Friday, May 13, 2011

Alanson Skinner (1886-1925)

Ethnologist, Lecturer, Author
Born September 7, 1886, Buffalo, New York
Died August 17, 1925, North Dakota

Alanson Buck Skinner was born on September 7, 1886, in Buffalo, New York, and studied at Columbia University and Harvard University. Trained as an ethnologist, Skinner was associated with three museums during his short life: the American Museum of Natural History (ca. 1907-1915), the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation (1915-1920, 1924-1925), and the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee (1920-1924). He carried out extensive research on Indian tribes in North America, especially the tribes of New York, the Great Lakes Region, and the Northern Plains. Skinner also traveled to Costa Rica to study the Indians in that country. The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin was his specialty. 

Skinner was a prolific writer, authoring books, pamphlets, and articles on every aspect of Indian life, including folklore. His two stories for Weird Tales, "Bad Medicine" (October 1925) and "The Tsantsa of Professor Von Rothapfel" (August 1926), are perhaps drawn from folklore. They certainly have an ethnological theme. (A tsantsa by the way is a shrunken human head.) Skinner also wrote pieces for Adventure, The Frontier, and Short Stories magazine.

Skinner's life ended when he was killed in an automobile accident in North Dakota. He was on a collecting trip for the Museum of the American Indian at the time. The date was August 17, 1925, making his two tales for "The Unique Magazine" posthumous.

Alanson Skinner's Stories in Weird Tales
"Bad Medicine" (Oct. 1925)
"The Tsantsa of Professor Von Rothapfel" (Aug. 1926)

Further Reading
Despite the fact that he died more than eighty-five years ago, Alanson Skinner's books and other publications are still in print and readily available on the Internet. You can see a collection of photographs of the Menominee Tribe during the 1920s on the website of the Milwaukee Public Museum, here. As for a biography, M.R. Harrington wrote of Skinner's life and death in American Anthropologist, January-March 1926. (Harrington by the way, was also a teller of weird tales, writing under the name "Ramon de las Cuevas.")

"Alanson Skinner and Amos Oneroad in cornfield," a photograph taken by Huron H. Smith near Shawano County, Wisconsin, in 1921-1922. This photograph is in the collection of the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

No comments:

Post a Comment