University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Lewis Henry Morgan, the Myth and the Man

Volume XXXVII · 1984
Lewis Henry Morgan: The Myth and the Man

Some two and a half centuries ago Alexander Pope remarked that "the proper study of mankind is man," but it was not until the nineteenth century that a discipline emerged calling itself by the pretentious name, anthropology -- "the science of man." Even then most who pursued anthropological studies did so as an avocation. Only late in the century did it become possible to earn a living practicing anthropology, and those few who did were, of necessity, trained in other fields. Their work, however, was profoundly informed by those "amateurs" who preceded them and who set the course the discipline was to follow. Of these, one of the most influential was Lewis H. Morgan.

When Morgan died December 17, 1881, in his comparatively modest house on Fitzhugh Street in Rochester's fashionable Third Ward he was the country's leading anthropologist. This fact would be only of antiquarian interest if his reputation had not survived until this day. But it has. To quite disparate sorts of anthropologists he has become a legendary intellectual hero. Consequently, recent introductory textbooks routinely include his name, often with picture, in the list of the half dozen most significant figures in the history of anthropology.

His contemporaries in Rochester would have been surprised. They knew him as a man who had come to Rochester as a young lawyer, eager, but without money. Perhaps not entirely unexpectedly he did legal work for the Elys, one of the city's prominent business families, investing his fees in some of their projects and similar interests: railroad, mining, and smelting. He had come to Rochester determined to make money, and make money he did. Within a relatively short time he amassed a considerable fortune, one that allowed him to give up his law practice within two decades to pursue his scientific studies.

Morgan seems to have been an unprepossessing man, of serious demeanor, but not lacking a sense of wit when in the company of friends. Some of his interests were those of many American men: he played poker, did woodworking in a shop he constructed in his attic, handled a gun, and was an avid trout fisherman. He did not seek public attention, and his name appeared only infrequently in the local papers, as when he served a rather lackluster term in the State Assembly in 1861 and an equally undistinguished term in the State Senate in 1867-68.

How then did Morgan accomplish what he did? How did he produce the work that has so influenced the course of anthropology in this century as well as the last, work that is still read and discussed? Fortunately, in seeking answers to questions such as these, we have available the papers Morgan bequeathed to the University of Rochester. Much to the despair of any who would write a full biography of his life, there are almost no papers in this collection relating to his personal, legal, business, and political affairs, and those few that are, seem to have been included accidentally. Morgan was a very private man, and either he before his death, or his wife shortly after, destroyed most of the papers not having to do with his purely scholarly interests.1 It is quite evident from the nature of the collection that in making this bequest Morgan thought these papers would be of use to future students who had intellectual interests similar to his own. For example, his field notes and other materials, such as the completed schedules he had collected, contain information that for one reason or another Morgan did not publish, data of the sort that might at some later day prove useful. These manuscripts also contain the raw data on which his publications were based, and contain sources of the kind needed to evaluate his findings. Other manuscripts in these papers directly relate to the development of his interest in certain studies and to the course of his research, permitting some study of his intellectual life history.

Over the years his papers have been used for just such purposes. To date, for example, they have provided the most important source of information for two biographies, one by Bernhard J. Stern,2 which is unfortunately marred by an excess of factual error, and a far more satisfactory one by Carl Resek.3 The latter provides that overview of Morgan's life and work essential for those who would study in detail a particular facet of it. Also conveniently available are other publications based on these papers, most particularly various journals edited by Leslie A. White before his death in 1975.4 Nonetheless, the Morgan papers have not been used as much as might be expected -- a fact, I believe, that is a measure of Morgan's greatness. Their full value will be evident perhaps only when scholars better understand the crucial questions Morgan actually addressed, rather than the naive ones he is often presumed to have considered. Despite all the work that has been done since Morgan's time these questions remain only partly answered.


Morgan's election as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1879 -- he had earlier been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences-recognized not only his work for the Association, but more importantly his scientific accomplishments. By that time he had written, as the phrase goes, "numerous articles," but it was on three longer works that his anthropological reputation rested: League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-neeor Iroquois, published in Rochester in 1851;Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1871; and Ancient Society, published by Henry Holt in 1877. To a degree, each is built on the preceding, but each is a separate study and has become important in a different way-each in the process gaining a reputation replete with its own paradoxes.

Undoubtedly the most widely read of Morgan's works is Ancient Society, as its subtitle -- Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery through Barbarism to Civilization -- indicates, a study of cultural evolution. In it, Morgan paid particular attention to the question of the development of forms of government and of the family. Interest in "progress" was high in the nineteenth century, and Morgan's speculations -- among the most lengthy and detailed of all such published -- attracted attention. Among those impressed was Karl Marx, who, believing "Morgan in his own way had discovered afresh in America the materialistic conception of history,"5began making extensive notes on Ancient Society with the intent of presenting Morgan's conclusions in light of his own. Marx died before he had completed the task, and Engels finished it. His results were published a few years later in a work subsequently translated under the English title The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. The book became part of the corpus of Marxist literature, and Morgan a figure in the Marxist pantheon.

Morgan's reputation did not fare as well in his own country. John Wesley Powell, head of the Bureau of American Ethnology in Washington (then the premier anthropological research center) and one of the three most influential anthropologists in the closing decades of the nineteenth century (Frederick Ward Putnam and Daniel G. Brinton were the others), was a devoted follower. But shortly after, at the beginning of the twentieth century, cultural evolution came under attack. A leading critic was Franz Boas, professor at Columbia University and teacher of many who were to introduce the new discipline of anthropology into the colleges and universities of the country. Others concurred with Boas, and Morgan's work fell into disfavor. A revival of interest in materialism, in both Marxist and not explicitly Marxist forms, has helped restore Morgan's reputation. Morgan has become an establishment figure, so much so that in 1964 Harvard University Press published an edition ofAncient Society with notes by Leslie A. White, long Morgan's advocate in what White viewed as a hostile climate.

For all the recent discussion of it, Morgan's "materialism" would seem to have been of an ordinary American variety, a belief that technological advance brings social benefits, social progress. This faith, for example, can be noted in his 1880 response as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the welcome of the mayor of Boston: "Scientific investigations ascertain and establish principles which inventive genius then utilizes for the common benefit . We cannot have a great nation without great development of the industrial arts; and this, in its turn, depends upon the results of scientific discovery as necessary antecedents. Material development, therefore, is intimately related to progress in science."6 It is a theme still iterated today, and no less -- perhaps even more -- by political and economic conservatives as well as by radicals.

Morgan was not merely a believer in material progress; he was a capitalist. He arrived in Rochester in 1844 with little more than his own natural ability and a determination to make money. Prospects were obviously better in Rochester than in Aurora, the village where he had grown up (he had been born nearby) and to which he returned to read law after graduating from Union College, class of 1840. His expectations were high. As he wrote a friend a few months after he arrived: although he had made "nothing yet to speak of," he intended to make $1,000 the next year, beginning November 21, 1845 (his 27th birthday).7 Whether or not he achieved this particular goal is not known, although later he accumulated a modest fortune. This is not to say that Morgan was not aware of "the evils of capitalism"; he was. But, for him, as for so many Americans at the time -- and fervor for the ideals of America ran high in the first century of the country's existence -- the American experiment had already abolished hereditary privilege; equality was open to those who would seize the opportunity. Some followers of Marx (who was born the same year as Morgan and died two years after Morgan did) later organized factory workers. However, Morgan, whose clients included prominent flour mill owners, held a different view, more informed by Eliphalet Nott,8 long President of Union College, than now better-remembered philosophers.

