Frank Gouldsmith Speck (1881-1950) was born in Brooklyn, New York, but raised in Mohegan, Connecticut. Concerned about his health, his parents had sent him to live in the country with Fidelia A. Fielding, a native woman and family friend. Fielding was one of the last native speakers of the Mohegan language and, moreover, of any native language spoken in New England and Speck grew up speaking Mohegan. When Speck attended Columbia University as an undergraduate, he took a philology course with the linguist, John Dyneley Prince. Prince was interested in American Indian languages and was impressed that Speck knew a Native American language long thought extinct. Dyneley introduced Speck to Franz Boas, and Dyneley and Boas both encouraged Speck to study anthropology. Speck received an M.A. from Columbia University and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Boas, a profound influence on Speck, supervised his dissertation research. It concerned the ethnography of the Yuchi Indians of Oklahoma and was published by the University Museum.
In 1908, Speck was offered a research fellowship at the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Speck was fired from the University Museum in 1911 for reasons that remain cloudy, but was immediately hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Speck began serving as acting department chair in 1913 and was appointed full professor and chairman in 1925. Speck conducted fieldwork throughout his life. In fact, he spent as much time in the field as he possibly could, focusing his attention on the Algonkian peoples of the eastern woodlands. Speck was also deeply interested in culture change and the contemporary lives of the people with whom he worked. While his major work was among the Algonkian peoples, his field research and collecting ranged from north of the Canadian border down to North Carolina and Louisiana. Speck served as Associate Editor of the American Anthropologist for over ten years and was Vice-President of the American Anthropological Association in 1945-46. He also served as President of the American Folk-Lore Society. His major monographs were: Naskapi: Savage Hunters of the Labrador Peninsula (1935); and Penobscot Man; or, the Life History of a Forest Tribe in Maine (1940). Speck died in Philadelphia at the age of 68.
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