Shotridge, Louis
[inclusive] 1905-1937
Call Number
PU-Mu. 0047
Physical Description
Extent: 1.0 linear foot

The papers of Louis Shotridge are one of the most extensive groups in the Arctic research collections of the University of Pennsylvania Museum Archives. Shotridge, a Tlingit Indian, was intermittently employed by the museum to make ethnographic collections of Northwest Coast materials between 1903 and 1912. The archives has papers concerning his original research, arranged topically, manuscripts for articles published in , oral histories, Tlingit language notes, and general ethnographic notes on the Tlingit and other Northwest Coast groups.

Louis Situwuka Shotridge, a Tlingit indian of noble birth, was born in Klukwan, near Haines, Alaska in 1882. He is known for being an American art collector and ethnological assistant, an expert on the traditions of his people, the Tlingit nation of southeastern Alaska. His Tlingit name was Stoowukháa, which means "Astute One."

Louis atended the Mission School in Haines where he met is future wife, Florence Dennis. Florence was an accomplished weaver of baskets and displayed her technique at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon in 1905. Louis accompanied his wife to sell artifacts from Klukwan. He sold forty-nine items to George Byron Gordon of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and was hired by Gordon to collect more objects for the museum.

In 1912, Shotridge visited Philadelphia and met Frank Speck who introduced Shotridge to Canadian anthropologist Edward Sapir. Soon, Shotridge was providing essays, information and objects to Sapir also. A meeting with Franz Boas in 1914 in New York resulted in Shotridge's providing him with recordings of the Tlingit language and musicology. This led to Shotridge holding weekly round-table discussions with Boas and other anthropologists at Columbia University.

Shotridge was employed by the Penn Museum for seventeen years as an assistant curator. He was dismissed in 1932 at the height of the Museum's financial crisis.

Louis Shotridge participated in four expeditions, being co-director of the first with his wife, Florence: John Wanamaker Expedition I 1915-1919 John wanamaker Expedition II 1922-1927 Expedition August 1928-May 1929 Expedition 1930-1932

While each expedition included the collection of artifacts the first wanamaker expedition included trips to Northern Chilkoot and Chilkot regions to record Tlingit songs. during the second Wanamaker trip, Shotridge travelled to photograph abandoned and living Tlingit communities. During the third season Louis was an active member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and helped organize the Grand Camp in Sitka in 1929. The trip was shortened due to the death of his wife and financial concerns at the musuem. He purchased only two objects on this trip, a Kaagwaantaan shark helmet and a wooden tray. Louis returned to install the Museum’s new American Wing in May of 1929. The fourth expedition was shortened due to the Depression and the termination of most museum employees including Shotridge.

Following his return to Sitka Shotridge made his living from fishing, doing odd jobs and selling the occasional artifact. In 1935, he took a job as a government stream guard. His responsibility was to prevent fishing in closed areas, and it was an unpopular duty among Native fishermen.

In 1937, Shotridge was found on the ground near his cabinet in Redoubt Bay, about 16 miles south of Sitka. He had a broken neck and had apparently lain there for several days before a local schoolteacher found him. He was taken to a hospital in Sitka where he died 10 days later. The coroner's jury concluded that Shotridge had fallen from the roof and ruled it an accident. while this is a generally accepted fact, there were rumors that his death was not accidental in the community

The papers of Louis Shotridge are one of the most extensive groups in the Arctic research collections of the University of Pennsylvania Museum Archives. The Archives has papers concerning his original research, arranged topically, manuscripts for articles published in The Museum Journal, oral histories, Tlingit language notes, and general ethnographic notes on the Tlingit and other Northwest Coast groups. Several items in this section are of special interest. A 1919 published map is annotated with Shotridge’s itinerary during one of his travels seeking collections and information. Also a folder of original drawings, attributed to Shotridge, that illustrate house plans and artistic motifs. Finally, an indexed ethnographic card file fills one box. This file contains information on many aspects of native life in southeast Alaska, much of it unpublished. Certain titled sections of the file have no cards; otherwise, the file appears to be relatively complete, with only a few cards obviously missing. The only other noticeable gaps in the research material are a few incomplete article manuscripts.

Publication Information: University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives,

Finding Aid Author:

Use Restrictions: Although many items from the archives are in the public domain, copyright may be retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. The user is fully responsible for compliance with relevant copyright law.

Corporate Name(s)

  • University of Pennsylvania. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.