Nor was Morgan quite the social reformer some twentieth century liberals would believe him to be. Outraged at the manipulations of the Ogden Land Company to get possession of the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation, Morgan exerted some effort in behalf of the Indians, but not nearly as much or to such effect as is generally supposed.9Most of his effort seems to have been limited to a few months in 1846, and the issue was not settled until 1857, more than ten years later. The Indians' principal legal counsel in these years was not Morgan, but John Martindale. Morgan's role, such as it was, was that of citizen activist. Then, too, although a champion of the Indian, Morgan was not an advocate of cultural pluralism nor did he work for "cultural survival." The Indian, Morgan exhorted his fellow citizens, ought to be rescued "from his impending destiny," "reclaimed and civilized, and thus saved eventually from the fate which has already befallen so many of our aboriginal races" by education and Christianity.10 It was a question of justice -- justice, Morgan ever the patriot maintained, of a kind worthy of the Republic.

Nor was Morgan a militant for what would now be identified as other liberal causes. There is no evidence, for example, that he associated with Rochester's two other noted nineteenth century residents, Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. He was against slavery (it ran against the American ideal of equality), but in that great conflict, it was the Union above all that mattered. Neither did he crusade for women's rights . His position on this social issue was his on so many others: education would lead to equality. It was undoubtedly this belief -- in the 1840s he had briefly helped support the education of several Indians -- that induced him to bequeath the residual of his estate to the University of Rochester for the education of women.

Although much discussed, none of these ideological positions are perhaps of central relevance to the understanding of Morgan's achievement. Proper ideology does not guarantee excellence of research, and too much attention to the matter of the proper "faith" to hold may, in fact, be an impediment. And Morgan, after all, is not remembered -- except incidentally -- for his contribution to philosophy, but for his research.


Morgan's principal anthropological interests were two: Iroquois and what now would be termed sociopolitical organization. The first research he did concerned Iroquois sociopolitical organization and other aspects of Iroquois culture and society. These studies engaged him from about 1842 to 1851. Six years later when he took up ethnological studies again, he chose not to research in depth the customs of a single people as he had done earlier, but rather to make a world-wide comparative study of particular practices, most notably those involving descent: kinship terminology and clan organization.

In retrospect Morgan chose well. Both subjects were doable -- always a consideration when planning research and more difficult to determine at the outset than might be supposed. Many "interesting" topics suggest themselves to a researcher, but unless he is careful he is apt to embark on a study so large and so vaguely defined as to be virtually impossible to complete. On the other hand, he may unwittingly choose a subject so narrow he finds he has too little data to analyze and to write about. Morgan avoided both these traps which await the unwary.

But just as adherence to a proper ideology cannot guarantee success, neither can choice of a research subject. What matters is what the researcher does with the data, what he discovers that has been hidden from previous students of the topic. Nor should these discoveries be trivial ones, ones of little relevance to major questions under discussion. It is here that the measure of Morgan's accomplishments, and his genius lie.

The Iroquois, when Morgan began his study of this subject, were hardly unknown. Their military might and capacity for political intrigue were well known, and in fact until England finally won the long fought contest between herself and France for control of the North American continent, the Iroquois held the balance of power. If the Iroquois had chosen the side of the French, it is entirely possible France would have won, and the continent itself would have become a predominantly French-speaking rather than English-speaking one. But Iroquois interests ultimately lay with the English, and that determined the Iroquois choice, which was such an important factor in the final result. Subsequently some Iroquois exploits figured in the histories written- including individual biographies of particularly noted Indians, and histories in the form of biographies, a number of which appeared in the decade before Morgan began his work. Thatcher's Indian Biography, Drake's book of the same title, McKenney and Hall's The Indian Tribes of North America, and Stone's biographies of Red Jacket and Joseph Brant are examples." Nor was ethnographic study of the Iroquois ignored. In 1845, Henry R. Schoolcraft, even then one of the most noted students of Indian custom in the country, was commissioned to conduct an ethnographic study of the Iroquois in conjunction with the state census of Indians which he was appointed to take. 12

None of these studies, however, accomplished what Morgan's did. None of the histories or biographies of noted Iroquois chiefs, for example, considered the organization of the League, the actual form of government under which the Iroquois lived; they discussed only the influence of the League on the political affairs in the region. Nor was Schoolcraft's account 13 satisfactory. Schoolcraft collected only scraps of information on the Iroquois, as he had earlier on the Ojibwa among whom he had lived many years. These facts he strung together to produce his report. Morgan, however, set out to understand the plan of organization, as he later said, "the real structure and principles of the League of the Iroquois, which up to that time were entirely unknown, except in a most general sense." 14 It was a more difficult task than might be supposed, for some of the principles on which the Iroquois League rests are not those familiar to us from study of European government and history. Nor are they ones the popular literature would lead us to expect, a fact -- to judge from some perusal of more recent literature -- that has yet to be fully appreciated.

A similar concern with basic plan informs Morgan's later work on kinship. Interest in "marriage and the family" was as great then as now, but Morgan did not choose to study the obvious. What attracted most white observers was the "instability" of the "family," the brittleness of the Iroquois marriage tie. The divorce rate was high -- an impediment to conversion to Christianity from the time the missionaries first labored among the Iroquois in the seventeenth century. What one Huron Indian said then applies equally to the attitudes of Iroquois men: "If we take a wife, at the first whim that seizes her, she will at once leave us; and then we are reduced to a wretched life, seeing that it is the women of our country who sow, plant, and cultivate the land and prepare food for their husbands."15 Divorce and serial monogamy were not accepted in the nineteenth century American society as they are now, and Morgan might have -- if he had followed usual interests of his day -- made some study of these practices and their influence on other aspects of Iroquois life. The Special Committee of the State Assembly appointed in 1888, for example, certainly was concerned, and its report dwells on the subject, urging application of the laws of the state regulating marriage and divorce on the reservations, as if that alone would solve all Iroquois social and economic problems. At that time the attitude of a number of Indians was what it had been earlier. Asked if he did not think it better not to divorce, one Onondaga replied, "What if she scolds?"16

Morgan chose not to gather more extensive data on such practices as these, ones of such weighty importance to other white observers. What he did do was to consider a seemingly trivial matter -- kinship terminology, the Iroquois terms for their various relatives. Morgan had noted that the Iroquois "mode of computing degrees of consanguinity was unlike that of the civil or canon law; but was yet a clear and definite system." For example, being called by the same term, "the mother and her sisters were equally mothers; the children of a mother's sister were brothers and sisters; the children of a [man's] sister were nephews and nieces; and the grandchildren of a sister were his grandchildren." More generally, Morgan observed, "No distinction was made between lineal [relatives in the direct line] and collateral [relatives not in the direct line] lines, either in the ascending or descending series."17

Morgan's genius led him to suspect that the plan underlying the Seneca system might not be unique to them. He reasoned that since the "clear and definite system" of the Seneca (the Iroquois tribe among which Morgan did much of his fieldwork) was so fundamentally different from ours in the particular way that it was, a similar plan might be found underlying the terminologies of other Indian peoples. And if this was true, then perhaps the terminologies of a number of Asian and African peoples would exhibit the same fundamental plan he had first noted in the Seneca case.18 The research he did over the next six years proved his hypothesis correct.

