Frank G. Speck's Photographs, 1914-1942


A student of noted anthropologist Franz Boas, Frank G. Speck taught at the University of Pennsylvania, where he specialized in the Algonquian and Iroquoian cultures of the northeast United States and Canada.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Speck visited Virginia tribes several times and wrote that his work there "carries me into the closest intimacy with every aspect of their life. Collections of several hundred ethnological specimens were made for the Museum [of the American Indian in New York] during this time, and photographs of the people and their activities were obtained." Many of the objects he collected are now housed at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Speck was born in Brooklyn, New York, but was a sickly child and was sent at the age of seven to live with his parents' friend, Fidelia Fielding, in Mohegan, Connecticut. She was an American Indian and the last speaker of her Algonquian language, Mohegan Pequot. From her, Speck acquired a lifelong interest in American Indians and their languages. Later he sponsored American Indian students at the University of Pennsylvania including Gladys Tantaquidgeon, a Mohegan woman. During his fieldwork with the Iroquois, he was adopted by the Seneca Nation into the Turtle Clan. Speck maintained respectful relationships with tribes from Canada to the southeastern United States.