Froelich Rainey

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Froelich Gladstone Rainey
Born (1907-06-18)June 18, 1907
Died October 11, 1992(1992-10-11) (aged 85)
Nationality American
Fields Anthropologist
Institutions University of Alaska (1935–1942), Allied Control Commission for Occupied Germany, University of Pennsylvania, "What in the World?"
Alma mater Yale University

Froelich Gladstone Rainey (June 18, 1907 – October 11, 1992) was an American anthropologist and a master of narrative prose.

Early life[edit]

Froelich grew up in eastern Montana, where he worked as a farm hand for the Rainey Brothers Ranch, otherwise known as the "R-Lazy-B".[1]

Education and employment[edit]

He attended Yale University and taught at the University of Alaska (1935–1942), specializing in Alaskan prehistory. During the Second World War, he worked for the United States Board of Economic Warfare. As the war began he assigned as "director of the U.S. Quinine Mission in Ecuador". In 1944 he was assigned to Robert Murphy's staff for the Allied Control Commission for Occupied Germany, part of the Foreign Services. After the war he was appointed U.S. Commissioner for the Rhine and faced with the daunting task of rebuilding Ruhr coal industry.[1] Later he worked as an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, eventually becoming director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. He hosted the popular television show, "What in the World?", which was aimed at stumping experts as the analyzed archaeological artifacts.[2]

Rainey's log cabin on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in recognition of his role at the university, in 1975.



Froelich's work spanned across four continents, but it is his early work in Arctic Alaska which is regarded as his most significant. In September 1936 he arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska after voyaging from Portugal to work with German naturalist Otto Geist. Geist had collected specimens from all across the[which?] island and Froelich began his study by sorting and labeling the specimens. Come spring he began "a regular pattern of research: early summer hunting for Athapascan sites in the interior, late summer working on the tundra with Eskimos, and the rest of the time teaching and writing up his collections.[1]

In 1939 Froelich joined forces with Helge Larsen on a expedition to Point Hope, Alaska. A place where in 1920 Knud Rasmussen found what he "thought to be the most interesting site in the American Arctic"[3] In 1939 they were joined by J. Louis Giddings and discovered one of the largest archaeological sites in the Arctic, the Ipiutak Site, which became the type site of the Ipiutak culture.[4]

Froelich sought to better understand his and Larsen's findings and returned in 1940 with his wife and daughter for further explorations. At this point his journey led him to join a whaling crew and write what is now a well known ethnography. The value of this ethnography comes from its emphasis on the interrelatedness and combined usefulness of ethnographical and archaeological research".[1]


Froelich participated in the writing of various works that were published and had a large impact on the field of anthropology. One such work is Ipiutak and the Arctic Whale Hunting Culture, which was co-written by Helge Larsen. Their site report remains an archaeological classic that showed the Ipiutak culture to be "of the most enigmatic, both because of its lithic relationships to American Eskimo traditions and because of its tortuous ivory carvings, which bear strong resemblance to the artistic traditions of northeastern and central Asia".[1][4]

In 1947 he published The Whale Hunters of Tigara, an ethnography that displayed the importance of combining ethnographic and archaeological research and ultimately led to improved relationship and friendship with the Eskimos of Point Hope. Later this contributed to helping anthropologist such as James VanStone, Don Foote, Ernest Burch, and Douglas Anderson continue the research.[1]

Reflections of a Digger: Fifty Years of World Archaeology was published in 1992. The book is the personal memoir of Froelich and outlines how he revived the University of Pennsylvania Museum as well as highlights his archaeological experience spanning over 50 years. [5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bockstoce, John (March 1993). "Froelich Gladstone Rainey (1907-92)". The Arctic Institute of North America. 46 (1): 88-89. 
  2. ^ "What in the World?". IMDb. Retrieved 23 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Rainey, Froelich (1992). Reflections of a digger: Fifty years of world archaeology. Philadelphia: University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania. p. 62. 
  4. ^ a b Larsen, H.; Froelich Rainey (1948). "1948. Ipiutak and the arctic whale hunting culture". Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History. 2. 
  5. ^ Rainey, Froelich (1992). Reflections of a digger : fifty years of world archaeology. Philadelphia: University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania. ISBN 0924171154.