Esquimaux in NYCity; was Munchausen

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Mar 1 18:57:44 UTC 2007

I've also come upon Filippinos, if I recall, at Coney Island toward the
end of the 19th C.

The 1820s Eskimo story is interesting in that it's pretty early for the
U. S. and it played out over several years, and I have notes on it from
from several different newspapers.  I also have references to a
delegation of Indians performing their war-whoops at a NYC theater in
the 1820s, but they had come to the city of their own accord, on a
diplomatic mission, I believe.
These notes are available to anyone who wants to write the article
Arnold (and others) wants to read.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 7:01 pm
Subject: Re: Esquimaux in NYCity; was Munchausen

> 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
> gorilla.
> 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.)
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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