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George T. Emmons

Emmons, George Thornton (June 6, 1852 - June 11, 1945).was an ethnoghaphic photographer and a US Navy Lieutnant.

He was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was George Foster Emmons.

He graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1874. In 1881 he attained the master rank, (1883) lieutenant j.g. and (1887) lieutenant.

Emmons got stationed in 1882 on the U.S.S. Pinta in Alaska and stayed there through the 1880s and 1890s. The navy took those times largely the responsability on stability in the region. He married Kittie Baker in 1886.

Emmons got through his duties in contact and interested in the Native Americans culture of the region particulary the Tlingit and Tahltan and began to record information and collect artifacts as he visited them on his leaves. So he was dedicated to native life traditions, like Chilkat blankets waving[1], bear hunting, feuds, and the potlatch (a very big ceremonial feast) and became able to understand beliefs and values and recorded through his ethnographer's devotion also the Tlingit terms. He was assigned inbetween from 1891-1893 to the World's Columbian Exposition to accompany the Alaskan exhibit.

He retired in 1899 and took on special projects for the federal government. So he was sent to Alaska in 1901 to locate border stone markers between Canada and the USA; gave advice in 1902 about Alaskan game and forests and salmon fishery; in 1904 he gathered information about white settlers and Native Americans and asked President Roosevelt to investigate in Alaskan native conditions due to starvation among the Copper River Indians. He was supported by Roosevelt and presented in 1905 a report to the Congress.

His interests of Alaskan Natives got him to close contact with the American Museum of Natural History, which purchased his first two collections of Alaskan Native artifacts in the 1890s and with which Emmons had an exchange of items for the next three decades.(In 1902 the Field Museum of Natural History purcheased a†large and varied collection of more than 1,900 Tlingit objects.) F. W. Putnam, curator of the American museum, asked for his help on a report in 1896 and repeated the request to the navy the following year. So got Emmons officially ordered and detached from active service to write "Ethnological report on the Native tribes of Southeastern Alaska, elaborated from the museum collections". He became a regular contributor to The American Museum Journal (forerunner of Natural History journal) and other scholarly periodicals.

At the recommendation of Franz Boas with which he corresponded regulary and request of the president of the American Museum of Natural History, Morris K. Jesup, he began to organize his notes and prepare a manuscript on the Tlingit. As he died in Victoria, British Columbia in 1945 the encyclopedic book was still unfinished. The work was taken over by Frederica de Laguna in 1955 and finally published 1991 with the title The Tlingit Indians. It acts on topics such as census data, names of clans and houses, species of plants and their uses, native calendars, and names of gambling sticks.


journal articles by Emmons, G. T.:

posthumously published books: Chapter headings resemble the the breadth of the work: The Land and the People; Social Organization; Villages, Houses, Forts, and Other Works; Travel and Transportation; Fishing and Hunting; Food and its Preparation; Arts and Industries: Menís Work; Arts and Industries: Womenís Work; Dress and Decoration; The Life Cycle; Ceremonies; War and Peace; Illness and Medicine; Shamanism; Witchcraft; Games and Gambling; and Time, Tides, and Winds.

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