The full significance of Morgan's discovery is perhaps not yet fully appreciated. As soon as Morgan's findings were published in 1871 in Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity others began offering alternatives to what Morgan had called "a conjectural solution."19 Alternative solutions were offered for these alternatives, until over the years a very large literature on the subject has accumulated. Yet as Lounsbury has noted, what has become the now classic explanation for Seneca kinship terminology, unilineal descent, accounts for only a small portion of the data Morgan published, and for the system as a whole gives no more than just over half correct predictions.20 Lounsbury might have added that Morgan himself had considered this now classic, but erroneous explanation, and had on somewhat similar grounds rejected it. 21

Even Morgan himself may not have fully appreciated the significance of his discovery. Although he recognized that a number of systems of kinship terminologies exhibited a plan different from that familiar to us, he assumed as have later analysts that the factors causing such differences, marriage and descent, were the same. They also may be quite different, and if discovered, might lift the study of kinship terminologies out of their present status as a kind of anthropological esoterica. Whatever the case, it is evident that what Morgan discovered touched some fundamental issue still unresolved. Otherwise it would not continue to engender the extensive discussion it has.


The doing of research involves more than having an idea. An idea is merely preliminary to research, the spark that ignites it. The idea has to be shown to be correct, the discovery not an illusion, and to do so, an intensive and extensive search for information has to be undertaken.

This search, the real stuff of research, does not proceed the way textbooks would have it: from a hypothesis, to test with proper methods, to conclusion. Rather, it proceeds in fits and starts, over open roads, twisting and rough ones, and not always by the most direct route; wrong turns are made, some ending in dead end streets. Nor does it proceed without a struggle, the evidence of which, like the actual course of the research itself, must be erased in the final report. If it is not, the findings may well not be believed, the report leaving the impression in the reader's mind that the researcher did not know what he was doing.

Nonetheless, knowledge of how a study was actually done is instructive. Among other things it helps correct misconceptions that have grown up after publication of the report. Morgan's study of the Iroquois is a case in point. It is often supposed, for example, that in League of the Iroquois Morgan is describing "memory culture" -- what the Iroquois recalled they had done in the past. In part this supposition probably rests on the presumption that all Indian cultures are "dying," if not already "dead." Morgan himself presumed such, believing, for example, that the great Condolence ceremony for raising up chiefs, which he witnessed in 1845, would be the last such given; it continues to this day.

In part also, the supposition that Morgan is describing memory culture derives from the manner he presented his data in League of the Iroquois. He does not record there all he saw and heard, but rather provides a general summary description of Iroquois culture and society. He does not, for example, give an account of the Condolence ceremony he attended, but rather a précis of customary practice 22 -- leading readers to falsely conclude that his information was obtained solely from interviews. It was not. As have later ethnographers, Morgan found that observation in the field both corrects information obtained by interview and adds greatly to that fund of knowledge, in part because individuals often neglect to mention in conversation what to them is obvious. Morgan simply failed to note his method of investigation in League of the Iroquois, perhaps because it was so self-evident to him. It has not been quite so obvious to other ethnographers, who have since elevated the procedure to the "method of participant-observation."

Another erroneous supposition is that Morgan spent many years doing field work -- a supposition apparently based on the quality and quantity of his data. The research on which League of the Iroquois is based, it is true, extended over a six year period, but the actual number of days Morgan spent in the field was -- by present standards -- embarrassingly brief. The surviving records indicate that it consisted of some half dozen trips of a week or two duration to the Tonawanda Reservation and perhaps an equal number of much briefer visits to the Onondaga and Oneida of which only a scanty record survives. Additionally, Morgan benefited from conversations and correspondence with Ely S. Parker, the young Tonawanda Seneca who served as his interpreter and collaborator. But the weight of what evidence survives indicates that neither Morgan's interviews with nor letters from Parker were as extensive as some have supposed. It is, after all, not merely the quantity of the field work but also its quality that determines its value. Morgan had a singular ability to quickly get to the essentials, and this talent served him well in his research on Iroquois custom as well as other research he undertook.


For all the pioneering -- it is generally regarded as being the first "scientific study" of an Indian people -- and enduring importance of League of the Iroquois, Morgan did not set out to write "the great American ethnography." Rather, Morgan's interest in the subject had its beginnings in the decision of the members of the Gordian Knot, a secret society Morgan had joined after he had graduated from Union College and returned to Aurora, to "cut the knot" and reorganize it as an "Indian society," one modeled after that of the noted Iroquois Confederacy. The order was suffering, as such associations are apt to, from lack of interest, and its members hoped by changing its organization it might be revitalized.23 It was, and consequently plans were made to extend it, organizing chapters in other towns in central New York State.

To judge from the minute book of the Aurora chapter now in the University of Rochester Library, the prime attraction of the society's meetings were the initiations, often held in one or another forest grove at night. Those attending dressed in Indian costume (Morgan believed full Indian costume including bow, tomahawk, and headdress was essential in maintaining interest in the society), danced "Indian" dances, and sang songs -- some with original verses composed by the more literary-minded members. Meetings might also include an address and a poem on Indian subjects. Once a year all the chapters gathered for an anniversary meeting in Aurora, where, in addition to enjoying fraternal fellowship, members listened to an address and a poem by distinguished invitees, and as is so characteristic of such fledgling organizations, revised the constitution.

All these activities are unexceptional. The propensity of Americans to organize societies, some secret, some not, for many and diverse purposes is well known, and throughout American history there have been some fraternities organized on Indian "principles," their organization and activities based on what members know or think they know of Indian custom. What distinguished the reorganized fraternity in Aurora was its determination to model itself on the actual organization of the Iroquois League, and hence the necessity perceived by some of its members, especially Morgan, to learn what that organization actually was. As they saw it, their society, the Grand Order of the Iroquois, was the New Confederacy of the Iroquois, destined to replace the "dying" old Confederacy of the Iroquois. Turning to what literature there was on the Iroquois, they found almost nothing on the Iroquois system of governance. To achieve their end they had to talk to the Indians themselves.

It may well have been Morgan's idea to seek out such information, as it may well have been his idea that the Gordian Knot be reoganized as the New Confederacy. Whatever the case, it was Morgan who most vigorously pursued the research with results that far outstripped the efforts of other members. In turn, this success led Morgan to pursue other inquiries -- research that was also to be later included in League of the Iroquois.

The lines of inquiry that finally come together in League of the Iroquois were several, each of which may be traced in some detail in the Morgan papers. There is, then, no single draft of League of the Iroquois, but what are essentially drafts of parts of the book, which when traced document the growth of Morgan's knowledge.

The village of Aurora, located on the east side of Cayuga Lake, and a few miles south of the principal villages of the Iroquois tribe from which the lake takes its name, afforded Morgan no immediate opportunities for research. Some ten years before Morgan was born, the Cayugas sold their last remaining lands in the region and left . The nearest reservation was that belonging to the Onondagas, south of Syracuse. Morgan may have visited this reservation, for the noted Onondaga chief, Abram La Fort, was made an honorary member of the order in January 1844.24 He also may have met Peter Wilson, a Cayuga, then a medical student at Geneva College. But it was Morgan's chance meeting with Ely Parker in the spring of 1844 in an Albany bookstore that proved of greater aid. Although only sixteen at the time, Parker was serving as interpreter for a delegation of three Tonawanda chiefs who had undoubtedly come to Albany to see what the state might do to overturn the 1842 treaty by which the Tonawanda Reservation had been sold . Morgan called on the chiefs, one of whom was Jemmy Johnson, grandson of the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake and himself the religious leader of the Tonawanda Seneca. On that day and succeeding ones Morgan interviewed Johnson about the organization of the League, Parker serving as interpreter.25 Not long after Morgan returned to Aurora he reported what he had learned at Albany at the monthly meeting of the Aurora chapter of the order. Some of this information led to some changes incorporated into the order's constitution adopted in August of that year at the anniversary meeting. Morgan also summarized it for an article he published that September in The KnickerbockerMagazine.26

Later the same year Morgan moved to Rochester. He quickly organized a chapter of the order there, and because he was Grand Sachem of the New Confederacy, spent some time that spring planning the anniversary meeting held in August in Aurora. Two weeks after the close of that August general meeting Morgan began writing a manuscript 27 summarizing what he knew about the Iroquois, much of which he had learned in Albany over a year before. But as is so often the case when beginning field work, Morgan had misinterpreted some of the information he had received. He later recognized this, and to the cover title of this manuscript, "Observations upon the Institutions of the Iroquois," he added the notation, "many of which are erroneous as subsequent study has proved."

