and were absorbed by other tribes. As a result the majority of information regarding these tribes was historical not ethnographic. However, Speck viewed ethnology as a fluid field that was unlimited, and not a fixed study of past cultures. Further, he was never overly concerned with high-level generalizations or interpretations of his subject but focused more on recording well-attested facts. During his research Speck looked for variations that would turn up as he collected empirical data, and then would modify his original concept. To that end, Speck was not satisfied with providing a generalized picture of a tribe. He studied a tribe's language, technology, decorative art, myths and tales, religious belief, ceremonialism, social organization, music, and hunting territories. Speck also chose to focus on a tribe's link to nature, with ethnobiology, material culture, and uses of the environment playing major themes in his work.

Another integral part of Speck's fieldwork was collecting material culture. His love for collecting artifacts in the field was motivated by the special problems in which he became interested from time to time. Occasionally, Speck's interest in arts and crafts drew him within the borders of archeology. He would also have replicas made by Indians of objects no longer in daily use. Speck kept a number of objects in his office at the University, but most of the artifacts were sold to public museums, arriving heavily annotated as to their context within their culture group. Among the institutions to receive artifacts from Speck were the: Museum of the American Indian (now the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian), American Museum of Natural History, Peabody Museum, Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery, Cranbrook Institute of Science, Denver Art Museum, National Museum of Canada, Royal Ontario Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum - University of Oxford, and Danish National Museum.

What made Speck successful in his research was the method he used in the field. Speck was a "bedside ethnologist," staying with the people all day, eating with them, learning their language, and sleeping in the village. This sense of ease and intimate form of fieldwork allowed Speck to gain the trust of the tribes, facilitating his collection of data. In fact, Speck was much more at ease among Indians, who were as much a part of his private life as his professional life than among Philadelphia society. He was rarely away from Indians for more than a month, going off to conduct field work when the opportunity presented itself, often without notice.

During the later years of his career, Speck began to study Iroquois ceremonialism. He felt that despite the vast material written on the Iroquois, very little was known about the diversity and characteristics of the cultures of the groups that made up the Six Nations. Also in his later years Speck was battling a failing heart and kidney disease, though this did not stop him from going into the field. It was during his trip to Red House, N.Y. in January 1950 to witness the Seneca perform their mid-winter rites that he became seriously ill. After returning to Philadelphia, Speck died at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on February 6 at the age of 68.

From the guide to the Frank G. Speck Papers, 1903-1950, (American Philosophical Society)


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