Esquimaux in NYCity; was Munchausen

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Mar 1 00:01:26 UTC 2007

On Feb 28, 2007, at 2:28 PM, George Thompson wrote:

> There was a controversy in the late 1810s when a family of Eskimos
> were
> brought to NYC by the captain of a whaling ship.  They were exhibited,
> and the man demonstrated the use of a kayak in the harbor.  Questions
> were raised as to whether they had come voluntarily; the debate was
> curtailed, if I recall, by the captain leaving the city with them.  I
> also have a note on performing Eskimos in London, not the same family.

there's a long history of "exotic" animals -- giraffes, kangaroos,
etc. -- being exhibited for the public in the west.  eventually we
get the mass-market version, the movie King Kong (1933), featuring a

over the same period, human beings were exhibited in much the same
way -- individual Native Americans and Africans in the days of
exploration, eventually family groups (for instance, as at the 1893
World's Fair -- the Columbian Exposition -- in Chicago; see Kurt
Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle for a transposed version of these exhibits).
such exhibits were a regular feature of traveling fairs and circuses.

eventually we get to stories like Ishi's (Theodora Kroeber, Ishi in
Two Worlds, 1963) and Minik's (Kenn Harper, Give Me My Father's Body,
2000).  and the Ainu continue, i am told, to be, essentially, on
exhibit in Hokkaido.

i very much hope that someone has put these stories together into a
larger narrative.  if so, i'd like to hear about it.  (i'm perfectly
capable  of thinking like a humanities scholar, but unfortunately i
don't know the literature.)


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