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Louis V Shotridge

Louis ShotridgeLouis V. Shotridge (Stoowukáa) was born in 1882 to an influential Tlingit family in Klukwan, Alaska. It is said that he was named after Louis Paul, the first Presbyterian missionary in Haines (Mason 1960:11).  Louis’s mother, Kudeit.sáakw, belonged to the Killer Whale Fin House (Keet goochi hit) of the Kaagwaantaan clan.  His father was George Shotridge (Yeilgooxu), the housemaster of the famous Whale House (Yaay hit), the leading family of the Gaanax.teidi clan.  His paternal grandfather, Shartrich (L Shaaduxisht), was housemaster of the Killer Whale Fin House of the Kaagwaantaan clan and brother to Louis’ maternal grandmother, Shaxeexi.  According to George Emmons, Shartrich was the most important chief not only of Klukwan, but of all the Tlingit people (Krause 1956:165).  Louis had two sisters and two brothers, one of whom died in infancy.

Louis Shotridge attended high school at the Presbyterian Mission School in neighboring Haines, Alaska.  Haines was a newly established Christian town at Portage Cove on Lynn Canal.  The School was a place where Indians “could speedily learn the white man’s ways and Christian habits and where their children could be educated as Boston men and women (Young 1927:210).  There, Shotridge met his intended wife Florence “Suzie�? Scundoo (Kaatxwaantsex), the daughter of a high-ranking shaman of the Mountain house, Lukaax.ádi clan of Chilkoot. After four years of schooling she was an accomplished pianist and singer (Smith 1912).  The match had been arranged when Louis and Florence were children and they were married on December 25, 1902 (Dauenhauer and Dauenhauer 2003:166).  Louis inherited the title of housemaster of the Killer Whale Fin House in his early twenties (Milburn 1986:60).

In 1905, Governor John G. Brady selected Florence to represent her people at the Alaskan exhibit at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon.  Florence demonstrated Chilkat weaving while Louis explained about textile dyes and masks showing Tlingit facial painting.  At the Centennial, George Gustav Heye (the east coast collector whose collection is now the centerpiece of the National Museum of the American Indian) introduced the young couple to George Byron Gordon, Curator of Ethnology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum (Cole 1985:255).  Gordon was preparing to embark on a four month collecting expedition among the Inuit of the Kuskokwim River area of Alaska.  He purchased 67 Tlingit objects from the Shotridges and expressed an interest in possibly hiring them as his collecting agents.  Gordon mentioned the possibility of bringing the couple to Philadelphia “to tell the history and meanings of the different things.�?  Yet nothing was immediately forthcoming, and the Shotridges took a variety of temporary positions.  They participated in Antonio Apache’s Indian Crafts Exhibition in 1906, toured the country with an Indian Grand Opera Company in 1911, and participated in the World in Cincinnati Exposition in 1912.  To help finance a visit to Philadelphia, they offered Gordon a Chilkat blanket woven by Florence in 1905, for the price of $150.  Gordon passed up the opportunity, and the blanket was eventually purchased by Edward Sapir for the Canadian Museum of Civilization (link to, Catalogue number VII-A-131). 


( Click here for larger image. )  In 1912 Gordon offered Louis temporary employment as a curatorial
and interpretive assistant. His first project was to make a model of his home village of Klukwan.

Florence volunteered as an educational guide and she and Louis toured schoolchildren
through the Museum galleries (she and Louis with kids on the lawn of museum).

Louis enrolled in the Wharton School of Business for two years.  He wrote that he “trained himself for only one thing, “namely to help his people negotiate the complex forces of Western capitalism as they impacted the Indian communities of southeast Alaska.  Maureen Milburn (1997:103) has suggested that his pursuit of an entrepreneurial career was consistent with the activities of his father and grandfather and this may be seen as an attempt to maintain his prestige within a rapidly changing Tlingit society.  In 1914, Gordon introduced Louis to Franz Boas in New York City and the two worked closely there together for two months.  Louis attended Boas’ lectures at Colombia University, developed a Tlingit phonetic key, recorded spoken Tlingit stories and songs, and assisted Boas in compiling the first reliable written Tlingit grammar (Boas 1917).

In 1915, Gordon promoted Louis Shotridge to Assistant Curator.  This was a full-time position and his duties involved preparing objects from the Heye collection for exhibition and evaluating private collections for possible donation.  In the fall he and Florence co-directed the Wanamaker Expedition to Southeast Alaska, with funding by John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia department store magnate and member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees.  The expedition ran from June 1915 – Spring of 1919.  Headquartered in Haines, Louis made trips to Klukwan and throughout the northern Chilkoot and Chilkat regions, where he attended potlatches and made wax cylinder recordings of Tlingit songs.  He also began to explore the possibility of obtaining the Whale House artifacts since his father had died.  Louis spent his time collecting and photographing ethnographic objects, systematically gathering genealogical information, and recording clan histories and clan names.  This was apparently the first ethnographic expedition led by Native Americans (Anonymous 1916, Milburn 1994:558).  Tragically, Florence died of tuberculosis in June of 1917.

