Horatio Hale

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Horatio Hale
Horatio Hale.jpg
Horatio Emmons Hale

May 3, 1817
DiedDecember 28, 1896
NationalityAmerican[citation needed]
Alma materHarvard University
Scientific career

Horatio Emmons Hale (May 3, 1817 – December 28, 1896) was an American-Canadian ethnologist, philologist and businessman. He is known for his study of languages as a key for classifying ancient peoples and being able to trace their migrations. He was the first to analyze and confirm that the Tutelo language of some Virginia Native Americans belonged to the Siouan family, which was most associated with the western Dakota and Hidatsa languages. He also identified the Cherokee language of the tribe that was associated with the inland American Southeast as a member of the Iroquoian family of languages. Most of the speakers of the latter occupied territory to the east and south of the Great Lakes, in present-day New York, Pennsylvania, with excursions into Ohio. In addition, he published a work, Iroquois Book of Rites (1883), based on his translation of their only two known historic manuscripts, supported by studies with tribal elders in interpreting the Iroquois wampum belts to establish the people's prehistory.

Born in New Hampshire and educated in New England, Hale traveled from 1838–1842 with the United States Exploring Expedition, being appointed because of his skills as their philologist and ethnologist before he had finished his undergraduate degree at Harvard College. After his marriage to a Canadian woman in 1855, Hale settled with her in Ontario. He continued to publish articles in American scholarly journals, while living in Canada for the rest of his life.

Early life and education[edit]

Horatio Hale was born on May 3, 1817, at Newport, New Hampshire, in the United States, the son of David Hale, a lawyer, and of Sarah Josepha Hale (née Buell). After the death of her husband, Sarah Josepha Hale turned to writing and became a prominent magazine editor.

Entering Harvard College in 1833, Hale showed a marked faculty for languages. His first original work was published the next year, and attracted the attention of the college authorities. It consisted of an Algonkin vocabulary, which he gathered from a band of Indians who had camped on the college grounds.


Three years later, when the United States Exploring Expedition to little-known portions of the globe was organised under Charles Wilkes, Hale was recommended, while yet an undergraduate, for the post of ethnologist and philologist. He was appointed to the position.

From 1838 to 1842, Hale worked with the expedition, visiting South America, Australasia, Polynesia, and North-western America, then known as Oregon Country. From this point he returned overland. The Hale Passages of Puget Sound were named in recognition of his service to the expedition.[1] The expedition traveled also to Polynesia. Of the reports of that expedition, Hale prepared the sixth volume, Ethnography and Philology (1846), which is said to have laid the foundations of the ethnography of Polynesia. He continued to travel and study abroad.[2]

Having completed his degree of M. A. at Harvard, Hale made a short tour of Europe. On his return, he studied law, and was admitted to the Chicago bar in 1855. That year he married a woman from Canada, whom he met in Ontario.

In 1856, the Hales moved to Clinton, Ontario, Canada, where he administered the estate of his father-in-law. He began to get involved in local real estate development and other business and educational endeavours.[3] He continued to reside in Clinton till his death, devoting much attention to the development of the Ontario school system. He was influential in introducing co-education of the sexes in high schools and collegiate institutes, in increasing the grants to these institutions, in establishing the normal school system, and in improving the methods of examination.[2]

The vicinity of the Canadian reserves on the banks of the Thames and Grand River gave Hale ample opportunity for further investigation into American-Indian questions. He discovered two Indian manuscripts, dating between 1714 and 1735; these manuscripts are the only known literary American Indian work extant. In 1883 he published The Iroquois Book of Rites (reprinted 1963 by University of Toronto Press), which included his translated and edited versions of these papers. In addition, he had material from his studies and interviews with tribal elders as to the interpretations of the Iroquois wampum belts to develop an account of their prehistory. According to Browning, Hale's judicious introductions, careful translation and editing add much to the value of the work.[2]

In 1872, Hale was elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society.[4]

In 1884, he reorganised the section of anthropology as an independent department of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at its meeting in Montreal that year. He had already performed a like service for the American Association. At the request of the British committee, he undertook the supervision of the anthropological section's work in the Canadian North-west and British Columbia. The reports, which are very elaborate, were published in the Association's Proceedings from 1885 to 1897. While Hale continued as a member of the committee, he was asked to accept the position of vice-president at the Association's meeting in Toronto (1896); he declined due to ill-health.[2]

Hale was an honorary fellow of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, to which he contributed his latest papers.[2]

He died on 29 December 1896 at Clinton, Ontario.[2]


In 1854, at Jersey City, New Jersey, he married Margaret Pugh. Her father William was formerly justice of the peace for the township of Goderich in Huron County, Canada West (now Ontario).