What led Morgan to note these errors was the fund of information he gathered at a council held at Tonawanda that fall-a council held for the purpose of raising up League chiefs to fill positions of those who had died, and for the purpose of hearing Jemmy Johnson recall the teachings of his grandfather, the so-called Code of Handsome Lake. Morgan attended the council in the company of Ely Parker and three other members of the order, spending the week from September 29 to October 4 attending the ceremonies and interviewing some of the knowledgeable Indians there.28

Not long after he returned to Rochester from this field trip, Morgan began writing up his findings in the form of a long essay on the government and institutions of the Iroquois. He delivered the paper at the meeting of the Rochester chapter of the order on November 7, 1845, and with some minor changes in wording, to the New York Historical Society on April 8 the following year.29 In December 1845 he made a brief trip to Onondaga and during the first three months of 1846 made two trips to the Tonawanda and Buffalo Creek reservations, but while on them gathered little information on Iroquois social and political organization. At that time his major concern was the Tonawanda Senecas' fight to retain their reservation and he was attempting to help them.30Not until later that year did Morgan return to the subject of Iroquois sociopolitical organization, writing up his material in the form of "letters." In October he went back to Tonawanda for ten days to check the information in his draft.31 He also obtained on this trip information on the grammar of the Seneca language. The letters were published the following year in the February, March, and May issues of The American Review; all eleven were concerned with Iroquois social and political organization with the exception of one letter on religion and another on language.32

At the same time Morgan undertook a study of Iroquois tribal boundaries, "geography" (place names), and trails. He interviewed old-time residents, men who had followed the old Indian trails when they moved into the region when it first opened to white settlement in the late eighteenth century, and who consequently knew their locations. He also on his various field trips in 1846 collected information on these subjects from the Indians themselves, including most especially their names for various places. When the order held its anniversary meeting in Aurora in August, he gave a paper on his findings to that date.33 He continued to collect information, delivering an expanded version of the paper at the May 1847 meeting of the New York Historical Society.34 Later that year he published a condensation of it in the November and December issues of The American Review.35

Morgan's interest in the Iroquois then flagged. He was no longer Grand Sachem of the Grand Order of the Iroquois, and consequently less involved with shaping the order's activities. Its members attempted to reorganize the order along more traditional lines, abandoning the attempt to model its organization after that of the Iroquois League, although retaining some Indian symbols.36 Research of the sort Morgan had been doing was not continued by other members, and with these changes, Morgan lost an audience for any new investigations he might have undertaken. The efforts of the order and of others to get the United States Senate to overturn the provisions of the Treaty of 1842 as they applied to the Tonawanda Senecas failed in 1846 and again in 1847. After  that, citizen protests to the government were of little avail. For relief, the Tonawanda Senecas could turn only to the courts, actions in which Morgan and other members of the order did not participate. The order itself soon died, and with it any hope that the New Confederacy would replace the old.37

In the fall of 1848 Morgan's interest in the Iroquois revived, a consequence of several fortuitous events, one of which was the decision of the state of New York to collect Indian articles for its museum. The state asked for the cooperation of its citizens. Morgan offered the state a number of articles he had collected, and the offer accepted, sent to Albany in November and December archaeological and ethnographic specimens he had in his collection.38 A year later he went to Tonawanda for the particular purpose of collecting more materials for the state, and on his return wrote a description to accompany them, which was published in the annual report of the Regents of the University of the State of New York.39 The following fall (1850), again with state support, he went to the Six Nations Reserve in Canada for objects and in December returned to Tonawanda to collect more articles there. These also were sent to the State Museum with a report.40

During this period Morgan also undertook some other field work including trips to the Onondaga and Oneida in May 1849 and to Oneida again in September of that year, and interviewed Jemmy Johnson and another Tonawanda chief, John Blacksmith, in Rochester in June.41 But more importantly, Morgan undertook to write up his materials on Iroquois religion. He had in the course of his field work obtained some description of it including accounts of the White Dog sacrifice, that portion of the Iroquois New Year's ceremony that so attracted white interest in the nineteenth century. He had also earlier asked Ely Parker to provide him a translation of the speech Jemmy Johnson delivered in 1848 at the annual council at Tonawanda. In January 1850 he wrote Parker again, asking for information on the ceremonies. Parker's reply two weeks later was not as detailed as Morgan might have hoped, and it seems likely that Morgan went to Tonawanda to collect more information, a trip for which no field notes survive.42

Later that year (1850) Morgan set about putting together League of the Iroquois, which, he later remarked, "exhibits abundant evidence of hasty execution."43 What he had were the "Letters on the Iroquois," most of which he decided to include. He also had what he had published in the Regents Report on his collecting activities at Tonawanda in 1849, some of which he incorporated into the book, along with all the plates and cuts published in that report. Sometime in the latter half of 1850 Parker finally sent his translation of Jemmy Johnson's annual speech, which Morgan edited slightly for one chapter.44 Some other chapters were new, including the first chapter on the history of the Iroquois and a concluding chapter on their future prospects.45


Morgan's object in drawing together the data he had and publishing it as League of the Iroquois was to free himself of the subject in order to devote more time to his profession.46 Later that year he married his cousin Mary Steele, and for six years did no anthropological research or writing. He did not abandon, however, his intellectual interests. Before he had taken up what he called "the Indian subject" he had delivered papers on such topics as geology, the ancient Greeks, and temperance, and had published three articles in The Knickerbocker: "Aristomenes and the Messenian," "Thoughts at Niagara," and "Mind or Instinct."47 Not unexpectedly then, after publication of League of the Iroquois, he returned to similar subjects. He delivered and published a lecture on "Diffusion against Centralization" in 1852 and the following year, a review in the NewYork Quarterly titled "Athenian Democracy."48 The next year (1854) he was instrumental in organizing what came to be called the Pundit Club, a group of Rochester men who met on a regular basis to hear papers written by its members. This effort was more successful than the Grand Order of the Iroquois, perhaps because each member had an intellectual bent and the organization was intended to be merely a local club of men with congenial interests.

Then, in 1856, as Morgan later noted, "having attended the Albany meeting of the [American] Association for the Advancement of Science, my interest in Ethnology was quickened to such a degree that I resolved to resume the study as soon as the state of my business would permit."49 It is difficult at this date to know exactly what at the Albany meetings of the AAAS rekindled Morgan's interest in anthropological subjects. It may have been on hearing papers on ethnological topics including those by S. S. Haldeman and Daniel Wilson50 and after talking to others with some interest in the subject, Morgan realized that there were men with similar concerns. Whatever the case, the AAAS became for the rest of Morgan's life a forum before which he presented his ideas. Apparently it provided him with an audience and support group which is so necessary for any researcher.

The particular ethnological subject Morgan took up anew was the laws of descent of the Iroquois. His approach, however, was different than it had been ten years before. His concern then was that of various aspects of Iroquois culture and society, and although he made some reference to practice in other societies, these were general observations only. Now he considered only a few Iroquois cultural practices, and compared these to comparable ones in a large number of societies.