  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts for publication
  • Maps
  • Negatives (photographic)
  • Photographic prints
  • Photographs

Personal Name(s)

  • Gordon, G. B. (George Byron), 1870-1927
  • Sapir, Edward, 1889-1939
  • Shotridge, Louis
  • Speck, Frank G., 1881-1950


  • Anthropological museums and collections
  • Ethnology
  • Ethnology--Indigenous peoples
  • Tlingit art
  • Tlingit Indians

Mason, J. A., "Louis Shotridge" , vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 11-16

Shotridge, Florence, "The Life of a Chilkat Indian Girl." 4:3. 1913

Shotridge, Louis, "War Helmets and Clan Hats of the Tlingit Indians." 10:1-2. 1919.

Shotridge, Louis, "A Visit to the Tsimshian Indians." The Museum Journal 10:1-2,3. 1919.

Shotridge, Louis, "The Bride of Tongass (A Study of the Tlingit Bridal Ceremony)." 20:2. 1929.

Shotridge, Louis, "The Kaguanton Shark Helmet." 20:3-4. 1929.

Shotridge, Louis, "How Ats-ha Followed the Hide of His Comrade to the Land of the Yek (A Tlingit Legend)." 21:3-4. 1930.

Shotridge, Louis, "Keyt-Gooshe 'Killer Whale’s Dorsal Fin' (A Tlingit Dance Baton)." 10:4. 1919.

Shotridge, Louis, "Ghost of Courageous Adventurer (A Tlingit Legend)." 11:1. 1920.

Shotridge, Louis, "My Northland Revisited." 8:2. 1917.

Shotridge, Louis, "Anthropological exploration of Alaska." , n.s., XLIX: 1273:491. 1919.

Shotridge, Louis, "Land Otter - Man (A Tlingit Myth)." 13:1. 1922.

Shotridge, Louis, "The Emblems of the Tlingit Culture." 19:4. 1928.

Shotridge, Louis, "Tlingit Woman’s Root Basket." 12:3. 1921.

Shotridge, Louis and Florence Shotridge, "Indians of the Northwest." 4:3. 1913.

Wanneh, Gewasa, "Situwaka Chief of the Chilkats" Society of American Indians, , vol. II, pp. 280-283

Collections Inventory

Correspondence (inclusive: 1905-1937)

Series Description

Correspondence mostly with Museum Director George B. Gordon, but also to Director Horace H. F. Jayne and Jane McHugh, describing progress of fieldwork and collecting. Also included are expense reports and lists of artifacts purchased. Letters from Gordon to Shotridge until October, 1922 are in the Director’s Office letterpress copybooks; after that date, carbon copies of Museum letters are included in the Shotridge correspondence. Arranged chronologically.

Related Archival Materials note

See Gordon Letterpress books for correspondence from Gordon to Shotridge.

Correspondence (1 of 10), 1905-1909Box 1
Correspondence (2 of 10), 1911-1917Box 1
Correspondence (3 of 10), 1918Box 1
Correspondence (4 of 10), 1919-1923Box 1
Correspondence (5 of 10), 1924Box 1
Correspondence (6 of 10), 1925Box 1
Correspondence (7 of 10), 1926-1927Box 1
Correspondence (8 of 10), 1928-1929Box 1
Correspondence (9 of 10), 1930-1931Box 1
Correspondence (10 of 10), 1932-1937Box 1

Financial Records (inclusive: 1912-1932)

Scope and Contents note

Cancelled checks and vouchers for fieldwork and collecting expenses. Expense reports are found in the Correspondence Series. Arranged chronologically.

Canceled Checks and Vouchers, Box 1

Curatorial (inclusive: 1911-1930)

Scope and Contents note

Letters, memoranda, reports, and collection notes relating to miscellaneous curatorial duties performed by Shotridge in the American Section. Also included is work by Shotridge on Museum exhibitions. Arranged topically.

Miscellaneous Correspondence, Box 1
Exhibit Labels, Box 1
Note on Root Basket, Box 1
Miscellaneous, including lists of collections, Box 1
North American Exhibition-1925 Room AA, Box 2
North American Exhibition-1925 Room BB-Alaska Eskimo, Box 2

Manuscripts (inclusive: 1913-1933)

Scope and Contents note

Drafts of articles published by Shotridge in The Museum Journal, recounting Tlingit myths, expedition narratives, and descriptions and interpretations of artifacts. Also includes some unpublished material and public school lectures. Arranged chronologically.