Native American studies[edit]

In Canada Hale returned to his study of First Nations and Native Americans. He was mentored by the Iroquois chiefs George Henry Martin Johnson and John Fraser, whom he met while visiting the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario. In addition he traveled to the United States to consult with other native informants. Hale documented the oral history and rituals of the Iroquois Confederacy. He was assisted in interpreting the group's wampum belts, which recounted their history.[3] As a result of this work, he published The Iroquois Book of Rites (1883). He also studied the Iroquois languages, determining that Mohawk was the oldest. He also concluded that the Laurentian languages were Iroquoian.[3]

Archeologists and linguists have since confirmed that the St. Lawrence Iroquoians were an early people who had occupied territory in what is now considered upper New England and along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and Ontario from about the 14th century to about 1580.[5] They were likely destroyed by the Mohawk from central New York, who were competing for control of hunting grounds and the fur trade.

Hale made many valuable contributions to the science of ethnology, attracting attention particularly by his theory of the origin of the diversities of human languages and dialects. This was inspired by his study of child languages, or the languages invented by young children. He also emphasized the importance of languages as tests of mental capacity, and demonstrated that Native American languages were complex and had a high capacity for classification.

He used language as a criterion for the classification of human groups. He was the first to discover that the Tutelo language of Virginia belonged to the Siouan family, which was more commonly associated with the Dakotan and Hidatsa languages and tribes located to the west of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River.

He was also the first to identify the Cherokee language as a member of the Iroquoian family of languages. By the colonial and federal period, the Cherokee people were primarily located in the southern interior of present-day Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Most of their members were among the Southeastern tribes forced during Indian Removal of the 1830s to relocate to territory west of the Mississippi River, in what was reserved for a time as Indian Territory (now the state of Oklahoma).

Besides writing numerous magazine articles, Hale presented papers for academic societies. These include:

  • Hiawatha and the Iroquois Confederation (1881)
  • Indian Migrations as Evidenced by Language (1882)
  • The Origin of Languages and the Antiquity of Speaking Man (1886)
  • The Development of Language (1888)
  • Language as a Test of Mental Capacity: Being an Attempt to Demonstrate the True Basis of Anthropology (1891)


  • Hale, H (1895), "An International Scientific Catalogue and Congress", Science (published Mar 22, 1895), 1 (12): 324–326, doi:10.1126/science.1.12.324, PMID 17829255
  • Hale, H (1892), "The Klamath Nation: III.--Mythology and General Ethnology", Science (published Jan 15, 1892), 19 (467), pp. 29–31, doi:10.1126/science.ns-19.467.29, PMID 17731636
  • Hale, H (1892), "The Klamath Nation: II.--Linguistics", Science (published Jan 8, 1892), 19 (466), pp. 20–21, doi:10.1126/science.ns-19.466.20, PMID 17774144
  • Hale, H (1892), "The Klamath Nation: I.--The Country and the People.", Science (published Jan 1, 1892), 19 (465): 6–7, doi:10.1126/science.ns-19.465.6, PMID 17813801
  • Brinton, D. G. (1897). Horatio Hale. American Anthropologist, 10 (1), 25–27.


  1. ^ Majors, Harry M. (1975), Exploring Washington, Van Winkle Publishing Co, pp. 20, 81, ISBN 978-0-918664-00-6
  2. ^ a b c d e f Browning 1901.
  3. ^ a b c William N. Fenton, ed. (2003). "Hale, Horatio Emmons". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. 12. University of Toronto/Université Laval.
  4. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  5. ^ Warrick, Gray and Lesagel, Louis (2016), "The Huron-Wendat and the St. Lawrence Iroquoians: New Findings of a Close Relationship," Ontario Archaeology, p. 137, [1]

Wikisource This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBrowning, Thomas Blair (1901). "Hale, Horatio". Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co.

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