What had attracted Morgan's attention were two differences in the Iroquois laws of descent that were -- as he noted in the paper he delivered at the AAAS meetings in Montreal in 1857 -- "unlike both the civil and canon law." The first was that "descent among the Iroquois followed the female line, or passed through the mother, while in each of the former systems it follows the male, or passes through the father."51 This system of what now would be termed "matrilineal descent" is particularly obvious in the division of clans (what Morgan first called "tribes" and later "gentes"). Each Iroquois tribe is divided into matrilineal clans, each Iroquois belonging to the clan of his (or her) mother. Each clan, among other things, owns "names," the personal names given to its members. As some of these names are those of League chiefs, a chief's son does not succeed him. Rather the position goes to his brother, his sister's son, or other relative of his clan.

The second way in which the Iroquois descent system differed from that of both civil and canon law was in their method of reckoning kin relationships. As Morgan noted, "the collateral lines, with the Iroquois, were finally brought into or merged in the lineal; while, in the other cases, every remove from the common ancestor separated the collateral lines from the lineal, until after a few generations actual relationship ceased among the collaterals."52 Morgan was drawn to this observation by his knowledge of the law, and the importance attached to descent in questions regarding the inheritance of property. This is not a trivial matter. What Morgan did was compare the plan of descents familiar in Western society as described by such jurists as Blackstone, descriptions that included consideration of kinship terminology, to the Seneca case. The legal scholars had noted that basic to the Western systems is the distinction made between lineal and collateral consanguinity. Morgan noted that this most basic feature of our system was, in part, ignored in the Seneca system, that the Seneca one was organized on a different plan. It was an observation overlooked by a number of later anthropologists, which led to fundamental misinterpretations of Morgan's analysis -- misinterpretations that still persist in the anthropological literature.53

Morgan then reasoned that if the Iroquois system differed in these two respects from canon and civil law, those of other Indian peoples might also, and further that Asian systems might exhibit the same differences. And ifthat were so, this would provide evidence "bearing upon the question of the genetic connection of the American Indians nations not only, but also upon the still more important question of their Asiatic origin."54 Morgan's preliminary search of the literature turned up little information on matrilineal clan systems in other societies and nothing on kinship terminologies. It was apparent to him that if he was to demonstrate his hypothesis true, he would have to collect the information in the field. He took the occasion of a business trip to Marquette, Michigan, the summer of 1858 to interview some Ojibwa Indians. When he did, he found not a little to his delight that their system of kinship terminology "was substantially the same as that of the Iroquois." 55 On returning home, Morgan also discovered on reading Riggs' study of the Dakota language some features of the same system.56

Encouraged by these preliminary findings, Morgan began more intensive work on the question . He went to Tonawanda for a week the early part of November, collecting there a complete schedule of Seneca kinship terms.57 The next month he printed the schedule and a letter which was a slightly revised version of his paper on "Laws of Descent," which he had delivered at the AAAS meetings the previous year. In January 1859 he began sending them to missionaries and agents in the United States and other parts of the world. Not content to rely solely on these returns, and realizing that a number he did receive would be inaccurately and incompletely filled out, Morgan made a trip to Kansas and Nebraska during May and June to collect data from Indians living there.58

So satisfactorily had his research gone, Morgan decided to give a paper on it at the AAAS meetings held in August that year in Springfield. In it he discussed his theory in much greater detail than he had previously in either the paper he had delivered at the AAAS meetings two years before or the printed letter he sent out earlier that year, and gave a report on the progress of his research.59 At this meeting Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and one of the leading scientists of the day, offered to republish the letter and schedule and send it out in the name of the Smithsonian. Morgan did not at the time agree, although pleased with Henry's interest in his research and offer to publish the results when finished.60 That fall Morgan rewrote the circular, had it printed, and distributed copies. In January 1860 the Smithsonian reprinted it with covering letters by Joseph Henry and Lewis Cass, Secretary of State, who was well known for his interest in Indians.61

During the next several years Morgan interviewed as many Indians as he could when traveling. He also undertook three more trips to the west. In May and June of 1860 he went to Kansas and Nebraska again. In July and August of 1861 his travels took him to Pembina and Fort Garry on the Red River. In 1862 he undertook his longest trip, going to the Rocky Mountains by the Missouri River in May, June, and July. It was to be his last such one. At Sioux City on his return home he learned both his daughters had died. Morgan was overwrought. As he wrote in his journal, "the intelligence has simply petrified me. I have not shed a tear. It is too profound for tears. Thus ends my last expedition. I go home to my stricken and mourning wife, a miserable and destroyed man."62

That Winter Morgan set about designing an elaborate mausoleum, which was built in the spring and summer of 1863 in Rochester's Mount Hope Cemetery.63 The imposing and expensive crypt was, in Morgan's mind, a memorial to his daughters. He also gave up his law practice to devote himself to writing his book on systems of consanguinity and affinity, which he also viewed as a memorial to his daughters. He finished the manuscript in the spring of 1865 and sent it off to the Smithsonian. Henry gave it for evaluation to William Henry Green, professor of Biblical and Oriental literature at the Princeton Theological Seminary and to Morgan's old and good friend, the Rev. Joshua H. McIlvaine, philologist and a charter member of the Pundit Club. McIlvaine had come to Rochester in 1848 to be minister at the First Presbyterian Church and had left in 1860 to take a chair at Princeton College. A year later Green and McIlvaine finally sent their reports on the manuscript to Henry, suggesting what revisions might be made. Henry forwarded these reports to Morgan, who then set about rewriting the manuscript.64

From the time Henry had first seen Morgan's manuscript, he had been concerned about its length, and consequently the cost of printing it. Even when he had the final revised version he felt that "in proportion to the conclusions arrived at, the quantity of material is very large."65 Morgan was scarcely unaware of Henry's opinion, and it was perhaps this that made him particularly receptive to the suggestion by McIlvaine regarding an explanation for these systems. As early as 1864 McIlvaine had apparently suggested to Morgan that some explanation of the systems Morgan was collecting might be provided by reference to a former practice of promiscuity.66 On reading the manuscript Henry had sent him to review, McIlvaine noted some information Judge Lorrin Andrews had sent regarding the Hawaiian system, specifically Andrews' statement, "the relationship of pínaluá is rather amphibious. It arose from the fact that two or more brothers, with their wives, or two or more sisters, with their husbands, were inclined to possess each other in common." McIlvaine also noted that the Rev. Artemas Bishop, who filled in another schedule on Hawaiian terms, remarked "this confusion of relationships is the result of the ancient custom among relations of the living together of husbands and wives in common."67 McIlvaine thought this custom might explain what Morgan termed the Malayan system (now usually termed Hawaiian) and proceeded to work out in detail how the pínaluán custom explained Hawaiian kinship terminology. Then when in Rochester that fall, he delivered a paper to the Pundit Club on his findings.68

That Morgan himself had not thought of this explanation is perhaps understandable. Morgan knew that Seneca kinship terminology as a whole could not be explained by their matrilineal descent system; only if the analysis was limited to terms for the first collateral line could it be so explained. Morgan also knew that the Seneca system could not be explained by any present Iroquois marriage custom; the Iroquois were not polygamous, nor did they practice the levirate or the sororate or cross cousin marriage -- all explanations subsequently put forth by others. If the Seneca system and others like it could be explained in terms of marriage and descent, it could only be explained in terms of some past practice since abandoned. What McIlvaine did was offer such an explanation. Morgan accepted it with only slight changes.

