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Frank G. Speck (1881-1950) Papers

Frank G. Speck (1881-1950) Papers

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FRANK G. SPECK (1881-1950) PAPERS, 1908-1949

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Speck, Frank G. (Frank Gouldsmith), 1881-1950
Title:Frank G. Speck (1881-1950) Papers
Quantity:6.5 linear feet (12 boxes)
Abstract:The Frank G. Speck Papers consist of field notes, correspondence, lecture notes, printed sources, photographs, drawings, ephemera, and manuscripts of published and unpublished works.
Collection Number:E 44

Series List

SERIES I. Research Material
A. Tribes
1. Algonquian General
2. Algonquin
3. Cayuga
4. Innu (Montagnais-Naskapi)
5. Iroquois General
6. Lenape/Delaware
7. Mi'kmaq (Micmac)
8. Penobscot
9. Powhatan
10. Seneca
11. Wampanoag/Mashpee Wampanoag
12. Other Tribes
B. Other Research Material
SERIES II. Writings and Publications
A. Published Manuscripts
1. Midwinter Rites of the Cayuga Longhouse
2. Other Published Manuscripts
B. Unpublished Manuscripts
1. Art and Art Ways of the Naskapi Indian [F.G. Speck and E.S. Dodge]
2. Naskapi Art [A.P. Webber, F.G. Speck and E.S. Dodge]
3. Crossbow
4. Other Unpublished Manuscripts
C. Lecture Notes and Materials
D. Publications
SERIES III. Personal
A. Professional Correspondence
B. Accounts
C. Other

Scope and Content Note

The Frank G. Speck Papers consist of field notes, correspondence, lecture notes, printed sources, photographs, drawings, ephemera, and manuscripts of published and unpublished works. The material is primarily focused on Speck's extensive fieldwork with the Native American peoples of the Eastern Woodlands. The original assemblage of the materials in file folders and notebooks has been preserved wherever possible. The collection has been divided into three series:

Series I. Research Materials consists of two subseries. Subseries A. Tribes includes field notes, sources, maps, photographs/negatives, drawings, ephemera, and correspondence from tribal members and informants, and has been organized alphabetically according to tribal affiliation to the best extent possible. Tribes with a greater volume of research material have been categorized separately, and tribes with fewer materials have been included in the subsection "Other Tribes." Due to the nature of the field, there is some overlap in the material with regard to tribe, particularly between tribes that share the same language family, territory, or cultural traits. These intersections in the research material are also a reflection of Speck's method of study, as he often worked with more than one tribal group at a time. Further to Speck's process in the field, much of the information in this series is written down or drawn on small scraps of paper, on the backs of printed pages, in notebooks and in small notations on maps. Some photographs included in this subseries have been classified as culturally sensitive and restrictions on reproduction have been applied to these materials. Citations and copies of excerpts from secondary sources related to specific tribes and Speck's area of interest are also included in this research material. Subseries B. Other Research Material consists of material that is not directly related to Speck's fieldwork with tribal groups. Included are notes and drawing studies of Native American collections from North American and European museums, likely done by Speck's colleague, Marius Barbeau, and notes, citations and sources, guidebooks, draft manuscript pages, and correspondence related to Speck's natural history, general arts, and anthropological research.

Series II. Writings and Publications consists of four subseries. Subseries A. Published Manuscripts includes manuscripts of published works. The papers in this collection include brief citations, excerpts, and drafts with written notations and pages that have been cut and pasted. The title with the greatest volume, Midwinter Rites of the Cayuga Longhouse, has been categorized separately and organized according to chapter. Some photographs included in this title have been classified as culturally sensitive and restrictions on reproduction have been applied to these materials. All other manuscripts of published works that are lesser in volume have been included in the subsection "Other Published Manuscripts" and have been organized chronologically.

Subseries B. Unpublished Manuscripts includes manuscripts of unpublished works and related research material. The titles with the greatest volume have been categorized separately. Two works in this collection include authors additional to Speck. The first is a manuscript titled Art and Art Ways of the Naskapi Indian co-authored by Speck and his colleague, Ernest S. Dodge, former director of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. The second is titled Naskapi Art, which was written by scholar Alika Podolinsky Webber, and includes excerpts from Speck and Dodge's unpublished manuscript, Art and Art Ways of the Naskapi Indian. All other manuscripts of unpublished works that are lesser in volume have been included in the sub-subseries, "Other Unpublished Manuscripts" and have been organized chronologically.