"Chilkat Dwelling House" and "Smoking or Food Preparing House" 1913, Box 1
"War Helmets and Clan Hats of the Tlingit Indians" 1919, Box 1
"The Ghost of Courageous Adventurer" 1920, Box 1
"Tlingit Woman's Root Basket" 1921, Box 1
"Land Otter-Man" 1922, Box 1
"The Emblems of the Tlingit Culture" ( Medoff) 1928, Box 1
"The Bride of Tongass" 1929, Box 1
"The Kaguanton Shark Helmet" 1929, Box 1
"How Ats-ha Followed the Hide of His Comrade to the Land of the Yek" [Fragment] 1930, Box 1
"Vengeance" 1933, Box 1
"The Vanishing Nobility of Alaska", Box 1
Public School Lectures— “First White Man”, Box 2
Public School Lectures -“Lantern Slides — The American Territory of Alaska — Its Peoples and Its History”, Box 2
Public School Lectures-“Alaska-The Country and Its People”, Box 2
Public School Lectures-“Moldy Head-Adventure of ‘Alive in Pond’ in the Salmon World”, Box 2

Research (inclusive: 1914-1930)

Scope and Contents note

Includes one notebook of linguistic work prepared by Shotridge for and with Franz Boas, and a box of notes on the ethnography, language, history, genealogy, etc., of the Tlingit. Arranged topically.

Notebook on Tlingit language and grammar, Shotridge work with Franz Boas; includes Tlingit songs and article for The Museum Journal, Box 1
Ethnographic notes (oversize from card file), Box 1
Ethnographic notes-Photocopies from the Alaska State Museum Ethnographic notes-Photocopies from the Alaska State Museum, Box 1
Ethnographic Notes with subject tabs, Box 2
Shotridge negative sleeves with identifications, 4x5 (nos. 14704–14950, mostly 14704-14792), Box 2
Shotridge negative sleeves with identifications, 5x7 (nos. 14744–14754), Box 2

Visual Materials

Scope and Contents note

Approximately 500 photographs of people and places in Alaska and British Columbia taken by Shotridge in the field, as well as an annotated published map of Southeastern Alaska used by Shotridge, and drawings of houses and decorative motifs made by Shotridge for a Museum Journal article. Maps and drawings stored in oversize flat files, photographic collections stored by type with the negative, lantern slide, or print collections. Two additional drawings and a hand-drawn map are found in the Ethnographic Notes.

Drawings of Tlingit houses and decorative motifs, mostly published in "Indians of the Northwest," The Museum Journal Vol IV No. 3 (Philadelphia: September, 1913). Attributed to Louis Shotridge., Drawer P-36
Published map of Southeastern Alaska annotated with Shotridge’s itinerary. 8002. Alaska, Dixon Entrance to Cape St. Elias (Washington, DC: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey)., Drawer M-58
Drawings of Tlingit houses and decorative motifs, mostly published in "Indians of the Northwest," The Museum Journal Vol IV No. 3 (Philadelphia: September, 1913). Attributed to Louis Shotridge.
Chilkat blanket, . Drawer P-36
Artistic motifs and portrait of Tlingit man, . Drawer P-36
Artistic motifs, . Drawer P-36
Fig. 68, Chilkat dwelling house, floor plan, . Drawer P-36
Fig. 69, Chilkat dwelling house, framework, . Drawer P-36
Fig. 70, Dwelling house, rear wall and framework. Fig. 71, Dwelling house, front wall and framework, . Drawer P-36
Fig. 72, Manufacturing of boards and planks. Fig. 73, Cornice. Fig. 74, Making of corner-post. Unpublished figure, Cornice, . Drawer P-36
Fig. 75, Dwelling house, exterior side wall. Fig. 76, Longitudinal section of dwelling house, . Drawer P-36
Fig. 77, Food preparing house, floor plan, . Drawer P-36
Fig. 78, Food preparing house, transverse section showing construction. Fig. 80, Food preparing house, front wall and framework, . Drawer P-36
Fig. 79, Food preparing house, framework, . Drawer P-36
Fig. 81, Food preparing house, longitudinal section. Fig. 82, Food preparing house, exterior side wall, . Drawer P-36

Photographs (including prints, negatives, and lantern slides)

Scope and Contents note

A list of negatives in this collection is available by request.