In the succeeding months Morgan continued to revise the manuscript, sending the finished draft to Henry in July 1867. He included McIlvaine's suggestion in the last chapter, remarking in his letter to Henry that "It is by far the most important result yet reached by this investigation."69 Six months later, at the monthly meeting of February 11, 1868 of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston, Morgan gave a paper, "A Conjectural Solution of the Origin of the Classificatory System of Relationship." It incorporated McIlvaine's suggestion as Morgan had already written it up for Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity, which by then the Smithsonian had agreed to publish.70

Typesetting on the volume began in May. It was not finished until June two years later. Morgan had wanted to include a dedication of the volume to the memory of his daughters and an engraving of the mausoleum he had built. Henry, ever the scientist and much concerned with the image of American science, was adamantly opposed. Morgan kept hoping Henry would change his mind. Henry did not. Only as the last few pages of the volume were being set did Morgan consent to withdrawing it. The decision was, Morgan wrote a year later, "the hardest work mentally I ever did."71

Later in June 1870, shortly after correcting the last proofs of Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity, Morgan and his family set sail for a long-planned European tour. It was not until July of the following year while in England that Morgan saw the published volume, which as he then noted "is immensely large."72 It is. It contains almost 600 pages including some 200 pages of tables in addition to 14 plates diagramming the kinship terminologies discussed in the text. The question addressed, however, is the same as that which Morgan asked at the beginning of his research: the difference in plan of the Seneca and other similar systems (what Morgan called "classificatory systems") and those familiar in Western society (what Morgan termed "descriptive systems"). It concludes with a chapter embodying McIlvaine's suggestion which proposes an evolutionary ordering of the varieties of classificatory systems Morgan had discovered in the course of his research.

Within a year or two after returning from Europe, Morgan was busy working on a book on the clans 73 -- Ancient Society. McIlvaine's "conjectural solution" by suggesting change in marriage customs had suggested to Morgan what the evolution of the "family" might have been. He now turned to the evolution of government, as he termed it, "the growth of the idea of government." Morgan had first become aware of the Iroquois clan system while studying the organization of the League, and thus knew of its importance in the Iroquois governmental system. He also recognized that clans are a type of organization quite different from anything familiar in Western society, at least recent Western society. Thus, as Morgan had earlier contrasted the "plan" of Iroquois kinship terminology with the "plan" of English kinship terminology, he now contrasted the plan of Iroquois government with the plan in use in our society. This suggested to Morgan that there were in "the experience of mankind . . . but two plans of government" : "The first and most ancient was a social organization founded upon gentes [i.e., clans], phratries and tribes. The second and latest in time was a political organization founded upon territory and upon property." In the first "relations were purely personal," Morgan suggested, "the government dealt with persons through their relations to gens [clan] and tribe." In the second, "relations were purely territorial," "the government dealt with persons through their relations to property."74

That the clan was "the unit of organization of a social and governmental system, the fundamental basis of ancient society"75 was suggested by the rights, privileges, and obligations of the clan, including the right of electing its sachem chiefs, the right of deposing them, the right of bestowing personal names upon its members, the right of adopting strangers into the clan, and the obligation of help, defense, and redress of injuries. The clan system also entailed the obligation of not marrying in the clan, i.e., the clans by this technical definition were exogamous; individuals were forbidden to marry someone of their own clan.76

Not all governmental systems based on clans conformed exactly to that of the Iroquois. There was variation, and this variation Morgan explained as he had the variation in classificatory systems, by arranging them in an evolutionary sequence. Nonetheless, the Iroquois system was Morgan's type case, and to it he lavished the most attention in Ancient Society as he had earlier in Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity.

A third difference in "plan" of Iroquois society in contrast to ours also attracted Morgan's notice at the time, what Morgan termed "plan of life." Again Morgan contrasted Iroquois custom with that familiar in our society. At the time of first contact with whites, the Iroquois lived in longhouses, houses sheltering a number of families, a house being as long as required for the number of families living in it. Although this house form changed somewhat in the eighteenth century, it and life in it was still remembered at the time Morgan did his field work. Morgan also noted, as he had earlier in respect to Iroquois kinship terminology and clan organization, that these customs associated with longhouse life were not unique to the Iroquois. This in turn suggested to him that the ancient plan of life -- large households, houses, and house architecture -- rested on equally old customs, including the law of hospitality, communism, and ownership of lands in common. These observations Morgan had originally intended to include in Ancient Society. But that book had grown to such a length Morgan decided not to. It was published separately as Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines in 1881, the year Morgan died.77

It was, however, the more popularly written Ancient Society that became Morgan's most widely read work. But perhaps Morgan could not have anticipated the fate of the ideas he presented there. The core of the book -- the discussion of clan, phratry, and tribal organization, what constitutes three-fifths of the whole -- has been virtually ignored. As one result, Morgan's emphasis has been turned on its head. Although Morgan recognized that the clan embodied in it descent and notions of kinship, he was most interested in clan organization as a plan of government, not kinship. Today, although recognizing that clans may have "political functions," most interest in clans devolves on their being "kinship" units, extensions of family kinship ties.

What attracted more attention was that section of Ancient Society devoted to a summary of the evolution of the family, conclusions derived from McIlvaine's suggestion that kinship terms provided evidence of former marriage customs, including marriage of brothers and sisters in a group. It was a hypothesis that never gained general favor, largely because "group marriage" is not found in any nineteenth or twentieth century "primitive" societies. Morgan's discussion of it in Ancient Society, however, spurred interest in alternative explanations of the kinship terminologies Morgan described, and consequently interest in the study of these terms, a favorite topic of anthropological discussion. Surprisingly, few then turned to Morgan's more detailed discussion in Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity. That study remains today, as Goldenweiser remarked in 1914, "one of the most famous, if least read, works in the entire field of ethnology."78

Recently, even more attention -- to judge from textbook discussions-has focused on Morgan's seven-stage evolutionary sequence:  the sequence of Older, Middle, and Later periods of Savagery, followed by Lower, Middle, and Upper periods of Barbarism, and succeeded by Civilization -- each period marked by a single invention. It is a sequence Morgan discusses only briefly, and other than in the most general way, does not refer to it in the remainder of Ancient Society. That only these few pages out of the thousands Morgan published should receive so much attention is, at the least, remarkable.

Morgan's accomplishments were far more considerable than this, and it was for these that his contemporaries recognized him as the country's leading anthropologist and one of the best in the world. But in an important respect, Morgan's work was unlike others of his time who were concerned with tracing the course of man's social evolution. Like other good ethnographers, Morgan knew that other cultures are other worlds, based on different assumptions and understandings, and categorizing experience in unexpected ways. Most other evolutionists of his day did not have personal acquaintance with non-Western peoples. These scholars devoted their energies to combing the literature -- notably the explorers', missionaries', and travelers' accounts -- for evidence of the course of man's progress, often assuming that other peoples' concerns were virtually identical to their own. Morgan knew otherwise; he knew how unfamiliar these plans could be. His theories were shaped by this knowledge and for this reason deserve even more attention than they have received.

It is only a measure of historical forgetfulness that a number of anthropologists today regard Morgan as merely a small-town lawyer, who lived somewhere in upstate New York and was quite accidentally a businessman, and who, having devoted a little of his spare time to mostly misguided research on anthropological topics, chanced on a few somewhat interesting observations. Morgan's achievements were quite otherwise, for Morgan knew, as many of his critics have not, that, as he said in 1841:

The study of any science requires more of us than we are usually willing to allow; it requires a 'persevering industry' in the examination of facts, and an 'unwearied patience' amid the perplexities with which all science is surrounded, without these qualities our progress would be slow, and our attainments inconsiderable. 79

It was a course he faithfully followed for the remaining 40 years of his life, and with stunning results which as yet are only partly appreciated.