Subseries C. Lecture Notes and Materials includes Speck's typed and handwritten lecture notes, teaching materials and related sources on Indigenous peoples, linguistics, ethnology, and archaeology. Subseries D. Publications includes printed publications written by Speck.

Series III. Personal consists of papers not related to research or writings. Subseries A. Professional Correspondence includes letters to Speck from colleagues, scholars, museum professionals and collectors. Subseries B. Accounts contains financial records. Subseries C. Other includes newspaper clippings, a brochure, and a pamphlet.

Biographical Sketch

Frank Gouldsmith Speck was an American anthropologist, ethnographer, and professor at the University of Pennsylvania who was one of the most active researchers and collectors in Northeastern North America in the early-twentieth century. Unlike many of his peers and other fellow graduate students of Franz Boas, who chose to focus their research on indigenous groups in the West, Speck was unique in his study of the Algonquian peoples of the Eastern Woodlands.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 8, 1881, Speck was in poor health for much of his youth. At seven years old, his parents placed him in the care of a family friend, Fidelia Fielding in rural Mohegan, Connecticut, away from the city, in the hopes that the fresh air would improve his health. Fidelia Fielding – Dji'ts Bud dnaca – was a Mohegan woman, elder, and culture keeper and the last fluent speaker of the Mohegan-Pequot language. Speck learned many things from Fielding during the time he spent with her in his youth, and developed a strong interest in natural history, linguistics, literature, and Native American culture and history.

Speck completed his B.A. at Columbia University, where he was initially an undecided major until he became introduced to the anthropologist Franz Boas. He pursued the study of anthropological linguistics and in 1904, became one of Boas' first graduate students, receiving his M.A. at Columbia the following year. In 1907, Speck was awarded a George Leib Harrison Research Fellowship from the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1908, under the supervision of Boas, Speck completed his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, where he continued to work for the rest of his career.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Speck initially worked and taught out of the museum, and served as an instructor and assistant in general ethnology. In 1911, he was hired by the University as an assistant professor, and in 1925 became the chair of the University's new Department of Anthropology. While at Penn, Speck would come to mentor the next generation of young anthropologists (including A. Irving Hallowell and Anthony F.C. Wallace), and would continue to conduct a substantial amount of fieldwork. Speck's colleagues have referred to his research method in the field as meticulous yet casual – he jotted down detailed information in notebooks and on small scraps of paper and on the backs of printed pages – and practiced a method of personal participant observation that he referred to as "bedside ethnography." Speck's fieldwork also included the extensive collection of material culture made by tribal members. These objects were sold or donated to many institutions, including the Peabody Essex Museum.

Speck was in failing health in his later years, and became very ill while completing fieldwork in New York in January 1950. After returning home to Philadelphia, Speck passed away at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on February 6th at the age of 68.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Adney, Tappan, 1868-1950
Speck, Frank G. (Frank Gouldsmith), 1881-1950
White, Richard, Jr.
Abenaki Indians
Algonquin Indians
Cayuga Indians
Cherokee Indians
Choctaw Indians
Delaware Indians
Delaware language
Folk songs, Cherokee
Indians of North America
Innu Indians
Innu language (Montagnais)
Iroquois Indians
Language and languages
Lenape Indians
Mashpee Indians
Micmac Indians
Mi'kmaq Indians
Mohawk Indians
Montagnais and Naskapi Indians
Nanticoke Indians
Nipmuc Indians
Ojibwa Indians
Oneida Indians
Penobscot Indians
Powhatan Indians
Scaghticoke Indians
Seneca Indians
Shinnecock Indians
Tunica Indians
Tutelo Indians
Wabanaki Indians
Wampanoag Indians
Wyandot Indians
Account books


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use. Some photographs have been classified as culturally sensitive and restrictions on reproduction have been applied to these materials.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Frank G. Speck (1881-1950) Papers, E 44, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was donated by Dr. Frank G. Speck.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Alexandra Nahwegahbow and Tamara Gaydos, August 2015.

Related Material

Blankenship, Roy. Ed. The Life and Times of Frank G. Speck, 1881-1950. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1991.

Hallowell, A. Irving. "Frank Gouldsmith Speck, 1881-1950." American Anthropologist 53.1 (1951): 67-87.

Pulla, Siomonn. "From Advocacy to Ethnology: Frank Speck and the Development of Early Anthropological Projects in Canada, 1911-1920." MA Thesis, Carleton University, 2000.

Frank G. Speck Papers, American Philosophical Society.

Frank Gouldsmith Speck Papers 1925-1937, University of Pennsylvania University Archives and Records Center.

E. Tappan Adney Papers, 1893-1913, E 7

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