Considering Sheldon Jackson: A Summer Intern Project

Apache boys taken to Hampton Institute by Rev. Sheldon Jackson, 1881. Between 1879 and 1882, Reverend Dr. Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary who would later serve as General Agent of US Education in Alaska, donated Native American art objects and artifacts to the Princeton Theological Seminary in order to create a “Missionary Cabinet” at his alma mater that would illustrate “the present condition and needs of Pagan Lands.” Transferred to Princeton College in 1882 and supplemented by additional donations from Jackson in 1883 and 1885, this collection of objects mainly from the American Northwest Coast and Southwest formally remains under the Department of Geosciences, though it is now primarily housed with the Art of the Ancient Americas collection at the Princeton University Art Museum. Considering these photographs alongside the material objects that Jackson collected opens new and important avenues for scholarly research, and one of my projects as an Art Museum summer intern has been developing strategies to foster connections between these cross-campus collections, which at an earlier moment in Princeton’s history were displayed together in a natural history museum in Nassau Hall.

Jackson also avidly collected photographs of Native Americans. Three large portfolio albums he compiled, featuring more than 580 photographs ordered from photographic trade catalogues and likely obtained from negatives at the Bureau of American Ethnology, are among the cornerstones of the Western Americana photography collection in Princeton University Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections

"Apache Indians of New Mexico." Published by the Continent Stereoscopic Company.Jackson ordered photographs from catalogues, including that of the Continental Stereoscopic Company, William Henry Jackson’s Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American Indians (1877), and J. N. Choate’s Indian Pictures (188?). Many of the images he chose reflect the missionary’s interest and participation in assimilationist education regimes that saw indigenous children removed from their families and enrolled in residential schools where they could be “civilized.” One photograph (at right) featured in the album includes the manuscript caption “Apache Boys taken to Hampton Institute by Rev. Sheldon Jackson, 1881,” substituting for the much simpler title Apache Indians of New Mexico, under which the photograph was issued by the Continental Stereoscopic Company (at left). Such photographs raise questions about the intersections between Jackson’s assimilationist work and his collecting practices, and about the people and objects he gathered during his trips to the Southwest in the early 1880s.

While none of the photographs in the Sheldon Jackson Collection of Indian Photographs appear to feature objects in Princeton’s collections, the albums do include images of modern and ancient pottery and cultural objects from Mexico, the American Southwest, and Alaska, which may have served to guide or enhance Jackson’s collecting. This is suggested by striking visual parallelsfor example, between the figures in a photograph in Jackson’s album, simply titled Moqui Idols, Arizona and likely taken by the photographer Henry T. Hiester, and a Hopi Tihu (Kachina) doll donated to Princeton between 1882 and 1885. Such parallels suggest the importance of bringing further attention, both online and on campus, to connections between Jackson collections at the Art Museum and at Princeton University Library as a way to better understand these objects and the collecting practices that brought them to Princeton.


Julia Grummitt 

Graduate student, Department of Art & Archaeology

2018 Art Museum Summer Intern