  1. Carl Resek, Lewis Henry Morgan: American Scholar (Chicago, 1960), p. viii.
  2. Lewis Henry Morgan: Social Evolutionist (Chicago, 1931).
  3. Resek, opcit.
  4. Lewis Henry Morgan: The Indian Journals1859-1862 (Ann Arbor, 1959); "Lewis H. Morgan's Journal of a Trip to Southwestern Colorado and New Mexico, June 21 to August 7, 1878," American Antiquity 8 (1942), pp. 1-26; "How Morgan Came to Write Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity," Papers of the Michigan Academy of ScienceArts, and Letters 42 (1957), pp. 257-268. White also found Morgan's journal of his trip to Europe in 1870-71 and published part of it in "Extracts from the European Travel Journal of Lewis H. Morgan," Rochester Historical Society Publications 16 (1937), pp. 221-390.
  5. Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (New York, 1942), p. 5.
  6. Proceedings of the 29th Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, p. 744.
  7. Lewis H. Morgan to William Allen, February 11, 1845. Allen Papers, New-York Historical Society.
  8. Codman Hislop's Eliphalet Nott (Middletown, Conn., 1971) gives a useful summary of Nott's ideas.
  9. The oft-repeated statement that Morgan's effort on behalf of the Tonawanda Senecas was the crucial one in preventing the sale of the Tonawanda Reservation to the Ogden Land Company apparently has its source in Charles Talbot Porter's reminiscences written in 1901 and published that year in Herbert M. Lloyd's edition of Morgan's League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois (New York, 1901), vol. 2, p. 156. The best account to date of what actually transpired is contained in William H. Armstrong, Warrior in TwoCamps: Ely S. Parker, Union General and Seneca Chief (Syracuse, 1978).
  10. Morgan, League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois (Rochester, 1851), pp. 447 and 446.
  11. B. B. Thatcher, Indian Biography (NewYork, 1832); Samuel G. Drake, Indian Biography (Boston, 1832); Thomas L. McKenney and James Hall, The Indian Tribes of North America (Philadelphia, 1836-44); William L. Stone, Life of Joseph Brant -- Thayendanegea (New York, 1838) and Life and Times of Red Jacket, or Sa-go-ye-wat-ha (New York, 1841).
  12. Schoolcraft's report on this research was published as Notes on the Iroquois (New York, 1846).
  13. Ibid.
  14. White, "How Morgan Came to Write Systems," p. 261.
  15. Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed., The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents (Cleveland, 1896-1901), vol. 14, p. 235.
  16. Report of Special Committee to Investigate the Indian Problem of the State of New York, Appointed by the Assembly of 1888 (Albany, 1889), p. 44.
  17. Morgan, League of the Iroquois, p. 85.
  18. Morgan's account of this discovery and method of testing it is to be found in White, "How Morgan Came to Write Systems" and in Morgan, Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family (Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge 17, 1871), pp. 3-7.
  19. Morgan, "A Conjectural Solution to the Origin of the Classificatory System of Relationship," Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 7(1868), pp. 436- 477; also Morgan, Systems, pp. 479-493.
  20. Floyd G. Lounsbury, "The Structural Analysis of Kinship Semantics," Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Linguists (The Hague, 1964) p. 1079 n.
  21. Morgan, Systems, pp. 475-476.
  22. Morgan, League, pp. 115-122.
  23. . Virtually all that is known about this reorganization comes from a single manuscript in the Morgan papers (21:6), University of Rochester Library-an address delivered by Morgan to the order on August 9, 1843.
  24. Record Book of the Aurora Chapter, Morgan papers, University of Rochester Library.
  25. Morgan's account of his meeting with Parker in Albany is contained in an address he delivered to the Aurora chapter on April 17, 1844, manuscript in the Morgan papers (21: 8 and 9).
  26. "Vision of Kar-is-ta-gi-a, A Sachem of Cayuga," The Knickerbocker, or New York Magazine 24 (1844), pp. 238-245. The first part of this article prints an address Morgan gave at the June 7, 1844 meeting of the Aurora chapter.
  27. Manuscript Journals, vol. 1, no. 13, Morgan papers.
  28. Morgan's field notes of this trip are preserved in his Manuscript Journals, vol. 1, nos. 15 and 18. Also in the Morgan papers are the report of Isaac Hurd, one of the order's members who also attended, to the Aurora chapter (Morgan papers 21: 29) and Ely Parker's translation of Jemmy Johnson's speech in Morgan's Manuscript Journals, vol. 1, no. 16. Another copy of this latter manuscript now in the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California is published in Arthur C. Parker, The Life of General Ely S. Parker (Buffalo Historical Society Publication 23, 1919), pp. 215-261); it unfortunately lacks one page that is present in the copy in the Morgan papers and in a third copy in the Newberry Library, Chicago . A newspaper account written by another member of the Rochester chapter, George S. Riley is reprinted in Schoolcraft, Notes on the Iroquois, pp. 227-232, which in turn has been reprinted in Arthur C. Parker, TheConstitution of the Five Nations (New York State Museum Bulletin 184, 1916), pp. 126-132.
  29. The essay Morgan delivered in November 1845 to the Rochester chapter is in his Manuscript Journals, vol. 1, no. 17. The version Morgan delivered to the New York Historical Society was published by Arthur C. Parker in 1928 under the title, Government and Institutions of the Iroquois (Researches and Transactions of the New York State Archeological Association vol. 7, no. 1). Parker, the editor, states the manuscript is the property of the University of Rochester, but it is not now in the Morgan papers there.
  30. Manuscript Journals, vol. 1, nos. 5, 6, and 7.
  31. Manuscript Journals, vol. 2, no. 1. On this trip Morgan and his companion, Thomas Darling were adopted by the Senecas, not because the Tonawanda Senecas hoped that by so doing they would obtain Morgan's aid in their fight with the Ogden Land Company or so much in recognition of his aid as is so generally supposed, but because Morgan asked to be and provided the money for it. The account of the adoption ceremony Parker sent Morgan is in his Manuscript Journals, vol. 1, no. 10.
  32. Morgan, "Letters on the Iroquois," The American Review 5 (1847), pp. 177-190, 242-257, 447-461.
  33. Morgan papers (21: 26). An earlier version of this paper is to be found in Morgan's Manuscript Journals, vol. 1, no. 14.
  34. "On the Territorial Limits, Geographical Names and Trails of the Iroquois." A photostatic copy of the original manuscript in the New-York Historical Society is in the University of Rochester Library.
  35. Morgan, "Letters on the Iroquois," The American Review 6 (1847), pp. 477-490, 626-633.
  36. At least this seems implied in Charles T. Porter's letter to Ely S. Parker of June 10, 1847 in the Parker papers, American Philosophical Society Library.
  37. The last anniversary meeting of the order of which there is any record is of one held in Palmyra, September 14, 1848 mentioned in Morgan's letter to Ely S. Parker of September 26, 1848 in the Parker papers, American Philosophical Society Library.
  38. Annual Report of the Regents of the State of New York 2, pp. 84-91.
  39. Morgan's field notes of this trip are in his Manuscript Journals, vol. 2, nos. 4-5. His "Report to the Regents of the University upon the Articles Furnished the Indian Collection" in the Annual Report of the Regents of the State of New York 3, pp. 65-97.
  40. Morgan's field notes of these trips are in his Manuscript Journals, vol. 2, nos. 6 and 7. His "Reports on the Fabrics, Inventions, Implements and Utensils of the Iroquois" in the Annual Report of the Regents of the State of New York 5, pp. 67-117.
  41. Manuscript Journals, vol. 1, no. 2; vol. 2, nos. 2 and 3.
  42. Morgan's letter to Parker dated January 29, 1850 and Parker's reply dated February 12, 1850 are printed in William N. Fenton, "Tonawanda Longhouse Ceremonies: Ninety Years After Lewis Henry Morgan,"Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 128 (1941), pp. 151-158. That Morgan made a trip to Tonawanda in February 1850 to obtain further data is suggested by a comparison of the material Parker furnished Morgan in his letter with the description of these ceremonies in Leagues of the Iroquois, pp. 182-225. Morgan's description in League of the Iroquois exhibits a greater understanding of Seneca ritual practice than is evident in his letter to Parker, January 29, 1850 or is contained in Parker's reply of February 12 and is the kind of information usually obtainable only by interview and observation in the field.
  43. White, "How Morgan Came to Write Systems," p. 262.
  44. Parker did not send Morgan his account of the October 1848 council until August 1850, and then only sent the description of the proceedings of the first two days. His account of the final two days was sent to Morgan sometime later that year. After Morgan had received the first part of Parker's account he apparently copied it before returning it to Parker; the first part of the manuscript in the Manuscript Journals, vol. 1, no. 1 is in Morgans hand, the remainder in Parker's.
  45. League of the Iroquois is divided into three major sections, which Morgan titled "Books." The "Letters on the Iroquois" published in 1847 in The American Review constitute much of Books I and III. Letters 1-7 and 9-10 became Chapters III-VI of Book I of League of the Iroquois. These four chapters on Iroquois sociopolitical organization were prefaced with Letter 12 on geography as Chapter II. Letter 11 on language became Chapter II of Book III and Letters 13 and 14, the final two Letters on geography, Chapter III. To these Morgan added two new chapters, bracketing the Letters: a beginning chapter, Chapter I of Book I on the history of the Iroquois and a concluding chapter, Chapter IV of Book III on their future destiny.