Louis remained that winter in Haines and made periodic trips to Sitka. At Gordon’s urging, he traveled in the fall of 1918 into Tsimshian country. There he purchased 45 objects, talked with and photographed informants, gathered information about Tsimshian traditions, and recorded songs.  In the winter of 1919 he married Elizabeth Cook of the Xat’ka.aayi clan.  They moved to Sitka and traveled to Philadelphia the following Spring.  The Shotridges remained in Philadelphia for three years.

The second Wanamaker Expedition began in June of 1922 when Louis returned to Alaska to conduct further research for the Museum.  Settling in Sitka with his wife and family, he articulated three specific and ambitious goals -- to collect the art and history of the leading Tlingit clans across the region, to record the origins and migrations of the Tlingit people, and to document the origins of the clan names, which are based in geography.  His mobility improved dramatically on this trip with the purchase of the “Penn,�? a 30’ inboard, which he outfitted for sleeping and cooking. He traveled widely to map and photograph abandoned, and living, Tlingit communities. Having purchased nearly 200 artifacts on this trip, he returned to Philadelphia in the fall of 1927. 

Shark HelmetLouis's third and fourth field seasons were shortened due to a series of personal difficulties and financial complications at the Museum.  He lost his Museum mentor, Director Gordon in a tragic fall in Philadelphia in the winter of 1927, and his wife Elizabeth to tuberculosis in early 1928.  Horace Jayne replaced Gordon as Director of the Museum, and continued his support for Louis Shotridge's fieldwork with help from the Museum Board.  The third field season ran for ten months, from August 1928 to May 1929. During this period, Louis was an active member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and helped organize the Grand Camp in Sitka in 1929.  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 that year.


House Posts

Louis Shotridge’s fourth field season began a year later in the summer of 1930 and ran for two years.  Upon his return to Alaska, he was elected Sitka Grant President of the Alaska Native Brotherhood. At Penn there was talk of financial crisis as early as November of 1930.  The City of Philadelphia eliminated its yearly appropriation to the Museum in 1931, and Museum salaries were cut. The situation was grim, and along with all but the Chief Curators, Louis's position was terminated in May of 1932.  Director Jayne offered compassionate support in his writings to Louis in these years, and expressed hope of reinstating his position. Louis purchased 33 objects in these difficult years including four interior house posts from his own family in Klukwan.

Untrained for other work, Louis struggled to find employment in Alaska. He managed a small income from odd jobs, seasonal fishing and occasional sales of Tlingit artifacts.   His marriage to Mary Kasakan of the Sitka Kiks.adi clan was unpopular for some, as it went against Tlingit rules of remarriage within the same clan of a deceased spouse.  In 1935, Louis secured a position as a salmon cannery inspector which included duties as a stream guard.  In August of 1937 he was found near Sitka at the base of some scaffolding, apparently the victim of a tragic fall.  Louis Shotridge died several days later on August 6 from injuries sustained from a broken neck. He was buried in the Sitka cemetery (Milburn 1994: 233).

* Portions of this essay are reproduced from two sources:

Preucel, Robert W.
2009 Louis Shotridge in Philadelphia. 2009 Sharing Our Knowledge Conference Volume, NSF, edited by Sergei Kan        and Steve Henrikson. Under review, University of Nebraska Press.

Williams, Lucy Fowler
2009 Louis Shotridge: Preserver of Tlingit History. 2009 Sharing Our Knowledge Conference Volume, NSF, edited by Sergei     Kan and Steve Henrikson. Under review, University of Nebraska Press.

1912a   Alaska Chief Here on Visit.  The Sun, February 10, 1912
1912b   Indians at Museum to Interpret Lore.  The Evening Bulletin, February 28, 1912.
1916    Indian Leads Exploring Team into Alaska.  Christian Science Monitor, August, 14, 1916.
1930    Students are told about local natives.  Chilkat Breeze (Haines High School newspaper), November, 1930.

Berman, Judith
2004    'Some Mysterious Means of Fortune': A Look at North Pacific Coast Oral History. In: Coming to Shore: Northwest Coast Ethnology, Traditions, and Visions, ed. by Marie Mauzé, Michael E. Harkin, and Sergei Kan, pp. 129-162. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Boas, Franz
1917    Grammatical Notes on the Language of the Tlingit Indians. University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia.

