Collection Spotlight: The Henry Schoolcraft Papers

HenryRSchoolcraft1855Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was born in New York in 1793. In 1820, he went on an expedition with Lewis Cass in the Lake Superior area. Schoolcraft County in the Upper Peninsula is named for him for this reason. Besides his voyages around the Great Lakes, he also went on expeditions in the Ozark Mountains and the Northwest Territory, where he served as a mineralogist and geologist. He also led an expedition which uncovered the source of the Mississippi River.

Schoolcraft was also a glass manufacturer, an ethnologist, and a member of Michigan’s legislative council. He was the Michigan superintendent of Indian Affairs and wrote many works about different Native American groups, especially the Iroquois. He often wrote about Native American history, language, mythology, maxims, religion, and hieroglyphics and writing. He was also concerned with the federal government’s role in Native American issues. Despite his interest in Native American cultures, however, he also sought to westernize them. He was a founder of the Algic Society, a missionary group that sought to convert Native Americans in what was then called the ‘north-west’ (now Minnesota) to Christianity. He is perhaps best known for his six volume work Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. His writings often used various pseudonyms, including Henry R. Colcraft and An Englishman In Search of Amusement. Schoolcraft died in Washington, D.C. in 1864.

We have copies of the Henry Schoolcraft Papers on microfilm at the Archives. The papers include his correspondence, journals, articles, magazines, poetry, books, speeches, government reports, financial records, vocabularies of Native American languages, memoranda, genealogies, lectures, lists, statistics, drawings, calling cards, newspaper clippings, and maps, along with some of his wives’ correspondence and journals. There is also a miscellaneous set of papers created by his father, his father-in-law, his friend Lewis Cass, and Joseph Nicollet’s 1836 journal about a Mississippi River expedition. Other famous people who he corresponded with include Washington Irving and John C. Calhoun.

For a full index of the microfilm, see the Library of Congress finding aid.

Prepared by Annika Peterson

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