    Some of the material published in the Third Regents Report-the description of articles Morgan had collected at Tonawanda in the fall of 1849 Morgan put into Chapter I of Book II, a chapter on manufactures (what Morgan termed "fabrics") of the Iroquois. The data on games in this Report he put into Chapter V of Book II and some of the material on costumes into Chapter IV of this Book.

    Letter 8 of "Letters on the Iroquois, " a description of Iroquois religious belief and practice was not reprinted in League of the Iroquois. Rather, a much expanded description of Iroquois religion became Book II, "Spirit of the League." Ely Parker's translation of Jemmy Johnson's annual speech in 1848 that Parker sent Morgan in 1850 Morgan edited slightly and published in Chapter III of this Book. A description of Iroquois ceremonies, perhaps based on information collected on a trip to Tonawanda in February 1850 for which no field notes have been preserved became Chapter II and a general description of Iroquois religious belief, Chapter I. Various data not included elsewhere, notably information on villages, law, and war were collected in the concluding chapter of this Book, Chapter VI.
  46. White, "How Morgan Came to Write Systems," p. 262.
  47. These three articles were all published in 1845 over the name "Aquarius"-"Aristomenes the Messenian" in vol. 21, pp. 25-30, "Thoughts at Niagara" in vol. 22, pp. 193-196, "Mind or Instinct, an Inquiry Concerning the Manifestation of Mind by the Lower Orders of Animals" in vol. 22, pp. 414-420 and 507-515. The unpublished addresses-Essay on Geology," "Essay on the History and Genius of the Grecian Race," and three addresses on temperance are preserved in the Morgan papers (21: 2-5, 7).
  48. Diffusion against Centralization (Rochester, 1852); "Athenian Democracy," New York Quarterly 3 (1853): 341-367.
  49. White, "How Morgan Came to Write Systems," pp. 262-263.
  50. Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 10th meeting (1857), pp. 1-20; pt. 2, pp. 201-213, 228.
  51. Morgan, "Laws of Descent of the Iroquois," Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 11th meeting (1858), pt. 2, p. 133.
  52. Ibid.
  53. Leslie A. White, "What is a Classificatory Kinship Term?" Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 14 (1958), pp. 378-385.
  54. White, "How Morgan Came to Write Systems," p. 263.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Stephen Return Riggs, Grammar and Dictionary of the Dakota Language (Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge 4, 1852).
  57. Manuscript Journals, vol. 2, no. 11, Morgan papers.
  58. Morgan's journal of this and his subsequent three western field trips have been published in White, Lewis Henry Morgan: The Indian Journals, 1859-1862.
  59. This paper was not published in the Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for that year. There is, however, a copy of it in the Morgan papers (22: 45). The Circular Letterdated January 1849 was privately printed in Rochester.
  60. It would seem from one passage in his journal entry dated October 19, 1859 (White, "How Morgan Came to Write Systems," p. 267) that Morgan accepted Henry's offer at the Springfield meetings. A later note in this journal, one not published by White, indicates otherwise.
  61. Morgan, Circular Letter (Rochester, 1859); 'Circular in Reference to the Degree of Relationship among Different Nations," Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 20 (1862), no. 10.
  62. White, The Indian Journals, p. 200.
  63. Resek, Lewis Henry Morgan, p. 90.
  64. William Henry Green to Joseph Henry, March 14, 1866; Joshua H. McIlvaine to Joseph Henry, March 29, 1866; Joseph Henry to Lewis H. Morgan, April 21, 1866; photostatic copies of letters in Joseph Henry correspondence, Smithsonian Institution in Morgan papers.
  65. Joseph Henry to Lewis H. Morgan, photostatic copy of letter in Henry correspondence, Smithsonian Institution in Morgan papers.
  66. McIlvaine to Morgan, March 3, 1864 published in Resek, Lewis Henry Morgan, p. 94.
  67. "Joshua Hall McIlvaine's Report on the Manuscript of Systems of Consanguinity," Morgan papers (23:89). Andrew's observation is published in Morgan, Systems, p. 453 n. For background information on Andrews and Bishop see Alexander Spoehr, "Lewis Henry Morgan and His Pacific Collaborators," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 125, pp. 452-453. For a recent description of the pínaluá system and a critique of Morgan's interpretation of it see E. S. Craighill Handy and Mary Kawena Pukai, The Polynesian Family System in Ka-′u, Hawai′i (Polynesian Society Reprint 6, 1972), pp. 56-65.
  68. That "McIlvaine's Report" was delivered before the Pundit Club is indicated in the text. The records of the Pundit Club indicate it was delivered on November 20, 1866, see, for example, The Club (Rochester, 1911), p. 19.
  69. Lewis H. Morgan to Joseph Henry, July 25, 1867, photostatic copy in Morgan papers.
  70. Morgan, "A Conjectural Solution." It was published with Henry's permission, see Henry to Morgan, March 24, 1868 photostatic copy in Morgan papers.
  71. White, "The European Travel Journal of Lewis H. Morgan," p. 370.
  72. Ibid.
  73. Lewis H. Morgan to Joseph Henry, March 4, 1873, photostatic copy in Morgan papers.
  74. Lewis H. Morgan, Ancient Society (New York, 1877), p. 61.
  75. Ibid., p. 63.
  76. Ibid., p. 70 ff.
  77. Lewis H. Morgan, Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines (Contributions to North American Ethnology 4, 1881).
  78. A. A. Goldenweiser, "The Social Organization of the Indians of North America," Journal of American Folklore 27 (1914), p. 411.
  79. "Essay on Geology," Morgan Papers (21: 2).


Additional resources:

  • The register of the Lewis Henry Morgan Papers


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