Carpenter, Edmund
1975    Collecting Northwest Coast Art.  In Indian Art of the Northwest Coast: A Dialogue on Craftsmanship and Aesthetics, edited by Bill Holm and Bill Reid, pp. 9-27.  Rice University Institute for the Arts, Houston.

Cole, Douglas
1985    Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast Artifacts. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.

Dauenhauer, Nora Marks and Richard Dauenhauer
2003    Louis Shotridge and Indigenous Tlingit Ethnography: Then and Now.  In Constructing Cultures Then and Now: Celebrating Franz Boas and the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, edited by Laurel Kendall and Igor Krupnik, pp. 165-183. Circumpolar Anthropology 4. National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D. C.

Dean, Jonathan
1990    Louis Shotridge, Museum Man: A 1918 Visit to the Nass and Skeena Rivers.  Pacific Northwest Quarterly 89(4):202-210.

Enge, Marilee
1993    Collecting the Past.  Anchorage Daily News, April 6, 1993.

Hanley, Anne
1995    Shotridge. Play directed by Michael Hood, Produced by the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Lenz, Mary Jane
2004    No Tourist Material: George Heye and his Golden Rule. American Indian Art Magazine 29(4):86-95, 105.

Madeira, Jr. Percy
1964    Men in Search of Man: The First Seventy-Five Years of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Mason, J. Alden
1960    Louis Shotridge. Expedition 2(2):11-16.

Milburn, Maureen E.
1986    Louis Shotridge and the Objects of Everlasting Esteem', in S. Kaplan and K. Barness (eds) Raven's Journey: The World of Alaska's Native People. pp. 54-90.  University Museum, Philadelphia.

1994    Weaving the 'Tina' Blanket: The Journey of Florence and Louis Shotridge. In: Haa Kusteeyí, Our Culture: Tlingit Life Stories, ed. by Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer, pp. 548-564.

1997    The Politics of Possession: Louis Shotridge and the Tlingit Collections of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.  Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Fine Arts, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, University Microfilms.

Preucel, Robert W.
Louis Shotridge in Philadelphia. 2009 Sharing Our Knowledge Conference Volume, NSF, edited by Sergei Kan and Steve Henrikson. Under review, University of Nebraska Press.

Seaton, Elizabeth P.
2001    The Native Collector: Louis Shotridge and the Contests of Possession. Ethnography 2(1):35-61.

Shotridge, Florence
1913    The Life of a Chilkat Indian Girl. Museum Journal 4(3):101-103.

Smith, F. Maude
1912    A Little Chat with Katkwachsnea.  North American, January 2?, 1912.

Wanneh, Gawasa (Arthur Caswell Parker)
1914    Situwaka, Chief of the Chilcats. Society of American Indians. Quarterly Journal 2:280-283.

Williams, Lucy Fowler
2003    Of Spirits and Science: Meaning and Material Culture Crossing Boundaries. In Guide to the North American Ethnographic Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, by Lucy Fowler Williams, pp. 1-18.  University Museum Press, Philadelphia.

Williams, Lucy Fowler
Louis Shotridge: Preserver of Tlingit History. 2009 Sharing Our Knowledge Conference Volume, NSF, edited by Sergei Kan and Steve Henrikson. Under review, University of Nebraska Press.

Winegrad, Dilys
1993    Through time, Across Continents: A hundred Years of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University Museum. University Museum, University of  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Shotridge's Publications
1917    My Northland Revisited. Museum Journal 8(?):105-115.
1919a   War Helmets and Clan Hats of the Tlingit Indians." Museum Journal 10(1-2): 43-48.
1919b   A Visit to the Tsimshian Indians. Museum Journal 10(?):49-67, 117-148.
1920    Ghost of Courageous Adventurer. Museum Journal 11(1):11-26.
1921a   Alaska: The Country and its People.  Lecture for Public School, November 30, 1921. Museum Archives.
1921b   Tlingit Woman's Root Basket. Museum Journal 12(3):162-178.
1922    Land Otter-Man. Museum Journal 13(1):55-59.
1928    The Emblems of Tlingit Culture. Museum Journal 19(4):350-377.
1929a   The Bride of Tongass:  A Study of the Tlingit Marriage Ceremony. Museum Journal 20(2):131-156.
1929b   The Kaguanton Shark Helmet. Museum Journal 20(3-4):339-343.
1930    How Ats-ha followed the hide of his comrade to yek land. Museum Journal 21(3-4):215-226.

Shotridge, Louis and Florence Shotridge
1913    Indians of the Northwest. Museum Journal 4(3):71-100.