Horatio Hale

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Horatio Emmons Hale
Horatio Hale.jpg
Horatio Hale
BornMay 3, 1817
DiedDecember 28, 1896
ResidenceClinton, Ontario, Canada
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 who studied language as a key for classifying ancient peoples and being able to trace their migrations. He was the first to discover that the Tutelo language of Virginia belonged to the Siouan family, and to identify the Cherokee language as a member of the Iroquoian family of languages. In addition, he published a work Iroquois Book of Rites (1883), based on interpreting the Iroquois wampum belts, as well as his studies with tribal leaders.

After his marriage to a Canadian woman in 1855, Hale moved to 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 was born on 3 May 1817, at Newport, New Hampshire, in the United States, was the son of David Hale, a lawyer, and of Sarah Josepha, who, after the death of her husband, turned to writing and became a prominent magazine editor. Entering Harvard College in 1833, Hale showed a marked faculty for languages. His first essay in original work appeared 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, and obtained the appointment. From 1838 to 1842, he was employed in the work of the expedition, visiting South America, Australasia, Polynesia, and North-western America, then known as Oregon. 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 went on 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 taken his degree of M. A., Hale made a short tour of Europe, and, on his return, studied law. He was admitted to the Chicago bar in 1855. In 1856, the Hales moved to Clinton, Ontario, Canada, where he administered the estate of his father-in-law. He began to involve himself locally in 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, and in 1883 published, under the title, The Iroquois Book of Rites, two Indian manuscripts, dating between 1714 and 1735, which is the only literary American-Indian work extant. His judicious introductions, careful translation and editing add much to the value of the work.[2]

In 1884, at its Montreal meeting, he reorganised the section of anthropology as an independent department of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He had already done 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, appeared in the published 'Proceedings' from 1885 to 1897. Continuing a member of the committee, he was asked to accept the position of vice-president at the association's meeting in Toronto (1896), but declined on the ground of ill-health.[2]

Among other learned bodies 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 in the state of New Jersey, he married Margaret, daughter of William Pugh, formerly justice of the peace for the township of Goderich in the county of Huron, Canada West.

Native American studies[edit]

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 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] His work resulted in his publishing Iroquois Book of Rites (1883). He also studied the Iroquois languages, determining that Mohawk was the oldest and that the Laurentian languages were also Iroquoian.[3]

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—a theory suggested by his study of child-languages, or the languages invented by little children. He also emphasized the importance of languages as tests of mental capacity, demonstrating 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, as well as the first to identify the Cherokee language as a member of the Iroquoian family of languages.

Besides writing numerous magazine articles, Hale read a number of valuable papers before learned societies. These include:

  • Hiawatha and the Iroquois Confederacy (1881) (available at Project Gutenberg)
  • 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." (PDF), 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. Check date values in: |date= (help)

 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.

External links[edit]