Chief Jasper Blowsnake, of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Frank Speck at Winnebago Camp, Elk River Reservation,Minnesota, 1936.
Chief Jasper Blowsnake, of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Frank Speck at Winnebago Camp, Elk River Reservation, Minnesota, 1936.

Frank Gouldsmith Speck (1881 – 1950) is best known for his research among remnant populations and highly acculturated groups of American Indians of the Eastern United States and Canada. He was an eccentric individual who as a child went to live with Fidelia Fielding, the last living speaker of her language, Mohegan Pequot. It was this connection that formed Speck’s scholarly interests, as well as his entire attitude toward life, including his love for natural history and material culture and his distaste for social formality and academic pretenses.

After studying at Columbia University under Franz Boas, Speck completed his Ph.D. at Penn in 1909, the first conferred by the University in the field of anthropology. After legendary disputes with George Byron Gordon, the formidable director of the Museum, Speck left the Museum in 1911. He was rehired by the University and, in 1913, became Acting Chairman of the Department of Anthropology, which will turn 100 years old in 2013.

Speck visited Indians any time he could, often without notice. He established lasting relationships with them and gained their trust, which can be clearly seen in his photographs and his films.