Skip to main content

John Francis Stimson (1883-1958) Papers

John Francis Stimson (1883-1958) Papers

1 of 2
Open Finding Aid
small (250x250 max)
medium (500x500 max)
Extra Large
large ( > 500x500)
Full Resolution

JOHN FRANCIS STIMSON (1883-1958) PAPERS, circa 1930-1958

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:Stimson, J. F. (John Francis), 1883-1958
Title:John Francis Stimson (1883-1958) Papers
Quantity:12 Linear feet (21 boxes)
Abstract:The John Francis Stimson papers include manuscripts, transcripts, pre-publication materials, and photographs collected by J. Frank Stimson in his research on the Tuamotu culture.
Collection Number:E 56

Series List

SERIES I. Informant Manuscripts
A. Paea a Avehe
B. Hapai
C. Fariua a Makitua
D. Tama a Tama
E. Unknown Author
SERIES II. Informant Transcripts
A. Paea a Avehe
B. Fariua
C. Unknown Author
SERIES III. John Frank Stimson Material
SERIES IV. Kenneth P. Emory Material
SERIES V. Related Authors Material
SERIES VI. Photographs

Scope and Content Note

The John Francis Stimson papers include manuscripts, transcripts, pre-publication materials, and photographs collected by J. Frank Stimson in his research on the Tuamotu culture. It includes material from several authors and spans a period of about twenty years from the early 1930s through the 1950s. The majority of the collection consists of original documents used by Stimson in his research and writing; several documents have been rearranged, relabeled, and corrected several times by Stimson. The original order of the page numbers has been preserved wherever possible, however, the overarching method of organization is first by type of material and then by author. When multiple versions of the same publication are present, each document is listed without implication as to order written.

The collection has been organized into six series, the first three of which contain the manuscripts and transcripts written in Tuamotuan by Stimson's informants. Series four through six consist of the research, notes, and pre-publication materials produced by Stimson and his colleagues.

Series I. Informant Manuscripts consists of manuscript memo books and loose-leaf notes written by the native inhabitants who Stimson interviewed. The series was organized chronologically based on time of interview with informant. Many of the memo books also include a table of contents on the cover or first page. The material with unknown authors was kept at the end of the series.

Series II. Informant Transcripts consists of the typed transcripts of the notebooks and notes in previous series. There are also several folders of materials whose author was not marked and these are included at the end of the series and are arranged, whenever possible, by island of origin. Page numbers included are based on Stimson's system which does not run consecutively. Folders labeled Index appear to be notes collected by Emory by informants.

Series III. John F. Stimson Material consists of Stimson's writing, including several versions of his writings on the Kiho cult, his editors' notes, as well as translated and annotated chants, myths, and legends. It also includes a folder of correspondence to his mother, sister, and other individuals.

Series IV. Kenneth P. Emory Material consists of four folders of notes and research collected by Emory.

Series V. Related Authors Material consists of material written by various authors and collected by Stimson. This material relates to Stimson's Polynesian research. Included within this series are notes on the island of Raivavae by Susanne McConnaughey, who also contributed to Stimson's publication Songs and Tales of the Sea Kings.

Series VI. Photographs is a collection of photographs taken primarily by Kenneth Emory and which were mostly numbered but otherwise unlabeled.

Biographical Sketch

John Francis Stimson was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on October 3, 1883, to John Ward Stimson and Eleanor Elvira Maxson. He went to school at Phillips Andover Academy, pursued literary and musical interests at Yale without taking a degree, and studied architecture at the Ateliers of the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. He had no formal training in either linguistics or anthropology.

Stimson first arrived in Tahiti on vacation in 1912, and remained in French Polynesia until his death. Upon arrival in the islands, Stimson determined to master the local speech and commenced to work with Teuira Henry, the noted compiler of Ancient Tahiti. He set himself to learning one hundred Tahitian words each day, and soon had acquired a vocabulary that permitted him to attack the more difficult problems of grammar. His primary interests were to study the classical speech and culture of pre-European Polynesia.

In 1918, Stimson completed a Tahitian grammar to be used by the Mormon Mission, an analysis that established his reputation as a Polynesian scholar. By 1923, he was approached by the Bernice P. Bishop Museum (Honolulu, HI) to assist Kenneth P. Emory as a research associate in linguistics for a survey of the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia. His assignment was to make a study of the Tuamotuan dialects. As representative for the Bishop Museum, Stimson attended Yale University's first session of the Linguistic Institute in 1928, the same year he was appointed as special editor for Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia of Webster's New International Dictionary (2nd edition). A controversy later arose when Stimson and Emory reached opposing views about the existence of a Tuamotu cult of the supreme god, Kiho-Tumu (Kio-Tumu), which ultimately changed Stimson's association with the Bishop Museum.

In 1951 Donald Marshall received a fellowship from the American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY) and the Peabody Museum (Salem, MA) to collaborate with Stimson to make available his forty years of Polynesian linguistic and ethnology research. After the death of Stimson, Marshall completed the editing of the Dictionary of Tuamotuan Dialects, which was published by the Peabody Museum in 1964.

Stimson passed away on October 20, 1958, in Punaauia, Tahiti Polynesia, France.

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.

Brooks, Eleanor Stimson, d. 1945
Emory, Kenneth Pike, 1897-
Fariua a Makitua
Marshall, Donald
McConnaughey, Susanne, 1911-
Paea a Avehe
Stimson, J. F. (John Francis), 1883-1958
Marquesan language
Mythology, Polynesian
Polynesian languages
Tuamotuan language
French Polynesia--Languages
New Zealand
Tahiti (French Polynesia : Island)
Tuamotu Archipelago (French Polynesia)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

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

John Francis Stimson (1883-1958) Papers, E 56, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was found in the collection. The folder of correspondence (B20 F7) was donated to the Peabody Museum by Mrs. Eleanor Stimson Brooks (acc #16,373).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Johanna Umana and Patrick Connelly, August 2010. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, April 2016.

Related Material

Stimson, John Frank, and Donald Stanley Marshall. A Dictionary of Some Tuamotuan Dialects of the Polynesian Language. Salem, MA: Peabody Museum of Salem, 1964.

Stimson, John Frank. Tuamotuan Religion (Museum Bulletin 103). Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 1933.

Stimson, John Frank. The Cult of Kiho-Tumu (Museum Bulletin 111). Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 1933.

Stimson, John Frank. Tuamotuan Legends (Island of Anaa): Part I, The Demigods. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 1937.

Stimson, John Frank. Songs and Tales of the Sea Kings: Interpretations of the Oral Literature of Polynesia. Salem, MA: Peabody Museum of Salem, 1957.

Related Collections

Fred McConnaughey Papers, uncataloged Ethnology collection

Donald S. Marshall Papers, uncataloged Ethnology collection

20 small metal file drawers of index cards

you wish to report:

Select the collections to add or remove from your search